Thursday, May 19, 2016

Interview: Cathy Lamb, author of MY VERY BEST FRIEND

As part of the launch of my latest novel, A Perfumer's Secret, I'm interviewing the wonderful authors who took the time to read and endorse my book. Today, I'm chatting with Cathy Lamb, author of 10 (yes, you read that right -- 10!) amazing novels. And her 11th is set for release later this year! 

So let's talk about her latest release, My Very Best Friend, a story of friendship, but also love in general, loyalty, forgiveness...

Cathy, there are so many themes from life in this novel! What inspired you to write this story, and to set it in Scotland?

I was inspired to write My Very Best Friend in Scotland because I wanted to fly across an ocean and see men in kilts.

Ha! No, the REAL reason I set the book in Scotland is because Rebel Dancing Daughter, our oldest, goes to college there and it gave me a splendid excuse to visit her. Plus, I love Scotland, the Highlands, the perfect, gentle peace of that country, the music and the food. Did I mention the food? I love the food.

Plus, readers love to travel in books and I thought my readers might like to travel with me.

Throughout the book, Charlotte remembers legends told by her father. They create such rich imagery and remain in the reader’s mind long after closing the book; Were these a product of your imagination, or are they legends/stories you had heard or found in your research?

All of the legends I told in the book came right out of my  imagination. I did read Scottish stories, lore, etc. but those stories were mine. I love legends, magic, miracles.

How did you research the book? Did you travel to Scotland? Do you have a Scottish heritage?

We do have Scottish heritage! I even have a letter from an ancestor talking about how our people were from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England.  All desperate, destitute, needing a new life in America. The Great Britain ancestral part was recently confirmed with DNA from

I have been to Scotland twice, once when I was much younger and totally broke, and then last year when I visited my Rebel Dancing Daughter. I love it. I could live there.

You are such a prolific author, with 10 published books and another on the way. How do you develop your ideas? Do you already have ideas for the next few books in your mind, or do you sit down to think about the next one once you’ve completed your most recent manuscript?

My ideas come from all over. 

I started Julia’s Chocolates with a vision of a crying woman on a deserted, dusty street who was throwing her wedding dress into a dead tree.

With The Last Time I Was Me I was in Welches, Oregon, walking along the river, and wondered what it would be like to run naked at night down that pathway. The whole vision made me laugh, for numerous reasons, but I made Jeanne Stewart do it.

I am so intrigued by artists who make creative, wild art and I gave that skill to Stevie in Such A Pretty Face. She made fantastical, huge chairs, then hid them in her shed. I built part of the story around those chairs. 

For Grenadine in What I Remember Most, I knew I had my story when I thought of her name: Grenadine Scotch Wild. It took off from there.

The trick is to be open to new ideas flowing through. The beach helps. So does chocolate and coffee. My garden is a total distraction because I would often rather be digging in the dirt than working.

When ideas for the next book come to mind but I am still writing the current book, I write them down in a document called – wait for it – Ideas For Books. And then I put them aside. My brain is small and tired. I cannot have multiple ideas floating around in my head or I’ll get confused and flip the characters and plot lines around and a story that is set in Oregon will suddenly move to Montana and the characters from different novels will become friends or enemies.

Total literary and mental chaos.  

When I finish one book, I take a break, then start journaling ideas for the next book. I have a small addiction to journals.

What can you tell us about your next book? And do you have a release date set?

My next book is titled The Language of Sisters, and it’s out September 1. A few clues about the story…

1.      Toni Kozlovsky lives on a yellow tugboat in the Willamette River. She needed space to breathe.

2.      Toni has two sisters. They can sometimes hear each other in their heads, a message coming through. It’s odd, it’s inexplicable. It’s a gift handed down the Sabonis family line through their widow’s peaks. Their mother had it, too.

3.      The Kozlovsky family immigrated from Russia when Toni was a little girl. They left a lot of secrets there… and the secrets have been running after them ever since.

4.      The family has many crazy members and the dynamics can be mind blowing. You might relate to some of them.

5.      Toni has something hidden in a little shed next to her tugboat. She doesn’t want to look at it. She doesn’t want to think about it. But she does.

6.       Love. Laughter. Funny stuff. A blue heron, a woman named Daisy, a DEA agent who lives down the dock, a restaurant, a scary man. Pillow making, skinny dipping, too much wine. More laughter.

7.      I hope you like it, I truly do.

This is a snippet from Charlotte Mackintosh in “My Very Best Friend.” Charlotte is a time travel romance writer who has no romance. She lives like a hermit on an island and goes skinny dipping. She puts her four cats in a specially made cat stroller. She’s different. She’s a lot of fun.

