Thursday, February 22, 2024

Q&A with Paulette Kennedy



Paulette Kennedy is the author of the new novel The Devil and Mrs. Davenport. Her other books include the novel Parting the Veil. She lives in Southern California.


Q: What inspired you to write The Devil and Mrs. Davenport, and how did you create your character Loretta Davenport?


A: The inspiration for this book came out of the blue one day as I was putting away groceries--or at least the title did!


After some rumination, I narrowed in on Mrs. Davenport as a mid-century housewife possessing psychic abilities. Her characterization was loosely inspired by my late mother, who was a homemaker and shared many of Loretta's attributes and personality traits.


I wanted this book to be a bit of an homage to homemakers, who are often disregarded by modern feminism, but who had a difficult, often underappreciated role.


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I initially began my research with a wide-angle lens, focusing on the political and social landscape of the 1950s in America. I then honed in on what family life was like in the '50s as well as the science of parapsychology and how it related to Loretta's abilities.


I was most surprised by the existence of the Duke University Parapsychology Lab, which helped to influence Dr. Hansen's presence in the novel.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Loretta and her husband, Pete?


A: There's a lot of tension between the two of them. Loretta is a people-pleaser--she wants to be a good wife and mother, but no matter how hard she tries, Pete always finds something to criticize.


Unfortunately, many women of the era found themselves in similar marriages, where domestic responsibilities and marital expectations consumed their lives and sometimes had a deleterious effect on their mental health.


Q: The writer Heather Levy said of the book, “Paulette Kennedy is the modern Daphne du Maurier with her dazzling ability to usher readers into any point in history while making it feel vibrant and fresh with her magical, gothic touch.” What do you think of that comparison?


A: It was very flattering for her to say so! Du Maurier is one of my idols. I read Rebecca as a teenager, and it had a formative effect on my work, so I'm honored by the comparison.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm currently drafting my fourth novel, The Last Light of Autumn, about a woman who becomes her great aunt's companion following a broken engagement, only to find her aunt's home is haunted by the subjects of a series of otherworldly portraits painted by her great aunt.


It's set in the 1920s in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is a truly magical place. It'll be released in 2025.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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