Coffee with Barb and Linda Huber
A friend—who I’ve never actually met—asked if I ever get homesick for the States. I was surprised to realize that the answer to that is no. Sure, as an American expat in Scotland, there are certain cultural advantages I miss (decent Tex-Mex food, right turn on red, Sunday New York Times, etc.) but thanks to my blog, my friends are already scattered all over the world. So far this year, people have visited from 139 countries (love that Stats page, WordPress!).
And the best part? Sometimes when the stars align, I get to meet them in person. This was one of those weeks. One of my favorite writers, Linda Huber, was in Glasgow and we sat down for actual coffee. After deep philosophical discussion (of what each of our kids was doing), we talked about her books (which I’ve reviewed here and here and most recently here!), and what I see as one common theme—mothers and their daughters.
So please pour yourself a cup, pull up a chair, and get comfortable. Welcome Linda!
Linda Huber: Mothers and Daughters
Thanks for the coffee invite, Barb, and the chance to talk about the mums and their girls in The Attic Room. Can I just say first what a pleasure it is to be drinking coffee in my old hometown? Nothing like a cup of Glasgow coffee – let’s have it in a lovely old Glasgow tenement and ‘hae a hingie oot the windae’ while we have a good old gossip.
Mothers and daughters… They’re everywhere you look. We all know dozens of them. Every daughter has a mother, but not all daughters are mothers of girls. And now we’ve established that, let’s think about mums and daughters in books.
Pride and Prejudice comes to mind – Elizabeth, Jane and their sisters had a lot to put up with; Mrs Bennet was one of the more embarrassing parents. If the story was set today she’d be the kind of mother who’d appear in a nightclub wearing clothes 35 years too young for her and flirt with her daughters’ boyfriends.
Marmee in Little Women, on the other hand, is so perfect she doesn’t seem real. Fortunately for the story, her girls make up for this, even when they too become mothers.
(And while we’re talking mothers in fiction, who will ever forget the death of Bambi’s mother? Okay, Bambi isn’t exactly a girl, but the emotion of that scene has traumatised generations of daughters (and sons) who are now parents themselves…)
Then there’s the nonfiction mums and daughters – Simone de Beauvoir describes her mother’s last illness and their difficult relationship in her wise and honest book A Very Easy Death. Highly recommended. And you can buy any number of books about how to improve your own mother-daughter relationship. It seems to be a complicated business.
The Attic Room is my third book where the main character (Nina in this story) is mother of a daughter, but my first where she is also daughter of a mother. The bond between Nina and her mother Claire was my main focus writing this one. Claire dies before the story opens, but the reader gets her point of view in flashback chapters. Shortly after the story opens, Nina discovers that Claire has lied to her, all her life, about something very important (no spoilers here!), and this makes her question the entire relationship. As Nina doesn’t have the advantage of being able to read Claire’s point of view in flashback chapters, she’s in the dark about why her mother lied, which makes her cling even more to her own girl, Naomi. Toss in a Scottish island, a couple of bad guys, and a spooky old house in Bedford, and that’s the plot of The Attic Room.
Building characters is tremendous fun. One of the best tips I know is to note down, before you start writing, ten things about each main character that the reader never finds out. So I can tell you that Nina likes Queen, is afraid of spiders, and makes fantastic curry. (Most people who were part of student life in Glasgow make great curry.) The better you know your characters, the more realistically they react to the problems you hardheartedly put in their way. And in thrillers, you need that realism to make the book good and scary…
My next mother and daughter duo? It’s one with a difference. Watch this space! (Or even better watch the space on my own blog…)
How about you? Who is your favorite Mother/Daughter duet?
For more info about Linda Huber and her books: