Lisa Steinke: What's the best compliment you've received about your book?
Julie Kibler: A few people have told me it's the best book they've ever read. That's pretty heavy and humbling. It makes me feel happy and extremely … well, it illuminates the responsibility an author has to her readers to write a book that is the best it can possibly be. On the other hand, it makes me realize that each reader has a different need; sometimes your book fits that need, and sometimes it doesn’t.
LS: What is the perfect playlist to accompany your novel?
JK: I’m not really one to create a playlist before I write a novel. It’s more an organic process. As I write, and even after I finish, I find or rediscover songs that fit, as I go or as I rethink the book, and add them to the list. It’s less inspiration and more inspired. I listened to a lot of period music from the 1930s and 1940s, a lot of good old-fashioned hymns, and also what I like to call my “thinking” music—usually folky acoustic songs that I listen to on a daily basis anyway. Some songs occurred to me immediately as I wrote certain scenes—they probably inspired the scenes, but I didn’t realize it until the scenes happened on the page.
Here’s my Spotify playlist.
LS: What images would you pin on Pinterest to represent your book?
JK: I created a Pinterest page for Calling Me Home months ago.
- I included a 1936 Buick Special, because that's what Isabelle's father drives, and is part of an early scene where she and Robert are beginning to notice each other more.
- There's an image of a limestone retaining wall, which is common in the part of Kentucky where Calling Me Home is set. The house where my dad was born and grew up has massive retaining walls and an underground garage built from stacked limestone—He and his dad and their hired helper built those walls.
- I pinned an image of a thimble necklace I personally bought and wear. A thimble becomes important to the story from early scenes and makes reappearances here and there.
- I also pinned photos of various actors I could see playing the parts of my characters. Lots more!
LS: When you re-read your novel, are there still things you'd change?(Or do you not re-read?)
JK: I am re-reading NOW. I have not read since last summer, but realized quickly in a newspaper interview this week that I had to—when I forgot a character's name. Ouch. I stumble over my own words every single time. Things jump out at me and I cringe. As far as plot or characters, nothing big. I’ve read reviews that caused me to think, "Oh, yeah, that might have been a good idea!" But one of my mentors told me that when questioning your own work, or when anyone else questions it, tell yourself or them, "I wrote the story I was given with as much integrity as I could." I like that a lot. (Thank you, Barbara O'Neal, author of The Garden of Happy Endings.)
LS: If you could see one person alive or deceased reading your book, who would it be?
JK: I would love to see my grandmother reading this book. I would also feel self-conscious about it and maybe need to squint. I hope she would like it—her secret inspired it.
I’d love to see my friend and hairstylist of nearly 15 years read aloud from the finished copy. Dorrie’s voice is greatly inspired by her personality and sense of humor, and it would be a real kick to hear her read. She said I’d have to ply her with alcohol first, so I guess it’s not going to happen.
LS: Favorite line or passage from your book?
JK: There’s a line I struggled with again and again as I revised. I don’t know if I’d say it’s my favorite line. I kept thinking it was melodramatic, but for some reason, I left it. It turns out it’s one readers have quoted in reviews, tweets, and personal emails to me.
“The heart is a demanding tenant; it frequently makes a strong argument against common sense.”
My favorite passage would have to be the last chapter. It was one of the first ones I wrote, and changed very little. It makes me happy every time I read it. It’s hopeful and bittersweet.
LS: What book would you put on the center of Entertainment Weekly's bullseye?
JK: Ahem. Cough cough. <Stage whispers> Calling Me Home.
HOWEVER … a recent release I loved is Ellen Marie Wiseman’s The Plum Tree (Kensington), which explores life for the average German citizen during World War II. It’s an evocative, accomplished first novel. I know Ellen, and I think she’d be willing to share the page with me. (Right? Ellen?)
LS: What's your reading style? One book at a time? Juggle between books?
JK: I prefer to read one book at a time. These days, “normal” is juggling three or four books. I’m usually reading:
- one that has nothing to do with my life as an author—I just want to read it.
- one I “need” to read—such as, for a blurb, or a friend who is about to launch, and I’m often wanting to read those, too, or I wouldn’t pick them up!
- one for research for my current work-in-progress.
- some kind of self-help book.
LS: What do you do when you're not writing?
JK: My husband and I are movie freaks. We especially love independent and foreign films and will drive miles to see them in Dallas. My daughter keeps me very busy chauffeuring her to all her activities. I also love to travel. One perk of this author gig is visiting places I might not get to see otherwise. I just found out I’m probably going to Italy late this spring for my book’s release there. I went around singing, “When the moon hits my eye like a big pizza pie” all day long.
LS: What's up next for you?
JK: A nostalgic story set in Fort Worth, Texas, about a set of women who are very different but struggling with many of the same issues.
To read more about Julie Kibler, visit her website.