I love to laugh. Humor has seen me through being a child of divorce and the new kid in eight schools in four countries. It has seen me through the turbulent teen years, marriage, and parenthood. Seeing the absurd side of life was what made me run to jot down ludicrous comments and situations verbatim before dealing with them (my kids knew they were in trouble when I grabbed a pen...) "It's better to laugh than to cry" is a favorite saying. My books reflect looking at life through humor's softening lens... not because I don't think life is a very serious affair, but because I do.
Why did you write The Adventures of the Blackberry Hill Kids?
I was raised in Sweden and always loved the stories my grandmother--she was born in 1904--told of her childhood. When I had children of my own I began to write down their adventures and mishaps, which often sent me running from the room laughing. This book is the result of 20 years of note taking, and while the names have been changed to protect the guilty, well... you can't make stuff like this up!!!
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So tell us about the book and the writing process...
The Adventures of the Blackberry Hill Kids is not an amazing book like (my favorites) Emma or Gone with the Wind or The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It is, however, a little book full of love and the conviction that if we look at life through humor’s softening lens, we can survive the laundry, the mayhem, the dreams put on hold, and the to-do list on which 2 1/2 things out of an optimistic 20 are checked off (with a stubby Power Pink crayon, all I could find) at the end of each day. It was written in pencil on a tablet while sitting in the sandbox with Collin and Ethan. Scratch. Scratch. “Don’t throw sand on your brother. Because it’s not nice, that’s why.” It was written on the back of abandoned spelling lists. Scratch. Scratch. “No, you can’t have ice cream tonight, even if Pappa got into the Cookies and Cream, and I know that’s not fair, but life isn’t fair, now go to bed.” It was written in the car, my husband driving us to educational and amusing destinations, with the children safely strapped in their car seats, grumbling and sleeping and spilling juice on the upholstery. Scratch. Scratch. It was written in newsletter form to grandparents in Indiana and Sweden and Florida. By then I had a word processor and could print out duplicates, but they had to be mailed because no grandparent had a computer to receive them in email form. My mother: “Jag har besvär nog med telefonens alla knappar, hu då, en data maskin, nej tack!" (I have enough trouble with all the buttons on the phone, a computer, no way!”) Tap. Tap. Tap. It was written while waiting in the doctor’s office for sixth grade shots. Scratch. Scratch. It was written late at night, with much guilt because there was always laundry to be folded, cards to be written, floors to de-stick, and many more useful things to do. Tappity tap. And it was written on a train trip, leaving guilt and teenage children behind, across Minnesota and North Dakota and Montana with its windswept plains, with snow pummeling the windows, and the clackety-clack of tracks providing a soothing background to the tappity tap. Tap. Tap. It was rewritten, and rewritten, and rewritten, and edited, a proofed, and re-edited, while the now-teenagers interrupted for gas money, for signatures on permission slips, for favorite shirts to be mended, for emergency runs to the store for poster board for a project that was due the next day (“Well, I’ve been busy with other things, and I had to watch House last night, you weren’t doing anything anyway, just working on that dumb book.”) So now it is written, and as noted it is not Emma, or Gone with the Wind, and it is not a perfect book, but then life is not perfect, is it? It may have some Swedish idioms that don’t make sense and be missing a comma here and there, but it is a book of affection. And laughter. I hope you will read it and read between the lines and get pleasure from it.
After 11 years of childless marriage, calm and efficient Swedish-American Anna Sjöholm Masters has an unexpected attack of horrormones, loses her mind, and begs her husband for a baby. The result is the Blackberry Hill kids, an endearing trio of rapscallions who cheerfully romp through life as their aging parents valiantly try to keep order in the midst of chaos.