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Interview with Patti Callahan Henry

Interview With Patti Callahan Henry

Ali: What inspired you to write this book? 

Patti: I was inspired by the beauty and handmade world of letterpress and typography. In our fast-paced world where image is everything in social media and branding, where does the handcrafted, honest life fit in? I imagined a woman who valued not only the image of her life and family but also the creative life that nourished her. I saw these two worlds colliding as she struggled to keep both worlds alive in a tension of opposites. Eventually something had to unwind, which of course it did. As an ex-nurse who specialized in closed head injuries, I was also inspired by the constantly wavering life of memory and imagination. What is real? What is imagined or remembered? How accurate is our memory, especially after a head injury? These fascinating questions pulled the story along as I uncovered the answers. I’m always inspired by storytelling and the ultimate ability of creativity to heal a heart, a life and an injured brain.

Ali: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

Patti: I like the reader to choose the most important theme. I am continually stunned by the ability of readers to show me something about my work that even I don’t see. It is often in the writing that I begin to see the themes; I don’t set out to push a theme forward. Now that the novel is finished and entering the world, I can see the themes more clearly. There is our ability to see the truth when we don’t want to see it; trusting our intuition. I wrote about the struggle between family and work and the need to please others at the expense of our creative life. I wrote about love and being a mother and the powerlessness that comes with motherhood when you can’t fix something for your child. I wrote about the elusive nature of memory and imagination. The more obvious theme rests in the question, “What is infidelity?” and how do we deal with it? I think that if I had to choose the most important theme for me it would be the message about the ability of creativity to both open our eyes and also to heal our hearts.

Ali: What books have most influenced your life most? 

Patti: Oh, there are so many from different periods of my life. I will never forget the first time I read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It forever impacted my view of life and of writing (and of sarcasm and irony). Beach Music by Pat Conroy opened my heart to lyrical language as a means to tell a story. Graham Greene's The End of the Affair still impacts the way I write today--I want my stories to have that much heart to them.

Ali: What book are you reading now?

Patti: I am reading Anita Hughes' new novel, French Coast, which doesn't come out until later in the year. I'm really loving it.

Ali: Do you enjoy writing female characters or male characters the most? 

Patti: I actually enjoy writing both but obviously most of my stories are told from the woman's perspective. My first novel, Losing the Moon, was told from both points of view and I loved doing that. My work in progress right now is told partly from the man's perspective--it's challenging and fun, opening the story up in different ways.

Ali: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Patti: These two authors aren't new -- but new to me: Katherine Center and Anita Hughes. I am really enjoying discovering their work. Last year a debut novel came out by Kimberly Brock titled The River Witch. It's amazing and won the Georgia Author of The Year Award.

Ali: Thank you for visiting Dazzled by Books and giving me a chance to interview you. 

Patti: Thank you so much for talking with me! I'm really excited about this new novel and am thrilled to be included on your blog.

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