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Friday, April 14, 2017

Author Q&A and Review: Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik

Come and meet Lorna Landvik!  **waves you in**... she's the delightful author of Once in a Blue Moon Lodge, among many others, and will charm you with her wit and Minnesotan candor.  

Scroll down to see my Author Q&A with her, a listing of her works and my review of her latest!

Let's learn about Lorna!

What does your writing process look like?
If my brain were being image-mapped when I write, lights would be flashing all over the place, in no orderly fashion. I don't outline. I don't keep a journal, a book usually begins with the appearance of two or three main characters who pop into my head. They're already named and while I don't know them. I get an immediate sense of them. and want to write more to discover who they are. They're also usually very polite, bringing along the title. which I might not initially understand (for instance. when the title YOUR OASIS ON FLAME LAKE came into my head. I thought, 'What's an oasis on Flame Lake?'). So with those characters and that title, I begin and the more I write, the more I learn and the more I go back to change things. So it's not an always-forward motion, it's go forward, learn something, go back and make necessary changes.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process? Your writing Kryptonite?
I tell people that when I was writing my first novel, I envisioned myself carrying a little torch, and that torch was my confidence, and that light led the way. The hardest part of writing is when I doubt my confidence. when I. by laziness, bad habits or doubt, try to blow that light out. I think my (and anyone's) writing Kryptonite is to compare myself to other writers. to wonder: how could I possibly ever do that? I love the quote ascribed to Teddy Roosevelt: "Comparison is the thief of joy.' So I can't write a thriller, a dystopian trilogy or a biography (with footnotes) of Mahatma Ghandi. I can write what I write.
How many hours a day do you write?
I admire writers who stick to a daily schedule and/or word count but I'm not one of those writers. I might write an hour on Monday. three hours an Tuesday. a marathon on Wednesday. a sprint on Thursday and get distracted by an invitation to lunch and a matinee movie on Friday.
What is your least favorite part of the writing/publishing process?  Favorite part?
When I let myself get stuck, that's my least favorite part of writing. And I say letting' myself get stuck. because it does seem as if I sometimes give myself permission to gum things up. When I write and I don't think too much, when I'm totally zoned in. it's exhilarating, fun and anticipatory — I can't wait to find out what happens next. And the publishing process — ey yi yi! It's changed so much; you used to be able to write your book, hand it in, and the publisher would handle all the publicity and promotion. Now you're expected to have an on­line presence, to promote yourself and engage with readers — I love to engage with readers, but I like to do it in person! My favorite part of writing is the surprise and discovery — when the characters take off and do things you had no idea they were going to do, it's thrilling. It's you stepping aside and letting your imagination take the reins.
Do you have  any strange writing habits?
No. Unless you consider wearing clothes normal people might donate to the rag bag (I like to be comfortable when I write).

Is there one particular subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I could never write about String Theory because I don't even know what it means.
Is there a type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?
I don't write explicit sex scenes (although I have had people tell me I've written racy scenes and I think 'wha...?') because as a reader, I like little hints and teases rather than a full-throttle play-by-play. Remember, I was raised Lutheran...
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think a big ego gets in the way of anything. be it writing, painting a house. teaching a class, running a corporation or a country. To me, a big ego implies that in the scheme of things, the egotist's needs demand more attention and importance than anyone else's. I believe that we must trust in ourselves and our talents but we must also humbly realize that we are not the only thing that makes this great world go around.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Maybe when I got my first laugh.
How many unpublished/half-finished books do you have?
About nine! I suffered a crisis of confidence a couple years ago and began a whole bunch of books — trying to play to the market (as if you ever can) rather than what I really wanted to write. Some beginning attempts are only a couple pages, others are 50-75 pages and looking back at them. I'm intrigued and think. “wow, this is good; I need to expand this”. We'll see. It's the execution that's harder for me than the idea.

How long does it usually take you to write a book?

About a year to a year and a half.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I'm almost done (another couple weeks?) with another novel and then it'll be onto another novel that has about 150 pages already written. I'd provide more details but I can’t under penalty of superstitious law.

If you could cast the characters of Once in a Blue Moon Lodge for a movie, who would play your characters?

