Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Author Kristina McMorris Visits

Today I’d like to welcome author Kristina McMorris as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress as she makes a stop on her virtual book tour with WOW! Women on Writing.

Kristina’s latest release is LETTERS FROM HOME, which was inspired by her grandparents’ courtship during World War II. At the end of the post there will be information on a giveaway from Kristina. Here’s a brief synopsis of LETTERS FROM HOME: “Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn't need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she's set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation—cut short by the soldier's evident interest in Betty—but Liz can't forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from "Betty" are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.”

Kristina joins us today to talk about a “message in a cake” dealing with rationing during World War II.

The recipe on the page read "Flourless Sugarless Chocolate Cake." My first thought, while perusing my grandmother's cookbook from the '40s, was that the publisher had left out an essential word. Surely the more accurate name would be "Flourless Sugarless Tasteless Chocolate Cake." (In some baking circles, this is also known as "cardboard"; to the average child, "punishment.")

Once my initial sense of disgust passed, however, I began to view the dessert in a different light. For beneath its reflection of rationing from World War II lay a reminder of greater significance.

The nation, after all, was being gripped by tragedy and fear and
uncertainty. Freedom hung in the balance, a wager determined by battles on distant shores. Yet on the home front, it was a woman's role to forge on with diligence and grace.

She planted Victory gardens and attended bond rallies; she donated scraps for metal drives and mended clothes to extend their wear; she listened to casualty reports on the radio, praying not to hear a familiar name, and, limited by ration coupons, she nourished her family with home-cooked meals.

So where did this sad excuse of a cake fit into the equation? One could easily criticize the dish, a wasteful indulgence during a time of conservation. What justifiable purpose could it have served?

The answer is simple: a source of hope. Whether for a birthday or graduation, perhaps for an Army son visiting on leave, a dessert of the like offered a semblance of normalcy. A reminder of happier times, a promise of how life would be once again. A spark of joy and peace in even the most tumultuous of times.

I suppose letters, in many ways, were no different. The treasured letters my grandmother saved from my late grandfather, all sent during his WWII Naval service, had provided similar hope and joy. His touching messages, in fact, inspired me to pen my first novel—sixty years after he poured his heart out onto those pages.

When tomorrow held no guarantees, people appreciated what they had: the roof over their heads, the freedoms afforded by others, and the loved ones who might never come home.

No doubt, there remains much to be learned from those who sacrificed for us all, a powerful reminder displayed in a flourless sugarless cake.

Kristina, thank you for such a powerful reminder. Sometimes it’s not so much what we do, but just the fact of doing something for others. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

Let me give you a bit of background on Kristina. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Her foray into fiction began in the fall of 2006 as a result of interviewing her grandmother for the biographical section of a self-published cookbook intended as a holiday gift for the family. Inspired by her grandparents' wartime courtship, Kristina penned her first novel, a WWII love story titled LETTERS FROM HOME

This award-winning debut is scheduled for release in trade paperback from Kensington Books today (Feb. 22) in the U.S. and from Avon/HarperCollins (May 5) in the UK. Various book club rights have been sold to Reader's Digest and Doubleday, and the film rights are represented by the prestigious Creative Artists Agency of Los Angeles.

Kristina's book is available for purchase at Amazon, B&N, IndieBound, Books-a-Million, and at bookstores nationwide. A portion of the proceeds will benefit United Through Reading®, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories for their children.

For more on Kristina, check out her website at http://www.kristinamcmorris.com/

As a part of her book tour, Kristina is offering a copy of her book to one lucky visitors (U.S or Canadian residents only) who comments on her post between now and 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, March 1. Be sure to include your e-mail address with your comment if it’s not included in your profile. So what are your thoughts? Any questions for Kristina?

Here’s a video of Kristina talking about writing and LETTERS FROM HOME. Enjoy.


  1. Kristina, thanks so much for guest blogging. I love where your inspiration came from for this story. Wishing you much success.

  2. Nice reminder of the sacrifices that were made during the war. And nice premise for your story--the ghostwritten love letters. Best wishes for your release!

  3. Most of us can't imagine a time of such strict rations. But you're right, they left out the tasteless part.

  4. Mason - Thanks for hosting Kristina.

    Kristina - Thanks for sharing that look at life during a time of real sacrifice and upheaval. What a fascinating idea, too, to use letters. I think letters are such a window on people that to use them that way (window? Not a real window?) is intriguing. I wish you much success.

