Life-long Milwaukee-area writer Kris Radish made her fiction debut about five years ago and since then, she's published "The Sunday List of Dreams," "Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral," "Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn" and "The Elegant Gathering of White Snows."
Now, she makes her debut in hardcover -- a prestigious event for any author -- with "Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA" in which Addy Lipton -- who is tired of pretty much everything -- decides to make a change and sets out on an unforgettable ride.
Radish, who previously worked as a journalist and a nationally syndicated columnist is already working on her sixth novel and on other projects as she continues to criss-cross the U.S. on a tour to promote "Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA."
We asked Radish about the new book as she prepares for a string of Milwaukee-area appearances.
OMC: You got something of a late start in the world of fiction, but it seems like the novels are really flowing now. Are you finally able to get to the backlog of ideas you've had or are the ideas just coming and fast and furious?
KR: Slap yourself young man! Nothing I do is late -- well, except sometimes I am late for spinning class or to raise my hand if someone needs cupcakes baked. I have been a writer all of my life -- that's 54 years worth -- and started writing novels when I was in my 40s.
As a former working journalist, and the author of two non-fiction books, I have bags and boxes and years' worth of material to use now as a full-time novelist. I am tapping into all of that and more. I am also a working mother, you know? There is no time to sleep late or miss a train. I do have ideas to last more than a lifetime even if I live to be a REALLY old lady!
OMC: Tell us a bit about the new novel. It's rooted in your own past in some ways, isn't it?
Like all of us, Addy is looking for some slice of paradise and she thinks leaving her marriage or kicking it in the face might help. When her husband, not so appropriately named Lucky, wins a trip to Costa Rica she thinks she may be able to mend some parts of her falling apart life. But Lucky fractures his back before they leave and then, well then watch out. Before you know it Addy and her girlfriends have drawn some lines around their own relationships and the he said / she said Parker war is about to begin.
This book has wine, cigars, dancing women and men, hilarity times 12, and a heartfelt trip to paradise that will make everyone think and hopefully feel a lot more.
OMC: Are you excited about your hardcover debut?
KR: I am beyond excited, which is what ... euphoric? I still get a total thrill when I see my name on the cover of a book and to see it on a hardcover is like a double thrill. I may not need an airplane to go on tour.
OMC: Does this one have a Milwaukee connection?
KR: There are always references to places in Wisconsin and Milwaukee in my work. This is where my roots started this writing mess and Parker could be Milwaukee in a heartbeat.
OMC: Let's talk about the city a bit. Do you think there's a good book culture here? Is the closing of the youngest Schwartz shop a sign of a downward turn?
KR: I was saddened about the Schwartz closing. This is a very tough business and Schwartz does an amazing, fabulous, wonderful job for this community -- the readers and writers. I have to believe that people basically want literature and to meet authors and to keep the written word alive. The book culture here is thriving -- the Wisconsin Book Festival is a fine example of that and I have great turnouts at my events and a terrific response to my work.
OMC: You get to see a lot of cities thanks to your book tours. Is the book club scene as active and vibrant as in other places?
KR: Yes it is. There are book clubs everywhere and I do lots of work with them in person and via the phone. I think it's been a great way for readers to reconnect with literature and with other human beings. I have tons of fabulous book club stories and anyone in Wisconsin who is not in one is missing lots of fun and some potential friendships that are life changing.
OMC: And, as always, can you tell us what you're working on now? What can we expect to see next?
KR: My sixth novel, "The Shortest Distance Between Two Women," is almost finished and I am researching the novel after that one, as well. I am also working with a choral group in Michigan -- honest! which is setting some of my poetry from my novels and my personal files to music. They have not asked me to sing yet but I may ask them -- honest again. Please do not call and warn them. I have a few other secret projects in the works but my agent will take away my red wine if I tell you.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.