Hmmm...PATTY JANE'S HOUSE OF CURL was optioned for years but has yet to be made into a movie and I had cast in my mind some people — I thought Rachel McAdams would make a great Patty Jane and Elizabeth Banks her sister that the characters are older I might have to rethink casting — or maybe Rachel McAdams could play Nora! Chris or Liam Hemsworth would make a great Thor in his youth; I've always liked the idea of Ann Margret as Ione...and of course, I'd insist on playing a part myself (in PATTY JANE. I wanted to play the small but pivotal part of the deranged oral surgeon, Temple Curry: in ONCE IN A BLUE MOON LODGE maybe I could play Nellie, the slightly eccentric lodge owner)?
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them. good or bad? Any  advice on how to deal with the bad?
I'll read the ones my publisher sends me or the ones in our local paper but I don't go out of my way to read reviews. It is true: you can get a hundred good reviews and one lousy one and it's the latter that you remember, fume and sputter over. I'd rather fume and sputter over things like politics.
If you didn't like writing books. what would you do for a living?
I perform an all-improvised, one woman comedy show called PARTY IN THE REC ROOM that's a lot of fun; I'd concentrate on acting and public speaking if I couldn't write.
What's the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Good question: maybe our house. which I've always described as a 1903 Victorian but which some neighborhood historian informed me was merely an old farmhouse (but it's got stain-glassed windows and high ceilings!) or a three week trip to Norway with my family in which we visited distant cousins and were agog every day by the spectacular physical beauty of that country.
Have you ever gotten reader's block? how did you get out of it? (and yes, I meant reader's) :D

Yes, and I don't like it. Hunkering down with a good book that moves, elevates. teaches, amuses, inspires, touches and enlightens me is a complete joy and yet I can get pulled away from books by cyber-reading, jumping from site to site on my computer. For me, the only way to get out of reader's block is to shut the computer. find an inviting couch)bathtub and dive into a book.
Do you google yourself?
Occasionally to rarely. There's so much more I'd rather read about/look at than myself.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 
Probably an otter.
What literary character is most like you?
What comes to mind are the heroines of the books I read as a child — Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy Ray of the BETSY TACY books, who always wanted to be a writer and who found adventure everywhere, wiseacre and always going-for-the-laugh Geneva in the GINNIE AND GENEVA books by Catherine Woolley, and Carol Ryrie Brink's bold and tomboyish pioneer girl Caddie Woodlawn.
What authors have inspired you?
Anyone who I've read who's moved, elevated, taught, amuses. inspired, touched and or enlightened me. I first read TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD in eighth grade and consider that book to have opened all sorts of doors for me — it was so full of humanity and grace, humor. suspense and a sense of place. Others_ Mark Twain. Flannery O'Connor, John Irving. Michael Malone. Anne Tyler, Anne Marie McDonald. Louise Erdrich, Anne Lamott. Lee Child...oh. the list is long.
What's one piece of advice you have received that has always resonated with you?
My dad, long-gone on earth but always present in my heart advised me to, "Go get 'em. honey.'
What's the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
I recently had two events: a bookclub in the morning and a speaking engagement in the evening. At the bookclub, a woman told me that in reading one of my books, she was struck by how many characters 'wiped their noses with their fingers.' This stumped me: had I really written about characters who don't know what Kleenexes are for? And that's what was memorable to her? (As I don't read my books after I write them so I couldn't say for sure. 'you're wrong!) At the evening event. a woman told me she had read aloud THE TALL PINE POLKA to her dying aunt in hospice care and they laughed and cried throughout it. -Later,' the woman said. 'a hospice worker told me that my aunt had said to her that it was the best time of her life." Whoa That's the privilege of telling stories and being published — you never know how you're going to touch someone.

A big thank you to Lorna Landvik for taking the time to answer my questions. 💝

Find Lorna here:

Lorna's Books:

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
The wise and funny national bestseller about four decades of laughter, heartache, and friendship in the lives of five small-town women--members of AHEB (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons), an unofficial club that becomes much more.

Patty Jane's House of Curl
After Patty Jane's husband leaves her, she and her irrepressible sister, Harriett, open a neighborhood beauty parlor--complete with live harp music and Norwegian baked goods. It's a warmhearted place where good friends share laughter, tears and comfort. A funny, poignant first novel about the bonds between women, says the Houston Chronicle.

Oh My Stars
I am convinced that at birth the cake is already baked. Nurture is the nuts or frosting, but if you’re a spice cake, you’re a spice cake, and nothing is going to change you into an angel food.

Tall, slender Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression, which could just as well define her state of mind. Abandoned by her mother as a child, mistreated by her father, and teased by her schoolmates (“Hey, Olive Oyl, where’s Popeye?”), the lonely girl finds solace in artistic pursuits. Only when she’s hired by the town’s sole feminist to work the night shift in the local thread factory does Violet come into her name, and bloom. Accepted by her co-workers, the teenager enters the happiest phase of her life, until a terrible accident causes her to retreat once again into her lonely shell.

