Today, thanks to Caitlin Hamiliton Summie, I have a book spotlight + giveaway (US/CA) of Hard Cider by Barbara Stark-Nemon. #partner
Interview with Barbara Stark-Nemon:
A Conversation with Barbara Stark-Nemon
Your novel explores how one couple handles infertility, adoption, and family structure. What research did you do for your novel? Is any of the story based on personal experience? If so, was it hard to write about this subject?
I did do a considerable amount of research, particularly regarding surrogacy, but I already knew a good bit about infertility and the many ways we form families. I like to say that Hard Cider is a “what if” book. What if some of the circumstances that relate to my own life experience had turned out very differently.
A major theme of this novel is reinvention: reinventing a work life, reinventing family and reinventing oneself. Why?
If we’re fortunate enough to live long enough, most of us find that life presents us with twists and turns that are unexpected, and even unwelcome. I am always interested in exploring how people respond to that very human condition. I deeply value our capacity to choose reinvention rather than defeat, and what the struggle to do that looks like.
What is hard cider? What made you choose hard cider production as a career for your character? What makes a great hard cider?
Hard apple cider is pressed apple juice that is fermented to produce a carbonated, alcoholic product- somewhat like beer is made. Hard cider has experienced a renaissance in the U.S. in the last 10 to 15 years. It was quite common in colonial days but fell out of favor during Prohibition and when brewed beer became popular. I became interested in hard cider when I lived in England for a year and found many versions of it there. My own interest started me thinking about this encore career for my character, Abbie Rose, and then the fruit growing/cider producing culture in the region where Hard Cider is set clinched it. Great cider starts with great apples- there’s been a resurgence of cultivation of traditional cider apples in this country. Many varieties are grown in the UK and in France.
Life for Abbie Rose is rich and sometimes complex. She is bright, vibrant, with many interests, and she plays many roles. But what is most striking about her is her emotional honesty and regulation. How do you write a character with that combination–a calm center and a full to spinning life?
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to join a webinar with Christina Baker Kline, and I asked her about how her characters made meaning in their lives. She responded “I write novels about people (mostly women) who are in the midst of profound upheaval and need to figure out who they are in order to move forward. I’m interested in relationships, of course, but I’m most interested in how people find meaning inside themselves.” That is Abbie Rose’s job in Hard Cider — to stay the course no matter what gets thrown her way. Abbie’s had to do this a lot in her life, and this story is about yet another unexpected shock she has to navigate. I tried to show how she reacted, how she marshals her resources, what reserves she has to tap, and then how she makes choices.
You clearly love northern Michigan. Tell us why.
There is something about big fresh water of the Great Lakes, sand dunes, pine forest, birch trees, fruit orchards and the sweeping uncluttered landscape of the northwest corner of Michigan that has always thrilled me and settled me at the same time. I can feel it when I’m half way up the state, and the forest and hills start to appear. I spent years sailing all around the lakes. It’s my favorite place to write, and my favorite place to be!
Your first novel, award-winning and acclaimed, was historical fiction. What made you choose to write contemporary fiction this time? How was writing this book different? The same?
My first book, Even in Darkness, grew out of a family story and a group of real people who deeply influenced me. Although it’s fictional, many events in the novel really happened, and I wrote it as a legacy to family members who lived through some of the events depicted over the course of the whole twentieth century. The main character is a strong complex woman who must cope with the unthinkable and somehow make meaning for the remainder of her life. I guess I wasn’t done with that concept — that a strong multidimensional woman must overcome the unexpected with dignity and self-determination. What might that look like for a woman of a certain age in our society? This book was very different to write because it wasn’t based on a real story, though some of the events are similar to those I have experienced. I wrote Hard Cider in first person – that was very different! Researching my novels is part of writing that I love, so that was true in both books. I also care deeply about a sense of place, so writing authentic settings was an important part of both my novels.
Part of your book contains a mystery. What made you add the mystery element?
I actually have to give credit here to my writing group. As the story of Hard Cider developed, they encouraged me to ramp up the mysterious element, and I immediately loved the idea of adding that to the narrative I’d developed. I think it helped showcase Abbie Rose’s character in an important way.
Your characters love fiber arts. How are fiber arts integral to character development?
I do a lot of work with my hands — knitting, quilting, sewing, and a bit of embroidery. I’m interested in the kinship among women who work in these ways with their hands. Abbie Rose knits to spend contemplative time sorting out her life, and it allows her to connect with other characters. I also love the metaphor of the knitting together of lives, the gifting of time and attention to others inherent in this type of creative work.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Abbie Rose wants to explore an entirely different path — to fulfill a dream, now that she has succeeded in raising a family, sustained a long marriage and worked in a career. I would like readers to come away from Hard Cider with a sense that dreams can come true at many times in a person’s life, even in the face of unexpected events, and adversity. I also hope readers recognize that we make family many different ways over the course of our lives, and that while our pasts influence us, we have the choice to stay open to possibilities.
Thanks to Caitlin, I have 1 copy of Hard Cider for a giveaway (US/CA only). Check the Rafflecopter for ways to enter. Rules & Fine Print: Open to US only. This contest is void where prohibited. This contest is in no way sponsored by Rafflecopter, Amazon or my social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). No purchase necessary to win. Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter’s randomized program. Winner will be emailed for their mailing address & Caitlin Hamilton Summie will send book directly to them. The giveaway ends October 21st at 11:59pm.
*Have you added Hard Cider to your Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf?*
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T