Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Randy Sue Coburn - Author Interview

Everyone - Please help me welcome Randy Sue Coburn to Books and Needlepoint today! She has graciously answered some questions about herself and her new book - A Better View of Paradise.

1. A Better View of Paradise is your third novel - can you give us a quick synopsis?

This book is about love, death, baseball, with a little intervention from Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, thrown in for spice. Stephanie Pollack, better known as Stevie, is a landscape architect who’s been calibrated to achieve by Hank, her difficult, demanding father. When Hank is diagnosed with a terminal illness, she drops everything to be with him at her childhood home on the island of Kaua`i. Hank’s impending death, on top of her recent career catastrophe and romantic disaster, force Stevie into finally trying to live up to her secret Hawaiian name—Makalani, eyes of heaven. Along the way in this shared journey of contention and healing, grief and resurrection, Stevie’s heart opens not only to her father and the eccentric cousin she never knew she had till now, but to a man who challenges all her constricted notions of intimacy and life’s possibilities. As for baseball, Hank is a lifelong Cubs fan, and one of Stevie’s dreams for her father is that before he dies, he’ll see his team play in the World Series. Like Hank, my own father was a lifelong Cubs fan, and in the aftermath of his death, I wanted to focus on the father-daughter bond, and its profound influence on a woman’s life.

2. Redbook Magazine chose this novel as their Red Hot Summer Read for 2009. How did that come about and how did it feel?

Since Redbook’s key editors considered a number of novels, it was gratifying to hear that what impressed them most was the quality of writing in Paradise. Years ago, when I was just starting to write fiction, I submitted one of my first short stories to Redbook, and it was rejected in such a kind and encouraging way that I still have the letter. So I’m not exaggerating when I say that having an entire novel of mine endorsed by Redbook, which has published so much wonderful fiction over the years, is a dream come true.

3. It has been 10 years since you published your first novel, Remembering Jody ; have there been big changes in your life or in the way you write since that first one was published? Is there anything that you learned back then that influenced A Better View of Paradise?

Maybe the biggest change in my life since Jody is that I’ve been able to spend more time working on novels and less time writing screenplays and teaching writing to subsidize writing my novels. This is huge for me, since I’m not a great multi-tasker. Also, I’ve benefited enormously from the input of editors and fellow novelist friends. I love being part of a community of writers, and that’s an aspect of my life that’s changed a lot since Jody, when I was just beginning to befriend other writers of make-believe. I interviewed dozens of different authors in my other life as a journalist, everyone from Margaret Atwood and Judy Blume to John Irving and Tom Robbins. And while that was enormously educational, writing in the trenches with your pals has a much more direct and daily impact.

4. This book is set in Hawaii - Did you spend much time/any time there while writing it? (I know I would have!)

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time in Kauai while I was researching the book, but before I ever knew I would use the island as a major setting for a novel I had been there a half a dozen different times, so I had experiences from those visits to draw on as well.

5. Where do your ideas for your novels generally come from? Are characters ever based on you or anyone you know?

I always end up writing about relationships that reflect my own experiences, from growing up Jewish in the South (Remembering Jody), obsessive love (Owl Island), or the death of a difficult, demanding father (Paradise). The seeds of characters often come from people I’ve known, but then they sprout off in different, invented directions.

6. Do you have much input in the titles or covers of your books?

None of my own working titles have been as good as the titles they end up with. As for the covers, I can take no credit for the fact that each one has been better than the last, but since I equate water with emotion and the emotional lives of my characters are so important to me, it makes me happy that water is an element in them all.

7. Let's lighten it up a bit now - What would your favorite holiday destination be and why?

Either Paris, because it’s such a stimulating city with a female sensuality and the food and wine are so wonderful, or Kauai, because I love the island’s splendor and spirit.

8. Do you have any favorite books or authors that have influenced you?

Oh, there are so very many that if I started listing I might go nuts! What I’ve tried to do is write the kind of relationship-oriented novels that I’ve always loved reading, from Anne of Green Gables to Anne Tyler, from Jane Austen to Richard Russo, Stephanie Kallos, and John Irving.

9. While on this tour, has there been any comments or questions that have taken you by surprise?

I’ve been surprised in the best possible way by how generous the appreciation has been from actual readers who can relate the challenges of Stevie’s life to their own.

10. Do you have anything you are working on currently? Is there anything that you would like to add for my readers?

I’m just beginning to write my next novel, and hope that if your readers enjoy Paradise—or even if they have a bone to pick—they’ll let me know. I can be contacted through my website, http://randysuecoburn.com.

Thank you Randy Sue. I can't wait to hear about your next novel!


Sheila Deeth said...

What a great interview. Fascinating questions and answers, and certainly an author I should be looking out for. Thanks.

Natalie W said...

Oh more books added to my must read list! Great interview, it was very interesting.
Natalie :0)

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

She is such a great author! Thanks for posting!


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