Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Favorite Keepsake by Lori Roy


LUCY BURDETTE: I'm a sucker for hearing about where writers get inspiration. I know lots of people hate the question: Where do you get your ideas? But I love it! And so I'm happy to introduce Edgar winner Lori Roy, to talk about her brand new book.


LORI ROY: One of my favorite keepsakes is a set of vintage white gloves. When I first began working on UNTIL SHE COMES HOME, I held these gloves and imagined a woman living in 1958 Detroit who had boarded a bus to do her daily shopping. Sitting among the other ladies, all bound for the shops on Willingham Avenue, she realized she had forgotten her white gloves. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hid her bare hands in her lap. Why was she so distracted, I wondered.  What had happened to make her forget her white gloves? 

Before I could answer these questions, I had to get to know this character and so I turned to one of my favorite research tools—a 1958 Sears catalog I bought from Ebay.  In the first few pages of the catalog, I came across the clothing for the young women, girls really, still in their teens. They wore skirts with wide sweeps and slender belts cinched around their slender waists. Their long smooth hair was pulled back and up into ponytails that sat high on their heads. These girls didn’t wear white gloves. Even when bundled up and cheering from the sidelines of a football game, they challenged convention and refused to wear gloves. Only one young girl in all these pages had dared to pull on a pair. She stood with three other teenage girls on a dance floor. Balloons were scattered at their feet, streamers hung overhead, and all the girls wore party dresses, but only one of them, the one who had clearly won the attention and affection of the one man in the photo, wore short white gloves with simulated pearls stitched at each cuff.


As I continued to turn the pages of my catalog, the girls grew to young women. While standing in line at a movie theater, several men hovering nearby, the young ladies wore belted jackets and cropped sweaters and all wore gloves.   Most had abandoned the high ponytails for thick bands that held their hair, still long and smooth, from their faces. In this section, I also found pictures of brides and bridesmaids. They, of course, all wore gloves.


More pages and the ladies continued to age. They must have all found husbands because there were few men in these photos. The ladies appeared settled in their lives. They had husbands at home, children to care for, lunches to prepare, bake sale committees on which to serve. The ladies of this certain age matched their gloves to their shoes and handbags, or for a more casual afternoon outing, they chose gloves that matched the color of their dresses.  But no matter the color, the fabric, the length or the style, if there was a hat on her head, or a jacket slung over her shoulders, or a handbag hanging from her forearm, a lady of this age wore gloves on her hands. 

This is how I came to know Grace and Julia and Malina—all important characters in UNTIL SHE COMES HOME. They are the women who give voice to my story. They are the women who always wear gloves and when Grace forgets her gloves that day on the bus, she can no longer ignore what has happened to her and her neighborhood or what may yet come.

For all the readers out there…I’m always looking for new inspiration.  Do you have a favorite keepsake and what is the history behind it?






LORI IS OFFERING A COPY OF HER NEW NOVEL, UNTIL SHE COMES HOME, ALONG WITH A COPY OF BENT ROAD TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER!

Lori Roy’s debut novel, BENT ROAD, was awarded the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, named a 2011 New York Times Notable Crime Book, named a 2012 notable book by the state of Kansas, and was nominated for the Book-of-the-Month Club First Fiction Award. BENT ROAD has been optioned for film by Cross Creek, with Mark Mallouk to adapt and Benderspink to produce. Her second novel, UNTIL SHE COMES HOME, was published June 13, 2013. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

35 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Aah, the age of white gloves . . . and hats . . . full-skirted dresses . . . Lucite box purses . . . all relegated these days to memories of an earlier time. I’m definitely a fan, Lori, and this book is being added to my mountain of books waiting to-be-read . . . .

Gram said...

I remember those days. I had long hair and the ponytail with circle skirts and belts, I was also skinny then! We only wore gloves for special occasions though, maybe because it was a small town. Dee

Lori Roy said...

Thank you to both the early risers. There is something special about that time. I found myself shopping the pages of my 1958 catalog as the clothes were so amazing.

Kristopherq said...

