Kristin Hannah Interview – ‘Home Front’

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah, who published her latest novel, Home Front, January 31, 2012, by St. Martens Press.   Her novel spent the first week as #1 on five NYT lists.  Her book is under contract for a movie.  I also will give away one copy of Home Front to a lucky person who leaves a comment by 11:59 p.m. May 9.  I will do a random drawing and announce the winner on  May 10.

Kristin has a surefire hit with her latest gripping novel, Home Front.  She has tackled a harrowing subject about  a wife and mother deployed to war,   For Jolene and Michael Zarkades, there is and emotional toll  on their relationship and family.  Michael,  a criminal defense attorney,  is suddenly thrust into parenting their two daughters,  and creating a stable environment on the home front.  He’s angry at his wife for deploying and never really accepts her military service.  Jolene is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and duty comes first as she heads to the war zone with her best friend Tami.  There they face the atrocities and trauma of war on the front lines.  Tragedy strikes and the reader is catapulted into a story of  love, loss, heroism in war and at home, honor and hope.

Kristin is a master at developing characters, getting inside their minds and touching their core.  Her writing is powerful and emotive.  Kristin is one of those rare authors who is able to get her story out of your head and into your soul.  You are not reading about characters, you are sharing the experience with them.   Home Front will be a story that will linger with you because of its emotional imprint and realism.

I’ve followed Kristin’s career since she began writing, some 20 novels ago.  We finally met and had dinner last spring.  She graciously agreed to let me interview her about her new book.  Welcome Kristin.  It’s nice to speak again.

What inspired you to write Home Front?

[K]  Quite simply, this story was inspired by the nightly news.  As the war in Iraq went on, I watched the stories — night after night — of soldiers lost in battle, wounded, and the stories of their families left behind, waiting for them to return.  As a mother, I was heartbroken for the men and women and their families.  So many of the young soldiers on the news were the same age as my son, and that hit me really hard.  As an American, I was grateful, and as a woman, I began to wonder what it must be like to go off to war and leave your children behind.  I can’t imagine anything that would be more terrifying and difficult.  I realized that I had never read that story, and I wanted to.  I wanted to explore the idea of a woman torn between love and honor.  So I decided to write it.

I never thought about the potentially controversial nature of the themes in Home Front.  I simply set out to write a story about a female mother and soldier who went to war.  Although Michael is fairly anti-military and anti-war, the book is ultimately less political and more personal.  I didn’t set out to take a stance on the war itself.  This was really about supporting and  understanding the troops and realizing the extent of the sacrifices they make.

How do you feel about your book and how would your rate it?

[K] That’s a great question!  Honestly, I am usually the harshest critic of my own work.  Although I work as hard as I can on every book, there are simply some that I end up liking better than others and a few –a very few–that I fall in love with.  Home Front is one of those rare and special books that really ended up better than I imagined it would be.  I’m quite proud of it.  I think that’s because the characters are so real and three-dimensional and the issues raised are so important.  It is a book that comes at a great time.  As Americans, we need to remember to be grateful to and supportive of our troops and their families.

What do you want people to take away from Home Front?

[K]  At is core, Home Front is a novel about two ordinary people who have lost their way over twelve years of marriage and then find themselves separated.  I think this is a story we can all relate to.  You don’t have to be a soldier or even know a soldier to relate to the powerful emotional themes in the book.  We can all imagine how it felt for Jolene to hear her husband say, “I don’t love you anymore,” and we can understand how lost Michael felt after the death of his father.  A marriage is a tricky thing that hangs on hooks both big and small.  Every little thing can matter.  Words spoken and unspoken carry a tremendous weight, and in a way it requires as much commitment and honor to hold a marriage together as to go off to war.  In that way, we all understand sacrifice.  It’s no surprise that I’m a romantic, and to me, there’s nothing more romantic than a husband and wife falling back in love with each other.