Realizing that she has only one clear choice, Violet boards a bus heading west to California. But when the bus crashes in North Dakota, it seems that fate is having another cruel laugh at Violet’s expense. This time though, Violet laughs back. She and her fellow passengers are rescued by two men: Austin Sykes, whom Violet is certain is the blackest man to ever set foot on the North Dakota prairie, and Kjel Hedstrom, who inspires feelings Violet never before has felt. Kjel and Austin are musicians whose sound is like no other, and with pluck, verve, and wit, Violet becomes part of their quest to make a new kind of music together. 

Oh My Stars is Lorna Landvik’s most ambitious novel yet, with a cast of characters whose travails and triumphs you’ll long remember. It is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery–as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way.

The Tall Pine Polka
In the small town of Tall Pine, Minnesota, at the Cup O’Delight Cafe, the townsfolk gather for what they call the Tall Pine Polka, an event in which heavenly coffee, good food, and that feeling of being alive among friends inspires both body and soul to dance. There’s the cafe owner, the robust and beautiful Lee O’Leary, who escaped to the northwoods from an abusive husband; Miss Penk and Frau Katt, the town’s only lesbian couple (“Well, we’re za only ones who admit it.”); Pete, proprietor of the Shoe Shack, who spends nights crafting beautiful shoes to present to Lee, along with his declarations of love; Mary, whose bad poetry can clear out the cafe in seconds flat; and, most important of all, Lee’s best friend, Fenny Ness, a smart and sassy twenty-two-year-old going on eighty.

When Hollywood rolls into Tall Pine to shoot a movie, and a handsome musician known as Big Bill appears on the scene, Lee and Fenny find their friendship put to the test, as events push their hearts in unexplored directions—where endings can turn into new beginnings. . . .

The View from Mount Joy
The View from Mount Joy, Lorna Landvik's delightfully quirky and intensely moving new novel, is about a man, a supermarket, the roads not taken, and the great, unexpected pleasures found in living a good life.

When hunky teenage hockey player Joe Andreson and his widowed mother move to Minneapolis, Joe falls under the seductive spell of Kristi Casey, Ole Bull High's libidinous head cheerleader, the kind of girl a guy can't say no to, even when saying yes guarantees trouble. Joe balances Kristi's lustful manipulation with the down-to-earth companionship of his smart, platonic girlfriend, Darva. But it is Kristi who will prove to be a temptation (and torment) throughout Joe's life.

Years later, having once dreamed of a career in pro hockey or as a globetrotting journalist, Joe can't believe that life has deposited him in the aisles of Haugland Foods. But he soon learns that being a grocer is like being the mayor of a small town: His constituents confide astonishing things and always appreciate the value of a hard-to-pass-up special, a free toy for a well-behaved youngster, a pie for the best rendition of Alfie, or simply Joe's generous dispensing of the milk of human kindness. For Joe, everyday life is its own roller-coaster ride, and all he wants to do is hold on tight.

The path Kristi has charged down, on the other hand, is as wild as Joe's is tame or at least that's how it appears to the outside world. But who has really risked more? Who has lived more? And who is truly happy? As Joe discovers in this dramatic, heartbreaking, and hilarious novel sometimes people are lucky enough to be standing in the one place where the view of the world is breathtaking, if only they all open their eyes to all there is to see.

The View from Mount Joy is truly glorious: a warm, wonderful picture of life as seen from the deepest places in the heart.

Welcome to the Great Mysterious
Megastar of stage, screen, and television, Geneva Jordan now has a command performance in Minnesota, where she agrees to look after her thirteen-year-old nephew, a boy with Down’s syndrome, while his parents take a long-overdue vacation. Though Geneva and her sister, Ann, are as different as night and day (“I being night, of course, dark and dramatic”), Geneva remembers she had a family before she had a star on her door. But so accustomed is she to playing the lead, finding herself a supporting actress in someone else’s life is strange and unexplored territory. Then the discovery of an old scrapbook that she and her sister created long ago starts her thinking of things beyond fame. For The Great Mysterious is a collection of thoughts and feelings dedicated to answering life’s big questions—far outside the spotlight’s glow. . . . 

Your Oasis on Flame Lake
Best friends fast approaching forty in the small Minnesota town of Flame Lake, Devera and BiDi were recently voted "Least Changed" at their twentieth high school reunion- a label neither one finds very appealing. For each craves a change in her life: Devera desires a break from her humdrum marital routine; BiDi longs to reconnect with her distant fourteen-year-old daughter (the only girl on the high school hockey team), not to mention jump-start a sex drive stuck in neutral. So when Devera's husband decides to fulfill his longtime dream of opening a nightclub in his basement, Your Oasis on Flame Lake arrives not a moment too soon. Nothing fancy, it is just a BYOB joint where you can hang out, sing, dance, tell jokes, and be yourself. But then an unexpected crisis throws both families into chaos, forcing them all to take stock of their lives and learn the power of forgiveness. 