Isn't it interesting how a catalog from that time was organized chronologically as the girls age?

Today's catalogs (when they even exist) are often a hodge-podge of items scattered throughout.

And what a great source of inspiration. Thanks for sharing with us Lori.

Sandi said...

The days of gloves are before my time, but my favorite keepsake - or keepsakes, in this case - are from the same era. I have a collection of about 40 delicate handkerchiefs that belonged to my grandmother and great grandmother. Most are edged with lace, while some are embroidered. A few are very, very thin, with a floral pattern woven into the fabric. There are several utility handkerchiefs in pretty plaids. In keeping with my great-grandmother Flossie's risque sense of humor, one has a lady embroidered in the corner, with an extra fluff of fabric for a skirt. Lift the skirt and the embroidered lady is anatomically correct. Well, what do expect from a woman who made a "boob pillow" for her son in law?

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

A fascinating story about how your latest release was born. It would never occur to me to look at old catalogs or magazines for story ideas or character traits, though it makes absolute and perfect sense! I think you might have taught me a new trick of the trade. Good luck with the book!

Lori Roy said...

Once I really began studying the catalog, it was interesting to see the content choices that were made. Were men in the picture? Did the ladies wear gloves and/or hats? And Sandi, I love a nice vintage kerchief as well. So much attention to detail. Great-Grandmother Flossie must have been a terrific lady. Thanks for sharing.

Karen in Ohio said...

Such an intriguing way to create a catalog. And so fashion-forward, too. How wonderful to write your own story of someone in that same time period.

I just helped my son-in-law dismantle his recently deceased, 82-year old mother's home of 40 years. She had been the fashion editor for the Dayton Daily News in the 50's and 60's, and was such an elegant woman. We found custom-made clothing from that period, as well as dozens of pair of gloves, some never worn, from shortie day gloves to elbow-length gloves to wear with the coats with 3/4 sleeves, to exquisite kid and leather ones. I had known of her job, and knew that she was one of "Ms. Vreeland's girls", referring to Diana Vreeland, the editor of Vogue Magazine, who invited other fashion editors to her home during fashion week. But by the time I knew Jan she was in her late 60's and had already started what would become total blindness.

Her gloves made my daughter and me think of her in a completely different way than we ever had before. Too bad she had never shared them with us while she was alive. I'm sure there were stories galore about each pair.

Adding Until She Comes Home to my TBR list, Lori! It sounds wonderful.

Deb Forbes said...

My keepsake will sound funny but it is my Grandmothers wooden rolling pin and potato masher that she used. Funny story is as a young married girl I would make instany potatoes instead of real mashed potatoes which my Grandmother thought was terrible, so when she passed away she left me her old potato masher so I would quit making instant potatoes. She was a great cook and baker and always teaching me. Also my other grandmothers crochet hooks because she taught me how to crochet and we would crochet the afternoons away.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

These are great stories! An anatomically correct handkerchief and a book pillow? what a character Sandi!

Karen and Deb, I love the gloves and the potato masher:).

Lori, tell us a little about the new book?

Lori Roy said...

Wow, Karen. What an amazing find that must have been. And Deb, I love the potato-masher story.

One of the characters in USCH struggles with her cooking, as well. She can get her pierogi quite right.

USCH is the story of three women living on Alder Avenue in 1958 Detroit. Their lives take a sudden turn when a neighbor disappears. Amidst the simmering racial conflicts of the time, the neighborhood organizes a search that lasts for days. When Grace uncovers the truth of what has happened, her own mother warns her not to tell. "No man wants to know this about his wife." And so Grace must decide if she will keep her secret to save herself or tell the truth and save her loved-ones.

Single said...

I have some jewelry of my grandmother's and I enjoy the stories behind them. There's a snake bracelet that I love, but at the time it had such pejorative connotations (via the Snake Pit movie) that she never wore it. It doesn't seem sinister to me, but these thing change.

Lori Roy said...

All this talk of keepsakes make me wonder what we have in our lives that will one day be keepsakes for someone else. Any thoughts?

