Reading Firefly Lane will likely be a trip down memory lane for most readers out there. Kristin Hannah weaves great period moments of growing up during the '70s and '80s into the story, and in Kate and Tully she's also created a portrait of a real friends--ones who celebrates the good times but who also takes a hard look at love and loyalty when the chips are down--that will remind you of your own lifelong friendships. It's the kind of book you'll devour in one sitting and immediately want to share with your friends so you can dish about it. And speaking of dishing, that's exactly what we did over lunch last fall with the author here in her native Seattle. The city figures largely in Firefly Lane and it was fun to hear about how her own experiences growing up in the Northwest found expression in the book. She was gracious enough to catch up with me recently over e-mail--and to send us a snapshot of her fantastic book collection, which you'll see pictured above. --Anne
Amazon.com: Why did you choose Seattle as the backdrop for Firefly Lane? Is there something unique about growing up in the Northwest that helped you to define the kind of women Kate and Tully become?
Kristin Hannah: Quite simply, I chose Seattle as the backdrop for Firefly Lane
because it's so much a part of who I am. I've lived in the Northwest
for most of my life, and obviously, in all those years, I've seen this
part of the country evolve from an undiscovered gem into the Emerald
City. So many of the places from my youth are gone, or changed, or
moved, and I guess I wanted to remember the physical reminders of those
bygone days. And while Kate and Tully are absolutely Northwest girls, I
like to think their story will speak to women who grew up in vastly
different, more populated areas. After all, it's ultimately about
friendship, and those seeds can be planted anywhere.
While you were writing, at any point did you find yourself feeling more
sympathetic to Kate or to Tully? How did you keep the weight of the
plot balanced between them as their stories evolved?
There's no way to avoid the truth that Kate is more than a little like
me. Thus, I identified with her from the very beginning--she was the
small town girl who had to get up in the pre-dawn hours to feed her
horses, and read The Lord of the Rings
during every family vacation, and felt lost in the first few months at
the sprawling University of Washington. All of that was me, so
naturally, the problem was not in feeling sympathetic toward Katie; it
was much more about holding her at arm's length, seeing her not as an
extension of myself, but as a completely fictional woman. Tully was a
different story entirely. While many readers might be surprised by
this, I really fell in love with Tully. In the final analysis, she's
one of my favorite characters of all time. I know she's bold and
selfish and myopic and ambitious to a fault, but she's also terribly
broken, wounded by her parents, unable to believe in love, and
ultimately very real. I think all of us know a "Tully" in our lives,
and they bring a lot of drama...and a lot of fire and sparkle.
You have a beautiful way of showing both the tension and tenderness
between mothers and daughters. Was it a challenge to write Tully's
painful history with her own mother, and later, the conflict that
builds between Kate and her own daughter?
Honestly, I believe that the mother-daughter relationship is magical,
complex, potentially dangerous, profoundly powerful, and deeply
transformative. To put it simply, all of us have this relationship, and
in a very real way, "none of us comes out alive." We are all formed
first as daughters and then tested as mothers. There's nothing like
motherhood to make us reassess how we were as daughters. One of my
favorite parts of Firefly Lane was the circle of Kate’s
relationship with her mom. First we see her as an angry teen, slamming
the door on her mother...and then later her own daughter does the same
thing to her. There's a real symmetry in that, a truth that many of us
have learned. I have often wished in the past few years that my mom
were here to help me as I raised my own teenage son. As a girl, with my
own mom, I thought I knew it all; now I know better. Somewhere, I know
my mom is smiling.