That’s what I want people to see in the end–the story of an ordinary marriage tested in an extraordinary way.  And, of course, I hope readers end up with a slightly better understanding of and appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military families.

How much research was involved in writing Home Front?  Did you have contact with the military?

[K]  The research for Home Front almost killed me. 🙂  I didn’t anticipate that would be the case, either.  I was actually fairly cavalier about this particular aspect.  I mean, I’m a lawyer, so research is something I’m comfortable with, and additionally, I have tackled breast cancer, brain tumors, the Siege of Leningrad, and World War II Russia, and DNA testing to exonerate convicted prisoners.  I didn’t think that the themes and issues in Home Front would require any more research than I was used to.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Researching and writing Home Front, with its military theme, was a mammoth undertaking.  I was a bit like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole, into a world where nothing was the way I imagined it.  I was incredibly lucky to work with CW5 Teresa Burgess, a Black Hawk pilot/wife/mother who was a real lifesaver in the research and understanding department.

Prior to Home Front, I would have said that I understood something about military families–their lives and their service.  But, I was wrong in almost everything.  I only understood the thinnest layer.  I learned so much in the writing of this novel and in researching it.  I went to a deployment ceremony and honestly, I think every American should attend one.  Watching our soldiers preparing to go off to war, and their families standing alongside to say goodbye, really brings their sacrifice into sharp focus.  It is a powerful reminder that whatever one feels about any particular war, we need to always respect and honor our soldiers and their families.   Honestly, I felt a little ashamed that I hadn’t attended one before.  Although, boy, was it difficult.  I was humbled by their pride and strength  in the face of such an undertaking.  It makes you truly consider what heroism is and reminds you to be grateful.

Did you find that the experience of a woman deployed different from a man being deployed?

[K]  Yes, I think  it’s very different, and those differences were important to me.  As you know, I write about women’s issues and women’s lives, so I guess it’s not surprising that I came to this topic.  I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a mother/soldier to leave her children and go off to war.

The parallel story of Michael defending a soldier with PTSD in a criminal case, while Jolene was dealing with PTSD, was brilliant!  Did you have that in mind from the start?

[K]  Thanks!  That was a really lucky stroke, coming up with that.   And yes, it existed almost from the beginning (at least from the time Michael existed).  I came up with it because I wanted to educate the reader–and by extension, Michael–about PTSD without having to worry about being author intrusive or boring.  The depiction of PTSD is one of the most important and relevant portions of the book.  I tried to really bring it home in a way that allowed readers to understand how it feels to suffer the symptoms.  I also tried to inform–this was the point of the Keller trial.  The reader learns the truth of PTSD along with Michael.  ultimately, one of the points of the novel is a reminder to all of us.  As a nation we have to care for our soldiers upon their return.  It’s just that simple.

What is your writing process?

[K]  My writing process is extremely burdensome and time-consuming.  I have spent years trying to pare it down, to be “smarter” from the beginning, and none of it seems to work for me.  No matter how much research I do, I never seem to quite nail the right story from the start.  Nonetheless, I begin with either a theme or an issue.  In the case of Home Front, it was an issue.  I wanted to write a story about the price of deployment on a wife/soldier/mother.  We have all read about ment going off to war and women staying on the home front; I wanted to turn the story on its head and make it about a woman.  That idea obviously leads to dozens of potential story lines.  It began as a story about sisters, then about an estranged father/daughter, and ultimately became about Jolene and Michael’s crumbling marriage and their frightened children.  As you know, I write longhand–often sitting on the beach.  Then my fabulous assistant, Kim,  types up my pages and hands them to me.  It is normal for me to do as many as twenty drafts.  Half of those drafts are game changers–characters, settings, storylines will be changed–and half are more line edit.  It takes me about four months to research, outline and conceive the idea; six months to write the “first” draft; and another five months of editing after that.

How has social media effected you as a writer?

