The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel – Review, Interview & Giveaway
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In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?
After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?
At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.
Just…….wow. The Life Intended draws you into something that could so very well have happened to any of us with the very first sentence. The loss that Kate incurs is heart wrenching. She and Patrick truly seemed to have it all, until one fateful morning that would change everything. A morning that she would question for years to come.
As the blurb states, Kate gets engaged and is planning her wedding……Or at least, that’s what she’s supposed to be doing, but something is holding her back. Even though she loves her fiancé, she feels the relationship isn’t where it should be as far as she’s concerned. And, when the dreams start, she’s thrown for such a loop that she begins to question everything. Even her sanity at times. She embarks on new endeavors as she tries to figure out what’s real and what’s not, one thing is for sure….should she settle, or should she try to live the life intended?
The Life Intended is a wonderfully written story with strong and very believable characters. Kate has so many layers that surface as she maneuvers through dealing with the loss of her husband up until she realizes what it is she’s intended to do and what she’s intended to BE. I wish I could tell you more, but it would be a spoiler and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. And, even though the direction of the story is a little predictable at times, the ultimate reveal surprised me. This one is ultimately a story of coming to terms with unfathomable loss in order to (pardon the pun), live the life intended. Even though it takes years for it to happen, Kate ultimately finds her way, and a few surprises along the way that will make your heart smile, after shedding a few tears. This is the first novel I’ve read by Kristin Harmel, but I definitely look forward to reading more. Well done, Kristin Harmel, very well done.
Reviewed by Vickie
Copy provided by Publisher
Kristin, we at the Reading Café would like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
Kristin: Thanks so much for having me!!
TRC: Would you please tell us about yourself?
Kristin: Sure thing. I’m the author of several novels, including The Sweetness of Forgetting and The Life Intended. I have a background in journalism (credits include People magazine and Travel + Leisure magazine), and I’ve been a novelist for about a decade now. I’m a graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism & Communications (Go Gators!), and I live in Orlando, Florida with my husband, Jason.
TRC: When and how did you first become interested in writing?
Kristin: I’ve always loved to write; I think I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about 6. That’s the year I wrote my first “chapter book,” which was a set of stapled-together pages detailing how the Bobbsey Twins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobbsey_Twins) came to Ohio to help solve the mystery of my dad’s missing tuxedo.
TRC: What was your first book ever published? Can you please tell us your reaction when you found out you were being published?
Kristin: My first novel was called How to Sleep With a Movie Star. Not a how-to guide, I promise! I wrote it in 2003 and sold it in 2004. It came out in February 2006. Actually, funny story: we got the offer for the book, from Amy Einhorn (who was then with Warner Books) on April Fool’s Day 2004, and when my agent called to tell me, I thought she was playing a terrible April Fool’s joke on me. It took me a while to actually realize she was serious; I had been offered a book deal!
TRC: The Life Intended was released yesterday. Can you tell us how you come up with the idea of this story?
Kristin: Sure. Usually, I’m a meticulous plotter, who thinks through every detail ahead of time and lays the entire book out on the page – in outline form – over the course of a few months. The Life Intended was the one exception to that. I woke up one morning with the entire plot of the book in my head. I jumped out of bed and started scribbling down my thoughts before they vanished, the way that dreams often do, and in the end, my hand-written notes from a single morning formed the basis of 90 percent of the book! Other elements developed later, and I still had a lot of research to do, but somehow implausibly, this book literally came out of a dream, which is super-weird, because it’s about a character who has very vivid dreams of an alternative life that feels real.
TRC: Can you please give us a brief description of The Life Intended?
Kristin: Sure. I’m lousy at describing my own books, so I’m going to tell you what the publisher is saying. They’re much better at this than me!
“In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?
“After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?
“At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.”
TRC: You recently released The Sweetness of Forgetting. Can you please tell us about this novel, for those who may not have read it?
Kristin: Sure thing. And again, because I’m terrible at summarizing my own books, I’m going to tell you how my publisher describes it:
“A baker in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, must travel to Paris to uncover a family secret for her dying grandmother—and what she learns may change everything. The Sweetness of Forgetting is the book that made Kristin Harmel an international bestseller.
“At thirty-six, Hope McKenna-Smith is no stranger to bad news. She lost her mother to cancer, her husband left her for a twenty-two year old, and her bank account is nearly depleted. Her own dreams of becoming a lawyer long gone, she’s running a failing family bakery on Cape Cod and raising a troubled preteen.
“Now, Hope’s beloved French-born grandmother Mamie, who wowed the Cape with her fabulous pastries for more than fifty years, is drifting away into a haze of Alzheimer’s. But in a rare moment of clarity, Mamie realizes that unless she tells Hope about the past, the secrets she has held on to for so many years will soon be lost forever. Tantalizingly, she reveals mysterious snippets of a tragic history in Paris. And then, arming her with a scrawled list of names, she sends Hope to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery.
“Hope’s emotional journey takes her through the bakeries of Paris and three religious traditions, all guided by Mamie’s fairy tales and the sweet tastes of home. As Hope pieces together her family’s history, she finds horrific Holocaust stories mixed with powerful testimonies of her family’s will to survive in a world gone mad. And to reunite two lovers torn apart by terror, all she’ll need is a dash of courage, and the belief that God exists everywhere, even in cake. . . .”
TRC: You write heartwarming, life changing, and humorous stories. You have also written a YA novel. Is there any genre you would like to try?
