Sometimes novels can impact our lives as much as the “real” world — their lessons and characters influence us in amazing ways. Author Gail Kittleson has read some books that have stuck with her for years, and she’s here to talk about those today.
Welcome! What was the first adult novel that you read?
I was crazy about Gone With the Wind. Unfortunately, I read this during my geometry class in tenth grade. Suffice it to say, the next year saw me re-taking that class—in a different school with an interesting teacher, and I still use one of the formulas I learned.
What was the first book you couldn’t put down?
I’d have to say Gone With the Wind was also a book I could not put down, and reading it only once would never do. The author took me to the heights and depths with her vivacious, selfish, extremely frustrating heroine.
Why was she so intent on ruining her life? Why couldn’t she see what a real man Rhett Butler was, and how well he fit her needs? How could she possibly choose Ashley Wilkes? How could somebody be so blind to her own needs and do blasted stubborn? ARGH!
As you can see, Scarlett O’Hara and her foibles pretty much took over my adolescent life.
What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?
The last book I read that had the same effect on me was probably The Living by Annie Dillard. It’s been years, but that’s another one I read more than once, and most likely will read again.
That summer, my husband and I backpacked in the wilds of Montana with our high school youth group, and The Living, a thick hardback, went right along with me. We could only take so many pounds, but I was part way through this incredible saga, and chose to include it in my pack. There was no way I would have left it behind.
If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?
I think it would be Jean Val Jean from Les Miserables. He’s such a conflicted character and experiences a truly amazing turn-around. I’d like to hear him describe his choices and the consequences over dinner.
If you could be part of any fiction family, which would you pick?
Oh, I’d enter into the joys and struggles of Anne of Green Gables. Matthew, Marilla, Diana, and of course, Gilbert Blythe. What’s not to love about this cast of characters, and while I was at it, I’d definitely enjoy the scenery of Prince Edward Island. Simple and beautiful—simply beautiful!
Who’s your favorite author?
It’s a toss-up between Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens. I admire both authors’ work—classics that have lasted into a second century. I was going to say Hugo, because my husband and I just enjoyed Les Miserables once again, and I love the depth of his characters and the universality of this themes. But I can say the same about Charles’ Dickens’ endearing work. Bottom line, I love it when authors have the courage to tackle the tough questions of their own era.
If you could change the ending of any story, what would you change?
I would allow Jean Val Jean to live at the end of Les Miserables. He’s suffered so much and been so noble. I think he deserves a little joy in later life—being a Grandpa, and maybe even marrying a long lost in his later years and share a quiet life in the country.
Right out of high school, Addie married an Iowa farm boy named Harold who promised her a big white farmhouse, meaningful work, and a gaggle of children, but three years later, no children have come and Harold longs to deploy with the military but is stuck on the farm after his father’s stroke. Addie exhibits patience when he centers his fury on Addie—in fact, she blames herself.
The emotional wounds Harold inflicts run deep. Addie needs strength to stand up to this bully her husband has become. She needs understanding friends to support her, and without question, some of her basic beliefs must be turned around.
This requires time and consideration. Receiving regular letters from her best friend Kate, in London seeking her downed RAF pilot husband helps Addie greatly. So does the stalwart friendship of an older woman living just down the road. Jane shares a wealth of hard-earned wisdom, and in a surprise twist, so does Addie’s mother-in-law.
It’s a harsh year for the green American troops facing their first real battles, and a tough season for Addie, too. But as Eleanor Roosevelt quipped, women often discover their strength like tea does—in hot water.
An Iowa farm girl at heart, Gail appeared with her thick glasses and a pile of books at the local library counter every Saturday. Books meant so much to her, she contemplated being a librarian.
After earning her MA in Teaching English as a Second Language, she taught this subject and college expository writing. After publishing a memoir, the World War II bug bit her and she’s never been quite the same.
Gail’s husband Lance enjoys all things military history, their grandchildren and gardening in St. Ansgar, Iowa. He is still gainfully employed to support her writing vice.
The desire to increase appreciation for the tremendous sacrifices veterans have made for our freedom motivates Gail’s book talks. She also loves cheering other writers through facilitating workshops and some free-lance editing.
Instagram – gailkittlesonauthor