[K]  Early in my writing career, I was isolated and didn’t know what people thought about my books.  I was dragged into the new world of social media kicking and screaming, but the surprising truth is that I like talking to my readers via Facebook and my blog.  (Kristin has a FB following of over 64,000.)  It’s amazing, isn’t it?  And they’re so fun!

After 20 novels, you’ve been approached by the film industry about two of your books?

Yes, Chris Columbus, who is one my favorite director/producers has begun work on Home Front.  I can’t wait to see what he does with it.   He’s such a genius at mixing drama and emotion.  Also, Abigail Breslin, the Oscar-nominated star of Little Miss Sunshine, has optioned The things We Do for Love.   That’s a real reader favorite, so I have high hopes for it.

Any tiny hints about your 2013 novel — inquiring minds will want to know?

[K] LOL!  Nice try.  It’s changing every second, so we’ll see.

Great talking with you again, Patricia!  Thanks so much.

Kristin, thank you for taking time out of your crazy-busy schedule to talk with me about Home Front and all the exciting news you had to share.  Home Front is a powerful novel, and has all the right ingredients to make a compelling movie.  What a great new experience for you.   We will all be standing in line at the theaters when the movies are released!  Best of luck! 

Readers:  Don’t forget to leave a comment, if you want a chance to win a copy of Home Front!  During May, I will be reviewing  books for military families, children,  and veterans.   I also will share information about support programs for families who have lost loved ones.

 

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

59 thoughts on “Kristin Hannah Interview – ‘Home Front’

  1. Wow Pat, thanks so much for bringing us an interview with Kristin Hannah. I read Comfort and Joy at the beginning of the year and have been meaning to gobble up some more since. My favorite discovery this year for sure, I love your writing, Kristin!

      • Catherine, I’ve been reading her novels since she began writing in the 1990s. I love her early historical novels, before she wrote her first major book, “On Mystic Lake.” I find her books very psychological, and she really knows how to write children well in some of her novels.

  2. What an absolute treat to read an interview with Kristin Hannah! I have long been a fan, and although I have not read all 20 (yet!) I think my favorite so far is Magic Hour. I have such admiration for your skill as an author at getting to the soul of people and relationships. I was already looking forward to reading Home Front, but after reading this interview I really can’t wait! I can’t even imagine how emotional a deployment ceremony is – we narrowly escaped having to go to one for our son whose Marine unit ended up, at the last minute, not being deployed. This book sounds fascinating on so many levels, and I loved hearing about your writing process. Thanks so much for sharing, Kristin and Pat!

    • Susanna, Home Front is beyond compelling! It is brilliantly written. She really does know who to get to the soul of people and relationships. And, you’ll want a box of kleenex. I have a soft spot for Magic Hour. And, it was a treat to have the opportunity to interview her!

  3. WOW, thanks for sharing this interview. I hate to admit, I was not familiar with Kristin Hannah nor her literary works until your post, Pat. I LOVE stories of relationships that take on social issues, without the answers. Jodi Piccoult is my favorite and I “stumbled” upon her as well. I’m always looking for books that enhance my work as a school social worker and LICSW. Through your blog, I end up finding books for me, that help me to be more empathic, understanding and open to a variety of perspectives to delve into authentic compassion. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I cannot wait to read, “Homefront”, and quite honestly, many more novels from Kristin!

    • Mary, I am happy your enjoyed the interview. All of Kristin’s books take on social issues and your are right there. A psychiatrist I know, is using Home Front with veterans who won’t open up and talk about their tours, but will read Kristin’s book! She says she could hand them a number of self-help books, but there is nothing like experiencing a book like Home Front in your soul. It stays with you. She hopes the books will begin a healing process for them. Even the spouses are reading the book too. She’s use Winter Garden in the same manner with women who have “mother issues.” Thanks for stopping.

