Please welcome women’s fiction author Kathleen Basi to the Spotlight this week to chat about her debut, A Song for the Road
Author Name: Kathleen Basi
Book Title: A Song for the Road
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: May 11, 2021
Publisher: Alcove Press
Happy launch day! How would you describe A Song for the Road?
A year after losing her entire family, Miriam Tedesco discovers a “flip-a-coin” road trip app written for her by her daughter and promptly embarks on a cross-country musical pilgrimage to the place her family died. Along the way, she meets new friends, faces an old nemesis, and learns what it really means to love someone.
What sparked the idea for the book?
I woke up early one morning from a vivid, emotional dream in which I was standing in a beautiful place at the end of a long journey, looking at the place where my family had died. I knew instantly that I had the kernel of something truly beautiful, but it took several years and many iterations before I was able to draw Miriam’s story out of that single, poignant image.
How long did it take for you to write it? What was the research like?
I wrote the first draft in about three months in 2016, but I went through so many revisions over the last four years! I’d send off a round of queries, start writing another book, and have to abandon it to work on more requested revisions.
The initial research for A SONG FOR THE ROAD was tons of fun—deciding on the road trip stops! When you’re writing about places you haven’t necessarily visited yourself—you have to put yourself in that place virtually. I spent a lot of time on Google map street view.
I also had to ask a lot of medical questions, believe it or not. Right through the very last revisions I did for Alcove last fall, I kept having to fine-tune a key scene that involved medical knowledge. Fortunately, I have an incredibly devoted friend who is a nurse, and who has read and advised me on that sequence at least a dozen times.
Where do you get ideas for your books?
For me, stories are always born from an emotional response to something in real life. If I encounter something that makes my heart catch, I start thinking, “Could I write a book around that?” One of my incomplete books involves a homeless woman. That story was born from driving past homeless camps near my home and being appalled by the community response. I still hope to finish that book someday.
For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing? What do you love most about it?
Hands down, the hardest part is getting the first draft on paper! I love revision. I mean, I get tired of it, just like anyone else. But revision is where the magic happens. A first draft is a bare-bones structure, a skeleton. Once I have that, I can see the big picture. I glory in reworking, reshaping, and refining.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read A Song for the Road?
I like to say my books are “meaty but uplifting.” This is a story about hope, about rebirth and renewal. Isn’t that what we all need right now? Plus, it’s a road trip. After a year of being stuck at home, doesn’t it sound fun to read about someone driving across the country, meeting people and seeing new places?
How does your profession inform your novel writing?
I am a musician by training—my Bachelors and Masters degrees are in flute. Plus, I am deeply involved in church music work, just like Miriam. So this book is a sort of love song to many of the things that make me who I am.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love photography. I’m no professional, but I sure do enjoy it. Hm, what else? I spent the summer of 2020 pulling crabgrass out of my lawn, one plant at a time. My family thought I was completely nuts, but I maintain that it was therapeutic. As an introvert with four kids, I needed to get away from everyone! I love biking out to isolated places and sitting for a couple hours to recharge my introvert batteries.
Also, my one and only daughter has Down syndrome, so I am on fire about inclusion and I speak regularly to students in the medical and health professions schools here in town. I helped coordinate our very first “Step Up For Down Syndrome” walk.
Wow, you are keeping busy! Have you found time to work on a new project?
Definitely! It’s set in California wine country and traces two women—a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law—who are helping to reopen their family winery after a fire that nearly ruined them.
How are you adjusting to marketing a book during a pandemic?
I have no frame of reference, so I am just going with it!
Where can readers find you?
Thank you, Kathleen! A Song for the Road is out TODAY.
Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away in Kathleen Basi’s debut novel about an unconventional road trip and what it means to honor the ones we love.
It’s one year after the death of her husband and twin teenagers. Miriam Tedesco has lost faith in humanity and herself. When a bouquet of flowers that her husband usually sends her on their anniversary shows up at her work place, she completely unravels. With the help of her best friend, she realizes that it’s time to move past these deaths. Step one is not even cleaning out her family’s possessions, but just to take inventory starting with her daughter’s room. But when she opens up her daughter’s computer, she stumbles across a program written by her daughter to embark on an automated cross country road trip, for her and her husband to take when they would have begun their empty-nesting in a few more months.
Seeing and hearing the video clips of her kids embedded in the program, Miriam is determined to take this trip for her children. Armed with her husband’s guitar, her daughter’s cello, and her son’s unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to grieve the family she fears she never loved enough. Along the way she meets a young, pregnant hitchhiker Dicey whose boisterous and spunky attitude reminds Miriam of her own daughter and forces her to look harder at what she had rather than what she’s lost.
Tornadoes, impromptu concerts, and an unlikely friendship… whether she’s prepared for it or not, Miriam’s world is coming back to life. But as she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she initially set out on this journey, she has to confront the possibility that the best way to honor her family may be to accept the truths she never wanted to face.
Hopeful, honest, and tender, A Song for the Road is about courage, vulnerability, and forgiveness, even of yourself, when it really matters.
Author and liturgical composer Kathleen M. Basi is mother to three active boys (read that: always breaking something) and one chromosomally-gifted daughter. A proud native of flyover country and an honest-to-goodness farm girl (as in cattle, hogs, chickens, grain bins and a combine), she spent her childhood climbing trees, jumping off hay bales and chasing cattle back into their pasture when they broke through fences. (But she never once tipped a cow.)
Road trips are familiar territory for her, as she took several 3-week RV trips with her grandparents. She saw more national parks in her first 10 years than many people see in their entire childhood, and she loves exploring new places. (Especially the food.)
Her degrees are in flute performance, and she has been involved in music for Catholic worship since she was ten years old. She’s been writing stories even longer than that. (School bus. First grade. Orphan Annie fanfic.) She believes the written word and the sung note should make the world a better place. That doesn’t mean pretending ugliness doesn’t exist. The world is messy, and pretending otherwise just makes it harder for everyone. She aspires to acknowledges the reality of the world while pointing toward what makes it most beautiful.
Her nonfiction has appeared in a number of magazines, Chicken Soup for the Soul and on NPR’s All Things Considered. Her fiction is represented by Sonali Chanchani and Claudia Cross, and her novel, A SONG FOR THE ROAD, is scheduled for debut in May 2021 with Alcove Press.