Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Undertaking of Tess by New York Times bestselling author Lesley Kagen (with an interview).




Q. Tell us a bit about your new e-novella, The Undertaking of Tess

A. During the summer of 1959, ten-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley has her work cut out
for her.  Not only is she attempting to come to grips with the devastating loss and guilt
she feels after she witnessed her father’s drowning, her kid sister, Birdie, refuses to
believe that their beloved Daddy is really gone.  Tessie needs to convince her before their
Mom gets wind of how much “weirder” her sister’s getting.  Stronger, and
more down to Earth than ethereal Birdie, she’s always watched over her sister, so it’s
only natural for her to come up with a plan that she jots down on one of her never-ending
TO-DO lists.  If Tessie can’t achieve her goals, she’s desperately worried that the
beautiful, but self-occupied Louise, might send emotionally fragile Birdie to the County
insane asylum.  But despite her resourcefulness and grit, she’s smart enough to know
that the odds are stacked against her and her time is running out.

Q. This is your first novella. How did you like writing it as opposed to a full-length novel? And what factored into your decision to do so?

A.  I absolutely had first-time jitters when I decided to give a novella a try, but my desire to
share more of the Finley sisters’ childhood than I could include in the novel that’s coming out in October—The Resurrection of Tess Blessing—helped overcome the fear.  I really wanted readers to know more about what brought Tess and Birdie to this point in their relationship.  What circumstances helped form them.

Q. What inspired the setting?

A. I wrote the novel first, so the setting—the same kind of blue-collar neighborhood I grew up in during the Fifties—had already been determined.  

Q. Describe Tessie in 5 words.

A. Resourceful, funny, protective, edgy, and heartbroken.

Q. Tessie is a complex character. Was it difficult to flesh her out?

A. I’m lucky like that.  I don’t usually find it too difficult to get to the bones of my characters because they come to me fairly fully formed.  Especially since many of them are children, who wear their hearts on their sleeves.  Louise Finley, Birdie and Tessie’s mother, was a bit tougher. When readers first meet her, they may find that narcissistic Louise is the character they’ll love to hate, but maybe, as her story continues in the novel, they’ll discover the same way I did that Louise had a tough row to hoe too.  Or as Tessie might put it, “Louise had a tough road to hope too.”

A. One of the things I like best about your books is that you write about very serious subjects, but somehow manage to make them entertaining and inspirational.

Q. Thank you.  All of us face enormous challenges, and it’s important to me to reach out to readers and let them know that while it may feel so at times, they’re not alone in their struggles.  No matter what profound losses life hands us, I believe it’s important to laugh when we can, to allow ourselves to hope for a better day, and to always remember that while love may not conquer all, it does a pretty damn good job of shoring us all up.


Kagen does it again!!!! The Undertaking of Tess is a brilliant and haunting tale of the Finley sisters and their quest to maneuver through their unpredictable world, a world plagued by loss, guilt and in the end growth. Tessie's has her trusty to-do list and she is determined to keep her sister safe and face all the challenges that come her way. With Kagen's keen observation of the spirit of youth, brilliant dialogue and well placed humor The Undertaking of Tess is another 5 star HIT!!! A must read and a PERFECT book club pick. I cannot wait for The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, which is the upcoming novel and companion to The Undertaking of Tess.

Lesley Kagen

Lesley Kagen is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, mother, grandmother, actress, voice-over talent, and former restaurateur.  The e-novella, The Undertaking of Tess, will be released at the end of July.



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