  4. As a fan of Kristin’s books, I have been looking forward to this interview. I loved hearing more about the process, and especially the level of research needed for Home Front, as I would have presumed that something like Winter Garden (which is my personal favorite!) would have required more research! I very much look forward to reading Home Front (even if I don’t win it).

    I also especially look forward to reading more about PTSD as I recently reviewed a middle grade novel about this. I have cried in every one of your books I have read so far! I wish you great success with the movie, and secretly hope they will also want to make Winter Garden into a movie, too!

    Great interview and review, Pat!

    • Joanna, I thought you’d enjoy hearing about her writing process. Home Front evokes emotions on many different levels, and the characters are so well developed. You will appreciate reading a very well written novel about a heart breaking subject and the relationships of all involved. And yes, you’ll need tissues. I’m so glad you liked the interview!

    • Erik, I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. You are learning about PTSD. There is a YA novel written by Patricia McCormick, “Purple Heart,” that would really give you an understanding about PTSD. But, I will also be sharing information throughout the month which will help you understand. It’s important we support Military Families, especially the kids that are left behind. You may know some in your school.

  5. Nice interview, Pat! I really enjoyed Home Front. I worried because I wanted to like it so much that I raised my expectations from the start, but the book more than lived up to them. I was also thrilled to see Kristin during her book tour when she came to Bethesda.

    Please do not count me in your giveaway. I have two copies of the book already (one signed), and the book should go to a fan who isn’t as fortunate.

    • April, nice to have you visit. I know exactly what you mean. She didn’t disappint me either! I’m thrilled the book will be made into a movie because I think it will help thousands of families. So happy you got to see Kristin again and get your copy autographed.

  6. thanks for this recommendation. being a veteran and currently a military wife, i actually know a few women (wifes/moms) who have deployed. one lady i know deployed at the same time her husband did and the grandparents cared for their two young boys. one woman i know is about to deploy for a 9 or 12 month assignment while her husband and boys move near her folks. all the women i know and their families have adjusted well to the separation and during the readjustment period. this will be an interesting read.

    • Good to hear from you. I hope you read Home Front. I have been around a lot of AF military deployments. One close friend and her husband were deployed to the same base at the same time. Their kids were in college. My friend was in charge of public affairs for Central Command, and not in harms way like others were. But, her husband was constantly. There are many who handle it well, but others who don’t. We lost a grandson who was in the Army to PTSD. So I can identify with both. I hope you stop next Monday as I will be featuring some great books for military kids.

      • i wish there was a “like” button to your mention of recommending books for military kids! i’ve only come across a few at the library. looking forward to that post (btw – recently checked out the beverly lewis book you recommended – totally had to have my oldest help me read it to the girls because i was so teary-eyed…hormones…*ha*).

  7. Love the lantern on the cover Kristin. Wow this sounds like a very moving story. Thought it was interesting how you decided to go deeper into the head set of a person who has experienced these feeling and to go as far as writing the book. Wonderful interview Patricia.
    sytiva

    • Thank you Sytvia for your thoughtful comments. Yes, I thought the lantern was very symbolic on the cover. As an accomplished illustrator, I would imagine you examine covers with interest. It’s a very important book you won’t be able to put down.

  8. I usually stick to NF, but the interview/comments convince me to try some of those ‘favs’! Especially glad to hear this book is so informative on PTSD. A friend has introduced me to a new therapy which is helping her husband to heal. Thanks Kristin and Pat!

    • Julie, I’m glad you checked out my interview with Kristin. Her book is good to help soldiers open up, a psychiatrist friend told me. Would be interested in hearing about the therapy your friend’s husband is receiving. I am doing many post on military families this month, and will focus on a special camp for veterans and their wives. Thanks for stopping.

  9. Hi Pat, thanks for introducing me to Kristin’s work! I recognize some of the book covers you included but haven’t read any of them. Home Front sounds like a very emotional and heartfelt book about a very important issue. It was great to hear how Kristin came up with the idea and the writing process she went through.

