Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blog Tour: Good Graces, Author Interview with Lesley Kagen

Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces are both told through the eyes of young Sally O'Malley. I was impressed with your ability to capture the essence of childhood. Why did you choose a kid as your narrator? 

Writing in the voice of a child allows me to view the world through their eyes. People tend to forget that children are not small adults. The way kids see the world and the people in it is as close to the truth as one will ever get. Most children don't wear armor the way adults do. They wear their hearts.

Is it hard to write in the voice of a child?

Not really. All of us still have our little selves inside us. Adults have learned some skills along the way like parallel parking (Some of us have, anyway) how to balance budgets, how to navigate complicated social situations, but deep down where it counts, we're not very much different from who we were as kids. All I need to do to recapture that is tap into that part of me. To be open to my most vulnerable self.

Whistling in the Dark is set in 1959 and Good Graces in 1960. Are kids treated differently today than they were in the "good old days?"

(Laugh) If by differently you mean better, than yes. Kids these days are more valued. Back then, we were more like possessions. I grew up in a predominately Catholic neighborhood. It was not unusual for a family to have twelve or more kids. There were easily a hundred kids on my block. A mom would stand out on her porch and call her kids in for dinner: "MaryJosephColleenMargaretBarbaraTheresa Robert...." and you'd watch a flock of them leave the playground. Parenting back then was less about individual growth and more about crowd control. Self esteem hadn't been invented yet. On the flipside, kids these days have so little freedom. We roamed the neighborhood in packs. Did mostly what we wanted until we got caught. Corporal punishment was common. Spankings with hairbrushes and belts the rule rather than the exception. And of course, children were to be seen and not heard. I can't recall ever having a conversation with my parents. Adults were adults and kids were kids. We were to do what we were told or bear the consequences. I can't tell you the number of times my mother would put me over her knee and tell me, "You made your bed and now you have to lie in it."

You seem to like to write about the Fifties thru Seventies. Why?

I write what I know. I just so happen to adore that time period. The lingo, the clothes, movie and music. Tha ttime period seemed to have so much more, I don't know, character? 

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Happy holidays everyone! And thanks for reading my books!

Lesley Kagen returns with the sequel to her national bestselling debut, Whistling in the Dark.

Whistling in the Dark captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O'Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee's summer of 1959. The novel became a New York Times bestseller and was named a Midwest Honor Award winner.

In Good Graces, it's one year later, and a heat wave has everyone in the close-knit Milwaukee neighborhood on edge. None more so than Sally O'Malley, who remains deeply traumatized by the sudden death of her daddy and her near escape from a murderer and molester the previous summer. Although outwardly she and her sister, Troo, are more secure, Sally's confidence in her own judgment and much of her faith have been whittled away. When a series of disquieting events unfold in the neighborhood-a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan, crimes that may involve the increasingly rebellious Troo-Sally is called upon to rise above her inner demons. She made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, a promise she can't break, even if her life depends on it. But when events reach a crisis point, will Sally have the courage and discernment to make the right choices? Or will her false assumptions lead her and those she loves into danger once again?

Lesley Kagen's gift for imbuing her child narrators with compelling authenticity shines as never before in Good Graces, a novel told with sensitivity, wit, and warmth.

About the author:
I was born in Milwaukee and spent my early years in a great working class neighborhood, much like the one where Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces are set.

I attended Marquette University for one year, fell in love, and followed my boyfriend to New York City. I lasted about six months. I was so intimidated, I spent most of my time running from my apartment to the grocery store and back to my apartment, which was located above a 24 Hour Soul Record Store. Hence, I have the dubious ability to recite every lyric to every James Brown tune ever recorded.

After returning to Milwaukee, I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin where I majored in Radio and Television. I fell into a job as a morning drive DJ on one of the country's first alternative radio stations—WZMF. I got to interview lots of very cool rock n' rollers like Frank Zappa, Hendrix and John Lennon.

In 1976, I moved to Los Angeles, where I began a ten year career working for Licorice Pizza record chain where I produced, wrote and voiced thousands of commercials as Lesley from Licorice Pizza. When I set out to expand my career, I ended up doing on-camera commercials, a couple of Movies-Of-The-Week, and a Laverne and Shirley.

I met my husband, Peter aka Sushi Man, in Malibu, which is pretty funny considering he was from Milwaukee as well. While we both loved living in California, after the birth of our kids, Casey and Riley, we felt this overwhelming need to return to the roost, so we moved back home in 1990.

Well, that's about it. Oh, wait. The writing. I adore it. I crave it. But it wasn't until Casey went off to college, and teenage Riley made it clear that any form of communication between us was to be restricted to—"With or without pepperoni"—that I found the opportunity to sit down and let 'er rip. I hope you love Whistling in the Dark, Land of a Hundred Wonders, Tomorrow River and Good Graces as much as I loved writing them. 

Lesley Kagen Website

Lesley Kagen Facebook

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook

Good Graces blog tour site

Price: $25.95
ISBN: 9780525952381
Pages: 352
Release: September 2011

Price: $12.99

on Kindle
on Nook

Visit all the tour stops:
December 1
Reviews by Molly

December 6
Lost for Words

December 8
My Reading Room

December 12
Proud Book Nerd

December 15

December 18
Minding Spot



Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. Michelle, thanks for hosting Lesley today and for asking such great questions!

    Lesley, I really liked reading your approach to writing through the voice of a child. You're right - children are not mini adults. They see the world in a much purer, simpler way. Fascinating interview!

  2. Great interview!
    I read "Whistling in the Dark" a long time ago and loved it!!!
    I have not read her new one yet but do plan to.

    I just love coming to your blog to listen to Enya! LOL

- See more at:
- See more at: