WomensHistoryReads interview: Christina Baker Kline

Of course, Christina Baker Kline needs no introduction. But here's one anyway. I am constantly surprised and delighted by how many authors I've met in the past few years -- even incredibly successful bestsellers with ever-increasing demands on their time -- have been welcoming, generous and supportive from the very first moment I met them. That was definitely the case with Christina.

When I had the chance to do a joint event with her last year I leapt at it, even though making it work involved highly questionable decision-making on my part, including a post-event 10pm departure from Minneapolis to fly to St. Louis (or was it Kansas City?), only for the purpose of catching a verrrrry early plane the next morning to Dallas so I could make it to Lafayette, Louisiana by noon for a speaking engagement. That was how much I wanted to be on the same bill as Christina. Against all odds, it worked perfectly. Still one of my favorite book tour memories. So I'm forgoing the usual author photo of the interviewee for a candid shot of us just before our event in Wisconsin. 

 Christina Baker Kline (left) and Greer Macallister

Christina Baker Kline (left) and Greer Macallister

As I said, she's generous and supportive, and she even answered more than the requisite three questions for our Q&Q&Q&A! I couldn't edit them down to three, knowing her readers would want to know it all, especially the one about her next book (which sounds amazing, of course.) So here we go!

Greer: How would you describe what you write?

Christina: Novels about the inner lives of people facing unanticipated challenges that force them to dig deep to find out who they really are.

Greer: What's the last book that blew you away?

Christina: My Absolute Darling is a big, unruly novel that people either love or hate. I loved it for its vivid writing, emotional intensity, and unique take on the world.

Greer: Do you consider yourself a historian?

Christina: My father is a historian and an academic, and until recently I thought our writing had nothing in common. Lately, though, I realize that I’ve been greatly influenced by him in form and content. We both write longhand, research extensively, read widely within our subject areas, and take notes in a similar way. 

Greer: What's your next book about?

Christina: My next novel is about the hidden history of the convict women who transformed Australia. It takes place in mid-19th century Tasmania.

Greer: That sounds spectacular. What do you find most challenging or most exciting about researching historical women?

Christina: The opportunity to explore untold stories.

And my question for you: In some ways, I believe, novelists are always writing about themselves: what haunts them, what they care about. How does this relate to you and Girl in Disguise?

Greer: I agree -- in some ways, I absolutely am! I find myself returning over and over to questions of identity, of women who reinvent themselves. What-ifs fascinate me. What if, during the golden age of magic, a woman illusionist cut men in half as her trademark illusion? What would the reaction to that be? That's where The Magician's Lie came from. There isn't enough information in the historical record for us to know much about what Kate Warne, the first female detective, did in the pursuit of justice -- let alone what she thought and felt -- but what if we did? What might her story look like? That's why I wrote Girl in Disguise. Disguises, deceit, swapping identities, people doing bad things for good reasons, these ideas endlessly fascinate me, and I doubt I'll ever get to the bottom of that well.

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More about Christina and her books at: www.christinabakerkline.com