Archives for : October2014

Author Jen Lancaster on bucket lists, conservatism and (not) writing about sex

Jen Lancaster has built a career on reinventing herself. In “Such a Pretty Fat,” she tackled weight loss. In “My Fair Lazy,” she sought high culture. In “The Tao of Martha,” she lived a life informed by Martha Stewart.

In recent years, Lancaster has also reinvented herself as a novelist, most recently with the sibling rivalry of “Twisted Sisters” and time-traveling delirium of “Here I Go Again.”

A Lake Forest transplant, Lancaster is also our guest editor for the Lake Forester this week, championing Habitat for Humanity as her charity.

Below is an excerpt of our wide-ranging conversation, which included musings on regret, “Twilight,” her bucket list and why she’ll never write a sex scene.

You can listen to the entire interview on our podcast “The Big Questions,” available on iTunes, SoundCloud and YouTube.

Q: Two years ago, while writing “The Tao of Martha” you overcame your fear of Halloween, right?

Lancaster: I had been terrified of Halloween my entire adult life. Loved it as a kid, but the minute I got out of college, there were little kids at my door demanding candy; which, No. 1, I couldn’t afford, and, No. 2, if I had candy, it would be mine. So, I started to avoid Halloween.

So, part of the whole Martha Stewart thing is: Halloween is kind of her Super Bowl. So we had to recognize Halloween. I went all out. I did costumes. I decorated the house. I put glitter on pumpkins, which was the greatest thing to ever happen to me in my entire life.

Q: Am I remembering this right? You called glitter the STD of the crafting world?

Lancaster: It is the STD of the crafting world because it never, ever goes away. If you look at the floor still, there’s glitter here from two years ago.

So I went all out and I bought — and this still makes me angry — I bought 200 full size candy bars, because I wanted to be the house that kids came to and remembered 30 years later saying, “Oh my God, that one place, gave us full size Snickers bars!” So I got all ready. I had everything set. I faced my fear of Halloween and my husband and I sat in the dining room and drank wine on Halloween night waiting for kids who never showed up. We didn’t get one trick-or-treater. Not one.

Q: So how is this Halloween going to be different?

Lancaster: Halloween, I’m not really going to do this year. I’m on deadline for another book. It’s called, “I Regret Nothing.”

Wendy McClure on orphan trains, Laura Ingalls Wilder and ‘un-remembering’

Author Wendy McClure’s writing is expansive — not only because her books cover vast geographic areas and topics, but also because she writes for both children and adults with depth and understanding.

Best known for her memoir “The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie” and her “Wanderville” series, McClure also writes a pop culture column for Bust magazine and edits The Boxcar Children books for Albert Whitman and Co.

Phil Hartman biographer Mike Thomas

In this episode, we explore the life of comedian Phil Hartman (“Saturday Night Live,” “NewsRadio,” “The Simpsons”) with biographer Mike Thomas of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation, recorded live at the Book Stall in Winnetka, but to hear the full interview, listen to “The Big Questions” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or YouTube.

With this book, Thomas faced the biographer’s quandary of, “How close can you get to the truth of someone’s life?”

A biographer is never sure how close he gets to the truth, Thomas said.

“You can put all the facts together and express them as eloquently as you can, but you can never truly know,” Thomas said. “I didn’t really know how close I got until I started getting feedback from his brothers and his ex-wives and his friends, people who really knew him … who told me, ‘You brought him back on the page.’ ”

But Hartman’s legacy was the fearlessness he brought to roles, often the pompous blowhards he became known for.

“Phil was utterly committed to whatever he did. Jan Hooks told me, even the smallest parts, he played them for blood,” Thomas said.

But the way Hartman died overshadows his career.

Unlike fellow SNL alums John Belushi or Chris Farley, Hartman was not an icon of excess. His lifestyle was not a beacon of caution, which made his death even more shocking. In 1998, Hartman’s third wife Brynn shot him while he slept, then killed herself hours later, leaving two small children.

“Nobody truly had a grasp on his third marriage and how much discord there actually ways,” Thomas said. “So when he was killed, they were stunned. And they are stunned to this day.”

The Big Questions is part of the Sun-Times Media Podcast Network.