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5 Questions With… Kathleen Tessaro!

Bestselling author Kathleen Tessaro’s Rare Objects, which has just been released in paperback, is a featured titled on our Summer Reading list, and is among the titles that teams competing in the Battle of the Books will be reading.

Kathleen, a native Pittsburgher, will also be visiting some CLP book groups this summer to discuss Rare Objects. The book groups are open to anyone, and Kathleen will be visiting Beechview at 11:30 on July 8th; Woods Run on July 11th at 11:30; and Squirrel Hill on July 19th at 6:30.  We virtually sat down with her and asked her five questions to help us get to know her better.

CLP: What is the most challenging thing about writing for you? The easiest?

Kathleen: The most difficult thing about writing is forcing myself to sit down and write every day. That never gets any easier. The more I write, the more I’m confronted with my own bad writing, which is a bit dull but unavoidable. The easiest thing about writing is the research, which is endlessly fascinating and often provides entirely new plot lines and characters. When I’m stuck in the actual writing, dipping again into a new area of research often frees up my imagination.


CLP: What do you hope people will take away from your book(s)?

Kathleen: Most of all, I hope readers are entertained; that the story clips along at a good pace and that they’re interested and involved with what happens to the characters. To me, a successful novel is one where I long to spend more time with the characters and where I miss them when the book is done.


CLP: Tell us about your favorite library experience or memory.

Kathleen: As a young child, long before I could read, my mother took my brothers, sister, and I to the Carnegie Children’s Library in Oakland most weekends. To us, it was nothing short of magical; an endless treasure trove where we could (and did) happily while away hours. We felt so adult and important checking out our own books, with our own library cards. It was one of my earliest experiences of autonomy and freedom of choice — the wonderful feeling that I was allowed to make my own selections and that I was responsible.

Later, when I lived in London, I depended on my local libraries every week — for years I had no television, so books provided my only entertainment. I relished the peace and order; the pleasant anticipation that I was certain to stumble across something new and unexpected. I especially enjoyed wandering into a section I was unfamiliar with and picking up a book about something completely alien to me — like philosophy, travel or theology. I can remember reading a book of accounts from modern day nuns about their experiences in their religious communities and what faith meant to them. I’m neither religious nor particularly interested in nuns, but it proved fascinating and it’s always stuck with me. That’s the kind of unexpected adventure libraries offer — armchair excursions into the unknown. Many happy afternoons were spent sitting on the floor between the shelves, paging through perspectives of life, vastly different from my own.

Now I live in Sewickely, and we’re blessed with a very dynamic, beautiful library which really is the center of the entire community. Both my son and I regularly use our library — as my overdue account on my library card proves!  It’s a constant source of fresh ideas, research material and inspiration, as well as a quiet refuge when we need a break from one another.

To me, a successful novel is one where I long to spend more time with the characters and where I miss them when the book is done.


CLP: What interview question do you wish you were asked more often, and what’s the answer?

Kathleen: How did you get to be so wildly interesting?

Okay….yeah….I can see why no one asks me that now.


CLP: What three books should every human read and why?

Kathleen: I can’t think of any books that everyone should read. Literature isn’t a one size fits all endeavor — in fact, it’s very much the opposite. (That’s the strength of libraries — they cater to all tastes, ages, levels of experience, areas of interest. It’s their rigorous diversity, constantly expanding stock and accessibility to all that make them essential.)

There are a few books, however, that I like, and those I will share with you:

  • The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford is wonderfully written — light, witty and at times unexpectedly touching. Nancy Mitford deftly creates unforgettable characters and has a unique, irreverent relationship with language that still inspires me.
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt is a gothic/literary romance that won the Booker Prize back in the ’90s (before it was the Man Booker Prize). It’s one of the first novels I ever read with a dual storyline — one in the present and one in Victorian England — that intertwine masterfully. Peppered throughout with Victorian-style epic poetry, fables and sonnets written in the style of Christina Rosetti and Robert Browning, it’s a literary tour de force, but even more importantly, it’s a genuinely gripping romantic mystery. It made a huge impression on me and has been the touchstone of everything I’ve aspired to achieve in my storytelling since.
  • The Witches of New York by Ami McKay is a new novel, coming out this July. I’m lucky enough to be sent galleys of new novels by young writers, and this book has been my favorite this year — an intelligently written, richly imagined version of New York’s Gilded Age populated with clever witches, wily clairvoyants and, of course, unspeakable evil. As delicious and satisfying as a guilty pleasure.

Meet local author Kathleen Tessaro

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