Karen in Ohio said...

Future keepsakes: I have a carved ebony mask from Africa that my aunt and uncle sent back from Senegal in the early 60's, when my uncle was a CIA station chief in Dakar. It has hung on the wall of every place I've lived, and I would hope one of my three daughters would cherish it as much as I have.

When my father-in-law passed away and we dismantled my husband's family home, one of the amazing things we found was a small Rookwood bust of a young girl, head and shoulders, dating back to the 1920's. It looks so like our youngest daughter--who greatly resembles her grandmother--it's uncanny. I hope she wants to have that someday.

Lisa Alber said...

Thank you, Lori, for sharing your inspiration. I can't wait to get my hands on your book!

My mom was the skinny fashion-plate type, and I remember my sisters and I raiding her closet and jewelry box. Fabulous costume jewelry, gloves, a mink stole that we wore out, pairs and pair of stilettos, some with rhinestone clips on them...Thanks for jogging my memory!

As for keepsakes I've retained... These pertain to my dad's restaurants. I still have the ancient springform baking pan he used for his famous Coffee Toffee Mousse Pie (with chocolate graham cracker crust). In his early days, I used to come home from school every day to make the crusts for the next day's pies. I still miss my dad's restaurants. Is it memory, or did he really serve THE best soups and desserts and everything else?

After his death, we went through his things. He'd kept three copies of each menu version, newspaper article, and so on, one set for each daughter. It was touching and heartbreaking because he wasn't a demonstrative man, or even a very "there" father. But, apparently, he'd been thinking about us all those years he was working too hard.

I'm looking forward to reading your latest. I'm ashamed to say I haven't read BENT ROAD either.

(Rhys, how long have you lived in Marin? My dad owned La Petite and AJ's at Redhill in the 70s and 80s.)

Lori Roy said...

Hey Karen, very interesting find for you and your family. The uncanny likeness does give rise to a feeling of mystery.

And Lisa, what a great thing your father did for you and your sisters. It's beginning to feel like our keepsakes not only help us remember, but also help us to understand.

Denise Ann said...

I am right in the middle of a place I frequent -- "I need to get rid of things ----- I can't part with THAT!" Our church is having its annual Strawberry Festival on Saturday, and I did donate a bag. But I am amazed at what kinds of things I simply could not donate!

I collect pitchers, and the one that started it all is a small one decorated with stylized flowers which was a gift to me when I was a little girl, from my grandmother. I cannot go into pottery shops without craving a pitcher!

I would love to understand the psychology involved with our connection to things. Dr. Lucy?

Lori Roy said...

Hey Denise, Thanks for the comment. I think Lisa's story is a great example of why keepsakes mean so much to us. It's what they say about the people who cared enough to keep them and pass them on to us.

I have a Betty Crocker cookbook that was once my grandmother's. It is stuffed full of recipes she clipped from the paper and magazines or jotted down on the back of a napkin. Nestled in among all the recipes, I found a list of the ten reasons a good wife should not toss out her husband on trash day. My sweet, fair-haired grandmother had a wicked sense of humor.

Pat D said...

As a tomboy I absolutely hated wearing the little white gloves and hat to church! But in the fifties that was expected. I have an antique potato masher too. My mom was doling things out between us kids when downsizing. The masher belonged to my dad's parents. I also have a little crockery bowl that Mom's mom or grandmother, don't know which, would take to a neighbor's to buy butter, freshly churned. I found the 1950's to be frustrating. Expectations were in place and rigid. I don't know how many times I heard that girls don't do this, girls don't do that! Bleah!

Rhys Bowen said...

I have acquired a number of treasures from the 1930s since writing the Royal Spyness books. An Art Deco bracelet is my favorite and I wear it to signings.

We have a house full of things inherited from John's parents, including many kitchen implements that still work well after a hundred years. The oldest item is a sword an ancestor took to the Crusades.

Rhys Bowen said...

Lisa--I've lived in Marin for 40 years. And eaten at A Js several times. I'm not sure where La Petite was--was it in the Canal Area of San Rafael?