    • Amanda, I’m glad you stopped by and enjoyed the interview. I enjoy introducing people to her writing, because she is seasoned and really writes a great story that always has an interesting social issue. Her process is very interesting to me — especially writing long-hand. She really tells a compelling story. This book will be a very important movie.

  10. Great interview. I actually saw this book once before somewhere, and I thought it looked good then. Now I’m really intrigued. I’m going to buy it–if I don’t win it. 🙂

    • Michelle, I’m glad the interview inspired you to read Kristin’s book. You won’t regret it. And, I think you’ll like Kristin’s writing style. She really can develop a character.

  11. Thank you, Kristin for your desire to set forth some of the challenges and emotional struggles of military families. It must of been especially difficult to research given their insular nature, which is very protective and often excludes civilians. As a female vet of 8 years, I was surprised that it still came as a shock to me when my own career husband left suddenly for war without the usual ceremony. Marriages of those at war are greatly tested, and those of us remaining kept tally of those relationships that failed, one by one, as months went by as a way of reassurring ourselves that we had the strength to endure. These issues need to be explored. It’s often better to experience them, too, through the arms-length safety of fiction, since the emotions they evoke are wrenching. PTSD affects not only those deployed (male or female), but also their family members left behind, wives or husbands, sons, and daughters. All of them need attention, and so I thank you for presenting this story with respect and care. Best wishes for your continuing success. And thank you, Patricia, for a sensitive interview.

    Jo Marshall

    • Jo, what a thoughtful response. I hope you read Kristin’s book, because it is written with respect. I worked for the AF as a civilian, so I am aware of how marriages can be tested, especially among the service members deployed to the front. And, I lost a 20-year-old grandson to PTSD and suicide. I really liked your statement that “The issues need to be explored. It’s often better to experience them, too, through the arms-length safety of fiction, since the emotions they evoke are wrenching. PTSD affects not only those deployed (male or female), but also their family members left behind, wives or husbands, sons, and daughters.” A psychiatrist I know has found Home Front valuable in working with soldiers, for the very reasons that you mention.

      I will be focusing on Military Families throughout May. There are many wonderful books, programs and resources available for families and children. Thank you for visiting today. Your comments added to the discussion.
      Pat

      • Hello, Pat,

        I am so sorry you lost your grandson, and under such sad circumstances. Thank you sharing your own experiences, and for your kind and understanding response to my comment. I will be reading Kristin’s book soon, I’m sure. I appreciate your sympathy for military families, and I look forward to this next month’s news and interviews!

        Jo

      • Jo, thank you for your kind remarks. I just wanted you to know I understood what your were saying. I’ve seen families torn apart. I’m glad you will read Kristin’s book and perhaps find time to view my posts. My next one is for children next Monday. And, then I’ll be posting on Monday and Friday for the remainder of the month. Again, I appreciate your visiting.

  12. Great Interview ladies! Oh how I love Kristen Hannah books! Can’t wait to read this one! 🙂

  13. WOW! So glad you had Kristen over. What a fabulous interview. I can see how such events on the news could inspire this book. It sounds so powerful and emotional. I have to get my hands on it now!

    • Leigh, it is a very powerful book. And, I believe you will also enjoy her writing style. It was the perfect book to launch my Military Family focus this month. You’ll need a box of kleenex.

  14. Great interview, Pat. I always learn something new and wonderful about kristin and her writing process when she does an interview. 🙂 HF is such a timely and powerful look at the courage and dedication of our serviceman and women.

    • Kim, Thank you so much for commenting. You have such a great opportunity to watch that process unfold. I learned some things I didn’t know. Kristin’s book is a very timely and important. More poeple need to understand the difficulties and stress for military families. We all need to do more in supporting the families.

