2 Nov 2012

Author Interview: Lisa Rumsey Harris

The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume
By Lisa Rumsey Harris


Treasure Blume is a pear-shaped first-grade teacher with a love of embroidered sweaters and an awkward tendency to blurt out whatever she's thinking. And she has a family curse (or gift, depending on who you talk to); everyone who meets her (over puberty but under Alzeheimer's) initially dislikes her.

If you ask her grammy, Tabiona Blume—passer of the gift, keeper of the family lore, and star of the elite over-sixty dance team "Ruby's Red Hot Chili Steppers”—she’ll say it's a blessing. But Treasure isn't buying her explanation. Especially since Grammy Blume hasn't exactly embraced the gift in her own life. 
Treasure leaves St. George, Utah bound for Las Vegas and her first job, where she referees show-and-tell, creates Sneetch shirts for the Dr. Seuss Party, and tangles with Bonnie B. Baumgartner, the school secretary.  But when Grammy Blume gets kicked out of her retirement community and has to move in with her, Treasure gets tutored in the power and pain of her unlikely gift.

With her life full of kids and codgers, Treasure has given up on ever falling in love. And so has Dennis Cameron, a divorced chef who sinks from near culinary stardom to working with the lunch ladies in the school’s cafeteria to be near his daughter, Micaela, a student in Treasure’s class. At first Dennis (like everyone else) can’t see anything redeemable in Treasure. He’s busy juggling the demands of his six-year-old daughter, his terminally-ill mother, and his selfish, plastic ex-wife. But somehow, the more he comes in contact with Treasure, the less he dislikes her, until finally he finds himself falling in love with her. Treasure and Dennis's relationship is full of spats and spurts. Together they share little kindnesses, verbal blow-outs, wet pants emergencies, dinner with Filipino refugees, dancing grannies, and a blizzard in Vegas. As Dennis watches Treasure, he begins to see how she can find beauty in the most unlikely places. And that, he learns, is her real gift.

Author Bio

Lisa Rumsey Harris grew up writing stories and riding horses in Southeastern Idaho. She received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English from Brigham Young University, where she now teaches writing classes. Lisa lives in Orem Utah, with her ancient Siamese cat, her husband (who cooks nearly as well as Dennis) and her two adorable daughters. When Lisa began writing this book, her oldest daughter was in first grade. Her youngest daughter finished first grade this year. Check out her world at www.treasureblume.com or on facebook at Lisa Rumsey Harris, author.

If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
That’s a tough question. Can I raise the dead? If so, I’d work with Olive Ann Burns, author of Cold Sassy Tree. She had this amazing way of capturing poignancy and humor all in the same book. And I’d like her character, Grandpa Blakeslee, to meet my character, Grammy Blume.

What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I’m an owl. I write from about 10p.m. to 2 a.m. usually during the summer months (in fall and winter, I’m teaching and that absorbs my focus). During the day, I keep a notebook within reach so I can jot down ideas or scenes or dialogue. Sometimes, when my husband gets home early, he’ll give me a gift: several hours of uninterrupted daylight writing time. When that happens, I grab my laptop and run away from home.

What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
The hardest part of writing for me is not checking my email and looking at facebook. It takes some time to immerse myself in the world of book. But once I’m there, it’s hard to come back out of it. That’s why I try to write at night, when my children won’t need me. During the day, I’ll go somewhere that I know doesn’t have wifi so that I won’t be distracted.

When and why did you first start writing?
Honestly, I can’t not write. It’s always been part of who I am. When I was seven, I won a young author’s award for my elementary school. Looking back, I realize that my story, titled Locked in the Room of December, was a bit edgy for a second grader. But instead of sending me to the school psychologist, they sent me to a writer’s day camp where I met real live published authors. Thanks, Mrs. Brim, for giving me that opportunity.

How did you come up with the idea for the book your book?
Treasure Blume was born when I had a no good, very bad, horrible day, during which I felt like everyone I met hated me. I remember coming home and thinking, “Wow, I’m glad everyday isn’t like today.” And then I began to wonder, “But what if it was?” I spent hours digging in my garden that afternoon, and when I came in, Treasure came with me. That night, I wrote about 20 pages of background material (that never made it into the book) just so I could get to know her better.
Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading student papers. But yes, I love reading. My kindle is my lifeline. I have to have a book or I feel panicky. I’m usually reading several books at once. Right now, I’m reading Jennifer Chiaverini’s Circle of Quilters. I’m also reading War and Peace (great for the nights that I can’t sleep). And I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess and Ally Condie’s Reached.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Keep working to make your characters real, distinct, and believable. If you don’t believe in the reality of your characters, neither will anyone else.

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