Q: How did you come up with the idea for Family Reunion, and for your characters Eleanor and her granddaughter Ari?
A: For years we’ve had a family reunion on the island in the summer. We have a complicated family—doesn’t everyone?
My daughter, Sam, has five children, ages 14 down to 11 months, so simply fixing meals is a major event. Sam is a vegetarian. Her husband Tommy is not. My husband Charley and I are not. Her oldest son and daughter love bacon. So do I. My son Josh and his husband David can’t always come the same week my daughter does. They eat meat. I think. Josh might be a vegetarian now.
It’s the complications of my own beloved and often argumentative family that inspired me to write this book.
Q: How would you describe the relationship between Eleanor and Ari?
A: Ari and Eleanor are soulmates. They adore each other. This sort of adoration often happens between generations, probably because the grandparents don’t have to discipline their grandchildren. Eleanor is a free spirit, and generous, and so is Ari, who wants to work with children.
Ari’s mother, Eleanor’s daughter, is more concerned about the superficial and the traditional—she rebelled against her mother, as daughters often do.
Q: What makes Nantucket such a good setting for your novels?
A: The beauty of Nantucket always gives me a wonderful setting. The storms with gale force winds provide a sense of urgency and drama.
Most of all, the golden beaches look out over the vast Atlantic Ocean so the world seems full of possibilities, and people can feel in their souls that a new day is coming, and they can change their lives.
Q: Do you usually know how your books will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way?
A: I’ve always started with a character who has taken over my mind. I write several chapters, then revise, then share my draft with my editor who always has great suggestions, and while I’m writing near the middle of the book, I suddenly know how it will end. I always make changes along the way.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m right in the middle of my 2022 novel, Summer Love. Over the months I’ve been writing, we’re having a new heating/cooling system installed in our 1840s house, so there’s been a lot of clanging, banging, and thumps. Maybe my next novel will be a ghost story.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m a reader as well as a writer, and I think books are magic. When I first read Rebecca, I was enthralled, enclosed in that world, and I can feel the spell come over me when I remember the book. When I read, I’m in another world. I don’t know how this enchantment works, but I am grateful for books and writers.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb