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Friday, July 26, 2013

Saying a Lott
Please pardon the pun in the title of this post, but Malena Lott, the author of Family Charms: A Novel, does have a lot to say. Especially about families, relationships, and the emotional upheavals caused by a mother abandoning her children. Her latest in a series of women's novels, this one explores the depths of human emotion as three sisters journey around the world in search of their mother who left them when they were toddlers.

I read this intriguingly emotionally charged book last week and had the honor this past Monday to chat with the talented author about Family Charms. Here are some excepts from our conversation:

Literary Blogger: You said in the prologue to Family Charms  that you “bled upon the page”. How much of the story is really fact? How much is fiction?
Malena Lott: The emotional truth is there—all the feelings that I and my sisters felt. Not knowing where she is, but that you know that your mother is out there. You also feel that you’re in a better place. We were raised by loving grandparents. Yet, even as a young child, I still worried and wondered…Was my mom okay? As a child and even in my early twenties, I suffered a lot with the dark side…a loop that runs in your brain wondering what was the worst scenario. [However], there is no worry and anxiety now. I can easily relate to the oldest sister, Marlo, in the book, who fears loss of relationships, but then learns to trust.

LB: Did you ever find you own mother as the sisters in the book did?
ML: I never got a clear answer as to her own journey. We are estranged again, but I have come to peace with it, as the girls in the book have come to peace with meeting their mother.
LB  Marlo is your avatar in the novel. Did you base the characters of Marlo’s two sisters, Taryn and Amelia, on your own two sisters? What traits of theirs did you include?
ML: Definitely some insecurity, but in terms of action, not so much. The plotline is not from real life, but I drew upon our emotions and I am fine with that. I used anger, insecurity, and identity issues. When Elizabeth, the mother in Home, is in prison, she learns that children born in prison are allowed to stay with their mother to prevent anxiety issues that may occur later on their lives. Separation at a very early age from one's mother may cause border personality issues. Luckily, my sisters and I were spared that. But, high adrenaline moments—both pleasant and not-so pleasant—in your life are the ones that stay with you; they are the ones most remembered and I tried to capture the emotional aspects of these.

LB: How/why did you determine Taryn would be the tattoo artist, Marlo the journalist, and Amelia the “fallen” teacher?
ML: I wanted to give them something to do on the trip. Amelia, the youngest, doesn’t know what to do; her identity was that of whoever would love her at the time. I made her a teacher to represent innocence, but she is a chameleon. She does care and does love children, but was doubly jaded having not only her mother leave her, but her stepmother leaves her, too. Taryn, the middle one is either angry or the peacemaker. I actually know some friends who have a tattoo shop, so tattoos became symbols of her own journey. She had each of the charms their mother gave them tattooed on. The question is, are her tattoos symbolic of her covering something up? Paul, the tattooed banker, is madly in love with Taryn, which seems totally out of character for a banker. But, as I tried to point out, you shouldn’t prejudge anyone.

In your author’s note, you state that you did not travel around the world as did Marlo and her sisters to find their mother. However, have you visited any of the places they did? How did you choose which “exotic” places to write about? How did you conduct your research?
ML: There is symbolism in every one of those four stops. Two of them are places that I really love and have visited, Hawaii and the Grand Canyon. For Hawaii, I tried to incorporate the real meaning of the word "aloha", which I explain in the book. The Grand Canyon is so massive and I am struck by how it has been formed over the years...just like the sisters' lives have been formed so far. It is symbolic of where they are going from here. I know a bit about Africa and Mexico, so I tried to incorporate the spirituality of each place. And I did a lot of extensive research, yes.

LB: This novel reads like a therapeutic catharsis both for its characters and its author. Would you comment upon that? Did you feel better writing it? During the process? Afterward?
ML: Yes, the writing was very cathartic. I lived with this for a long time and I hope I treated it with a lot of respect. I didn't want to hold back. I have had, have a [pretty] dramatic life, and I have other stories to write, but my agent knew my story and asked me, "Why not write about it?" So, as an author, I went on a fictionalized spiritual journey...a story with a bit of adventure with fictionalized sisters. I feel so much stronger now having written it.

I found the real meaning of Family Charms to be what it means to be a sister as well as a mother—even if she is absent, she still loves her children. This is the central motif. What do you wish your readers to take away as the major theme(s) of the book?
ML: One of the themes of Family Charms is “How can I fully be there for the people in my life?" But, I'd love for readers to take away how important it is to stay open to opportunities and not prejudge them and to realize that everyone has a life story and you’re just a piece of it. Give people a chance, and a second chance and support each other. Bring each other up and not tear others down. This is harder to do, because it's easier to be negative. The tougher thing is to support each other through tough times; that is the key and the most important thing.

LB: In all of this, the daughters are charms in themselves, aren’t they?
ML: Yes. I try to use symbolism in every book that I write, using deeper meanings. And I carry the themes through, like with the Sisterhood Tour to get girls and women to come out and spend an evening or two with each other and to "do something" for yourself. Some of us, especially writers, have such solitary professionals and it's important for us to get out and be about! I am an advocate of sisterhood and supporting one another and I want to help women to realize how important relationships and friendships are.
Now that we've chatted a bit with Malena, surf over to www.authorexposure.com and read my review of her novel.

For more information about Malena Lott and her Sisterhood Tour, please visit http://malenalott.wordpress.com/ and/or follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/MalenaLott. 
1:14 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,