The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Katharine Davis and A Slender Thread

August 30, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Katharine Davis (East Hope, Capturing Paris), a self-described “late bloomer,” postponed her writing career until the age of fifty. And then — after teaching French in the Washington, D.C. area, working at the National Gallery of Art, and raising two children — she decided what she wanted next in life. Writing novels won hands down and with her third book, A Slender Thread, having recently been released on August 3, 2010, there’s no question that Katharine (Winner of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance 2010 Award for Fiction) chose the perfect pursuit.

How did the author succeed? What was her secret? According to Katharine, it was rather straightforward: “The odd thing was I had started to tell people I was writing a novel, and how could I quit after that? I didn’t want to be one of those people who always talk about writing one day and then never do it.”

Also, when deciding on the type of novel to write, Katharine showcased her life experiences by acknowledging most first time novelists, in their twenties or thirties, often write a coming of adulthood story. Instead, her books focus on the challenges one encounters at mid-life.

For example, by reading Guest Katharine Davis on Where Novels Come From, it’s learned that the seed of A Slender Thread was planted by a chance social encounter with a vibrant, seemingly healthy women in her fifties. However, having been diagnosed with Progressive Primary Aphasia, this woman had already lost her ability to speak and this rare brain disease would eventually take away the rest of her physical/mental abilities.

How does one find the strength to cope with such adversity? That was only one of many questions the author wondered as she crafted a story about two sisters, the elder one having Progressive Primary Aphasia.

Here’s a brief introduction to A Slender Thread:

As a girl swimming in the waters of Bow Lake, where she and her family spent every summer, Margot Winkler knew her big sister, Lacey, would keep her safe. Decades later, Lacey’s home in a small New Hampshire town is often Margot’s refuge from her less settled situation with her live-in lover, Oliver, in Manhattan. But everything changes just before Thanksgiving, when Lacey meets Margot’s arrival for the holiday with devastating news. . .

Yet the novel never tells the story from Lacey’s point of view. While her actions and words communicate what she might be feeling and thinking, the tale is told by those who love Lacey most — her husband and her sister Margot. They are, or believe they are, as affected by the disease as is Lacey, thereby knowing what’s best for her. And that’s how the theme of communication threads its way through the entire book. As Katharine notes:

“Communication is in our power — by our actions, by what we say, or don’t. Art is another way of communicating and that is why I brought the making of art into the book. The message is that the human spirit is strong and if we open ourselves up to others, we can grow even stronger and survive all kinds of difficulties.”

On the other hand when communication falters, is misunderstood, or completely shuts down, then come the problems. Since any serious and/or life-threatening disease to a family member or close friend changes one’s life, it’s not unexpected to have fear creep into the relationship. Too often the diagnosis labels that person, causing many to either smother or flee. How unfortunate, because that family member or close friend is still likely to be the same person you’ve always loved. The sole difference now is their need to be treated for who they still are, rather than what they now have. So how do Lacey’s husband and her sister choose to treat her? Ah, there are no spoilers here!

Art is another form of communication — as the author mentioned above — and it figures prominently in the lives of the two sisters. Lacey is a talented weaver, while Margot works at regaining her painting skill and passion. Each slender thread woven into a scarf, blanket or tapestry becomes more of Lacey’s physical voice. It’s her true expression, just as each of Margot’s brush strokes reveal her feelings as well.

To be understood, to be accepted, and to share openly with others are vital needs for all the characters in A Slender Thread. It may be fiction but what Katharine Davis has written reminds us that in reality these elements are vital to every human spirit for whatever the future holds….at any age.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Katharine Davis’s A Slender Thread in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Katharine Davis on
Where Novels Come From

August 24, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Katharine Davis (East Hope, Capturing Paris) — like all authors — gets ideas for her writing from everywhere at any time. In today’s guest post, however, she explains how a chance encounter evolved into her latest novel, A Slender Thread.]

Where Novels Come From

I’m often asked where I get the ideas for my novels. Capturing Paris, my first book, came from a dream I had about a woman glimpsed in the Paris subway. My second novel, East Hope, came from a short story I had written years before. But, from time to time, I wondered about the main character in that story. What if Caroline had succumbed to Pete’s advances in the story, instead of coming to her senses at the last moment? That fateful act would change everything.

Often stories or novels evolve from asking the “what if” question. What if the husband leaves his wife? What if the single woman wants to adopt a child? What if the boss falls in love with his assistant? The possibilities are endless.

Now try to imagine eight women around a table in a museum restaurant talking about a photography exhibit. The women, most of them in their fifties, well dressed and accomplished, are enjoying themselves. They comment enthusiastically on art, current events, books, movies, and their own families.

Yet, one woman says nothing at all. She is visiting from the West Coast, and she is the college roommate of one of the guests. She looks no different from the women around her. She has a loving husband, has raised two children, and has had a successful career in real estate.

Except unlike the other women at the luncheon, this woman has a rare brain disease. Her name is Anna and she can no longer speak. When it is time to order lunch the woman next to Anna asks her if she would like the chicken salad. Anna nods in agreement. She still understands language, but eventually, as her disease progresses, she will lose her ability to comprehend anything at all.

Two years ago I was a guest at that luncheon. I met Anna, a woman very much like me, but a woman whose life had begun to unravel in a way she never expected. I was writing another novel at the time, but every day when I sat at my computer to work, I kept thinking of Anna. I tried to imagine what this tragedy was like for her husband, for her children, and for the many friends who loved her. Here was a vibrant woman in her prime who could not utter a word.

