Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview - Kristina McMorris - The Edge of Lost - Review

I'm so happy to welcome back to the blog a favorite author, Kristina McMorris. She's here today to chat about her latest historical novel inspired by Alcatraz. Interested how and why, read on and she'll tell you.
Click HERE for a Goodreads giveaway of this book.

ISBN-13: 9780758281180
Publisher: Kensington Books
Release Date: 11/24/2015
Length: 352pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


From bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes an ambitious and heartrending story of immigrants, deception, and second chances.
On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.
Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.
Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

Hi, Kristina. I loved The Edge of Lost. Tell my readers about it.
Thank you, Debbie! I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the book.
In short, the novel begins in 1937 on Alcatraz Island, where the ten-year-old daughter of a prison guard has gone missing, and a convicted bank robber is the only person who knows the truth of her whereabouts. The story then backs up several decades to the grimy streets of Dublin. There, a poor Irish boy ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian, until his dream chance comes to cross the Atlantic. But tragedy strikes en route—and soon the two stories intertwine in a journey full of immigrants, mobsters, and more.

On your website it says that you were watching a documentary on Alcatraz where you learned some intriguing and surprising goings on there.
Which came first: your idea to write this book or your seeing the documentary? Or was it a bit of both?
Since touring Alcatraz many years ago, the prison has always intrigued me. So when it came to brainstorming a setting for my next book, I debated between Alcatraz and another location. In the midst of this, a friend suddenly mentioned Alcatraz in a Facebook post. My gut told me I’d found my answer.
That same day I did a search for research books on Amazon and stumbled upon a documentary titled “Children of Alcatraz.” By the time I finished watching the video, the premise of my novel was clear.

Kristina, your last three novels took place in or revolved around WWII. Why did you choose this novel to be set between 1919 and 1937?
Would you laugh if I said that I decided on the 1930s as a way to venture out of my comfort zone? I know, I know. It’s only a few years earlier than usual. Or at least that’s what I’d intended until I started to write the story, and the characters’ backstories swept me off to another country in another decade, and I had no choice but to stretch my wings further than I’d intended. And I’m so happy I did.

The novel revolves around the main character, an Irish immigrant named Shan Keegan, and his adopted Italian family. Was there a particular reason you chose these two specific ethnic groups?
With a story about 1920s organized crime in Brooklyn, Italian immigrants seemed an obvious choice. Also because I absolutely love the culture, since I was fortunate enough to live in Florence during my college years. As for the Irish ties… I recalled how my late grandfather, a dark-Irish farm kid, had black wavy hair, dark brown eyes, and olive complexion—features, I’d often heard, that could have easily passed as Italian. The two cultures suddenly merged in my mind and formed a large portion of the story.

Kristina, your novels are all centered mostly around the twentieth century.
Have you ever considered writing about a different time period either further past or in the future?
I once set a novella, titled “The Christmas Collector,” entirely in present day, though it featured elderly characters who were young in my debut novel, Letters from Home. What I learned from the experience was that I desperately missed losing myself in an historical setting. I suppose it’s no coincidence that historical fiction is also my favorite genre to read!

Keeping the same subject as the last question, what interests you the most about the times you write about?
During WWII, the stakes were never higher—for the whole world, really. The deeper I waded into research, the more incredible stories I’ve found about tragedies and hardships, but also bravery and compassion. Ordinary people were thrust into extraordinary circumstances with so much to lose, making the era such a rich landscape for a writer. And of course I have to admit, I’ve always been a huge fan of 1940s music and fashion and, yes, uniforms.
As for the 1920s through the ‘30s, it was such a fascinating time of change, with women’s rights, the stock-market crash, waves of incoming immigrants, and the reign of mobsters during Prohibition. How could I not want to write about a setting like that?

