Sunday, January 22, 2012

Getting to know Katherine Hall Page

This is the first post in my “Getting to know you” series. The purpose of the series is to give the readers of my blog the opportunity to get to know my guest not only as a writer but also as a person. The fourth Sunday of every month, I’ll feature a writer of mystery/suspense. I’d like to thank Katherine Hall Page, author of the Faith Fairchild mystery series, for being with us today.

Katherine, where did you grow up? Did your childhood contribute to your desire to be a writer? If so, how?
I grew up in Livingston, NJ. (also the talented and delightful Harlan Coben’s hometown). Livingston is in northern New Jersey, less than an hour’s bus ride from Manhattan. My parents had many friends in the arts and NYC was our backyard—museums, concerts, theater. My father, William Kingman Page, was the founding director of the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, NJ and my mother, Alice Malmgreen Page, was a professional artist. I am the middle of three with an older brother and younger sister.
Another influence in my childhood was my mother’s large Norwegian-American family, most of whom lived nearby. My parents and two of their close friends, Charlotte Brooks, the only female staff photographer for LOOK magazine and Julie Arden, like my mother, an artist, all encouraged my writing. I penned “Tales I Told My Sister” when I was about 8 years old and recently found it saved among my late mother’s things. So I suppose I must have had the desire to be a writer, but certainly wasn’t aware of it. I was too busy reading. Our house was filled with books.
What are your favorite things to do when you’re not reading or writing? Hobbies, travel plans, etc.
Since writing is both sedentary and an indoor activity, I like to get out and explore. This may be someplace like Italy or it may be a walk in the woods. In the summer, I swim in Maine every day because I’ve been doing it since I was a child and no one ever mentioned the water was extremely cold. My husband is from the Bronx and we go to NYC several times a year. I do like to cook, although not the way Faith Fairchild does every day. Experimenting with new recipes, trying out new restaurants and occasionally taking a cooking class are all activities I enjoy. I also love to go to the movies. The big screen, and as for the small one I’m a pop culture junkie -love “New Girl” and “Modern Family”. And of course “Top Chef” etc. I’m also on the board of trustees at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, in Lincoln, MA and work with their education department, as well as serve on a board at Wellesley, my undergraduate alma mater.
What’s your favorite color? Why?
Vermillion, because it’s so much fun to say.
Describe yourself – not physically – but personality wise.
Oh dear. Short and near-sighted isn’t enough? Calm (those Nordic genes), loyal, optimistic, and caring.
Where do you live now? Do you use that locale for settings in your novels? If not, how do you choose your settings?
I live in a small town west of Boston and in Maine on an island in Penobscot Bay, both of which have provided settings for my books. The other settings: Norway, France, New York City, Vermont, etc. are all places I’ve visited for various amounts of time. The book I am currently writing is set in Italy. I am in awe of writers who can write about places they have never seen.
Do you like to travel? If so what are some of your favorite places to go and/or your favorite vacation?
See above and add Britain—many lovely trips there and am hoping to get to Dublin next fall.
Name three of your favorite authors in the mystery genre and/or name specific books you love.
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night, and Robert Barnard, A Scandal in Belgravia
Fill in the blank. If I won a million dollars, I would . . .
salt some of it away for my old age, which seems to be advancing more rapidly each day, take my husband to Buenos Aires to tango, and have the extraordinary pleasure of giving large chunks to my favorite grassroots charities like Hands in Outreach, which works with girls and young women in Nepal, and the Youth Advocacy Foundation here in Massachusetts , provides legal and other social services to juveniles in need. Oh, and many programs on the island in Maine. The recession is hitting very hard there.
Did you plan your mystery series before or after you wrote the first book in the series?
Like my friend and fellow writer, Valerie Wolzien, who started her terrific Susan Henshaw and Josie Pigeon series about when I did, I had no idea I was starting a series with that first book, The Body in the Belfry. Had I but known, I most probably would have been so overwhelmed; I would have quit then and there. Although the 20th book, The Body in the Boudoir, comes out May 1st, I can’t say I’ve planned any of it.
Did the inspiration for your characters and/or plot come from people you know, a specific place or personal experience? If not, what got you started?
For me, one of the joys of writing fiction has been to create characters and plots that are not based on anyone I know or anything I’ve done. I like Madeleine L’Engle’s description of the writing process as “taking dictation from one’s imagination”. When I set out to write the first book, my husband was on sabbatical and we were living in France where they have excellent, readily available day care. For the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t working or pursuing a graduate degree. I’d take my two-year-old son to the pleasant nursery school down the rue and come back to write the type of mystery I liked to read—good puzzle, suspense, a strong female sleuth, no serial killers, some humor, and food. The rest, as it were, is “mistory.”