What lead you to write Blue Collars?
Several people have asked why I wrote this novel. It’s a fair question. Let me try to answer it.
By 2009, I had lost my dad, one of my brothers and his wife, and now my mother was 96. I spent a lot of time looking back, reflecting on my family and my childhood. I thought of my brother, with whom I was very close, and my other siblings, and that peculiar alliance that children make, especially in large families, when they’re trying to figure out their parents—their fall from grace as perfect, all-knowing, all powerful beings into humans with flaws and foibles. I thought of the strategies we concocted to combat those flaws—most of them humorous. And I thought of the fun we had. During the summer, all day we played outside, creating imaginative games. We came inside only reluctantly for supper, and after supper we were outside again until my mother called us in at eight or nine o’clock. During the school year we played until dark then came in to do homework. We loved walking to the beach on the dike after it was built, and taking advantage of Hazelwood Park. Saturday afternoons we might spend at the South End library, or see a movie at the Royal or the Orpheum on Water St. We had an annual trip to Lincoln Park and the drive-in movie on Rte. 6. We ice skated at the Poor Farm, and at home made not just snowmen and snow forts, but also little snow people and tunnels. Most of these activities were free.
I began writing these things down. Then I thought of the not-so-pleasant things. Things like sibling rivalry. Things like the financial struggles of the family. And, inevitably, the major problem of my childhood: sexual abuse by a trusted adult ouside my immediate family.
Eventually, all these things came together in my mind and I began writing about a fictional family called the Kilroys, with Finn Kilroy as the protagonist. I let my imagination go. How would the Kilroy family deal with these problems and struggles? What did they do to release tension and have fun? Who were Finn’s friends and neighbors? How would she have coped with sexual abuse?
Thus began a nine-year journey into the depths of the family, resulting in Blue Collars, due out at the beginning of April. It is my strongest hope that you will enjoy reading about the Kilroys; that you will root for them and laugh with them, feel their pain and their love for each other, and draw strength from their ultimate survival.