Kristin: I’d love to write middle grade novels (ages 8-12) one day, maybe once I have kids. I will say that I think those humorous stories you mentioned were sort of part of an earlier phase in my career. When I wrote my first book in 2003, I was 24 years old and chick lit was at its height. Light and funny – like a classic romantic comedy – was the way to go. I think over the last decade or so, I’ve evolved into a different type of writer as I’ve grown up. The Sweetness of Forgetting and The Life Intended are a lot more indicative of where my career is right now –and will be going in the future, I think.
TRC: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
Kristin: I love to cook – hence the original recipes in The Sweetness of Forgetting – and I’m a big music fan, so I love going to live shows. Aside from that, I love going to Disney World (only about 15 minutes from my house), traveling (especially to Europe), reading, and hanging out with my friends and family.
TRC: Can you please tell us your writing process? Do you have a favorite spot or specific time to write?
Kristin: I write best in the mornings – I usually begin at 8 a.m. – and I currently write in the kitchen nook of the condo where I’ve lived for ten years. I converted it into my office just after moving in. However, my husband and I have just bought a house, and now I’ll have an actual office. I’m not sure how I’ll cope without being attached to the kitchen! (I bake when I need to cure writer’s block.)
TRC: What are you currently working on?
Kristin: I’m currently in the final stage of editing my next young adult novel, and I’m working on an outline for a women’s fiction novel that should be out in late 2015. I outline very long; most of my outlines are 20,000 words or more, because I work through all the plot points and try to get everything, including dialogue, down on the page as it comes to me. So once I finish an outline, the actual writing of the book generally goes very quickly. Yep, I’m weird.
TRC: You have written for People Magazine. Are you still writing for them? What was it like interviewing celebrities, and who was your favorite?
Kristin: I’ve written for People since 2000, and I still write for them on occasion; my last piece for them was this sweet and sad one from June — http://www.people.com/article/university-of-florida-gators-softball-win-national-title-cancer-teen.But honestly, I’m so busy with writing and promoting my novels that I don’t have a ton of time to pitch People anymore. Also, it turns out that writing three novels and getting married – all in the same year – isn’t the most brilliant way to manage one’s time (a lesson I learned the hard way in 2014!). I do truly love writing for People, though, especially because for the last several years, I have mostly specialized in writing their Heroes Among Us stories (instead of celebrity stories). That said, I would have to say that my favorite celebrity interview was probably Patrick Dempsey. I interviewed him a handful of times, and he was always tremendously kind, warm and genuine. His love for his wife and kids was always very evident, and he just seemed like a truly good person. I also enjoyed speaking with Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck (Who wouldn’t enjoy that, right?); I loved spending time with Andre Benjamin (suuuuuch a cool guy) and I completely geeked out over a brief interview with Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw! Talking to me!), but Patrick Dempsey was definitely my favorite, simply because of his kindness. Okay, and his beautiful eyes.
TRC: sigh…..I love Patrick Dempsey
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Kristin: Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me – and to check out The Life Intended. I think at its core, it’s a book about choosing happiness, and the fact that we all have the power and the right to choose happiness in our own lives. I think that’s a particularly perfect message for today – and for the next few weeks – as we make our New Year’s Resolutions. I hope that if you read The Life Intended, you’ll feel inspired to resolve to choose happiness for yourself in 2015 and beyond.
FAVORITE FOOD: Crispy rice with spicy tuna from Katsuya in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Preferably while sitting at the bar sipping a drink concocted by my friend Ryan, the coolest bartender in all of California. I know, that’s awfully specific. And now, my mouth is watering and my heart is breaking a little, because I’m more than 2,000 miles away.
FAVORITE DESSERT: S’mores. It’s not just the taste, but the whole ceremony of making them!
FAVORITE BOOK: Anne Frank’s diary is a longtime favorite. The Great Gatsby might be my favorite novel, although I love most of Hemingway’s work too. Of course on any given day, my current favorite book changes based on what I’m reading at the time.
FAVORITE CHARACTER (NOT YOUR OWN): Bridget Jones is probably a good pick!
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING: I recently started reading Lucinda Riley’s books, and I can’t stop. I just flew through The Orchid House and The Lavender Garden, and I think I’ll read The Midnight Rose next. She’s just such a beautiful storyteller. I’m also midway through Alyson Richman’s The Lost Wife, which is just spellbinding so far. I know it came out a few years ago, but I try not read books that are similar to mine while I’m writing or touring with those books, and The Lost Wife is similar, in some ways, to The Sweetness of Forgetting (my last novel). I’m so glad I’m finally getting to read it.
LAST VACATION SPOT: Europe! I got married in March, and my husband and I took our honeymoon in May to Ireland, Scotland and France. Loved every second of it!
LAST MOVIE YOU SAW: Gone Girl. Amazing. That Gillian Flynn blows me away! It’s no easy feat to adapt your own book for screen, but she did it masterfully.
CAT or DOG: Dog! I grew up with a Dalmatian, and my husband and I will probably buy a new dog this year – maybe a beagle or a corgi – once we’re moved into our new home.
TRC: Thank you, Kristin for answering our questions. The Reading Café wishes you the best of luck with The Life Intended. We look forward to working with you again.
Kristin: Thank you! I look forward to working with you again too! Have a happy new year!
You can learn more about Kristin at the following links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
Kristin’s publisher is offering a paper copy of THE LIFE INTENDED to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe
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8. Giveaway is open to USA & CANADA only
9. Giveaway runs from December 31, 2014 to January 4, 2015