Monday, September 21, 2009

A Talk with Kris Radish, Author of The Shortest Distance...

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THE SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO WOMEN is your first novel set in the South. Why did you choose to set this book in a small South Carolina town?

I love to write about all the places in-between what some people think are the “real cities”—New York, San Francisco, Chicago. I think the heart of the world lies in the people and places of communities where there is a foundation of simple openness … where there’s a town snoop and people know what day you water your lawn. I also like to write about areas I want to visit. Ironically, much like my central protagonist in this novel, I got caught up with my own life and family and was not able to go to South Carolina for an extended research visit. Instead I relied on prior visits and research. I really do live my novels.

Your central protagonist, Emma Gilford, is an avid gardener; in fact, the gardens in the novel have such a presence that they almost become a character in their own right. What role do gardens play in Emma’s life? What role have they played in yours?

Well, first of all I’m a Radish! For Emma, her garden is her place of comfort, her own private family, in essence, and the place where she always feels safe. It’s important for all of us to have a sanctuary like that.

I was avid about my gardens when my children were growing up. It was my refuge and I could still keep an eye on them. Now, my “garden” is my work … and how I love pulling the words—I mean weeds!

Emma’s 78-year-old mother is a force of nature—a single parent with multiple love interests and an irreverent sense of humor who reigns as queen bee over her adult daughters. Is she based on anyone you know (or would like to know)?

Marty’s a brassy, wild, beautiful woman full of heart and love. There’s always a little bit of me in every character, and pieces of women I imagine and have known as well. Someday I will be a wild grandma too (not for a while … please!) and I hope I can let go of my children with grace and embrace our lives as touching, yet separate.

Emma is single herself, but she has a particularly close—almost maternal—bond with her 16-year-old niece Stephie. What does the aunt-niece relationship offer that a mother-daughter relationship might not? Have you experienced a similar bond in your own life?

I think it’s crucial for young women to have a relationship like that with an aunt, a neighbor, a teacher … someone you can share your heart with and be open with in a way that helps you navigate the rough waters toward adulthood. I had that with my Aunt Barbara. Ours was a very special, open, loving relationship—and she made me feel like I was the most wonderful girl in the world.

You have said that THE SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO WOMEN is, in many ways, about the assumptions we make about members of our family and the roles we play as a result. Can you explain?

We all do it, and it’s not necessarily the correct way to live. We do not know what is in another’s heart and soul and mind unless we ask them and have an open line of communication. It’s not easy; when we assume we know how someone lives and feels, we are often wrong. Open your heart and see what happens … the truth is usually not what we assume it is. And everything—absolutely everything—can change.

As the novel progresses, the Gilford sisters’ lives and the whole town careen toward a pivotal (and in wonderful ways comical) annual event: The Gilford Family Reunion. Has there been a Radish Family Reunion—and if so is there a Radish Family Reunion Bible (and/or photos you’d like to share)?

You caught me! There is a Radish Family Reunion and the planning book is downstairs in my kitchen cabinet. And we have an auction … and it’s wild wonderful fun … maybe not as wild as the Gilford reunion but very nearly so. I’m going back to Wisconsin to get some photos—and after I weed out the bad ones, I will share. I promise!

Toward the end of the novel, Stephie surprises everyone in her family by entering a beauty pageant—and many of your readers may be surprised to find one in your fiction as well. Why did you choose to include it?

Besides the fact that life is a pageant of sorts, where we dress up and sometimes unfortunately act and look the way others expect us to look, I wanted to address the notion of beauty. I also want my readers and everyone to know that we should all be the Queen of our own lives every single day that we live. It’s our life!

You have recently moved to the Southeast yourself (Apollo Beach, FL). To what extent does living in a new place change the shape of your life?

Change is such a good thing! A new view opens up fresh worlds (and words) of thought. It’s like recharging a battery every single time I look out the window. My heart, and life, have a new coat of paint—and it’s given my writing new ground as well.

What can your readers expect to see next from you?

I am days away from finishing my seventh novel, Hearts on a String, which is set in Florida and is a wild, hilarious, exciting story that addresses the notion of chance, risk, friendship and love in a way that should knock people’s flip-flops right off their lovely feet!

*** Reproduced here with Publisher's permission ***
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2 comments :

  1. So nice meeting Kris Radish here! I love small town novels about women!

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  2. Good post, nice blog. Thanks for share useful information.

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