Today’s guest author is Anne Leigh Parrish, please join me in welcoming Anne to the blog.
I read her book “Our Love Could Light the World” a few weeks ago, here is a reminder of the review;
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book because I have been disappointed by some short story books in the past. The author uses each story to draw the reader in to an American family living in the New York finger lakes area. Each story looks at a member of the household or a family member connected with them and the reader watches them grow as the years pass. It’s very realistic and soul searching as everyone searches for the ultimate happiness.
Find Anne at; www.anneleighparrish.com
Let’s go and meet Anne;
Where is your home town?
Ithaca, New York. This is a small town of about 30,000 people located on the southern end of Lake Cayuga. As the crow flies, it lies about forty miles north of the Pennsylvania State border, and is about a three and a half hour car trip to New York City. It’s home to two institutions of higher learning, Cornell University, where my father was a Professor Emeritus of English, and also Ithaca College. Like so many small towns in upstate New York – upstate refers to the rest of the state outside the immediate environs of New York City and the lower Hudson Valley – it struggles economically. However, with the recent election of a young, driven mayor, lots of money is being generated by “brain trust” businesses like software companies and high tech consulting firms.
How long did it take to write “Our love could light the World”?
Just about six months. And may I say that they were a wonderful six months! I had a great deal of fun bringing this wild family to life.
Is the book based on any personal experience or an issue that you feel strongly about?
The one idea I really feel strongly about is redemption – the belief that people can understand their flaws, and, in an ideal scenario, improve their lives. That improvement isn’t always possible, however. Bad luck and a weak character often prove to be tough obstacles to overcome. I’m also fascinated by family dynamics, how people play off of one another, are defined by one another, succeed or fail based on how much support – or antagonism – they encounter.
I’m from the UK and although I’ve been to the States several times I’m not quite sure where the New York Finger Lakes area is, can you tell us where we can find them and what they are?
If you look at a map of New York State, you’ll see in the centre five long lakes that run north to south. Their shape is reminiscent of fingers. These were formed by the retreating ice sheet thousands of years ago. The region is good farm country, generally poor, but is becoming well known for wineries in the last few years.
In your book we meet the Dugan family and you describe them as scrappy and dysfunctional, they sadly represent many people’s lives. Do you think that they are yet another casualty of the search for the Ultimate “American dream”?
The American Dream is, and only ever was possible with an active, healthy, mixed economy. More about that in the answer to the next question on your list. Regarding the Dugan’s, they’re victims, as I mentioned, of bad luck – the father’s disability – and weak character, his drinking. The eldest daughter, Angie, improves her lot through education and hard work. Potter’s sister, Patty, who lives in Montana, also does well for herself. So, to be clear, I wouldn’t say that when they falter it’s because the American Dream failed them, but because they failed themselves.
How would you describe in your own words the true American Dream? Do you think it is a phrase best left in the past, or do people still strive to achieve it today?
The America Dream, simply put, means that anyone can start with nothing and make his fortune. Here’s the rub. The American dream depends on a government that understands its role in promoting growth and stability. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party has undermined this understanding. It has waged war on the underclass by stripping federal benefits and subsides that created and sustained a safety net for the most economically vulnerable, and offered programs for middle-class families to get ahead, like Federally guaranteed college student loans. This Tea Party focusses on stripping the American government of its spending power, claiming that federal deficits are threatening the future well-being of society. It doesn’t take a genius to quickly see that the Tea Party favours programs that help the already-wealthy. This has resulted in an ever-growing income disparity in America. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and those in the middle get stuck pretty much where they are. A dream takes planning and policy to become reality. We’ve lost that here.
There is a deep message about love through your book, how can your book teach others to live their lives?
Well, I return once again to the idea of redemption. Self-awareness is very important. One must develop an objective point-of-view, to the extent possible, about one’s behaviour and motivations. It’s not easy. But if you understand yourself, and what makes you tick, as it were, you can better see inside another person and what drives them. Sometimes that view isn’t very compelling. Sometimes you find out that someone is just as big a jerk as you suspected. But quite often you find that they’re just like you – struggling to survive and move ahead.
Was writing your book as a series of short stories easy or did it provide its own problems with linking them all together?
What I had to make sure of was that the characters were consistent throughout the book. They needed to be the same person at the end that they were in the beginning. What I mean, is their root character and psychology had to carry forward. People don’t change their characters much over time, though their behaviour can change a great deal.
Which was your favourite character in the book and why?
Lavinia, the disgruntled, disaffected mother is my favourite. She’s a straight-shooter. She doesn’t feel sorry for other people, including her own children, but she doesn’t feel sorry for herself, either. And she’s honest with herself about how she got where she is and why.
Are you writing anything else at the moment? I’ve just completed a novel called Acts of Concealment. It’s about four generations of women, and their experience with faith. I avoid any discussion of doctrine – this book is about the effect religion has on people, how people lose and rediscover their devotion to God, the philosophical questions that go along with being both intelligent and faithful. Other than that, I’m writing short stories, as always.
Thank you Anne for agreeing to come on the blog today and talk about your book.