Tag Archives: art

Wednesdays with Writers: Ever wondered who that girl was in the famed Andrew Wyeth American painting? Christina Baker Kline tackles that and more in her gloriously written imagined memoir A PIECE OF THE WORLD

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay 

From the New York Times bestselling author of the smash hit ORPHAN TRAIN comes a stunning novel inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s famous—and mystifying—painting, “Christina’s World.” A PIECE OF THE WORLD is lucid, well-told, and highly transportive. CBKBookCover

I have a thing with art. Be it writing, reading, visual art, music, even nature, I’m swept away with the creative magic that appears at the hands of an artist. When those worlds collide, as they do in Christina Baker Kline’s A PIECE OF THE WORLD, my heart sings.

“Christina’s World” hung at my great-aunt’s house in her den. Like many, I stared at that painting and imagined the breeze in my hair, the sweet scent of dried grass, lingered in that weather-worn house. And then, simply forgot about it. Christina Baker Kline brings the painting to the forefront once again with her use of tremendous description. She gives that women in the painting a name, a life…rather, that woman always existed, unbeknownst to me, and here, she comes alive, fully formed. 300px-Christinasworld

The story is told entirely from Christina’s POV and jumps around in time a bit, piecing together a delightful mosaic of art and color.  Set in early-to-mid 1900s Maine and Boston, A PIECE OF THE WORLD thrusts the reader into a rugged, authentic landscape. There’s a tiny bit of a love story, but ultimately A PIECE OF THE WORLD is historical fiction, about the importance of family, artist and muse coming together, and what it means to be seen.

Evocative and astonishing, I so enjoyed A PIECE OF THE WORLD. Please join me as I chat with the lovely Christina Baker Kline.

Leslie Lindsay: Like many, I read and devoured THE ORPHAN TRAIN.* When I learned about A PIECE OF THE WORLD, I knew I had to read it. You mention in the afterward your inspiration to write about the Andrew Wyeth painting. I’m paraphrasing, but it was along the lines of, “I wanted to stay in that time period [of THE ORPHAN TRAIN].” Can you shed a little more light on that?

Christina Baker Kline: I learned a lot about early-to-mid twentieth century rural America when I was researching ORPHAN TRAIN, and I found it incredibly paper_orphan.pnginteresting — especially the question of how people survived hard times and the emotional resources they needed to get by. What is it like to live with profound deprivation, without any modern amenities, far from other people?

L.L.: You did a huge amount of research for A PIECE OF THE WORLD. And it shows. I’m curious what that process was like for you. Margaret George’s ideal is to read everything she can on a subject/time period, visit the place in question, then start writing. Do you follow a similar formula?

Christina Baker Kline:  I read art histories, biographies, nonfiction accounts of the Salem Witch Trials, seafaring journals, memoirs about living in Maine and living in the woods; visited museums and the Olson House; interviewed friends and family members and tour guides and curators; watched documentaries. I took pages and pages of notes, which I eventually turned into a 50-page single-spaced timeline that became my bible. I wrote the story chronologically, stopping along the way to do further research as necessary, but in the end I threaded the Wyeth story throughout the story of Christina Olson’s growing up years.

L.L.: I know Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” house still stands in Eldon, IA and has been turned into a type of museum. Can one actually visit the old farm house where Christina Olson lived? It seemed pretty dilapidated in the novel, I can’t imagine what remains…

Christina Baker Kline: It was renovated recently and opened again last summer (it’s open from Memorial Day to Labor Day). It’s a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon, and the tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable. Well worth a visit!Olson-House-cropped

L.L.: Christina Olson’s ancestry fascinates me. I may have my facts mixed up, but I understand on one side of her family, she descends from chief magistrate of the Salem witch trials, and on the other, from the Hawthorns, as in Nathaniel. Do I have that right? Can you clarify the family tree for us?

Christina Baker Kline: John Hathorne, whom Christina was descended from on her mother’s side, was the Chief  Magistrate of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, and the only one of the three judges who never recanted. He went to his death (in peaceful prosperity) believing that he was fully justified in sentencing 19 women, two dogs, and one man to death for witchcraft. After Hathorne died, his Salem relatives felt tainted by association. Three Hathorne men, promised land on the coast of Maine if they claimed it in winter, changed the spelling of their name, fled to a remote point on the coast, and built three log cabins — one of which became the house in the painting Christina’s World. Nathaniel Hawthorne, another relative on that side of the family, also changed the spelling of his name and left Nathaniel_Hawthorne_by_Brady,_1860-64Salem. He spent the rest of his life writing about people like his ancestor Hathorne who were determined to root out evil in others while denying it in themselves. (Think of Young Goodman Brown and The Scarlet Letter, for example.)