“I detest flying. You could correctly call it ‘pathologically afraid.’ I cannot breathe on planes. I know that I am going to die a fiery death as we plunge into the ocean.

I have studied planes, their engines, and why they stay in the air in depth. My studies took two years. I understand mathematical aerodynamics description, thrust, lift, Newton, and Bernoulli’s principle.

I even had three tours at Boeing.

I have talked to pilots and engineers and examined blueprints for planes. Yet the sensible part of me knows that the plane will crash at any moment because nothing this large, heavy, and rigid was ever meant to be in the sky.

This knowledge is in direct contrast to my physics studies. I acknowledge this dichotomy.

I sat down in my first-class seat. I need room if I fly. I don’t want to be sandwiched next to strangers who will be intruding upon my space by body part or by air. I prefer to die within my own confines.

Inside my carry-on bag I had these things: Travel-sized bottles of Scotch. My list folder. A handkerchief. Travel-sized bottles of whiskey. My own tea bags—chamomile, peppermint, and for my adventurous side, Bengal Tiger. Three journals to write in if my writer’s block dissolves. Pictures of my cats. Travel-sized bottles of tequila.

Two books on gravitational physics and evolutionary biology.

I adjusted my glasses. If we’re going to crash, I want them to be sturdily placed on my nose so I can see our doomed descent. My glasses have brown rims. I affixed clear tape on the left arm, as it’s cracked. I’ve been meaning to go to the eye doctor to get it fixed, but the tape seems to be functioning well. It does make my glasses tilt to the left, though. Not much of a problem, except if one is worried about appearance, which I am not.
I rechecked the top button on my beige blouse to make sure it was still fastened. I had been able to get most of the blueberry and ketchup stains out of it. If I end up in the ocean, I want to be covered. No need to show my ragged, but sturdy, bra.

My underwear is beige or white, and cotton. When there are more than two holes, I throw them out. High risers, you could call them. I like to be properly covered, no tiny, lacy, itchy tidbits for me, even though I put McKenzie Rae, the heroine in all of my time travel romance novels, in tiny lacy tidbits that do not itch her.

If we crash, I can assure you that my underwear will stand up far better to the fire and flying debris than a tidbit would.

I situated my brown corduroy skirt and took off my brown, five-year-old sturdy shoes and put on my blue slippers with pink rabbit ears that Bridget sent me. I took out a tiny bottle of Scotch, as my hands were already shaking.

My seatmate, a man who appeared to be about my age, was white faced. “I hate flying,” he muttered. I heard the Texan drawl.

“Me too. Here. Have a drink.” I pulled out another bottle.

“Thank you, ma’am, I am much obliged.”

We clinked our tiny bottles together. His hands were shaking, too.

We both breathed shallowly. “Close your eyes, inhale,” I said. “Find your damn serenity. Think of your sunflowers…bells of Ireland…catnip…sweet Annies…wild tea roses…”

“Think of your ranch…” he said, barely above a whisper. “Think of your cows. Your tractors. The bulls. Castration day.”

The vision of castration day was unpleasant. I closed my eyes again.

We inhaled.

We drank.

We shook.

We took off. I started to sweat. So did he.

“My turn,” he said when we were done with the first bottle. He handed me a tiny bottle of Scotch out of his briefcase.

“Cheers to aerodynamics, thrust, lift, and Bernoulli’s principle.”

“Cheers to your green eyes, darlin’. Those are bright twinklers. Brighter than the stars in Texas, may she reign forever.”

“Thank you. May Newton’s laws reign forever.”

Third round on me.

Fourth on him, ordered from the flight attendant, who said cheerily, annoyingly, “Nervous flyers?”

The fourth round did the trick. We decided to sing the National Anthem together, then “Frosty the Snowman” and two songs by Neil Diamond. One was “Cracklin’ Rosie,” which made him cry, so I cried, too, in solidarity. The annoying flight attendant asked us to be quiet.

We sang “The Ants Go Marching Down” in whispery voices, then I taught him a Scottish drinking song about a milkmaid. We woke up in Amsterdam, his head on my shoulder.

I wriggled him awake. “It was a pleasure getting drunk with you.”

“The pleasure was all mine, green eyes,” he drawled in his Texan drawl. “It seems we have arrived alive.”

“We did our part. Praise to Newton.”

We stumbled off the plane, shook hands, and I caught the next flight to Edinburgh. I forgot to change out of my blue slippers with pink rabbit ears before I walked through the airport. No matter. The top button on my beige blouse was still buttoned and I was in one piece.

I put my hand to my head. Lord. I hate flying and I hate airplane hangovers.”

Thanks, very much, Cathy, for stopping by!

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