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Firefly Lane Paperback – January 6, 2009
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A Conversation with Kristin Hannah
Amazon.com: Why did you choose Seattle as the backdrop for Firefly Lane? Is there something unique about growing up in the Northwest that helped you to define the kind of women Kate and Tully become?
Kristin Hannah: Quite simply, I chose Seattle as the backdrop for Firefly Lane because it's so much a part of who I am. I've lived in the Northwest for most of my life, and obviously, in all those years, I've seen this part of the country evolve from an undiscovered gem into the Emerald City. So many of the places from my youth are gone, or changed, or moved, and I guess I wanted to remember the physical reminders of those bygone days. And while Kate and Tully are absolutely Northwest girls, I like to think their story will speak to women who grew up in vastly different, more populated areas. After all, it's ultimately about friendship, and those seeds can be planted anywhere.
Amazon.com: While you were writing, at any point did you find yourself feeling more sympathetic to Kate or to Tully? How did you keep the weight of the plot balanced between them as their stories evolved?
KH: There's no way to avoid the truth that Kate is more than a little like me. Thus, I identified with her from the very beginning--she was the small town girl who had to get up in the pre-dawn hours to feed her horses, and read The Lord of the Rings during every family vacation, and felt lost in the first few months at the sprawling University of Washington. All of that was me, so naturally, the problem was not in feeling sympathetic toward Katie; it was much more about holding her at arm's length, seeing her not as an extension of myself, but as a completely fictional woman. Tully was a different story entirely. While many readers might be surprised by this, I really fell in love with Tully. In the final analysis, she's one of my favorite characters of all time. I know she's bold and selfish and myopic and ambitious to a fault, but she's also terribly broken, wounded by her parents, unable to believe in love, and ultimately very real. I think all of us know a "Tully" in our lives, and they bring a lot of drama...and a lot of fire and sparkle.
Amazon.com: You have a beautiful way of showing both the tension and tenderness between mothers and daughters. Was it a challenge to write Tully's painful history with her own mother, and later, the conflict that builds between Kate and her own daughter?
KH: Honestly, I believe that the mother-daughter relationship is magical, complex, potentially dangerous, profoundly powerful, and deeply transformative. To put it simply, all of us have this relationship, and in a very real way, "none of us comes out alive." We are all formed first as daughters and then tested as mothers. There's nothing like motherhood to make us reassess how we were as daughters. One of my favorite parts of Firefly Lane was the circle of Kates relationship with her mom. First we see her as an angry teen, slamming the door on her mother...and then later her own daughter does the same thing to her. There's a real symmetry in that, a truth that many of us have learned. I have often wished in the past few years that my mom were here to help me as I raised my own teenage son. As a girl, with my own mom, I thought I knew it all; now I know better. Somewhere, I know my mom is smiling.
Amazon.com: Throughout the novel, both Kate and Tully question the reliability of love. Is it that question that creates the rift between them and, ultimately, reunites them in friendship?
KH: You're right, they each do continually question the reliability of love. For Kate, it's a self-esteem issue. She absolutely believes in love--she's grown up surrounded by it--but she constantly questions Johnny's commitment to her. I always felt that was largely because she felt like a moon to Tully's bright and shining sun. For Tully, she honestly doesnt believe that true romantic love exists, and for all of her overblown ambition and belief in herself, she has been wounded by her mother's repeated abandonment. The result is that she feels she's unlovable.
Amazon.com: Kate and Tully are each big personalities in their own way. Was it hard to create male characters who really understand them?
KH:The challenge with regard to male characters was not so much creating men who understood Kate and Tully, it was rather to create love stories that equaled the power and emotional intensity of the friendship. After all, the men in the story were important--Johnny particularly--but it was really a story about the women.
Amazon.com: When Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone first came out, many readers were shocked that a man could write such an intimate portrait of a woman. Do you think women are in fact the best writers of women's fiction? Would you ever consider writing a novel where men take center stage?
KH: One of the great things about being a writer is that we get the chance to inhabit the minds and souls of a variety of individuals. I really don't think male/female is the central question in terms of the viability of a voice and/or vision. We writers can "become" murderers, animals, psychopaths, vampires, lawyers, doctors, wizards, children. In short, our storytelling skills and character-building abilities are limited only by our own imaginations. Until recently, most of my novels--while female-centric in vision--were equally narrated by male characters, and one--Angel Fallswas primarily narrated by men. I didn't see the writing of that any different than anything else.
Amazon.com: Do you see yourself as a writer of romance or women's fiction? What do you see as the differences in these two genres--is one an evolution of the other, or is the label unimportant?
KH: I began as a romance author and moved into women's fiction about ten years ago. While many definitions abound, mine is this: romance is a subsection of the broad, all-inclusive women's commercial fiction market. Women's fiction in general is not an evolution of romance; much of women's fiction is completely unrelated to any romantic elements. However, it is true that many current commercial women's fiction authors began in romance.
Amazon.com:Many women read fictional romance to escape the stress of everyday life and find inspiration in a happy ending. Is there a primary experience that you hope your readers will have after reading Firefly Lane?
KH: I am a sucker for a happy ending myself. In fact, my husband and I often go round and round about movies in which I hate the ending and he loves it. He always says I'm only comfortable with happy ever after, but that's not true. What I want is an emotionally satisfying, organic ending. I want to be totally engaged until the last page, and I want to believe every moment up until I close the book. Sometimes I want to laugh, sometimes I want to cry, and sometimes I want to scream that it cant really be over. (Harry Potter comes to mind on this one). The point is, I want to be moved deeply. That's what I look for in other books and what I hope to deliver in my own.
