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Wordsmith
Deltadawn
Posts: 311
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Dear Sarah,

That is fascinating. Thank you so much for answering my question!

Once again, I loved this book! I will definitely be recommending it!

Thank you again for sharing it with us here and for joining us here at the First Look book club.

Best wishes, Dawn

 

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JaneM
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Hi Sarah,

I put in a long post in the section on Final Chapters about the concept of "the story" and how it is used throughout the book, even in the final few sentences.  If you have read it, could you comment here on your use of "the story?"  If you haven't read it, let me know and I can re-post it here.  Thanks.

 

Jane M.
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Ronrose
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎03-24-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

I would like to add my thanks to you Ms Blake and the Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club staff for another excellent novel.   I had a moment while reading " The Postmistress" that brought back a memory lost for years. When you wrote of Frankie playing the recordings for Otto, I was reminded of a similar incident. My niece, about twenty years old, had lost her father, when she was very young. As we were reminiscing about her uncle, I recalled that he had sent on a recording disc, a short message to my family, which was overseas at that time. I quickly searched through my old records and found the small disc that my uncle had recorded many years ago. As we sat and listened to that recording, my niece broke out in tears.  She had not heard her father's voice for so many years. I was so moved when I read the passage in your book, " Dites-le de moi."  Thank you.

Author
Sarah-Blake
Posts: 66
Registered: ‎08-25-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Good morning Jane,

 

I definitely read it and it's the basis for my next thought of the day--your post and Sunitcloud's response and then did you see Skiibunny's response as well are all tremendously rich and thought-provoking. I've been percolating, is all.

 

It's the hardest and most complicated question, frankly, for me--this issue of story, how we tell them, what we tell when we tell them, and how a story can walk the line between real and true.

 

Sorry to be slow in responding--I do read every single post on every thread-- even down to all the announcements, hovering and listening in. The web of conversation has been great.

 

Sarah

 

 

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MSaff
Posts: 272
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Hi Sarah,

 

  Thank You so much.  Once again, let me say that your novel is wonderful and I expect to see it on the Best Seller List in the near future.  Good Luck and Happy writing.

 

 


Sarah-Blake wrote:

 


MSaff wrote:

Hi Sarah,

 

  Welcome to our little corner of the universe.  I'm sure that you have had many people here welcome you.  I wanted to tell you that you have written a wonder novel, and I am completely hooked by the story.  You have made a great choice to allow us to read your novel.  We are a friendly group and I hope that you can endure all the questions we are sure to have.  You appear to be on the fast track with this story.  Good Luck and Happy Writing.

 

Here is my question.

 

  Where did you get the inspiration to write the story, and how much of it is fiction versus non-fiction? 

 

  I love the characters and can't wait to read more. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Hi Mike,

 

Thanks for you warm welcome!

 

This novel began many years ago when I had this image of a woman working in a post office holding a letter in her hand and choosing not to deliver it. I was interested in her character, and I started writing really to see who she was and why she would do such a thing. Emma and Will sprang out of the necessity of finding the characters whose letter the woman held, and Frankie arrived 100 pages into the story--though I had no idea where she had come from, or what she had done. They are all utter fiction--though all the background--the town of Franklin, the clothes, London during the Blitz, Radio broadcasting, the plight of the "refugees" on the trains is heavily researched. The more I read however, I discovered real life inspirations for Frankie--there was a woman who broadcast for Edward R. Murrow in the very beginning of 1940/41, Mary Marvin Breckinridge, and of course Martha Gellhorn was a tremendously passionate and savvy war reporter. I turned to her collection, The Face of War, over and over again.