  15. What an amazing interview, Pat. I haven’t read any of Kristen’s works yet, but now that I’ve read through this lovely interview, I am so intrigued. I would definitely be picking up her books from our library first chance I get. This is a very meaningful post, and her book also sounds powerful. I’d have to agree with your earlier comment about needing a box of kleenex. I am such a crybaby when I read books. 🙂 This theme also resonates with me deeply as a very good friend of mine is a soldier (based in Europe), and my heart is continually in my throat whenever I imagine him doing his soldiery thing in the elite forces. Thank you for doing this beautiful tribute, Pat.

    • Myra, I’m happy you enjoyed meeting Kristin for the first time. Her books are very powerful and you really experience with the characters. She gets you out of your head and into your soul. And she really knows how to get into the heads of her characters. I think you find this book a powerful read. It was released Jan. 31. If you can’t get it right away at the library, my other favorite is Winter Garden, another powerful book with strong female characters.

  16. Great interview! I am a fan of Kristen Hannah’s stories. You are right they are very powerful–I love a good emotional journey!

  17. I’ve lived around military families since 2008. It’s heartbreaking when you learn what some families go through during deployments. We have the luxury of saying “our family comes first” in other careers/professions, not so in the military. They make sacrifices in so many ways. Also, thanks for sharing your writing process.

    • Stacy, I wish everyone had the perspective that you (and I) have. You have seen how it impacts families. And, when it is your time to deploy, you deploy. Kristin’s book certainly shows this. I hope you have the chance to read Home Front. As a writer, you would appreciate her brilliant talent!

  18. Amazing interview and a very sensitive, yet pertinent topic: PTSD. My ex-husband has been in the combat zone four times and I witnessed all too well its effects. I love the covers of all Kristin’s books. So delicate!

    • Mimi, it’s nice to hear from you. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. Have found a number of individuals who are military families and know the strain. Another favorite is Winter Garden.

      • Thanks for sharing that. I will look into it. I am a week or so shy from summer vacation as a teacher and it is needed. I start COMPS for my doctoral degree though in June so no break really. God’s still in control, though.

  19. Oh Pat this sounds such a tremendously moving story and I know I would need at least 2 boxes of kleenex if not more. I am a slow reader and would howl. Your review was gripping and I am sooo pleased you have introduced me to Kirstin and her books. (although I have the feeling I have come across her before). I plan on looking for her books hopefully in my local stores as I would rather buy her books instead of loaning it from the library…. (I need time to read such moving, griping and meaningful stories like this.) Thankyou Pat.

    • Diane, I believe you would find this story one you’ll have a hard time putting down. It is a helpful book for soldiers and their families, and those of us who don’t know how challenging deployments can be. You also will enjoy and appreciate Kristin’s writing style. I hope you can find her books in NZ. Home Front is hardback. Her other books are in paperback. Another favorite is Winter Garden.

  20. Thanks for sharing Kristin with us, Patricia. She sounds like one author that is a must know and share. I will get “Homefront” and read it. The interview and comments made sure of that. Very powerful. I’m not very familiar with the sacrifices of our soldiers only having one nephew who was a marine in Iraq and flew airplanes as a navigator and didn’t get close to the killing. The only problem he’s had was that he couldn’t come home when they first said and then when he finally did come home could’t find employment so he went back to school. He still couldn’t find employment and didn’t feel at home outside a military setting so joined the coast guard and is still flying planes.

    I guess some of his problems have hit his mother my sister in law harder of course than me. We were lucky he didn’t come close to dying men and wounded soldiers. But I’m sure we don’t know the whole story. I am grateful to all the military for their sacrifices and keeping us safe here on the mainland. And look forward to reading about something it would behoove me to know more about. 🙂

    • Thanks Clar for sharing. It would behoove us all to understand more about what families go through. Unemployment is an issues. Loss of jobs is an issue. I live in a military town and the military bond and become family. Once they leave the service, adjustment can be hard. I’m glad your nephew is safe and found his way by joining the Coast Guard. Think you’d like her book — or your sister-in-law may find it of interest.

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