Just FYI, here are some of my favorite endings: Gone With the Wind, Middlemarch, Prince of Tides, An Inconvenient Wife, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, It, Shadow of the Wind. Some are happy, some are sad, some are bittersweet. All are memorable.
Amazon.com: If you could meet any writer, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you ask them?
KH: There are, of course, dozens of choices here, and I could certainly go through the classics and come up with many names and questions, but the truth is that I would love to sit down with Stephen King and listen to some rock and roll, and ask him how in the world he has stayed so good for so long.
--This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Hannah (On Mystic Lake) goes a little too far into Lifetime movie territory in her latest, an epic exploration of the complicated terrain between best friends—one who chooses marriage and motherhood while the other opts for career and celebrity. The adventures of poor, ambitious Tully Hart and middle-class romantic Kate Mularkey begin in the 1970s, but don't really get moving until about halfway into the book, when Tully, who claws her way to the heights of broadcast journalism, discovers it's lonely at the top, and Katie, a stay-at-home Seattle housewife, forgets what it's like to be a rebellious teen. What holds the overlong narrative together is the appealing nature of Tully and Katie's devotion to one another even as they are repeatedly tested by jealousy and ambition. Katie's husband, Johnny, is smitten with Tully, and Tully, who is abandoned by her own booze-and-drug-addled mother, relishes the adoration from Katie's daughter, Marah. Hannah takes the easy way out with an over-the-top tear-jerker ending, though her upbeat message of the power of friendship and family will, for some readers, trump even the most contrived plot twists.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Tully's mother deserts her at birth, then drifts in and out of her life, each time heaping devastation on her. The one constant is her grandmother, who raised her most of her life. In contrast, Kate is raised in a loving family. Tully never overcame the scars of childhood, even though Kate's family took her in and treated her as one of their own. They were, however, primarily responsible for her success in life, though that success came at great personal cost, and almost finished off her friendship with Kate. The strong work ethic she developed over time paid off in a big way
Tully's dream was to become a reporter and eventually a network news anchor. She planned her life and Kate's, too. They were to be the dream team dream. Bigger than life Tully dragged an increasingly ambivalent Kate along, setting the stage for a life of disappointment and betrayal for Kate as Tully became taken by the story at the expense of the subjects. She became more successful as she vied for the man Kate loved. Through Kate's meteoric rise to fame, she unabashedly used Kate for a story with no regard for feelings, seriously jepordizing the friendship. Each time, Tully talked Kate into taking her back--never apologizing and somehow turning it around so that Kate was the one apologizing instead of Tully. One thing Kate never forgot, however, was that Tully was once involved with her husband. And that strand of uncertainty threads through the story, appears and disappears.
Tully never changes, never apologizes for who she is. Then a sudden twist turns all their lives upside down. All the old fears and insecurities rise to the surface. Tully is thrown together with Kate and her family. Kate's daughter, who idolizes Tully, causes problems when Tully, her godmother, lavishes expensive gifts on her and disagrees with Kate over discipline issues. The result is powerful and tears at the very fabric of their lives. These old insecurities Tully has from childhood are met with a Kate who no longer stays in the background but stands up to her. The explosive ending changes everything and forces them to reassess their lives and what they all mean to each other.
The characters are three dimensional and believable reflect reflection of life. Everyone can identify with something in the book. The pathos of growing up in Tully's home, the contrasting loving home in which Kate grew up. The give and take--the mostly take on Tully's side and her neediness. The choices each of them made and the cost in life terms because of those choices. "Firefly Lane" explores the inner depth of the human spirit and the strength it has when dealt a bad hand--the resilience of the spirit, and the strength of friendship when tested under the worst of circumstances. For this, I recommend it as a five star read. Give it a chance. If you put it down too soon, you'll miss out on a truly heart rending commentary on human feelings and emotions--the ability to sieze the best and find that that extrordinary fount of courage within to handle the worst that life throws at us. I am glad I kept reading. When I neared the end, I had to put it down for several days before I could finish it. Without realizing it, I had made an emotional investment in the characters and needed time to step back for awhile. That was a first. Something about "Firefly Lane" resonated in me.
Kristin Hannah is a writer! A wonderful teller of stories. I am a FAN!!!
BTW: Don't miss "Nightingale," Ms. Hannah's tour de force capturing in heartbreaking honor of The French during WWII.
A novel about family on one side and the total lack of family for one young girl on the other. How these two girls with such hugely different backgrounds developed a relationship that lasted over 30 years. The good, the bad and the very ugly times between them. How their separate selves became one word, "KateandTully" who eventually spilt into very divergent paths yet maintained this tight knit friendship through out. The author explains it as how the mother of Tully who constantly deserted her, set her life up for continuous heart break. With a mother who never loved her and you never know why nor who her father was, she felt she was impossible to love so she carried on her total life trying to find love and be loved. Yet never found the path to it. Kate on the other hand loved her through and through but it didn't seem to be enough. Nothing was enough . It put Kate's life into huge difficulties over the years but Kate seemed willing to come back again and agin to continue being Tully's best friend. Well, that is until one day.... but then I would be giving the story away.
The author does an amazing job of developing her characters. You live and breath this story. You care.. you want this to come around to a happy ending for all concerned. Life is not often that way. Thats the glory of this book. It is real living and learning to understand yourself and others that you love and care about. Obviously, I loved it. I hope all who read it, enjoy it as much as I did.