A Note from Kristin Hannah
In a lot of ways, Firefly Lane is the book that changed my career. Before it, I had already written eighteen novels, and really, I thought I knew who I was as a novelist. Then along came Tully and Kate. Following their story changed the way I saw my work. For the first time, I wrote a novel that spanned decades and touched on popular culture and delved into the relationship between best friends. The only viewpoints in the novel were the women's. Sure, there was a love story in Firefly Lane, but that was secondary. The real heart of Firefly Lane was the friendship between the women. The story incorporated a huge amount of my own life and my own history. It took me several years to write the novel.
When I finally finished, I was honestly exhausted.
But I always knew there was more to the story. It's the first and only time I've ever felt that way after finishing a novel. Usually, when I come to the final edit, I am ready to let the characters go into their happy-endings world. Firefly Lane was different. Tully and Cloud, in particular, haunted my thoughts, tugged at me. I couldn't quite let them go, even when I went on to write other novels.
One day, I just knew it was time to go back to Firefly Lane and check in. You'd think it would be easy to step back into a world you'd created, but it was surprisingly difficult to find my way back to this story and these characters. I should have seen the troubles coming. We all know how tough it can be to come home after years away, and that's what I found when I began Fly Away. There were too many stories to tell, too many ways for the characters' lives to go. It really threw me off my game. I tried draft after draft, story after story. I wrote so many versions of Tully and Cloud and Marah and Johnny that my head couldn't hold them all. I felt lost in the forest of too many choices. Every road I chose ended up leading me in the wrong direction. And then I realized what was missing: Kate. I simply couldn't write about these characters without Kate. In her life, she had been the glue that held them all together; without her, there was no way I could revisit her world. Of course, that presented a bit of a problem, since she died in Firefly Lane.
Fortunately, I am a spiritual person and I believe in much more than what I can see. So, once I realized what was wrong, I knew how to fix it. Even if it was a little . . . unorthodox, even if it asked my readers to accompany me on an extraordinary journey. In that moment, Fly Away took shape in my mind. It became a novel about what happens when the one person who matters to you-the person who holds a whole family together-is lost. The funny thing is that I should have known it all along. After all, I wrote Firefly Lane as a tribute to my mom, who died of breast cancer when I was young. In Kate, I found a way to remember my mom. So, of course, I should have known that the sequel was about how you go on when the one you love is lost. When I found that theme, and the structure that accompanied it, I was able to do what I really wanted to do: write an emotionally powerful novel about familiar characters that stands on its own as opposed to a pure sequel. I don't think you have to read Firefly Lane first, but if you do, I think Fly Away is that much richer and more compelling.
Ideas for Book Groups
I truly believe in book groups. What's better than busy women taking an evening-or an afternoon-to gather together and talk about life and love and family ... and books? What's not to love about this?
For your Fly Away meeting, here are a few suggestions to liven up the discussion:
It all started with Firefly Lane and friendship, so how about everyone brings a photo of their best friend and talks about how they met?
How about a little seventies or eighties style? Maybe each of you can dress in the style of your youth. For me, it was bell bottoms and tie-dye and banana clips and shoulder pads. What were you wearing when you met your best friend?
How about the food? I think it would be fun to bring appetizers from Dorothy's youth. You can find all sorts of recipes on appetizers from the fifties. Vienna sausages anyone? Onion soup and sour cream dip with potato chips? Let your creativity soar! Or maybe you'd rather bring something your mom made that you haven't had in years....
And please note:
In recent years, I've been able to "talk" to book groups via speakerphone during their meetings. What a blast! For so long, I wrote books and never really met anyone who had read them. It is such a joy to talk to women from all over the country. We talk about anything and everything-my books, other books, best friends, kids, sisters. You name it, we'll discuss it. So if you belong to a book group and you've chosen Fly Away as your pick, please come on over to the Web site and set up a conversation with me. I can't promise to fulfill all the requests, but I will certainly do my best. And don't forget to join me on my blog and/or Facebook. I love talking to readers. The more the merrier!