Linda MacKillop holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Her articles and essays have appeared in magazines and journals such as The Philosophical Mother, The MacGuffin, and Relief Journal, and her writing has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best American Essays.
In this interview, Linda talks with us about her debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon.
FF: Your debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon starts with a simple dedication. Can you talk about your dedication?
Bill is my husband of 40 years and someone who has never wavered in his support of my writing even when I felt ready to quit. We have gone through all the ups and downs of marriage and arrived in a place where we love each other as dearly as when we first met. One of the ways he has shown me great love is by recognizing my passion to write. He sees me and honors me by supporting this desire. It was only appropriate the book be dedicated to him.
FF: Your book is truly intergenerational, why was it so important for you to mix generations?
I was privileged to have grandparents live close by all my growing up years and play a major role in my life. They were some of my favorite people, and our relationship cultivated in me a great comfort with older people and a respect for their stories. All four of them attended my wedding! I would love older people always to be seen and shown dignity and known as folks who have a meaningful past and something to share with us all. As I age, I certainly don’t want to be invisible to others. I still have something to offer.
FF: Introduce us to some of your characters, like Eva, Breezy, Ian, Isabella, or any others you want to tell us about.
I love the values of free-spirited Breezy and her ability to give and sacrifice to others. And I love quirky Mabel with her unusual idea of visiting the funerals of strangers to support the lonelies, something inspired by attending my own father’s funeral after he had lost his family and career. He had left our home state of Massachusetts and died in Florida away from everyone who knew him. Only a mere smattering of people attended his service as if he had no value and no past. The joy of fiction is being able to restore something broken. I sent Mabel and Eva to boost the crowds of folks who otherwise would be forgotten at their last moment. I like to imagine they might have boosted the crowd at my father’s funeral.
FF: Were any of the characters based on people that you knew/know?
George was lightly based on an elderly uncle my older brother lived with for a time. Eva is a composite character, bearing characteristics of several people I have known in my life. I call them “recurring characters” in my life. I’ve had practice trying to navigate difficult relationships.
FF: The setting can often be like a character, tell us about how Try Again Farm became such a life-giving part of the story.
I wanted the farm to reflect the effects our homes have on us and that sense of safety and permanency. I think they mirror our longing for our forever home. I wanted the farm to be a place that reminded everyone of their safest places, which is why in the novel guests arrive and describe the place as feeling so familiar to them as if they had been there before. I did think of the farm as a character. It’s based on an actual piece of property my husband and I wanted to buy in Massachusetts when we were younger, but it was run-down and needed too much work. Again, the joy of fiction is I fixed it up on the page.
FF: In the book, Eva really struggles, with her age and the forgetfulness that comes with it. Yet, you kept her dignity. Why was that so important?
I think it’s important to honor all people, no matter their age, background, ethnicity, what they’ve done, or their level of difficulty. I’m still learning how to put this into practice. It’s about loving people who often get forgotten or overlooked in life, becoming invisible to others. The characters in the novel decide to move toward Eva without being put off by her abrasive personality, giving her the opportunity to decide whether she’ll receive their love and acceptance.
FF: Relationships between the ages are getting harder and harder to navigate, why do you think they are still so important in these times we are in?
It isn’t just the elderly who need young people to move out of isolatino. Young people often want to be recognized and seen by older people. My husband hosts a quarterly men’s group that gets together to discuss how God is speaking to them through poetry, prose, or art. Often the gathering spans five decades. It isn’t only the 60-year-olds who love being included with the millennials. The 20-year-olds love hearing about the lives of the older men, several of whom have had significant jobs and navigated challenging histories. These older men are farther down the road saying, “The way may be hard and filled with bumps and curves, but the Promises still stand.”
FF: What surprised you most about writing your debut novel?
Mabel. She appeared on the scene uninvited. Doesn’t that just sound like her? And I loved her from the start and couldn’t imagine the story without her. It’s like she knew Eva needed her.
What also surprised me about writing a debut novel is how many decisions you must make about the story’s direction and how it never feels quite finished. I believe it was Maya Angelou who said if she could make changes on even her published work, she would do it.
FF: You have wonderful endorsements, how did it feel to have so many people supporting your book, even before publication?
Such an honor! And maybe a hint of surprise. Some endorsers saw strengths in the book I didn’t see myself. The endorsements are all written by writers I admire, so their words were a great encouragement.
FF: What faith message do you want readers to take away from The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon?
Many threads in the book highlight the theme of second chances. Don’t we all want and need these? I also hope readers would be inspired by Breezy’s and Mabel’s choice to lean into relationships with difficult people without being repelled. Don’t believe challenging folks really want to be abandoned. Believe that your very persistence and friendship might have the potential to heal. According to attorney Bryan Stevenson, author of the book Just Mercy, we’re all more than the worst thing we’ve done. We need to see people as complex with complicated stories that might help to explain their behavior. Again, I’m imperfectly learning how to put this into practice.
The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon
Genres: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Release Date: May 17, 2022
Eva wants to run away from her life—if only she could remember how!
Failing memory has forced Eva Gordon to move in with her granddaughter, Breezy. But Eva hates the bustle of Boston. All she wants to do is move back to her quiet, cozy Cape Cod home and be left alone.
Then Breezy announces she’s getting married, and they’ll be moving to her new husband’s rundown family farm, where he lives with an elderly uncle. They’ll be one big family–but only Breezy and Brent think it’ll be a happy one.
It’s all too much for Eva. Too much change, too much togetherness, too much of an over-crowded life she never wanted. But as her desire for privacy collides with her worsening memory, Eva may find herself in a pickle she can’t get out of. Can an unlikely cast of misfit characters step in to woo Eva from her self-imposed isolation?
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