  5. Letters from Home sounds wonderful. The author Kristina is beautiful. The war story is true: we all need hope.

    And thanks, Mason, for your well-spoken, heartwarming comment just now on MY post. Have a great day!!
    Ann Best, Author @ Long Journey Home

  6. I am captivated with this wonderful story. The legacy of these unforgettable letters are extremely meaningful and precious. When I read about the sacrifices and the lives of these amazing individuals it makes me appreciate everything that they made possible for our generation. What an enthralling and beautiful novel which captures the era and the lives of the people. best wishes. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

  7. I love the premise. In this modern age, letter-writing is considered quaint. But, to me, texts,email,tweets... just are not the same. They don't have that personal touch and tangibility.

    Receiving a letter in the mail is a great feeling. I was very fond of writing long letters to family/friends and have kept all of them. I have a box full of letters from hubby that I treasure.

    Kristina-- are you a letter-writer? Do you keep the letters you have received?

  8. Letters from Home is a treasure. This novel is meaningful and extraordinary. Letters are the best, and most wonderful method of communication. They express our deepest feelings and touch the individual within their heart. This book and the era is memorable.saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. This story about WWII sounds intriguing - good luck to Kristina!

  10. I enjoyed this interview with Kristina. I love reading novels set in the WWII era. Letters From Home is a book I'd love to read. I still write letters as does my hubby. He has quite a few of the letters and cards his mother received from his father while he was stationed in Europe during WWII. Huge congratulations, Kristina, and all the very best.


  11. Mason - Thanks so much for having me here!

  12. Elizabeth - You're right; they certainly sacrificed a great deal. Thanks for the warm wishes!

    Alex - I've been told the cake is surprisingly "not that bad." But I wouldn't bank on it. LOL.

    Margot - That's a great way to think of the letters: a window, both into people's hearts and the time period. They're like time capsules on paper, aren't they? Thanks for stopping by!

  13. This sounds like a great book. I'm going to have to add this one to my TBR book list. Beautiful cover!

  14. Ann Best - Aww, thanks so much! And when it comes to hope, I couldn't agree with you more.

    Petite - I'm soo happy my post helped spur thoughts of gratitude for such a deserving generation. Thanks for all your kind words!

    Mona - I certainly wish I wrote more letters! With two young children, I have trouble some days finding the time to brush my hair, lol. But I would love to pen more of them, as I fully agree; texts and emails are NOT the same. Thanks for the warm wishes!

  15. Traveler - Wow, I'm so touched by your compliments. Thanks for all your support!

    Dorte - Thank you!

    Pat - Those letters must be amazing to read! I appreciate your kind words, and, as always, am happy we share a connection to the era.

    Susanne - Ooh, my book LOVES being added to TBR piles. Thanks so much!

  16. WWII is my favorite period of American history. So many people made so many sacrifices. I have several relatives who served in the war and that's always made it very real to me. Your book sounds like a wonderful look at the lives of people during that time. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for visiting. (Email in profile.)

  17. I would actually be interested in trying that recipe. I have a WWII cookbook I picked up at FDR's Presidential Library (although I have yet to actually make any of them!). Cannot wait to read your book Kristina! My email is in my profile.

  18. MY father was in the Canadian Navy during WWII but it was before he met my mother. I am always interested in reading more about this time.
    As someone who likes writing and receiving letters, I am sure to appreciate Letters from Home.
    Thanks for your post and best wishes.

  19. Kristina, I am thrilled to read of the success of LETTERS and its subject, one near and dear to my heart. My Uncle was a Marine in WWII, and my Mother remembers quite clearly the Victory garden, the rationing and the other homefront experiences of her childhood. When my Grandmother passed away in 1999 (at the age of 99 1/2), going through her things we came across an actual ration coupon book. My mother recalled that they received extra gas rations because my Grandfather was a supervisor at the Scranton coal mine, thus deemed important to the war effort. She remembered gathering tin and rubber and the blackouts and patrols of the wardens. I firmly believe that the efforts made by the civilians helped them feel that they were contributing to the war effort, the country's success and doing their best to support the men and women who were at the fronts (and I do mean women, because there were nurses there, too!). Your post is wonderfully poignant and points out the spirit with which this "Greatest Generation" coped at home. I congratulate you on the success of LETTERS and on being a wonderful example of romance set amid this most tumultous time in the world's history. Brava! (lisekimhorton@gmail.com)

  20. I love her inspiration for writing. I wish I'd been able to spend more time talking to my grandparents before they passed. There are a lot of holes in our geneology.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  21. Wow. I'm overwhelmed by all of your comments. Thank you for sharing such amazing memories of your relatives from the war, as well as your kind wishes!

  22. From a fellow Pacific Northwest dweller, this book really does sound fantastic! Thanks!

  23. Thanks for the post! Letters From Home sounds like a wonderful book and it came from such meaningful inspiration too!



I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.