Best to Laugh
No one steps up to life’s banquet, holds out her tray, and orders, “Grief, please!” But as a child, Candy Pekkala was served a heaping helping of it. Every buffet line has a dessert section, however, and when a cousin calls with a Hollywood apartment to sublet, it seems as though Candy is finally offered something sweet. It’s good-bye to Minnesota and hello to California, where a girl who has always lived by her wits has a real chance of making a living with them. With that, the irrepressible Lorna Landvik launches her latest irresistible character onto the world stage—or at least onto the dimly lit small stage where stand-up comedy gets its start.

Herself a comic performer, Landvik taps her own adventurous past and Minnesota roots to conjure Candy’s life in this strange new Technicolor home. Her fellow tenants at Peyton Hall include a female bodybuilder, a ruined nightclub impresario, and a well-connected old Romanian fortune-teller. There are game show appearances and temp jobs at a record company and an establishment suspiciously like the Playboy Mansion, and of course the alluring but not always welcoming stage of stand-up comedy. As she hones her act, Candy is tested by humiliation, hecklers, and the inherent sexism that insists “chicks aren’t funny.”

Written with the light touch and quiet wisdom that have made her works so popular, this is classic Lorna Landvik—sometimes so funny, you’ll cry; sometimes so sad, you might as well laugh; and always impossible to put down.

'Tis The Season
Bestselling author Lorna Landvik shines in this delightful holiday novel of redemption and forgiveness.

Heiress Caroline Dixon has managed to alienate nearly everyone with her alcohol-fueled antics, which have also provided near-constant fodder for the poison-pen tabloids and their gossip-hungry readers. But like so many girls-behaving-badly, the twenty-six-year-old socialite gets her comeuppance, followed by a newfound attempt to live a saner existence, or at least one more firmly rooted in the real world.

As Caro tentatively begins atoning for past misdeeds, she reaches out to two wonderful people who years ago brought meaning to her life: her former nanny, Astrid Brevald, now living in Norway and Arizona dude ranch owner, Cyril Dale. While Astrid fondly remembers Caro as a special, sweet little girl left in her charge, Cyril recalls how he and his late wife were quite taken with the quick-witted teenager Caro had become when she spent a difficult period in her life at the ranch as her father was dying.

In a series of e-mail exchanges, Caro reveals the depth of her pain and the lengths she went to hide it. In turn, Astrid and Cyril share their own stories of challenging times and offer the unconditional support this young woman has never known. The correspondence leads to the promise of a reunion, just in time for Christmas. But the holiday brings unexpected revelations that change the way everyone sees themselves and one another.

At once heartfelt and witty, 'Tis the Season bears good tidings of great joy about the human condition that down and out doesn't mean over and done, that the things we need most are closer than we know, and that the true measure of one's worth rests in the boundless depths of the soul.

My Review of Once in a Blue Moon Lodge:

Nora has a one-night stand on a camping trip which results in getting pregnant with triplets. Say what? Ok, you snagged me, Lorna! Before she learns of her impending trio of baby fun, she accompanies her grandma to Norway, unfolding the story of Ione. A chance encounter with an eccentric lady has Nora purchasing a lodge. Families, new friends, long time friends, acquaintances, lovers, so on and so forth come in an out and we get to learn about each and every one of them.

Sound all over the place? That's how I felt reading this novel. I had absolutely no idea going in that this was a sequel to Patty Jane's House of Curl! I think that had I read this first, I wouldn't have felt the disconnect that I did with these characters. Let me just say that they are quite the cast and each have a very distinct voice that the author wants you to hear. What I liked about this book is that it felt like you were basically watching their lives unfold with a bowl of popcorn (or a plate of gingerbread cookies) and a fancy tea (the iced variety). The ties that bind the family and the truths that come out over time are evident and true to form for what you would expect from a feel-good contemporary novel. I definitely appreciated some of the wit and humor that was brought into play. And anyone who brings up the Newlywed Game, making whoopee and Chuck Woolery (well, he goes hand in hand with the first two), has my seal of approval!

What didn't work for me, unfortunately, was the abrupt change throughout the book - are we in the past? Are we in the present? Wait, who is this and how do they integrate into this story line? I wanted to make a family tree and and add saplings on the side to try and remember the whole cast but invariably I ended up lost most of the time and thus not caring too much what happened or didn't happen. My favorite characters though were the triplets and my how they grow up so fast! Everything seemed to go by so quickly, but it was kind of nice to see the progression of the family. I think I just wanted something more substantial behind it - this is where I think maybe the first book would've helped? Maybe not? Personally, I think this was mostly a mismatch of book to reader.

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