Monday, April 9, 2012

Dinner with Lisa: An Interview with Author Rod L. Prendergast

On tour now with VBT Cafe, we welcome Rod L. Prendergast as he joins us with a little chat about his book, Dinner With Lisa.

MK: From where did the inspiration or idea for Dinner with Lisa come?

RP: Have you ever wished you’d written down the stories told you by your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles? I know I do. For years I listened to my relatives recounting their childhoods, and talk of the unusual characters they’d known. People with nicknames like Hateful Dan, The Black Prince and Dumb Dora.

One day I finally began to write down the recollections of my parents and their older siblings, all now in their seventies and eighties. As the cache of tales grew – a great uncle’s experience in WW1, my mother’s memories of the neighborhood corner store, my father’s memories of life on a dairy farm – I saw a connecting thread. Before long, I was researching the time periods in which the stories took place – and was inspired to write Dinner with Lisa.

MK: What is it about the 1930’s that drew you to write about that moment in history?

RP: As I mentioned, many of the stories I heard from my relatives were set during the Great Depression. The second reason is because the topic is timely. Over the last few years, there has been concern that globally we are teetering on the edge of an economic catastrophe.

MK: What is your favorite scene in the book, Dinner with Lisa?

RP: I’m not sure that I have a favorite scene. I enjoyed writing every part of the story. However, I am very pleased how everything comes together in the end.

MK: How is Dinner with Lisa different than other depression-era stories?

RP: First, Dinner with Lisa takes place in Canada. Second, the novel touches on unique topics such Black Blizzards and how cattle suffered from hardware disease – eating doorknobs and gate hinges just to get something in their stomach. Most importantly, the novel is not depressing. It is infused with small scenes of humor and most importantly, Dinner with Lisa is about hope.

MK: Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Joseph Gaston is going to get through his biggest challenges?

RP: Joseph is about as honorable man as you will find. He does everything he can to keep his family together and keep them from starving. Mostly he does this by sacrificing himself and his own happiness. It’s not until he confronts his fears that his life takes a turn for the better.
MK: Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? Who and why?

RP: I suppose my favorite Character in Dinner with Lisa is The Great Henri. Like his brother Joseph, The Great Henri is an honorable man, however, he understands the necessity of humor when facing difficult situations.

MK: What has been your greatest challenge in writing Dinner with Lisa? What has been your greatest reward?

RP: My greatest challenge was to accurately describe life during the Great Depression. Having readers comment that they felt the despair of the time has been the greatest reward.

MK: You’ve taken a couple of sabbatical’s during which times you wrote. Do you feel that getting away ‘from it all’ made a difference in your writing? In what way?  

RP: AB-SO-LUTE-LY. It boils down to one thing. Time to think. Time to understand how my characters will react. How a story should progress. Most importantly it provides me the time to recall what’s most important in my own life.

MK: What do you have in store next for your readers?

RP: I have a couple of things I’m working on. The first is a children’s bedtime story inspired by my son, who doesn’t sleep (there’s a picture of him on my website at The other is a fictionalized account of one of the most famous people who ever lived. I’d like to tell you more, but I need you to be intrigued. The job of a storyteller, after all, is to keep the reader interested!

Thank you for joining us today Rod! Now for a little something extra from the author.

·       Enter to win one electronic copy of Dinner with Lisa. “Like” R. L. Prendergast’s facebook fan page (find the link at and write on the fan page wall to confirm entry. The winner will be drawn at random. Contest ends April 30, 2012.

The Book:
In the disastrous economic times of the 1930s, Joseph Gaston, a young widower with four children, arrives in the small town of Philibuster seeking security for his family. Instead, he faces barriers everywhere. He does his best despite great adversity, but the strain of feeding and protecting his family whittles away his strength. Finally, destitution forces him to consider giving up his children in order to save them. Enraged by his situation, he attempts one last desperate act—on the night he learns about the mysterious Lisa.

Heart wrenching, humorous and historically authentic, Dinner with Lisa incorporates the crucial issues of the depression: poverty, unemployment, drought and racism. In the midst of love and loyalty, trickery and despair, the ultimate message of the novel is one of hope and the courage to survive even the worst odds.

He looked up when Nolan suddenly exclaimed, “Dad!”
“What?” Joseph felt drained as he pulled the overalls from the suitcase.
“The baby isn’t moving!” Nolan sounded alarmed.
Clare had been crying all day; for the first time she was silent. “She’s sleeping,” Joseph said, his attention still on Sarah.
Nolan’s brown eyes were wide with panic. “But, Dad, she’s not breathing!”
The words brought Joseph instantly back to his feet. Bending over the baby, he studied her closely. Nolan was right. Clare showed no sign of life. Quickly Joseph put his face to Clare’s nose and mouth, and waited—prayed—for her to exhale. Nothing. Were her lips blue or was he imagining it? He wasn’t sure. “Christ!” he muttered, as he grabbed the limp infant from Nolan’s arms and shook her gently.
“Did she swallow something?” he barked at his son, startling nearby passengers.
“No,” Nolan said tensely, as he watched his father part the baby’s lips and investigate her mouth with his fingers.
Joseph balled up Cole’s overalls and placed them under Clare’s shoulders, arching her head back and opening her windpipe. In an effort to force air into her lungs, he drew her arms up and over her head. When that didn’t work he flipped her onto her belly, turned her head to the side, placed her hands beneath her chin, and lifted her elbows to expand her lungs. All this took less than a minute.
Joseph had never been so frightened. He had done everything he’d been taught in the army, but Clare still didn’t respond. Oblivious to the silence in the car and the distress of those around him, he began to strike Clare’s back. Again and again he struck, each time a little harder. By now the baby’s small hands and feet were grey.
“Help! Someone please help!” he screamed, looking around pleadingly. “My baby’s not breathing!”
The other passengers were frozen with shock. No one moved.

Genre – Historical Fiction
Format – Print & Ebook
Publisher – Dekko Publishing
Release Date – November 1, 2011

Website –

1 comment:

  1. I'm certain I'm not alone in never reading a Depression-era book set in Canada. Sounds interesting. Thank you for joining us today Rod!