Montclair novelist Christina Baker Kline’s tenth book and fifth novel, Orphan Train (Harper Collins), was released on Tuesday and shot to number 13 on Amazon’s Women’s Friendship/Fiction list. The book went into a second printing on publication day and has been getting nothing but positive, effusive buzz around the book world. Plus, it’s Target’s national Book-of-the-Month Club pick for April, and sold 1700 copies there its first day.
Kline will be talking about her book and presenting a slide show about how the came to be tonight at Watchung Booksellers from 7:00 to 8:00.
The novel spotlights a slice of American history few people know much about — trains that carried abandoned children from the East Coast to foster and adoptive families in the Midwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with mixed outcomes. Kline crafts a fictionalized meeting between an elderly woman who rode one of those trains and a modern day teenager, with the story of the trains and orphan experience unfolding as an unlikely friendship develops.
Orphan Train received a four-star review in a recent issue of People magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly said, “Kline’s absorbing new novel is a heartfelt page turner about two women finding a sense of home. Kline lets us live the characters’ experiences vividly through their skin.”
Kline writes from home, and had this to say in an interview at SheWrites: “One of my favorite things about my study on the second floor of my house is the view: I look out over a park with a large oval pond. The dirty, squawking geese look so elegant from this distance! Recently, though, the pond was dredged as part of a someday-we-hope beautification project, so at the moment my view is a mud pit and a lot of dumbfounded geese.”
Baristanet caught up with Kline yesterday, who talked from a taxi in Manhattan, rushing (ironically?) to catch a train back to New Jersey.
Geese aside, Montclair gets high marks from Kline, who has lived here with her husband David, since 1997, raising three sons. “I love that in Montclair there is a community of writers who know what you are going through. The rhythms of a writer’s day, when you are intensely involved in a creative project, are different than for other working people, and here a lot of people understand that.”
The time between finishing the final manuscript in December 2011, and its publication date was especially fraught for Kline. In the intervening 16 months, she underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer, and this past fall, while still in treatment, she lost her mother.
“After coming through all of that, and now going into spring with the book doing so well, is certainly a delightful feeling,” Kline explained. “This is the biggest launch any of my books has ever had. The publisher is really behind it, and combined with social media, it’s been lovely.”
She recently recorded a segment for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” has been busy with dozens of interviews, and recently signed 10,000 copies of her book for Target.
Kline said her publisher purposely selected springtime for the book’s launch, though it wasn’t originally planned that way; in fact Kline was scheduled to write another novel in the interim. But in the end, “It turned out to be perfect timing. My ideas for the next book have now evolved, so I will be writing a different book.”
Orphan Train presented Kline with unique challenges from her other popular novels. “There was a lot of historical research and fact-checking, and I had to get it all absolutely right. Even though writing is always hard, I loved writing the story; but I had a hard time extricating myself from the research.”
Next up for Kline — after a book tour that will take her to Maine, Minnesota and throughout the tri-state area and helping her oldest son Hayden decide on a college (he was just accepted to Yale, both parents’ alma mater) — is editing an anthology for Facing History, and starting that next novel, this time delving into some art research.
Meanwhile, today she’s prepping the slide show for tonight.
By the time we finished our phone interview last evening, her taxi crawling through midtown traffic, she’d missed her train home.