Small world. Do you still live there?

Lori Roy said...

It also seems that things from years past were made to last, as opposed to our more disposable world today.

Lisa Alber said...

Hi Rhys,

Very cool! I used to work at AJ's during college breaks. La Petite was over in Mill Valley, near Strawberry Village.

I always tell folks that my dad was way ahead of his time what with his giant soup and salad bar--his was the first in Marin anyhow.

Alas, I live up in Portland, OR, these days.

Cheers, Lisa

Lisa Alber said...

Keepsakes are great for character-building, I've found. An object that a character chooses to keep as a personal talisman says a lot about her.

Lori Roy said...

Yes, Lisa. I agree. What a person values is a defining characteristic. Good point

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Denise, Dr. Lucy here:). So interesting because Lisa mentions that her father was not very "present" as a parent, and yet he was clearly thinking about his kids. What a life-changing surprise it must have been to receive that stack of keepsakes!

Marianne in Maine said...

Ah, gloves! I remember the big store in Portland had the gloves and hosiery section right in the front. We always wore gloves with our new Easter outfits and to "the prom." (There's a whole story about the prom. I went to an all-girls school. We were, let me say, creative at finding dates.)

My keepsake is a cast iron spider (frying pan) my grandmother and mother used to bake Irish Bread. Along with the spider I got the recipe. It had never been written down so getting my mother to write it for me was something special.

And now I have more books for the ever-growing TBR list. I love it.

The Vegan Gypsy said...

Lori, I have just finished Until She Comes Home so I'm still quite immersed in the world you describe! The characters were so detailed, their stories so rich & real, I find myself unable or perhaps unwilling to detach from them. Thank you for your wonderful novels.

I, too, have a pair of vintage white gloves. They are much too small for me to wear, imagine that they belonged to a petite woman such as Malina. I display them on a wooden hat rack in my bedroom corner, along with vintage hats, purses, and scarves; I would say that this collection is my favorite keepsake!

Reine said...

Hi Lori,

You have my attention. Your story is like a spell.

I have a small keepsake locket. One of my teenage daughters left it behind when she ran away from home. My mother had given to her. I found it on her bed with a note. I didn't open it right away, because I was afraid of what I might see. On Valentine's Day, my birthday, I held the small gold heart in my hands and pressed the clasp. One side held a sweet picture of her when she was seven shortly after we'd adopted her. She was cuddling her baby doll. The other side held a picture of me that was taken the same day.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OH, two things. One, your new book is fabulous. Really, very special.

Two, Lori, what a haunting question--what do we have that will be someone's keepsake? Gosh, it's almost too poignant to think about.

Lori Roy said...

To The Vegan Gypsy...thanks so much for the kind words. I keep my gloves in a frame that hangs in my office. I love the idea of baking Irish bread in a cast iron spider. I've never heard that term before. And the story of the locket is heart breaking. Thank you to everyone for sharing.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Reine, amazing story! gives me cold chills...better than fiction!

(and in the art imitates life department, I just wrote a locket into my story today--honest!)

Reine said...

LucyRo, you did? Really? In your WIP? I barely got through writing that.

Moulin said...

I have to first say that Ms. Lori Roy, I LOVED your book Bent Road. And I can't wait to read Until She Comes Home. I've requested it from the library-and there are already many requests for it where I live-but if I can get my own copies of your books, that would be great!

I have a couple gold rings given to me by my mother and a pair of gold dangly earrings given to me by my grandmother. My mom was given these rings when she was married-one from her mother and the other from my father. It wasn't her engagement ring! lol. She passed it on to me knowing how much I loved rings. The earrings from my grandmother were made in early 1900s in the Middle East. These sorts of things that are passed through generations within the family have sentimental value, regardless of what they are. It makes me think what were the people thinking,going through,etc. when they wore these pieces of jewelry? If these pieces of jewelry-or whatever keepsake- could talk, what stories would they tell? :]

Reine said...

I have my mother's London Fog coat that she gave to me when I was a teenager. It was during the time that things were good when we made pie.