Monday, August 29, 2011

Interview with Georgia Bockoven, author of "The Year Everything Changed"

Georgia Bockoven's newest book is The Year Everything Changed (click here for my review) and I was able to interview her via email.

How did you decide to start writing novels, and how long have you been writing? I saw on Amazon that you mostly write romance novels and “women’s lit.”

I was in my thirties and frustrated by the women’s fiction I was reading when it hit me that I could create the stories I’d like to read myself. Until then, even though I’d always been a reader and writer, I’d thought only “special” people could be published writers, not common folk, like me. The transition wasn’t easy, I was so naïve about the process that when I signed up for a class on writing it turned out to be one for non-fiction writers. This set up a seven-year detour into freelance journalism before I found my way back to fiction. I think the “women’s lit” tag comes from the fact that, while every book I write has a love story, they also deal with broader issues that face women like adoption and loss and infidelity.

Georgia Bockoven
(image from freshfiction.com)
I read in an interview online from 2001 that said that you moved around a lot while you were young, as did Rachel in this book. Is Rachel based on you, or parts of you? Did you base the characters on people you know in real life?

Nice observation! Yes, she is based a little on me. Many of my own experiences are woven into the characters I create. But I’m also a people watcher. And I love talking to people about their life experiences. When I visited my aunt in North Dakota she took me into the basement of the house my grandfather built and told me that she and her seven brothers and sisters lived in this tiny basement for four years before the rest of the house was finished. I can’t conceive how hard that must have been on my grandmother. Many of the thoughts and reactions I’ve had thinking about what her life must have been like seeped into what it must have been like for Jessie’s mother on the farm in Oklahoma. (Jessie is one of the main characters in the new book, The Year Everything Changed.)

Out of the books you have written, which is your favorite? (either your favorite overall or your favorite to write)

That’s a hard one to answer. I spend so much time with the characters that while I’m working on the book, and sometimes for a long time after, they are almost a part of my family. So it’s a little like asking which child you like better. Now, that said, I have a real fondness for the people in The Year Everything Changed because they still join me for an occasional meal or on a long car ride, but because the child in A Marriage of Convenience was based on my first grandson who was born at two pounds, two ounces, there will always be a special place in my heart for that book.

Of course there’s Joe and Maggie from The Beach House and then there’s . . . See what I mean?

If this book was to be made into a movie – and I definitely think it’d be an interesting movie – who would you pick to be cast for Jessie, Elizabeth, Ginger, Rachel, and Christina? While I was reading the book I was kind of picturing Tom Selleck as Jessie, even though I don’t think he’s quite as old as Jessie.

Oh, good choice! He would be perfect. I think Tommy Lee Jones would be another good one. And remember, Jessie didn’t look as old as he was. And I really like Patricia Clarkson for Lucy. Ginnifer Goodwin would be perfect for Christine and definitely Juliana Marguelis for Elizabeth. Ginger is a tough one. I’m going to have to think awhile for her, but Ann Hathaway is a shoe in for Rachel.

Where do you draw inspiration for your writing? For example, how did you get the main idea for The Year Everything Changed?

I like to work with “what ifs” when I’m plotting a book and really love to take the opposite side of accepted ideas. While I passionately believe it is always wrong for a parent to abandon a child, I do recognize there was a time when the popular belief was that a child would be better off if a missing parent just disappeared from that child’s life - that the child would suffer less confusion and be able to get on with his/her life without feeling “torn.” I wanted to show the consequences of this kind of abandonment and yet try to find a way to show that Jessie did what he did out of a sincere belief it was the right thing to do. However, it’s far easier to accept the logic of something like this in the abstract. Jessie’s daughters must learn to forgive and then mourn their loss before they can find peace.

I see that your novel The Beach House first came out in the late ‘90s, and then its sequel, Another Summer, was just recently released. Why is there such a big gap between the two? (did readers demand a sequel?)

Another Summer originally came out in 2001, December, 2001. Which, of course, is why it was missed. I’m delighted Harper decided to reissue it, along with The Beach House, so readers could revisit some of the characters they fell in love with and get to meet new ones. I’ve been asked by readers to do a third book ... I’m mulling it over now.

Who are some of your favorite authors, and why?

There are so many it’s hard to pick among them. I love Catherine Coulter’s FBI series and Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight series. And speaking of series, I don’t think anyone does series books better than Susan Crosby. Stephen King is a master with mood and characterization. And J. K. Rowling’s books could, and probably are, used as teaching tools for writers looking to improve their craft. I could go pages and pages listing the writers I read and love.

Would you ever consider a sequel to The Year Everything Changed, maybe following one of the four households? (Ginger and Logan’s, for example)
Though in my opinion, the ending was perfect.


I think the epilogue answered the questions most readers would ask. It was particularly satisfying for me to end the book the way I did.

One of the questions in the “Questions for Discussion” at the back of the books says “Which daughter do you feel was most like her father? Which was the least?” Who do you think was most like Jessie, or who were you trying to make the most similar to him?

Elizabeth has a lot of Jessie’s personality. She was with him the longest and suffered the most at his loss. Ginger, growing up never knowing her biological mother or father, is the least like her father.

Are you working on any new projects as of the moment?

I am. It’s a book I’ve worked on off and on for several years that was sparked by a photograph I saw that was taken during the depression. The young girl in the picture had the most incredible, haunted eyes. Behind those eyes was a story begging to be told. I’ve moved the time frame to the fifties and given her a name—Katie Ann.

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