Meet today’s FACE of Birmingham, Patti Callahan Henry — writer, wife, mother and the New York Times bestselling author of 10 novels, including Between the Tides, Driftwood Summer and The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story. Her latest book, The Stories We Tell, hits the shelves tomorrow. Welcome, Patti!
How did you get started writing?
I started writing the moment I could hold a crayon. It has always been how I find my way in the world. Life always seemed to make more sense when I could wrap words or stories around my experiences, but I didn’t take writing as a “career” seriously until 15 years ago. It was then that I decided to write a novel. “Just one novel,” I told myself. “Just to say I did it.” That was 10 novels ago, so I keep saying, “One more.”
Can you give us a brief overview of your books?
They are all family stories. They are tales of transformation. Usually a character is living his/her life just fine, going down the path they’ve always been on when, BAM! Something happens, something that won’t let them continue life as they knew it. Decisions must be made, lives must be changed and the truth must be found.
Where do you draw inspiration for your books?
I draw inspiration everywhere: people, places, questions, songs, poems, other stories and mostly from the question, “What if?”
Is there a quote you have relied on that you can share with our readers?
I am a quote collector, so it would be really hard for me to pick one. But I will tell you the quote that starts my new novel, “The Stories We Tell.” It is by one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle: “Somethings have to be believed to be seen.” I love this not only because it hints at what is to come in the story, but also because it is a way of seeing life. First you must believe. Belief comes first.
Is there a person who has provided you guidance in writing or served as a mentor?
There have been so many people who have come along at the right time or in the right moment, but no, there isn’t that one person I call a mentor. I would say that Pat Conroy is one of my author-inspirations, and he always has been.
Where do you go to recharge in Birmingham?
Jemison Park. I have untangled more plot lines and questions on that trail than anywhere else in Birmingham.
What is your favorite indulgence?
What books are on your nightstand or e-reader?
I just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Wow! I also just finished a book that will be out in March titled Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. I loved it! I am about to start Charles Martin’s new book — out this fall — titled A Life Intercepted. The nonfiction book I am finishing now is Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.
Where was your most recent, best meal in Birmingham?
Sea bass on the back porch of our home.
Is there any event you are especially looking forward to?
We will be launching this new book in Birmingham on June 23 (the night before the actual release) at Gallery 1930 in English Village with an art show (photographs by Sandee O.) and book signing. This will be a great event with food, conversation, libations, a reading and all other kinds of fun. Please join us and bring some friends.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
Books, music and macaroons.
Thanks for sharing, Patti! And don’t forget, Gallery 1930 is hosting a book launch party to celebrate the release of Patti’s latest novel, “The Stories We Tell,” tonight at 7 p.m. Grab a friend and come join the conversation!
And huge thanks to Beth Hontzas for today’s fabulous photos! www.bethhontzas.com