1 May 2015

Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen

Burned-out and broke, twenty-two-year-old single mother Anna Jennings moves to her grandparents’ rural home for the summer with her four-year-old son, David. The sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs forces Anna to admit that either she’s lost her mind or she can see her son’s active imagination. Frightened for David’s safety, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon and how best to protect him.
Living right next door is Jamie Presswood, Anna’s childhood friend who has grown much more handsome and hardened than the boy she once knew—and rekindling their friendship proves easier said than done. Between the imaginary creatures stalking her son and her tumultuous relationship with David’s biological father, Anna doesn’t have room in her life or heart for another man. But as David’s visions become more persistent and threatening, Anna must learn to differentiate between which dangers are real and which are imagined, and who she can truly trust.
“Andrea Lochen writes another beautiful book, filled with vivid scenes, unforgettable characters, and oodles of heart. With a page-turning plot and an utterly unique concept, IMAGINARY THINGS entertains, inspires, and provokes thought--a perfect book club pick.” –Lori Nelson Spielman, author of international bestseller The Life List

“Cleverly written with a perfect touch of magic, Imaginary Things will take you on a journey of the unexpected, and leave you contemplating the power of your own mind.” ~Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, authors of Your Perfect Life

"An honest, charming novel that blends reality and magical possibilities, hard struggles and small victories, starting over and daring to dare." --Cathy Lamb, author of Julia's Chocolates

"IMAGINARY THINGS reminded me again and again that the act of raising a child is a love story, a test of strength, and a thrill ride."
– Susanna Daniel, author of Stiltsville
Hi Andrea! Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
IMAGINARY THINGS is the story of Anna Jennings, a young single mother who moves to her grandparents’ rural home for the summer with her four-year-old, David, in tow for financial reasons. Returning to Salsburg reminds Anna of simpler times—fireflies, picnics, Neapolitan ice cream—long before she met her unstable ex and everything changed. But the sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs awakens Anna from this small-town spell, and forces her to believe she has either lost her mind or can somehow see her son’s active imagination. Frightened, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, but what she uncovers along the way is completely unexpected: revelations about what her son’s imaginary friends truly represent and hidden secrets about her own childhood.

What inspired you to write it?
I’m a bit of a daydreamer who likes to ask myself “what if?” questions. In the case of IMAGINARY THINGS, I asked myself, “What if a parent could see her child’s imagination and it was rather frightening? How would she protect him?”

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?

I wish I could claim credit for the gorgeous cover, but the talented designer, Julie Metz, should get all the praise. Beforehand, I created a Pinterest board of images that I felt captured the “feel” of IMAGINARY THINGS and I sent it along to my publisher, hoping it would be helpful. But Metz surpassed my expectations. Not only did she create a cover that depicted the summertime, magical, twilit mood of IMAGINARY THINGS, she also snuck in a hidden clue about the book by having the fireflies outline a certain shape. Go check it out if you haven’t spotted it already. So clever!

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
The young and lovely AnnaSophia Robb for Anna, Taylor Lautner (of Twilight fame) for Jamie, Alex Pettyfer for Patrick, Susan Sarandon for Duffy, Harrison Ford for Winston, and some adorably mischievous, precocious little boy for David.

Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?

Where is the novel set and why did you choose to set it there?
It’s set in the fictional small town of Salsburg, Wisconsin, although it is based loosely on a real small town. I wanted Anna to move from a “big city” (Milwaukee, in this case) to somewhere a little more humble and rural with rolling hills, dairy farms, and parades consisting mostly of tractors and other farm equipment. In a place like this without many distractions or offerings in the way of entertainment, it makes sense that your imagination would really come alive.

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?
Magical realism appeals to me because I like to take ordinary, otherwise realistic people and settings and then throw in a dash of magic. It’s fun for me to imagine what I would do if faced with these bizarre occurrences, and I hope readers feel the same way.

What made you want to become an author?
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a published author one day. I loved reading, and inventing my own stories was just a natural extension of that for me.
How do you come up with character names?
Naming my characters is one of my favorite parts about writing! I obsess over which names are just right for my characters and their personalities. I use several sources to help me generate names: baby name books and websites, the Social Security website which lists what names were popular by decade (going all the way back to the 1880s), and interesting names I encounter in real life.

Name one of your all-time favourite books?
I love The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Not only is it a funny, poignant, inspirational novel, it is also written and narrated by three different, unique voices. I am absolutely in awe of Stockett’s talent.

Who, or what, inspires you?
When I watch the nightly news, I always love those “making a difference” segments where they feature ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things: making meals for the homeless, donating prosthetic limbs to amputee children, helping dogs in shelters find good homes, etc. It’s so uplifting to know that there are good people out there in the world!

Where is your favourite place to write?
Even though I have a perfectly good desk and office, I always seem to prefer to move my laptop to a comfy armchair in our living room. My dog, Maddy, likes to curl up next to me and keep me company while I write.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
Slumdog Millionaire, which was based on the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup. I haven’t read the book though, and as they say, the book is usually better than the movie, so I’m sure it’s also amazing.

Name two of your favourite authors.
Joshilyn Jackson and Kate Morton

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I love baking cupcakes and cakes (I did a Barney the purple dinosaur cake for my three-year-old goddaughter’s birthday last summer), and I’m not going to lie—my buttercream frosting is delicious. You just don’t want to know how much powdered sugar and shortening goes into it!

Who would play you in the movie about your life?
"Amy Smart Delux" by Jesusmajano - Own work
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
I think Amy Smart would be great. She’s wholesome and adorable with a bit of a sassy edge to her.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
Madison is a city on an isthmus. That means there is a lake on either side of it (Lake Monona and Lake Mendota), which makes for some pretty spectacular views and sailing, and some pretty lousy traffic since there’s only one way into and out of the city.

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
I’ve just started my third novel, which I’m very excited about. Like my first two books, it also has a magical premise, although I don’t want to give it away! So all I’ll say is it’s about two sisters and their family lake house which holds a secret, and I’m having so much fun writing it.
Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
I want to be part of a live studio audience, preferably for something funny like Saturday Night Live.
Favorite myth / fairytale?
I love The Little Mermaid, both the Disney version and the more disturbing Hans Christian Andersen version.

Who/What did you want to be when you were a kid?
At age eight, I decided I wanted to become a published author/cartoonist. Since my drawing skills didn’t improve beyond my eight-year-old talents, it’s a good thing I went with the writing aspiration!

Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Penguin 2013), was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “an engaging, satisfying read that explores friendship, love and who we really are when it truly matters.” A draft of the novel won the 2008 Hopwood Novel Award. The Repeat Year was also produced as an audiobook (Brilliance Audio) and translated into a German edition (Ullstein Buchverlage). The film option was sold to Ineffable Pictures. Andrea’s second novel, Imaginary Things, is forthcoming from Astor + Blue in April 2015. Lori Nelson Spielman, bestselling author of The Life List, called it, “a beautiful book, filled with vivid scenes, unforgettable characters, and oodles of heart. With a page-turning plot and an utterly unique concept, Imaginary Things entertains, inspires, and provokes thought—a perfect book club pick.”
Andrea earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was a Colby Fellow. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the Fiction Editor of The Madison Review, a nationally-distributed, student-run literary magazine. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and was recently awarded the UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel.Website

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