I am delighted to welcome Judith Harch today! 🙂
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’ve been a freelance writer for 37 years. FALLING OFF THE FAMILY TREE is my first venture into fiction. It is a multi-generational family saga about two American immigrant families whose lives become intertwined. A dark secret binds the families and affects each member. Most of my work has been as a journalist. But I’ve done some unusual writing as well, such as scriptwriting for 30-second commercial spots. That certainly taught me to write tight (FYI- about 75 words can be spoken in a 30-second spot!). I co-authored a book for Alzheimer caregivers, which forced me to overcome my fear of public speaking. Several of my essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
My ideas come from observing how people interact. I am an incurable people watcher. Reading newspaper articles also generates great ideas for storylines and characters for me.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Yes, one of my closest friends is the basis for one of my main characters in my novel. Interestingly, she doesn’t see herself in that character. Also, I had a much-loved literature professor in college. She and I became good friends after I graduated. Her spirit is the basis for one of my main character’s love of literature and desire to teach.
How do you pick your characters names?
As I was writing the story, the names of new characters would often just pop into my head. However, when outlining the book, I tried making the main characters’ names relevant to the story in some way. In FALLING OFF THE FAMILY TREE, my character’s name Rory, whose full name is Aurora, is highly significant to the plotline.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I would love to say that I write every day, but I don’t. I need blocks of time with no interference to transport me into the world I’ve created in the story. Having experience as an editor, I find it impossible to write without revising as I go. It does slow down the writing process, but I have to be true to myself. I stopped trying to write any other way.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Anne Tyler, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg for great family stories. Lisa Gardner and Greg Iles when I’m in the mood for a dark mystery. One of my favorite author books on writing is by Stephen King, titled On Writing. I also enjoy Jeffrey Archer’s books since family relationships are very important to his stories.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Anne Tyler. Her books, deceptively, seem so uncomplicated, but they carry the essence of how complex family relationships can be. Her stories are often about the mundane day-to-day life we lead. I would ask her how she gets into the heads of her characters so well.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I loved Nancy Drew books as a child. My most treasured possession was my library card. I grew up in Camden, New Jersey, where my story takes place. On my way to the library, I often passed the tiny row house Walt Whitman lived in for many years. (It still stands and is open to the public.) My old library building is now the Walt Whitman Center For Culture and Democracy. Life often comes full circle. That is one example of how I drew from my own life experience when one of my characters makes those same trips to that library.
When did you start to write?
I didn’t know I could write until I took a creative writing class at college. I attended college while my children were growing up. My professor loved my work and encouraged me to continue writing. Eventually, I took many writing courses with him and began my career as a newspaper journalist while still in college. As I mentioned, I adored my literature professor. When she became terminally ill, I promised her I would write a novel someday.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
Jodi Picoult often writes endings that are tragic. I understand why, but I become so attached to her characters that I am very sad when someone central to the story dies. For me, her saddest ending was in her book, My Sister’s Keeper. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone reading that book, but I wish no one had to die. I will say, though, that Jodi’s writing gave me “permission” to have beloved characters die in a story. That’s real life.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I wish I could take my mind to the dark places that mystery writers go, and then write a great mystery. I never say never, though. I never expected to write a family saga. Perhaps a mystery lurks in my mind and will find the light of day.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I would take Rory, my protagonist from FALLING OFF THE FAMILY TREE to a small, quiet cafe where we could hold a private conversation. I’d tell her that one can overcome disappointment with a parent by becoming everything she wishes that parent had been.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a sequel to FALLING OFF THE FAMILY TREE. The story spans the first seventy years of the 20th century. There is much left to tell in a sequel about what happens to my characters after 1970.
Do you have a new release due?
No, I don’t. I’m struggling with the ending to my sequel. I always knew how my first novel would end. This is maddening!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from them. Also, I have a blog: judithharchwrites.wordpress.com. It’s called Writing About Life – With Dessert. (Baking is my other passion.) I must admit that I am remiss on keeping the blog current. My apologies, but some good dessert recipes are included if anyone is interested.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
How very difficult, but how wonderfully rewarding writing a novel can be. What I’ve learned from the difficulty is that I don’t think I could ever write a negative review of another writer’s book. Their very heart went into that book. It is their baby. The wonderfulness is the great sense of accomplishment I felt when my story entered the real world for others to read – and hopefully – enjoy.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Judith 🙂
Publisher: BookBaby; 1 edition (15th October 2012)
Sean Kinnarney, headstrong son of Irish immigrants and Ana Lapinski, beautiful, self-absorbed daughter of Polish immigrants, ignite a far-reaching fire when their worlds collide. Sean’s recklessness and Ana’s sense of entitlement create a family secret that comes home to roost in the following generation. Sean’s trail of sins and Ana’s deceit and thirst for revenge lead to disaster for each of them.
It is 1936. Emotionally deserted by distraught parents after the death of his baby sister, Sean refuses to abandon his father’s forsaken American dream. Left to his own devices, the young man travels a road strewn with bad choices and risky behavior. Trapped into marriage and unexpected parenthood at a young age, Sean begins down a path of destruction – first stop – Ana Lapinski.
Ana Lapinski is born with the gift of beauty. Her old-world parents are incapable of reigning in their willful, wild child. Time and again, Ana effectively abuses her God-given gift as a means to whatever end she desires – with one exception – Sean Kinnarney.
FALLING OFF THE FAMILY TREE is a three-generation saga told against the backdrop of the first 70 years of the 20th century. The story moves from southern New Jersey to the wealthy suburban enclaves of the Main Line outside Philadelphia. It ends in tragedy on the Chesapeake Bay.
Buy your copy HERE