Christina’s father left home at 15 to become a sailor. He had grown up in a small house in Sweden with 10 other people and a cow; his parents were poor peat farmers. You can see why he might’ve left and never looked back!

L.L.: I find that writing is such an introspective process. I often learn more, not just about my subject, but also myself. What did you uncover about yourself in the process of writing?

Christina Baker Kline: I learned that I will never again write a novel about real people, some of whom are still alive. I’m kidding — sort of. This was the hardest book I’ve ever written, in part because I tried to stick with the facts of the true-life story as much as possible. I think it made me a better writer, ultimately. Sometimes I’ve been too concerned about reconciling storylines when perhaps it would’ve been better to leave things unresolved. In A PIECE OF THE WORLD, I had to dig deeper, to effect internal resolutions.

L.L.: What do you hope others take away from A PIECE OF THE WORLD?

Christina Baker Kline: Christina Olson, the woman in the painting, had a hard life in many ways. She was a “spinster,” as they called it then, and disabled. Despite her brilliance, she was taken out of school at the age of 12. But she found beauty, meaning, and grace in unexpected places. Because she didn’t live a conventional life, she was able to open her home and self to Andrew Wyeth. As a result, I believe her life was profound and meaningful. Ultimately, as the figure at the center of Christina’s World, she achieved immortality. [You may also enjoy this article from MoMA on this painting] 

L.L.: What’s captured your attention now? What keeps you awake at night?

Christina Baker Kline: I’m working on a new novel inspired by a little-known story about the convict women sent from England and Scotland to Tasmania, Australia in the mid-nineteenth century. It’s very exciting and I’m having a great time doing the research.

L.L.: What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Christina Baker Kline: My favorite animal is my rescue pup, Lola, who is four years old, half Corgi and half Australian Shepherd. She doesn’t bark and is gentle and easy going. She reminds me of a cat (or maybe a deer — see pic below!). She’s the perfect writing companion.

L.L.: Christina, I so loved this story. Thank you, thank you for taking the time to chat. Enjoy the rest of your book tour.

Christina Baker Kline: Leslie, thank you!

For more information, to purchase A PIECE OF THE WORLD, or to connect with Christina Baker Kline through social media, please see: 

60697_10151200289008259_311954615_nAUTHOR BIO:Christina Baker Kline is the author of the instant New York Times-bestselling novel A Piece of the World, about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World. Kline has written five other novels — Orphan Train, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines — and written or edited five works of nonfiction. Her adaptation of the #1 NYT bestseller Orphan Train for young readers, Orphan Train Girl,* will be published in May.

*ORPHAN TRAIN has recently been condensed into a young reader’s edition (ORPHAN TRAIN GIRL, available May 2 2017 from HarperCollins), which I plan to read aloud to my two girls, ages 10 and 12 years…even though they are certainly capable themselves!

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, around these parts of the Internet:

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

[Cover and author image courtesy of C.B. Kline and used with permission. Author image credit: Karin Diana. Image of ORPHAN GIRL retrieved from author’s website on 4.3.17. Image of Nathaniel Hawthorn retrieved from Wikipedia, Christina Olson home retrieved from Farnsworth Art Museum webpage, all on 4.3.17]

Wednesdays with Writers: Luscious prose, the immense challenge of weaving two plot lines, creating a ‘likable’ character, how art informs the world, an abandoned house, reinvention, & so much more in T. Greenwood’s THE GOLDEN HOUR

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay

Lush, poetic, mysterious, with a touch of psychological suspense, T. Greenwood’s newest book, THE GOLDEN HOUR is like reading in a sun-dappled dream. 

Greenwood’s prose is absolutely glimmering. Each character is richly drawn and the story itself, hauntingly beautiful. 
the-golden-hour
In THE GOLDEN HOUR, T. Greenwood explores childhood trauma with present-day strife, each in equal balance, and each showing beauty and darkness. Wyn Davies is running from her past–when she was a teenager, she took a shortcut through a wooded path in her New Hampshire hometown, only to become a cautionary tale. Twenty years later, that horrific afternoon is rearing its ugly head. But now, she’s in the midst of a divorce, raising her 4-year old daughter, and struggling as an artist. And then, her friend suggests a Maine retreat. She can get away, paint and the past will just fall away. Or will it?

