Perhaps it is too much to say that when I finished Calpurnia Tate, I wanted to meet the author behind the book. But, it isn’t too much to say that the instant I got an email from Jaqueline Kellye thanking me for my review, that I jumped at the chance and asked her if she’d be willing to do one. (Happily, she said yes!) Born in New Zealand, raised in Western Canada, she now calls Texas home. If that isn’t interesting enough, she also holds both a medical degree and a law degree (and likes both The Princess Bride and all of the Wallace and Gromit movies!). I could blather on about how interesting Jacqueline and her book is, but I think I’ll just move on to the questions and let them do the work for me.
MF: This is your first novel, congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about how the story came to be?
JK: The first chapter of the book was originally written as a stand-alone short story. It ended by jumping forward in time ten years to one morning when Calpurnia, by then a young woman, smuggled Granddaddy out of the house and took him to the airfield in Luling. There she bought him a ride in a bi-plane and paid the pilotess extra money to throw in some loop-the-loops. She could hear Granddaddy whoo-hooing in happiness as he whizzed by. He died a few months later, still in a fog of happiness.
MF: That sounds like a fun storye! What inspired you to write Calpurnia’s story?
JK: Calpurnia and the entire novel was inspired by my old house out in Fentress. It is a huge old house originally built over a hundred years ago for a large Victorian family. The house is wonderful but it’s falling down around my ears. I did make the house a promise that if I made money from the book, I would use it to restore it to its former glory. Here comes the shameless plug: buy the book and buy the house a foot of plumbing!
MF: Is there anything in your life that influenced the book as you were writing?
JK: What influenced me most while I was writing the book was my writing group. They are the ones who urged me to turn a simple short story into a full-length novel. I couldn’t have done it without them. We have been meeting every two weeks for eight years now and we have more fun than should be allowed.
MF: I adored many of the characters, from Grandpa and Calpurnia to the little J.B. Do you have a favorite character in the book? Who is it and why?
JK: My favorite character is, of course, Granddaddy. I grew up without a grandfather, so I had to create my own. This is actually rather nice because then you get exactly the grandpa you want.
MF: Is there anything you hope readers will get from your book?
JK: I hope that readers will look at the world and nature in new ways. And I hope that girls and women will realize that their great-grandmothers fought for the right to vote. Civil rights must never be taken for granted.
MF: I know you have a background in both the medical professions as well as in law. How did you end up being a writer of children’s novels?
JK: I have wanted to be a writer my whole life. I’m very fortunate in that I presently practice medicine part-time. This allows me to write. It would be almost impossible to write seriously with a full-time private practice.
MF: Do you have a special time or place where you write?
JK: I prefer to write in the mornings upstairs in a guest bedroom that I have turned into a home office. I listen to the local classical music station and I look out into a huge old oak tree where the squirrels and cats chase each other back and forth, up and down. I try to set aside from 9-12 daily but that doesn’t always work.
MF: Are there five books you think everyone should read?
JK: For children: The Wind in the Willows; Alice in Wonderland; The Princess Bride; The Hobbit; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
MF: Who or what has influenced your writing, and why?
JK: I am in awe of Alice Munro. Her language is deceptively simple, yet her stories are incredibly rich and complex. Then there’s Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter. I would hope that these wonderful writers have had some small influence on me. They are the best at what they do. The rest of us are mere sniveling amateurs.
MF: Thanks for your time!
JK: Thanks so much.