November 16, 2009

Blog Tour: Thirsty by Kristin Bair O'Keeffe


When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote my first poem when I was eight years old. I was in my bedroom, and my mom was on our patio drinking a cup of coffee. When she realized that I was holed up in my bedroom on a lovely summer evening instead of playing freeze tag in the back yard with my sisters, she called through the window, "Kristin, what are you doing in there?"

Irritated at being interrupted in the middle of my creative process, I said, "Mooommm, I'm writing a poem. I am a poet, you know."

"You are?" she said. This was the first she'd heard about it. I hadn't yet shared the fact that I'd recently discovered my soul's true nature.

"Yeeessss," I answered. "I am."

"Well," she said, after a long pause, "you can wrote poems, but you can't just be a poet. You have to do something else to make a living."

"I do not," I said, and although I don't remember exactly, I'm sure my response included a low growl, a bit of eye rolling, and an audible tssskk.

That first poem was called "The Hummingbird." I've been writing like crazy ever since.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I don’t have one big inspiration. I get inspired by all kinds of people—my daughter, the shoemaker on a street corner in Shanghai, Zora Neale Hurston, Lucinda Williams, Sara Teasdale, Burlap Man (a homeless man I used to see in Chicago), Anais Nin. It changes all the time…depending on what I need as a writer.

How do you create the characters in your books? Are they based on people you know?

Some of my characters are wholly imagined; others are based on people I know or have seen. In Thirsty, BenJo (a black man who is permanently bent at the waist at a 90-degree angle) is based on a man who used to work in a bakery near an apartment where I once lived. I was fascinated from the first time I saw this man. I needed to know how he came to be bent at the waist like that, what it was like to live life at such an unusual angle. To find out, I created BenJo.

What is the one book you think everyone should read?

Um, my debut novel Thirsty. (And if not Thirsty, then Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude)

If you weren’t a writer, what would be your profession?

I’d love, love, love to be a Broadway singer, but that would require singing on key…something I only do on rare occasions. Instead I’d be a photographer.

If you could trade places with anyone in the world, past or present, real or fiction, who would it be and why?

Odysseus—he goes through some crazy adventures and meets some pretty interesting folks. (And he has gods/goddesses who help him out in life!)

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have 3 things, what would they be?

Hhhhmmm…an endless supply of ice-cold grapefruit juice, my family, and my Mac.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

The Sound of Music

What is the one thing that you want all your fans to know?

Well, it’s flattering to think that I might have a few fans out there. If so, I’d like them to know that I’d love to hear from them…about Thirsty, writing, reading, or creativity. Or maybe what the weather is like in their neck of the woods.

If you could invite 5 people to dinner, who would they be and why?

Toni Morrison (soul)
Gabriel García Márquez (dreams)
Vincent Van Gogh (seeing)
Pema Chodron (peace)
Oprah Winfrey (heart)

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe is the author of Thirsty. She is also a voracious reader, a happy mom, an engaging teacher who believes in “telling the best story you can…believing in your writing…and working your arse off,” a fierce advocate for the end of domestic violence, and a writer who spends as much time as possible in writerhead.

Visit Kristin's website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and the book's website.

Product Description (taken from here):
It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic’s girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband Drago is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.

In Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Klara’s life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn’t afraid of Drago’s fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.

Thirsty follows a chain of unlikely events that keep Klara’s spirit aloft: a flock of angelic butterflies descends on Thirsty; Klara gives birth to her first child in Old Man Rupert’s pumpkin patch; and BenJo gives her a talking bird. When Klara’s daughter marries a man even more brutal than Drago, Klara is forced to act. If she doesn’t finally break the cycle of violence in her family, her granddaughters will one day walk the same road, broken and bruised. As the threads that hold her family together fray and come undone, Klara has to decide if she has the courage to carve out a peaceful spot in the world for herself and her girls.

Book Information:
Thirsty by Kristin Bair O'Keeffe
Ohio University Press
Oct. 2009
208 pages
$22.95 US

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Jodi said...

Well, Kristen here in PA it's foggy but shaping up to be warm day(in the 60s they say).

I loved hearing about how the inspiration for your characters comes from so many different places. Have you ever written a character into a story and then afterwards realize the character reminds you of someone--sort of a "He is just like Uncle George!" I seem to unconsciously slip pieces of people I meet into characters.

Sheila Deeth said...

Loved the interview. One hundred years of solitude was great!

Kristin Bair O'Keeffe said...

Thanks, Sheila! Glad you love "One Hundred Years of Solitude," too.

And Jodi, not so far. I seem to be conscious from the get-go about character inspiration. Not sure if that's better or worse!

Kristin Bair O'Keeffe said...

Bridget...Thanks for hosting me and THIRSTY on Readaholic! Great to be here.