The Maine house has been empty for years.
It’s nearly falling apart. Abandoned. Yet there’s something so eerily alive about the house. Wyn finds cannisters of old 35mm film yet-to-be-developed. What she finds is shocking, disturbing, and yet has the power to transform. She learns the mystery behind the old photos and determines, the past isn’t all that different from the present. kodak-max-400-35mm-film

I loved every minute of THE GOLDEN HOUR, the metaphor of life and art, and the concept that things don’t always have a happy ending, but in this case, they just might.

Join me, as I sit down with T. Greenwood and chat all things literary.

Leslie Lindsay: Tammy, it’s wonderful to have you back. I love all of your books and would relish reading your grocery list. And I loved THE GOLDEN HOUR. But, I understand writing this one was a bit of a challenge for you. Can you talk about your ‘Epitaphs and Prophecies’ where THE GOLDEN HOUR is concerned?

T. Greenwood: Writing this book was intensely challenging. First, I had a number of plot ideas I wanted to incorporate (hence the dual storyline), and each of them was fairly complex. But the greater challenge was how to depict Wyn’s character in a way that didn’t turn people away from her. We meet Wyn when she is going through multiple personal crises. Her marriage is falling apart, her career is not at all what she had once hoped it would be, and now a secret from her past is threatening to unravel everything. She’s angry. She’s frustrated. And she’s scared. She’s a difficult character to love initially. But she’s also broken, in a way that I hope readers will sympathize with. This book is all about ends and beginnings. And Wyn exemplifies that place that people often find themselves in, when everything seems in flux or on the verge of great change.

L.L.: Almost all of your books feature an artist; a material artist: a painter, a sculptor.  But writing is an art, too.  In fact, your website says, ‘Novelist. Photographer. Mama.’  Is it a conscious decision to make at least one of your characters an artist, or does it grow sort of organically?

T. Greenwood: I can’t help it. I love creative people, and I surround myself by them. I am fascinated by how art informs peoples’ lives, and so it is a recurring theme in my novels. This time around I really wanted to explore how three different artists’ relationship with their work diverged, as they became adults. Gus, Wyn, and Pilar all go to art school together. Gus continues to make art, supporting himself by working at a sign shop. Pilar finds sudden enormous success in the art world after many years of struggle. But Wyn is in a strange limbo – where she has “sold out,” in a sense, by painting on command. And while she is grateful to be making money making art, she can’t help but feel that she’s sold her soul. One of the themes I was interested in exploring in this novel was what happens when art and commerce intersect. And about the concept of art for art’s sake, what a luxury that is.

L.L.: In THE GOLDEN HOUR, you do a beautiful job of separating Wyn’s past from her current situation. I think this has a lot to do with structure. You have these dark, yet beautifully written short chapters entitled, ‘Inquiry’ thrusting the reader back in time. How did you determine this set-up?

300px-peaks_island_maine_landing_11-11-2004T. Greenwood: Wyn was the victim of a brutal crime when she was a child. I wanted to find a way to reveal that crime through the filter of her memory (an artist’s memory). I think artists often use their art to process tragedy, and so these chapters are her attempt to do so. They also give the reader small, palatable doses of that difficult aspect of the plot.

L.L.: And then there’s Maine. I could be entirely wrong, but is this the first time you’ve set a novel there? There’s something about Maine—the remoteness, the old-school vibe, the brooding sea. What was your inspiration for this setting?

T. Greenwood: My second novel is actually set in Maine as well. As a native Vermonter, I have spent quite a bit of time in Maine, mostly coastal Maine. And when I started writing this, my sister was living on Peaks Island. She would describe the winter to me, and I thought it was such a perfect backdrop for this story. It becomes a metaphor, in a way, for the isolation that Wyn feels. Her lies, like her art, have created a prison for her.

L.L.:  Houses fascinate me. I’m always making up stories about old farmhouses slung alongside the road, dreaming of who might have lived there, and why they are gone. Was there a particular home that sparked your interest and you ‘gave’ it to Pilar and Wyn?

Greenwood: I kept envisioning a house in a Wyeth painting. When I was little, my parents had a print of “Christina’s World” hanging in our living room. That was the house I 300px-christinasworldinitially thought of.

L.L.: What is haunting you now? What has your interest?

T. Greenwood: I actually just finished a novel, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press in the Spring of 2018. It’s tentatively titled RUST AND STARDUST, and it is an imagined rendering of the true crime (the kidnapping of an eleven year old girl) in 1948 that inspired Nabokov’s LOLITA. And I just started writing a new book that will return to Vermont – I have two whole pages so far.