 

 

Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
http://travelswithcarsandbooks.blogspot.com/
Wordsmith
literature
Posts: 499
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

literature wrote:

Hi Sarah,

--POSSIBLE SPOILER--

 

Chapter 27, I was in complete shock.  Why Harry?  He didn't have to die.  He was such a good person, caring and conscientious.  Was it the shock of finally seeing a U-boat that caused the heart attack?  Page 311, "Holy God," he breathed...Harry lowered his binoculars, barely breathing...His heart raced...A massive knock inside his chest made him drop his binoculars and grab for the windowsill to catch his breath...Another knock came inside, and this one dropped him to his knees...He picked himself up from the ground, stumbling down the length of the attic where the rope to the tower bell hung...He pulled.  Pulled with all his last life...He had always known it.  They had come."    I found it very hard to write this.  I felt myself actually grieving for him.

 

Even though the United States was not at war yet, but since Harry saw the U-boat, can he be considered as dying in the line of duty, so to speak?  He believed very firmly and was an active participant in the Civil Defense of Franklin and hopefully his death is not considered just another statistic not associated with war.

 

As a way of Iris coping with Harry's death, another side of her surfaces--and with such vegence.  Was Harry's death a way of showing the anger that Iris was capable of exhibiting? Page 315, "The ax swung over her head and down, over her head and down again, in atonement." 

 

I realized I was just rambling on and on but I was just so upset with Harry.

 

 

 


 

 

Dear Literature,

 

You are not alone in your bewilderment and sorrow about Harry! Many readers here have echoed what you say, and I've been thinking a lot about your question (and those of others too) about why Harry has to die. Just as the book began for me with an image of Iris holding a letter and not delivering it, it was always ended--in one way or another--with the lone image of Iris after Harry's funeral. When I realized that she would end by chopping down the flagpole at last in a fury of grief, I realized that that is how she has come full circle (for me). For me, Harry's death is taken by her as a punishment for her tampering with the system--she had tilted against what was right, had broken her own rules in delaying Emma's letter, and Harry's death is somehow fitting then.

 

The terrible horrible fact about writing fiction is that characters are sacrificed all the time for some larger idea, or some image--the tricky part, of course, is whether the sacrifice feels gratuitous. In time, I may come to agree with you, that Harry need not die--but in the writing of it, he had to go. (For a long while, he actually died by running at a Uboat that beached on the shore--then I realized that was simply too incredible.)

 

Sarah

___________________________

 

Thanks for your response.  So, Sarah, what you are saying is that if Harry was not paired up with Iris, he would still be alive?   I do agree with your choice of how and where he died rather than the idea of running after a beached U boat.  It still bothers me that Harry was the sacrificial lamb.  Iris chould have been dealt with differently for tampering with the system.  What about replacing her as Postmaster or Franklin's Post Office could have been closed down and joined together with a neighboring Post Office.  That would have devastated her.  If this happened, I could not see her remaining in Franklin any longer.

 

Contributor
Cobalt-blue4
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎09-01-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Ok, I admit that I am an eternal optimist. With that in mind, I so wanted the ending to go something like this:

 

1. Emma has her baby. Let's make it a boy who looks like his father. 

2. Iris and Harry have their wedding. Emma is in the wedding as the matron of honor. Jim Tom's youngest boy/girl are the flower girl and the ring bearer.

3. Frankie went to the wedding and had a great time. She buys a cottage in Franklin and does freelance writing for a living. 

4. I am sad for Otto because I don't think he is ever reunited with his wife. He then moves to Boston where he lives in an apartment building with other Austrian Jews.

 

Anyway, just thought I'd tell you what I was thinking. At the conclusion of the book, I had a gnawing, sad feeling in my gut. I thought maybe you ended the book on a low note to inject the reader with the feeling of worry and uncertainty that war brings.

 

Now for some questions for you...

Where did you get the idea for the characters? Do some of the characters take after real people in your life? Which of the three leading ladies are you most like? Or maybe, you are a mixture of all 3...if so, how so? 

 

Thank you for your answers!

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JaneM
Posts: 152
Registered: ‎02-01-2008
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?


Sarah-Blake wrote:

Good morning Jane,

 

I definitely read it and it's the basis for my next thought of the day--your post and Sunitcloud's response and then did you see Skiibunny's response as well are all tremendously rich and thought-provoking. I've been percolating, is all.

