Dec 05

Tribute Books Blog Tour: Interview with Leslie Kagen – Author of Good Graces

 I’d like to thank Tribute Books and Ms. Kagen for the interview. WHISTLING AFTER DARK AND GOOD GRACES, plus several of Ms. Kagen’s other New York Times Bestselling novels are on my must read list!

Purchase GOOD GRACES on: Amazon | B&N | TBD | IB

Goodreads Synopsis: Lesley Kagen returns with the sequel to her national bestselling debut, Whistling in the Dark.

Whistling in the Dark captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O’Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee’s summer of 1959. The novel became a New York Times bestseller and was named a Midwest Honor Award winner.

In Good Graces, it’s one year later, and a heat wave has everyone in the close-knit Milwaukee neighborhood on edge. None more so than Sally O’Malley, who remains deeply traumatized by the sudden death of her daddy and her near escape from a murderer and molester the previous summer. Although outwardly she and her sister, Troo, are more secure, Sally’s confidence in her own judgment and much of her faith have been whittled away. When a series of disquieting events unfold in the neighborhood-a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan, crimes that may involve the increasingly rebellious Troo-Sally is called upon to rise above her inner demons. She made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, a promise she can’t break, even if her life depends on it. But when events reach a crisis point, will Sally have the courage and discernment to make the right choices? Or will her false assumptions lead her and those she loves into danger once again?

Lesley Kagen’s gift for imbuing her child narrators with compelling authenticity shines as never before in Good Graces, a novel told with sensitivity, wit, and warmth.

Follow Leslie Kagen on: Facebook | Website | goodreads

Bio: I was born in Milwaukee and spent my early years in a great working class neighborhood, much like the one where Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces are set.

I attended Marquette University for one year, fell in love, and followed my boyfriend to New York City. I lasted about six months. I was so intimidated, I spent most of my time running from my apartment to the grocery store and back to my apartment, which was located above a 24 Hour Soul Record Store. Hence, I have the dubious ability to recite every lyric to every James Brown tune ever recorded.

After returning to Milwaukee, I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin where I majored in Radio and Television. I fell into a job as a morning drive DJ on one of the country’s first alternative radio stations—WZMF. I got to interview lots of very cool rock n’ rollers like Frank Zappa, Hendrix and John Lennon.

In 1976, I moved to Los Angeles, where I began a ten year career working for Licorice Pizza record chain where I produced, wrote and voiced thousands of commercials as Lesley from Licorice Pizza. When I set out to expand my career, I ended up doing on-camera commercials, a couple of Movies-Of-The-Week, and a Laverne and Shirley.

I met my husband, Peter aka Sushi Man, in Malibu, which is pretty funny considering he was from Milwaukee as well. While we both loved living in California, after the birth of our kids, Casey and Riley, we felt this overwhelming need to return to the roost, so we moved back home in 1990.

Well, that’s about it. Oh, wait. The writing. I adore it. I crave it. But it wasn’t until Casey went off to college, and teenage Riley made it clear that any form of communication between us was to be restricted to—”With or without pepperoni”—that I found the opportunity to sit down and let ‘er rip. I hope you love reading Whistling in the Dark, Land of a Hundred Wonders, Tomorrow River and Good Graces as much as I loved writing them.

Q. After majoring in Radio and Television in college, you worked as a morning drive DJ for an alternative radio station. One of your interviews was with rock legend John Lennon. What did you guys talk about?”

A. What a thrill that was. Lennon was the kindest man. Very soft-spoken. We discussed his new solo album. And how he thought people might feel about it.

Q. While living in L.A. you wrote and voiced thousands of commercials as Lesley from Licorice Pizza (record company). Do you have a favorite voice-over experience and could you give us a line from one of your commercials?

A. I love doing voice-overs and have so many great experiences. It was a thrill to dub Margot Kidder’s voice in the movie, Some Kind of Hero. Some lines needed replacing and she was out of the country. I was also excited to work with Robert Young who had been a hero of mine as a kid. Same goes for Betty White. A line from one of my commercials? Secret…strong enough for a man…made for a woman.