L.L.: Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

T. Greenwood: I don’t think so.

L.L.: Tammy, it was a pleasure having you! Thank you so very much for taking the time to chat with us about THE GOLDEN HOUR.

T. Greenwood: Thank you so much for having me!

For more information, to connection via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE GOLDEN HOUR, please see: 

TGreenwood.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: T. Greenwood is the author of eleven critically acclaimed novels. She has received numerous grants for her writing, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. She lives with her family in San Diego, California, where she teaches creative writing, studies photography, and continues to write. Please visit her online at www.TGreenwood.com.

To connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, please see:

LOVE IT? SHARE IT! 

[Cover and author image courtesy of V. Engstrand at Kensington Press and used with permission. Images of 35mm film, Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World,” and Peak’s Island all retrieved from Wikipedia on 2/28/17]

 

 

Fiction Friday: Meet a New Character from my Novel-in-Progress

Standard

By Leslie LindsayWrite on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

After culling through  my completed manuscript and making notes…okay, about 100 color-coded notecards, I have come to the conclusion that I need another layer woven into the tapestry of my story.  Meet Nolan Baxter.  He’s there for a reason: to impart information to the reader that main characters Annie and Steve may not know or have access to.  He’s there to make readers say, “WTF?”  and he’s going to help tie things together in the end. 

Take a peek.  Let me know your thoughts.  Remember, this is an original work of fiction. Please do not make your own. 

***Be sure to LIKE my Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/LeslieALindsay1?ref=hl***

“Nolan Baxter wrote the obligatory ghost story on Halloween, the stories of lasting love on Valentine’s Day and interviews folks around the Bean about homelessness.  Worse, Nolan Baxter was a chameleon, his colors changing based on who he was around—and how he could please them, never fully understanding who he was and what made him tick.

          Human interest stories became his passion.  What interested others surely would interest him.  But, it didn’t. 

          Still yet, he had a job to do.  When the senior editor got wind of a special exhibit at the art institute, Nolan armed himself with a notebook and trucked down Michigan Avenue. 

          The flags flapped in the wind as Nolan traipsed up the steps of the massive stone building, his Converse sneakers ill-matched with his wide-whale cords and Gingham shirt.  He nodded to the overly large bronze lions standing guard—now weathered and turning green—commissioned from sculptor Edward Kemeys.  He found it interesting that the lions had unofficial names—the southern-most sculpture called “stands in an attention of defiance,” whereas the northern- most lion is referred to as “on the prowl.”  He knew all thanks to a past story he penned for the Trib on the 120th anniversary of the building. 

           When Nolan reached the front windows of the Art Institute, he flashed his press pass and followed an elderly docent inside. He marched forward and headed down the main staircase to the lower level where the traveling exhibits were on display.

           To his luck, one of the resident art professors shuffled about the lower level rounding up folks for a tour.

 “Art is like magic,” he began.  “Not many would identify art as magical,but I am not just anyone.”  Nolan rolled his eyes at the professor’s pretentious comment. He thought he had escaped the brainy type after graduating from journalism school.  No such luck.   “You see, artists have been employing the visual illusion since the fifteenth century, when Renaissance painters invented techniques to trick your brain into thinking that a flat canvas is three-dimensional, or that a series of brushstrokes in a still life is a bowl of luscious fruit.  It’s not—we all know it’s oil on canvas.”

           The crowd stirred, shifting their backpacks and hips, a mass of smelly bodies bathed in bad clothes and body odor.  Nolan nestled his pad of paper in his palm and feigned interest.  

            The Art professor began again, “Renaissance painters realized they could manipulate atmospheric effects by making tones weaken and colors pale as they recede from view.  They used shading, occlusion, and vanishing points to make their paintings…hyperrealistic.” 

          Nolan stifled a yawn and cracked his knuckles. 

          “Now, let’s fast-forward to 17th century Netherlands.  The Dutch developed a style of painting the French referred to as Trompe l’oeil.  That means, “trick the eye.”  These life-like paintings seem to jump from the frame.” The professor jumped a foot or so off the ground to illustrate his point. 

           Nolan Baxter clenched his jaw.  The professor side-stepped to a piece of art hanging on the creamy white walls.  “For example, if you’ll look at The Attributes of the Painter by Gysbrechts, you’ll see just that.” 

         Several overweight women huddled to the painting on the wall.  Sure enough, what appeared on the completed art was a three-dimensional depiction of the supplies of a painter.  A wooden frame with a darkened piece of canvas rolling off at the corner, paint brushes, and a pallet seemed to dangle from a painted-on nail.”