Interview with Deb Caletti, author of The Secrets She Keeps
23 Jul 2015
Tell us a little bit about your new release, The Secrets She Keeps.
The Secrets She Keeps is about two sisters with troubled marriages who gather at their aunt’s now crumbling Nevada “divorce ranch.” The story is told in alternating time periods – one summer at the present-day ranch, and the summer of 1951, a summer of secrets, when high-society women and Hollywood celebs stayed at such ranches to establish residency and secure difficult-to-get divorces. The Secrets She Keeps reflects contemporary life and marriage as we know it, yet it is also full of Mad Men-esque glamour, desert dust and wild mustangs, cowboys and majestic scenery. More than those things, though, it is a book about the power of female friendships, about self-discovery, and resilience. It’s a story about love – it’s timeless troubles, and it’s stubborn, enduring joys.
What are you currently craving?
Brownies. Coffee. Sourdough toast and butter. A great literary psychological novel, or an exceedingly well-written memoir.
Which book from your childhood or teenage years has stuck with you as an adult?
Ah, many, many! Ramona the Pest, Nancy Drew, The Incredible Journey, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe… I’ll stop.
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?
Since reading Hampton Sides’ fantastic “In the Kingdom of Ice” I’ve been on a huge polar exploration book binge. So, right now I’d say Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic explorer, who was fearless, determined, and, um, irresistibly charming to women. Stuck on an ice floe or on a doomed ship, this was the man you’d want with you. We’d drink whiskey and eat some manly beef, and I’d get to hear those enthralling stories from what was called the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.”
What do you miss the most about Issaquah?
I miss so much about it! I miss the small-town-ness of it, and the way it sat between the three mountains: Tiger, Cougar, and Squak. I miss driving out to my house on long, lovely Hobart Road, seeing those mountains draped in ribbons of fog or yellow morning light. I miss driving past the paragliding school, especially on summer days when I’d have my convertible top down. The colored sails would float above our heads, and we’d try to count how many there were. I miss my house on the salmon-running creek, with the quail and the rabbits (and cougars and bears – eek!), the way it smelled like blackberries at night, and how the creek would vary in sound from a trickle to a thundering roar. The sky was very large there, with so many stars. Issaquah is a quirky little place. I once saw a deer standing at a crosswalk in town. The paragliders sometimes land in trees, and are hanging there when you pass. The salmon return, and people celebrate.
What inspired you to write about Divorce Ranches?
A few years ago, I came across a single line in a book that mentioned a “divorce ranch.” I’d never heard the term before, and out of curiosity, I looked it up. When I learned what they were, and understood the transformative experiences that were had there, I was intrigued. But when I realized how little there was about them in the popular culture, I had one of those writer–moments where your heart beats fast and you think: This. Here was all of my favorite stuff in one beautiful, dusty, desert locale: marriage, heartbreak, women of varying ages supporting one another, and attempting to understand themselves and their relationships.
Who is your favorite couple from literature?
Frog and Toad.
What’s something you’re truly terrible at doing?
How to choose? Playing baseball, showing restraint at the library, wrapping presents.
What’s your favorite quote from The Secrets She Keeps?
“No life was ever ordinary, and no story of love was, either, not even mine. Whether tragic or commonplace, each attempt at the damn thing, each shot at love and life itself was brave. Every effort at it was flawed and messy, complicated, oh yes, occasionally triumphant, often painful, because how else could it be? Look at the mission we were given, look at the stunning, impossible mission – imperfect love in the face of loss. Any sane person with the facts would turn their back on a mission like that. And yet we loved, of course we did. We kept at it; we added our thread to the design. The courage that took – there was nothing ordinary about that.”
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
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