Title: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Author: Kathleen Rooney
Release Date: Jan 17th, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
“In my reckless and undiscouraged youth,” Lillian Boxfish writes, “I worked in a walnut-paneled office thirteen floors above West Thirty-Fifth Street…”
She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”
Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now—her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl—but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed—and has not.
A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young
Say Hello to author Kathleen Rooney!
Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.
What are you reading right now?
Currently, I’m reading a wonderful novel called Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate) by Alain-Fournier, translated from the French by Robin Buss. It’s a beautiful and dreamy coming-of-age book, and the only novel ever written by its author, who was killed in World War 1.
If you’re a TV watcher, what are you addicted to?
Like my character, Lillian Boxfish, I’m a big fan of old episodes of the original Columbo detective series starring the inimitable Peter Falk.
What’s a hobby you have that’s got nothing to do with books?
Baking is one of my favorite hobbies-I love to try new recipes, like this one for Miso Chocolate Chip Cookies (though I make mine with dark chocolate chips, not white chocolate): http://www.acozykitchen.com/miso-chocolate-chip-cookies/ Baking is a good form of stress relief, and I also like giving the results away to friends and neighbors.
What’s your favorite reading/writing snack?
Anything crunchy. I’m convinced that chewing-on almonds, on potato chips, on carrots or just about anything crisp-stimulates the brain.
What is your favorite season?
Winter. I adore winter so much and this year’s unseasonable warmth has been really depressing.
Tell me your favorite part of the writing process?
The research phase may be my all time favorite part of the writing process. Everything is potential energy at that point. I could spend forever researching.
Do you have a favorite writing spot where you get the most done?
I live in Chicago and my building is a classic 6-flat with a solarium, a small room that sticks out from the front with huge windows on three of its four sides. I have a standing desk in there, and it’s where I most enjoy working.
What are you working on now?
My current project is a novel about a heroic messenger pigeon in World War 1 and the battalion that she sacrificed herself to save. World War 1, to me, is the saddest war for how huge it was in terms of its level of global destruction, and how largely forgotten it is today, despite what it seemed to mean at the time: the War to End All Wars.
Do you find a certain time of day to be better for writing and why?
I’m a consummate morning person-not out of virtue, but just because my biorhythms operate that way. So first thing in the morning, really really early, is my preferred time to write.
What’s been your favorite line in a review of one of your books?
Rohan Maitzen wrote a lovely review for Open Letters Monthly here: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/novelreadings/what-a-smart-girl-kathleen-rooney-lillian-boxfish-takes-a-walk/ I am especially fond of this paragraph in which she compares Lillian to her own beloved grandmother.
‘In this enthusiasm for language, Lillian reminded me a bit of my grandmother, who always called herself-and always embraced anyone else who was-a ‘word person.’ Like Lillian, too, my grandmother always asserted her strong-minded, idiosyncratic self. She enjoyed dressing up and hated being looked down on for being an old woman. It wasn’t until after her death that I realized how much courage it took to live her life the way she did, including (again like Lillian) having a career when it wasn’t expected of her, and living on her own, and on her own terms, until the end.’
We all know authors shouldn’t read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, do you?
I do! I like to see what strangers have to say. I write a lot of book reviews for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and other venues, so I’m always curious about what other critics-both professional and non-professional-are up to.
What is your favorite social media platform and why?
I like Tumblr best because that’s where my fellow Poems While You Wait authors and I share some of our typewriter poetry that we do for $5 a pop in public places: http://poemswhileyouwait.tumblr.com/
Which book do you wish was a movie or TV show?
The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
Who is your favorite author and why?
Joan Didion for her unparalleled intelligence and style.
You get to have lunch with anyone from the past, who do you choose and why?
The poet Weldon Kees. I love his work so much. I wrote a book of my own based on him and his mysterious disappearance: https://www.amazon.com/Robinson-Alone-Kathleen-Rooney/dp/0983700141 I’d ask him which one he really did when he vanished in 1955: jump off the Golden Gate Bridge or run away to Mexico.
Thank you, Kathleen, for allowing me to feature you and your fabulous new release Lillian Boxfish Talks a Walk. I absolutely love this cover. When I found this book on Amazon and read the blurb, I knew I couldn’t pass it by. I hope to be reading it soon.
BTW…Kathleen has set the record for an author to respond from time of request to replying with all post info needed. The time to now beat is 120 minutes. 😉