Kristina, I’m fascinated by all your amazing characters in this novel. Each one, whether a cameo or a starring role, all are so vividly portrayed that they each left a lasting impression on me. If you were asked to write another novel featuring one of them who would it be and why?
Oh, I love hearing that. Thanks, Debbie. Hmm, if I had to choose a character for another novel, I would probably have to go with Josie. As you know, she’s the love interest on the speakeasy scene. A bit rough around the edges, she’s a survivor with a dark past, but when she lets her guard down enough to care for someone, she’ll risk anything to protect them.

Have you ever considered writing a series or trilogy, or do you like to say goodbye to your characters at the end of each work?
Sometimes, particularly when chatting about my characters at a book club event, I’ll start missing them enough to consider bringing them back in a sequel. But in the end (so far), I feel I’ve already told the part of their life I wanted to share. Besides, reuniting a soldier and his sweetheart after WWII is much more romantic than the reality that would likely follow—of her baking casseroles as he forgets to pick up his dirty socks off the floor.  J

Kristina, since we’re in Thanksgiving week, will you tell us what your family does to celebrate the holiday?
We’re pretty traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving. Since my side of the family lives nearby, we’ll all be gathering for a huge turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Then naturally we’ll be eating the leftovers for at least a week afterward.

Kristina, happy holidays and good luck with the new novel.
Will you be touring with this release?
I have a few events in Portland and Seattle in early December, which are listed on my website, but this time of year is so busy for everyone, I’ll be waiting until the spring to venture down to southern California and Arizona for the Tucson Festival of Books. Of course, thanks to the internet, I’ll be on a virtual tour long before then!

My Review

Kristina McMorris’s latest is a coming of age, coming home again poignant literary masterpiece. Her sometimes dark and very emotionally demanding read moves seamlessly from post WWI through the decadent roaring twenties right up to pre WWII. She shows off her extensive research while taking readers on an intense journey of self-discovery encompassing two continents and realistically depicting the ups and downs of life as an American immigrant. Although she has one main star everyone of her amazing characters are award worthy and none will soon be forgotten. The several OMG plot shocks and the fundamental decency her star kept through all his trials are but a few of the incredible things that make this novel a must read for your keeper shelf!

1919 Ireland is war ravaged, still recovering from the influenza epidemic, plus about to embark on yet another battle with Britain. It’s where we find young orphan Shan Keegan performing vaudevillian acts to earn his keep with his abusive, abrasive Uncle. When Shan discovers that in America performers are getting rich for what he’s doing here for his supper it doesn't take much to convince his greedy uncle to head across the sea. When his uncle dies during the crossing from a long ailing condition Shan doesn’t know how he’ll get through immigration until he’s offered refuge with the family of an Italian boy he helped while aboard ship. And so once again orphaned but not alone, with little to his name but still hopeful Shan sets out for a new life in America. But Shan has another personal reason for coming to America, to find his birth father and although he’s only armed with a name and the facts that he’s a musician and in the US Navy he’s determined to find him. He just doesn’t realize just how bumpy his road will be to get there.

Connect with Kristina - Website - Facebook - Twitter

ew York Times and USA Today bestselling author and the recipient of more than twenty national literary awards, as well as a nomination for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, RWA’s RITA® Award, and a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her works of fiction have been published by Kensington Books, Penguin Random House, and HarperCollins. The Edge of Lost is her fourth novel, following the widely praised Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and The Pieces We Keep. Additionally, her novellas are featured in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. Prior to her writing career, Kristina hosted weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, and has been named one of Portland's "40 Under 40" by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she is working on her next novel. For more, visit

Kristina's Other works

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  1. I can tell she loves the earlier half of the 20th century. I'm not a fan of WW settings, it terrifies me as there's so much antagonistic elements from the strife down to the overall mood of the people.

    I think if I were to read this novel it's going to be trying for me emotionally. The feels!

    1. I think you'd like it Braine no war stuff in this but there is a lot of Alcatraz

  2. Love that the two stories intertwine, I just read a book similar and loved it.

  3. Oh the premise has me so intrigued Debbie. I wonder if this is on audio?

    1. it's fabulous and you wish is my command- audible