As many of you know, I really enjoyed The Laws of Harmony by Judi Hendricks [review]. I loved the setting, the characters seemed very genuine to me and I was so happy to participate in Book Club Girl’s Blog Talk Radio show with Judi. If you happened to miss it, you can hear it here.
Since I panicked a bit over not getting the book I actually ended up with two copies. Along with the two copies were two, beautiful pashminas (shawls) to go along with them! I asked Book Club Girl if she wanted me to send the extra set back but instead, she suggested a giveaway and a Q&A with Judi!
Book Chatter and Other Stuff is pleased to welcome Judi Hendricks. Welcome Judi! Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions.
BCAOS: I felt that the structure of the novel really helped define the direction that the story was going in. It reminded me very much of a play, in that it was written in three parts or “acts” so to speak. When you began work on the novel, did you know up-front that it would be written in three parts? Or did that sort of happen as you the story developed?
JH:I tend to write in scenes and not necessarily in chronological (or any other) order. After I’ve written what I think might qualify as a first draft, I spread all the scenes out on the dining room table and start moving them around to figure out the order of events and what transitions I need. With The Laws of Harmony, I didn’t know how the story would eventually play out, and even what I thought I knew ended up changing drastically. So the structure had to evolve organically, along with the story. When I looked at what I had, it seemed to fall naturally into three roughly equal sections, with Part One being the set up, Part Two where Sunny takes action to change her life, and Part Three where her life does, in fact, change—but not exactly in the way she had envisioned.
JH: When I think of a story, I almost always see it happening in a particular location. To me, setting informs the story and the characters in so many ways, both obvious and subtle. New Mexico is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s beautiful, but it can be harsh. At the beginning of the book, Sunny isn’t strong enough to survive there. I love your image of her “blossoming” in the Pacific Northwest. I think of that sort of climate as being fertile. Gloomy, yes, but it almost suggests the darkness of the womb. Clearly this is an atmosphere where growth and change are not only possible but inevitable.
BCAOS: I’d like to know about your experience with motorcycles. Do you ride? I really enjoyed the part where Sunny is learning how to ride a motorcycle from Piggy. There was just enough description to really get a feel for the bike that she was riding and it provided another side to Piggy. I don’t ride but I had a lot of fun reading that section.
JH: Learning to ride a motorcycle was a way of allowing Sunny to learn independence, to find out just what she was capable of. It gave her a different way to relate to Piggy, who’s one of my favorite characters in the book. And it was also a good excuse for me to take a motorcycle riding class. I don’t own a bike, but it was definitely the most fun part of the research.
BCAOS: The actual “laws” of Harmony are mentioned throughout the second and third parts of the book. Where did you get the inspiration for them? I found them to be quite charming.
JH: The book’s title just came to me in a moment of inspiration when I was somewhere in the middle of the second draft. I didn’t know why it had suddenly appeared, but I usually take those kinds of flashes seriously. I decided that if The Laws of Harmony was supposed to be the title, there must be a good reason, and I should figure out exactly what it meant. After mulling it over for a few weeks, I decided that it had to do with Sunny’s search for structure, a framework around which to construct her life—something that was lacking in her commune childhood and also in her somewhat haphazard existence in Albuquerque. She finds her answers—her “guiding principles” in Harmony.
BCAOS: I was discussing the book with another book blogger and we wanted to know how you interpret the cover of the book. I love the cover. The colors are cool but also warm, very much like the New Mexico/Pacific Northwest location but it occurred to me that the woman depicted on the cover may not be Sunny at all, but perhaps Gwen. As this is a book about strong women, I thought that perhaps this could be a possibility. What are your thoughts?
JH: I love the cover, too! It’s kind of mysterious and yet the colors are so inviting. I can say that without bragging, because I had nothing to do with it. I don’t know what the designer had in mind when she came up with the art, but to me, it’s Sunny. And the beautiful pashmina/shawl she’s wearing suggests the old afghan that belonged to her mother Gwen. It’s symbolic of the past, the memories and the somewhat problematic relationships that Sunny eventually learns to embrace.
BCAOS: For my last question, I’d like to know what you are working on now. Is there a sequel in the works?
JH: I’m currently working on the third book in the Bread Alone series. It’s been intriguing to revisit those characters after so many years, and I find myself surprised at what’s been going on in their lives. As for a sequel to The Laws of Harmony, it’s hard to see beyond the next book, but I admit the idea is appealing to me. I love writing about mothers and daughters, and I think there’s still a lot to discover about Gwen and Sunny and Willa.
Judi, thank you so much for stopping by. I really appreciate the time it took to answer my questions so thoroughly. By the way, I am going to have to read Bread Alone now that you’ve mentioned it!
If you’d like to learn more about Judi Hendricks and her work, click here to visit her website.
Courtesy of Book Club Girl and Harper Collins I have one paperback copy of The Laws of Harmony as well as a pashmina (shawl) to go along with it! You can wrap it around your shoulders while you read the book! I didn’t want to take it out of the package so forgive the pic. It’s beige with fringe!
This giveaway will run until Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 8pm (PDT). The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Monday, April 27, 2009. I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address so be sure to include a way for me to contact you. Good luck!!!