 

It's the hardest and most complicated question, frankly, for me--this issue of story, how we tell them, what we tell when we tell them, and how a story can walk the line between real and true.

 

Sorry to be slow in responding--I do read every single post on every thread-- even down to all the announcements, hovering and listening in. The web of conversation has been great.

 

Sarah

 

 


 

Thanks Sarah.  I look forward to your thoughts!  And I did like the book a lot, but was just afraid I might be missing a key theme.

Jane M.
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Cobalt-blue4
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎09-01-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

hi Sarah,

 

Another question...any correlation between Frankie and Franklin? I thought it was interesting that a leading lady had a shortened name of the leading town.

 

Also wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading the section of Frankie recording the stories on the trains. My next book will be about female reporters from war time. I'd like to learn more about Martha Gellhorn. 

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quiltedturtle1
Posts: 31
Registered: ‎09-02-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Sarah

 

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book. I love history and your story gave us a look at the part that is usually overlooked. At the end of the story, I kept wondering what happened to the three women. Will you be writing a sequel to it?

 

Thank you again for such a wonderful story. I will definitely recommend it.

 

Thanks....

Cathy

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emers0207
Posts: 18
Registered: ‎07-29-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

I'm not sure if this has been asked yet, but I was particularly impressed with your theme of separation, specifically for those of mother and child (e.g. the boy and his mother who is killed during the blitz, the British mother wispering to her dying baby, the mother and child separated by the crowd at the train station, the mother who accompanies her boy on his train ride to freedom knowing she will have to say goodbye, etc)  You do an incredible job of portraying these incidents and as a mother myself I found them so powerful they were often hard to read.  Did this theme come from anything specific? 

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ClaudiaLuce
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎01-31-2008
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Sarah,

 

Welcome to First Look.  Thank you so much for allowing us to read The Postmistress, sharing this wonderful novel with us before it becomes available to  the public.

 

I really don't have a question for you.  I do have a whole lot of thank yous for you.  I really appreciate your "Thoughts for Today". Thank you so much for those.  They have given me a whole new insight into this delightful novel and the characters who inhabit it.  I now realize what makes Frankie uniquely Frankie and why she is such a strong, strong-willed person!  Rarely do we have such an inside look into the novels we read; it is a pleasure to know these things! So, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.  I have printed that topic off, placed it inside the cover of my ARC, and will refer to it when I read this book again - which I will at some point in the future.

 

Thank you for writing such a glorious novel.  Both my mom and dad were alive during this time period; I am a baby boomer and I remember many conversations they had in reference to these times - while they were "courting". My dad served in the army in Italy, as did my father-in-law, during WWII.  Our family has heard numerous stories of this time period, many of which are reflected in this novel.  Mama used to talk about the hysteria around the Cape Cod area concerning U-boats and their possible appearances there.  We had cousins who lived in Maine, and they spoke of the 24 hour watches for the appearance of a U-boat on the horizon!  You portrayed that immaculately with Harry and his fear, culminating with his heart attack at the appearance.  Delicious!!

 

My congratulations on what has to be a best seller!  Wonderful novel!  Thank you again for sharing it with us!

 

Claudia

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." -
-- Sir Richard Steele
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AIRKNITTER
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Hello Ms. Blake,

Have you been in negotiations for the movie rights? I hope so because this is definitely a "big screen" story. Thank you sharing The Postmistress w/the F/L book club. I was indeed a grand read.

Wishing you much success with all your future writing.

Aine

Children are the living message we send to a time we will not see.
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Suetj
Posts: 18
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Hi Sarah-I really enjoyed your Maine moment!! Baboon-now that is funny. I savor Maine-we travel there in the summer.  the people of New England are so straight forward like that...love your reference.  It remeinded me of a shopkeeper in Maine where I go antiqueing.  She is blunt -tells it the way it is!!  Thanks again for your wonderful research that you put into this novel!