Q. Has your work in radio and television influenced your fiction writing at all?

A. Yeah, it has. Besides voicing commercials, I’ve written a ton of them. As odious as they are, they need to have a beginning, middle and an end the same way any story does. It was a good training ground.

Q. Whistling in the Dark and its sequel, Good Graces, is set in 1959. Why did you choose this era and how much research did you do?

A. I grew up in the Fifties. Love the lingo, the clothes, the movies and music. I did very little research, but did have to check a couple things here and there. I could remember the star dancers on American Bandstand, but couldn’t recall their names. And I had to check the release dates of a couple of songs.

Q. Are the books based on any true life experiences (personal or someone you know)?

A. The kids in Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces are the ones I grew up with. The neighborhood is mine. A few of the other characters are blends of other people I knew back then. Parts of the plots–the death of the girls’ father, the mother’s illness, and even the O’Malley sisters themselves– are based on my own life.

Q. For those readers who have not read Whistling in the Dark — without giving anything away — why did you write a sequel?

A. Initially, I had no intention of writing a sequel. Even after readers clamored for another O’Malley sisters story, I resisted. My next two books after Whistling were Land of a Hundred Wonders and Tomorrow River. Two stories set in the South. After I handed in the manuscript for Tomorrow River, I realized I was feeling homesick. So I had this idea to set a story in small town Wisconsin. But every time I began writing it, the O’Malley girls would pop into my mind. I finally surrendered. And am so happy I did. It was like attending a family reunion.

Q. Within all your books you feature a crime and a sense of loss. What appeals to you about these two topics?

A. Loss is a universal theme. An experience most of us share at one time or another. I’ve experienced my fair share and feel comfortable expressing the feelings we all have when we’ve lost something or someone we love. The crime element in my stories arises from my love of mysteries.

Q. What is your writing process? Where is your favorite place to write?

A. My writing process is about getting up every day at the crack of dawn, heading downstairs, feeding my dogs, making a cup of tea and heading to my desk, which sits in front of a window that overlooks my garden. I work five to six hours every day. The most important aspect of all this is believing that the creative part of my mind will supply me with what I need. I don’t outline, or even think of a story much. I just set my bum down in front of the computer and let ‘er rip.

Q. What books and/or authors do you read?

A. I have a few mystery writers whose work I’ve been reading for many years. I love Robert B. Parker. Sue Grafton. Tana French. And Louise Penny. Kate Atkinson. Alexander McCall Smith’s Number One Ladies Detective Agency series. I also read a lot of commercial/literary fiction. Writers like Megan Abbott, Alice Sebold, and Russell Banks. And just about anything about horses.

Q. What do you like to do in your spare time?

A. Hang out in the barn. Play with my dogs. Eat. Hike. Love up my grandson, Charlie. Movies, I adore. Watch TV. And, of course, read, read, read!

Bonus Q: If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?

A. I don’t really get people who say they “have no regrets.”  There are so many things I would change that it’s going to be tough to pick just one.  Guess I’ll settle on wishing I would have started writing novels a little earlier in life.

Thanks, Leslie!





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4 Responses to “Tribute Books Blog Tour: Interview with Leslie Kagen – Author of Good Graces”

  1. Julie, you still get my vote for having one of the cutest blogs out there. Thanks for hosting Lesley today and for the great questions you came up with.

    Lesley, I loved reading about your background about how you were able to interview John Lennon and how you provided voice over work for such well known celebrities and commercials. You certainly are one multi-talented individual! 🙂

  2. GOOD GRACES blog tour stops @Screenplaydiva as Lesley talks about what it was like to interview John Lennon

  3. Lesley Kagen says:

    Thanks for having me!

  4. Oh wonderful interview. I hope my life is half as interesting.
    Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic recently posted..Why I Love Wednesdays… Underrated Books