I didn’t want to tell Anna’s personal story. I don’t know her family, or even her last name. Instead, I began writing a new novel and A Slender Thread was born. It is the story of two sisters, the elder of whom is diagnosed with the same disease, Primary Progressive Aphasia.

How do we find the strength to cope in the face of adversity? How do we start over at mid-life? Are we capable of change? Do we ever truly leave the past behind? How do we communicate? Are words enough? Is love enough? These were the questions I asked myself while writing A Slender Thread. Over the next year that chance meeting became a novel.

One warm afternoon last spring, I found myself thinking about a summer I had spent in Florence, Italy when I was twenty-one years old. I had stayed at a small hotel, more of a bed and breakfast, and I remembered the Italian woman who cooked and served the lunch. I also had the vague recollection of a very old English woman who lived in a shabby room on the top floor with her ancient husband. I knew immediately I had the germ of a novel. I began to picture three women in Florence, three different nationalities, three different ages, but all living together in the same little inn. Why were they there? What did they fear? What did they hope for? The questions keep coming and the scenes are already forming in my head. So yes, I’ve started another novel. Best of all, I think I need to travel to Florence for some necessary research!

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Book Giveaway: This week Kate Ledger has graciously offered two “signed” copies of Remedies to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post, Kate Ledger and Remedies. A comment left on any other post during the week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post. IF you do enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Katharine Davis

August 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Interviews, Q&A

Katharine Davis (East Hope, Capturing Paris) — Winner of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance 2010 Award for Fiction — celebrated the release of her third novel, A Slender Thread, two weeks ago.

The book described as A gripping novel of two sisters who must reimagine the future-before they’re ready to let go of the past., has also earned the following praise:

“Luminous and deeply affecting . . . In this novel of the complex bonds of sisters and the pernicious effects of a rare illness, Katharine Davis memorably captures the language of family. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and it was a pleasure to watch it take shape.”
–Susan Coll, author of Beach Week and Acceptance

“With a sure, light touch and a shrewd eye for telling details, Katharine Davis expertly weaves a resonant story about the bonds of family, the tug of geography, and the regenerative power of art. A Slender Thread is an emotionally rich and penetrating novel.”
–Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be

“The multiple viewpoints of Katharine Davis’s A Slender Thread weave in and out of chapters like threads in a tapestry, illustrating the intricate, complicated ties that bind us as family. While this compelling story shows just how fragile –and therefore precious –are our connections to each other, Davis also shows that even the slenderest of threads can have the surprising strength and resilience to hold it (and us) together.”
–Katrina Kittle, author of The Blessings of the Animals

The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of A Slender Thread for Monday, August 30, 2010 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Katharine Davis began writing fiction in 1999. Capturing Paris (St. Martin’s Press, 2006) was her first novel. Recommended in Real Simple Spring Travel 2007, the novel was also included in the New York Times suggestions for fiction set in Paris. Her second novel, East Hope, published by New American Library in 2009, won the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance 2010 Award for Fiction. A Slender Thread, New American Library 2010, is her third novel.

Katharine Davis lives with her husband in New York City and spends summers writing in southern Maine. She is now working on a novel set in Florence, Italy during the summer of 1969.

And now here is Katharine as her revealing self:

Q: How would you describe your life in eight words?
A: Blessed, full, rewarding, happy –I’m afraid to go on for fear of jinxing myself!

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Invent your own life. No one will do it for you.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Sitting at the table on our porch in Maine enjoying a delicious dinner on a summer evening with the people I love.

Q: What is your greatest fear?
A: Losing the people I love.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A;At home! I’m a homebody at heart. Though, sitting on the terrace of the Café Marly in Paris overlooking the Louvre while sipping Champagne would not be a bad second choice!

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A; Jane Austin – I love the way she lived a full domestic life alongside her writing life.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Right now, Hillary Clinton. Imagine trying to bring about world peace at the same time as putting on a perfect wedding for your only daughter.

Q: What are your most used words or phrases?
A:I think you should ask my family that one!

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I would love to be able to sing. The only time I even dare is in church and I try not to stand too close to anyone.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I raised two absolutely great children and I published my first novel at 57.

Q: What is your greatest flaw?
A: I’m a worrier!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m a good listener and I try to be kind!

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I wish I’d started writing sooner.

Q: If you could be any person or thing in the world, who or what would you be?
A: I would be fresh air! We all need it to survive.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m quite tall. I’m friendly and I try to see the good in things.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Atticus Finch

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Dr. No in the Ian Fleming James Bond series. I read every one of Fleming’s novels when I was a teenager, and loved them.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I am totally non-sports oriented. I guess I would have to say thank you to Billy Jean King for what she did for women’s tennis. Saying this kind of dates me! I’m clueless as to who’s important these days.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who are late.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Like most writers, it would have to be reading.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I would be a famous country music star and sing for thousands outdoors on a starlit night!

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, honesty, loyalty

Q: If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Fresh corn on the cob in August with field grown tomatoes with mozzarella and basil. Oh dear, I’m greedy –that’s more than one!

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: My husband loads my Ipod with all kinds of music and I never remember titles. I’d have to say I love all early Beatles like “Yesterday,” but also “Stand by your Man” by Tammy Wynette.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A:This is something I ponder when I can’t sleep at night, and the list changes constantly as things come to mind. In the spirit of cooperation, as of today, I would say: Madame Bovary, The Great Gatsby, Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), Howards End (E. M. Forster), and Crossing to Safety (Wallace Stegner). These are books I never tire of reading. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have 5 more!

Katharine Davis is charming, delightful, and talented, do become a friend on Facebook and visit her Thursday Thoughts Blog.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Kristina Riggle and The Life You’ve Imagined. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.