Reader 2
climbinggirl
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎08-22-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Hi Sarah!

This book was really good and I'm glad that you gave us the chance to read it first!  My big question is where you got the idea for Frankie Bard's stories? They were fascinating to read!

Thanks so much!

Sarah :smileytongue:

p.s.

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scnole
Posts: 103
Registered: ‎11-15-2008
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

Sarah,

 

I don't have a question for you.  I just wanted to let you know I loved this book.    I am recommending it to all my friends.

 

Mary Ann

Author
Sarah-Blake
Posts: 66
Registered: ‎08-25-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

 


literature wrote:

literature wrote:

Hi Sarah,

--POSSIBLE SPOILER--

 

Chapter 27, I was in complete shock.  Why Harry?  He didn't have to die.  He was such a good person, caring and conscientious.  Was it the shock of finally seeing a U-boat that caused the heart attack?  Page 311, "Holy God," he breathed...Harry lowered his binoculars, barely breathing...His heart raced...A massive knock inside his chest made him drop his binoculars and grab for the windowsill to catch his breath...Another knock came inside, and this one dropped him to his knees...He picked himself up from the ground, stumbling down the length of the attic where the rope to the tower bell hung...He pulled.  Pulled with all his last life...He had always known it.  They had come."    I found it very hard to write this.  I felt myself actually grieving for him.

 

Even though the United States was not at war yet, but since Harry saw the U-boat, can he be considered as dying in the line of duty, so to speak?  He believed very firmly and was an active participant in the Civil Defense of Franklin and hopefully his death is not considered just another statistic not associated with war.

 

As a way of Iris coping with Harry's death, another side of her surfaces--and with such vegence.  Was Harry's death a way of showing the anger that Iris was capable of exhibiting? Page 315, "The ax swung over her head and down, over her head and down again, in atonement." 

 

I realized I was just rambling on and on but I was just so upset with Harry.

 

 

 


 

 

Dear Literature,

 

You are not alone in your bewilderment and sorrow about Harry! Many readers here have echoed what you say, and I've been thinking a lot about your question (and those of others too) about why Harry has to die. Just as the book began for me with an image of Iris holding a letter and not delivering it, it was always ended--in one way or another--with the lone image of Iris after Harry's funeral. When I realized that she would end by chopping down the flagpole at last in a fury of grief, I realized that that is how she has come full circle (for me). For me, Harry's death is taken by her as a punishment for her tampering with the system--she had tilted against what was right, had broken her own rules in delaying Emma's letter, and Harry's death is somehow fitting then.

 

The terrible horrible fact about writing fiction is that characters are sacrificed all the time for some larger idea, or some image--the tricky part, of course, is whether the sacrifice feels gratuitous. In time, I may come to agree with you, that Harry need not die--but in the writing of it, he had to go. (For a long while, he actually died by running at a Uboat that beached on the shore--then I realized that was simply too incredible.)

 

Sarah

___________________________

 

Thanks for your response.  So, Sarah, what you are saying is that if Harry was not paired up with Iris, he would still be alive?   I do agree with your choice of how and where he died rather than the idea of running after a beached U boat.  It still bothers me that Harry was the sacrificial lamb.  Iris chould have been dealt with differently for tampering with the system.  What about replacing her as Postmaster or Franklin's Post Office could have been closed down and joined together with a neighboring Post Office.  That would have devastated her.  If this happened, I could not see her remaining in Franklin any longer.

 


 

 

Well, in some ways, yes--if Harry had not been paired with Iris, he would still be alive. And, as I posted a few days ago, his death may not have been a choice I made were I writing it now--but so much of writing a long novel ends up being like playing a piano without music, you are just feeling your way toward some idea you have of sounds and threads and images (or this is how I write anyway), and it is in the writing itself, the playing of the notes, that the decisions (like Harry's death) get made. 

