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Friday, May 23, 2014


Kathleen L. Asay is published in short fiction and has written for arts magazines and a newspaper. Flint House is her first published novel. Learn more about Kathleen at her website. 

Can you Define “Beautiful?”

In my first published novel, Flint House, a burnt-out journalist is drawn into the battle to save a broken-down boarding house in Sacramento from closing and the residents from being evicted. Among the tenants is a mysterious older woman known as the Princess whom they all want to believe can save the day.

When I was in my twenties, I worked for a while in an office in Los Angeles, and on my lunch breaks I often walked across the street to a bookstore. Though I worked as a bookkeeper, I was already a writer. I looked at the world as a writer, storing up images, scenes, voices, so when I noticed an older woman, a pretty woman, who did herself up as she might have done when she was younger, I became intrigued. Who was she, and who had she been? I took her image with me when we moved and vowed to give her a story one day. That story became Flint House many years later and in it she became a princess.

Would I have noticed her and taken those second and third looks if she had been plain, perhaps even awkward or comical in old fashioned makeup and yellow hair? Noticed, shaken my head and moved on is what I see myself doing. I do it every day. I cast aside the unremarkable—no story there. But she was striking, pretty, interesting. You could build a story around that, and I did. Then again, would anyone have believed she was a princess if she hadn’t been beautiful?

I’ve come to dislike the word “beautiful” as a description in writing, especially when it’s used as in a beautiful house or a beautiful woman. If that’s all I need to know, so be it, but if you want me to follow where you lead then tell me why; let me see the beauty first.

Here’s how I describe her in the book when Liz, the journalist, first meets her: “She was probably seventy . . .Lines were deep in her face and her hair was beginning to thin, but I could see traces of the woman’s younger self, one who’d had lushly expressive eyebrows, full cheeks and golden tresses. Her hair, pulled straight back from her face into a knot at the neck, was the vague shade of yellow you’d get if you rinsed white with “summer blonde.” The color was clearly artificial, like the sienna in her eyebrows and the bloom in her cheeks, and yet— Time stopped; time marched on. She had green eyes, a heart-shaped face, strong cheekbones. Once upon a time, she’d been a looker, no, more than a looker, a beauty. Even in Maisie’s shabby bedroom, you could see this and more: a level chin, imperious eyes, back held straight against her chair, she was as regal as a princess. Damn.”

Flint House
What happens when a burnt-out journalist meets a house full of lost souls? Liz Cane has seen too many sob stories in her career with The Sacramentan to have much sympathy for the boarders in Flint House who face eviction after the owner of the house dies, literally at Liz's feet. But when she's drawn into the battle to save their home, she discovers the story isn't the one she expected, and family begins in the heart.

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Lani said...

As a former social scientist I have the nerdy definition of symmetry as being defined as beautiful and/or handsome. In a long study, scientists found that the more symmetrical the face, the more these people were respected and even given better jobs than others. We love symmetry.

It's so fun to look at people and make up stories, isn't it?

vicki batman said...

What a great point about looking, really looking at everything around us. Beauty is there.

Angela Adams said...

Enjoyed the interview. Best wishes, Kathleen, with your book!

Kathleen Asay said...

Hi Lani,

Thanks for your comment on symmetry. We do love it. But I also love an interesting face and to make up stories. I even taught my son to look behind the mask and consider what-if. The odd thing here was that the image stayed with me so long--the wonder of imagination and the joy!
Kathleen Asay

Kathleen Asay said...

Hi Vicki,

It's hard sometimes to really look, but the best stories and the most interesting characters are waiting to be found.


Kathleen Asay said...

Thanks, Angela, for the good wishes. This has been a wonderful ride.


Jaci Muzamel said...

I read and loved, "Flint House." I have always lived with the concept that a truly great person sees beauty where there isn't perfection. Think of all the wonder we miss while looking for the "beautiful" in the world. The Princess is indeed beautiful, but there is so much more to her than that...as there is with all the characters in Kathy's book. She's found beauty in each and every one of them...and you will too.

Cindy Sample said...

I'm definitely captured by "interesting" faces and personalities. I love your descriptions of all of the characters in Flint House. I'm one of your biggest fans!

Kathleen Asay said...

Thanks, Jaci,

What lovely words. I decided a long time ago that everyone is beautiful in some way, and I hope that comes across in my writing.


Kathleen Asay said...

Thanks, Cindy,

I'm one of your biggest fans! I wish I could write funny like you do.


R. Franklin James said...

Flint House is a classic in a time enduring way. I kept wanting to take notes on the incredible insights into life manifested in the thoughtful word phrasing.

Bravo! I hope there's a book two.

Kathleen Asay said...

Thanks, R. Franklin,

I hope there's a book two, too!


Marni said...

This was such a wonderful read. I'm looking for the sequel! And I agree, as a writer especially, you are soaking up everything around you like a sponge and seeing things in different ways.

Patricia said...

What a lovely description and a thought-provoking topic. Flint House is sprinkled with fairy dust.

Kathleen Asay said...

Hi Marni,

You're right that we're always soaking up material. What fascinates me is how that material shows itself--in bits and pieces that make an entirely different whole!


Kathleen Asay said...

Thanks, Patricia,

I love the idea of fairy dust. There is something that makes writing a bit like magic.