 

Sarah

Author
Sarah-Blake
Posts: 66
Registered: ‎08-25-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

 


Cobalt-blue4 wrote:

Ok, I admit that I am an eternal optimist. With that in mind, I so wanted the ending to go something like this:

 

1. Emma has her baby. Let's make it a boy who looks like his father. 

2. Iris and Harry have their wedding. Emma is in the wedding as the matron of honor. Jim Tom's youngest boy/girl are the flower girl and the ring bearer.

3. Frankie went to the wedding and had a great time. She buys a cottage in Franklin and does freelance writing for a living. 

4. I am sad for Otto because I don't think he is ever reunited with his wife. He then moves to Boston where he lives in an apartment building with other Austrian Jews.

 

Anyway, just thought I'd tell you what I was thinking. At the conclusion of the book, I had a gnawing, sad feeling in my gut. I thought maybe you ended the book on a low note to inject the reader with the feeling of worry and uncertainty that war brings.

 

Now for some questions for you...

Where did you get the idea for the characters? Do some of the characters take after real people in your life? Which of the three leading ladies are you most like? Or maybe, you are a mixture of all 3...if so, how so? 

 

Thank you for your answers!


 

 

Hi Cobalt,

 

The idea for the characters each grew out of their actions. Iris, started it all--the woman in the post office who slipped a letter into her pocket led to trying to write whose letter it was, and so entered Emma and Will. Then Frankie arrived and I had to figure out who she was and where she had been and why she was in town to begin with.

 

I am definitely an amalgam of all three, I'd say, though I have none of Frankie's bravery or glam! But the desire to get to the bottom of things, the wish to understand a story I share with her, as well as the desire to make people look and see (that "pay attention" scene set fictionally between Martha Gellhorn and the girls at Smith college was one of the very first I imagined in the book). I love order, love things in their place, love the feeling of calm that comes from things put away and neat--that's the Iris in me. And Emma? I think her feeling of being invisible, (remember when she is thinking aloud and saying, I am disappearing?) of not having a center without Will to see her is very familiar to me--and again, as I posted a while back, for me this comes from having lost my parents pretty young (though I was not as young as Emma); when you lose the people whose eyes are upon you, whose eyes you feel watching you, I do feel you can lose the sense that you exist in the world. 

 

Sarah

Author
Sarah-Blake
Posts: 66
Registered: ‎08-25-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

 


Cobalt-blue4 wrote:

hi Sarah,

 

Another question...any correlation between Frankie and Franklin? I thought it was interesting that a leading lady had a shortened name of the leading town.

 

Also wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading the section of Frankie recording the stories on the trains. My next book will be about female reporters from war time. I'd like to learn more about Martha Gellhorn. 


 

 

Hi Cobalt,

 

There isn't any correlation, in fact Franklin was Franklin on the page and in the novel long before Frankie existed as a character! I chose to name the town fictionally because I wanted to avoid overlaying the personalities and histories of real towns on the Cape, and Franklin seemed a logical, patriot's name for an early New England settlement.

 

Frankie's name just sprang into my head, but I realized i was drawn to it in part because it is one of those androgynous names--Frances into Frankie, and that seemed to make sense for her character. Also, the underecho you hear of the word "frank" in her name, I liked playing with.

 

Go check out that Moorehead biography of Gellhorn, it's a great read! And tremendously inspiring!

 

Sarah

Author
Sarah-Blake
Posts: 66
Registered: ‎08-25-2009
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Re: Questions for Sarah Blake?

 


quiltedturtle1 wrote:

Sarah

 

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book. I love history and your story gave us a look at the part that is usually overlooked. At the end of the story, I kept wondering what happened to the three women. Will you be writing a sequel to it?

 

Thank you again for such a wonderful story. I will definitely recommend it.

 

Thanks....

Cathy


 

 

Hi Cathy,

 

Thank you so much for your nice words about the book. I'm very glad.

 

As to a sequel, no I'm afraid. I'm leaving the forties and venturing into the present day with my next novel, and travelling back to Maine where my first book was set!

 

Sarah