Pam Glass, an editor at Christian Book Previews and friend of the author, spoke with Lynn Bowen Walker about her newest book, Queen of the Castle.
CBP: How did you come to write this book?
Lynn: I actually wrote the book that I really needed to read. I felt that as a homemaker, especially when I was a young, new homemaker, I really did not know what I was doing and I was really looking for some guidance. I looked to books for help, and I found a lot of good books, but they were very specific to one part of homemaking. There are a lot of good books on parenting out there, some good books on how to be organized, some good books on how to put together a nice meal; but I really wanted one book that would kind of describe the whole of my job as a homemaker.
I think being a homemaker involves so many different skills that we’re supposed to know, and I didn’t feel like I knew very much about any of them. I knew how to make banana bread, I knew how to make chocolate chip cookies and that was about it. So as I struggled with how to be a better homemaker and looked for books that would help me, when I couldn’t find it I finally felt that I needed to write it.
CBP: Where did the idea for this particular book come from in terms of style and how you put it together?
Lynn: I’ve always loved reading magazines; I always clip out articles about “How to make the Fourth of July more fun for your family,” and so I have piles and piles of magazine clippings around, and I think I enjoy the seasonal format because I know what I’m thinking about in the middle of summer is “what do I do with my kids this summer?” And what I’m thinking about in December is, “How do you make a prime rib?” I’m thinking about totally different things at different times of the year. So to me, the nature of the job of homemaker really lent itself to a seasonal approach. And from there, it was a lot of trial and error of coming up with the specific format. As I read other women’s books on homemaking, some of them have such good things to say, such good insights, I really wanted to include those, and I wanted to encourage other women to seek out those other books too. So I hope that the sidebars in my book do that.
CBP: So would you classify it as more of a magazine-style format?
Lynn: I think I would. Or like an almanac. I think of it as a reference book because even after I wrote it I would think, “Oh, let me see what I wrote about stress because I’m going through a really stressful week right now.” So I would refer back to it a lot, even before it was in this final form. And even now, it’s only been out a month or so, but I have it my kitchen with my cookbooks because some of my very favorite chocolate recipes are in there!
CBP: What have been some of the influences on your writing, stylistically and in content?
Lynn: There have been a couple of homemaking writers that I really, really like. One is a lady named Gladys Taber who died in the ‘70’s or ‘80’s. She wrote a lot during the 1950’s, ‘60’s; she wrote for women’s magazines, a regular column just about life with her dogs, and going outside and feeding the birds, and washing the dishes. She took everyday things and kind of made them magical to me. She really enjoyed the seasons; you could see it in her writing. So she was one. Another gal who wrote about homemaking that I just love is Phyllis McGinley, and she was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, but she also wrote some essays that were collected into a book called Sixpence in Her Shoe. And she really gave the idea of homemaking a real dignity that I don’t think very many writers do or did. And so I really appreciate her, and the fact that she was so accomplished in the world to win a Pulitzer Prize, and yet she still claimed that homemaking was the hardest thing in the world, and the most important thing in the world. So I feel like she was a kindred spirit. And then there’s always Erma Bombeck and Peg Bracken. Those women are just a blast to read.
CBP: How is this book different from others on the market that try to do the same thing?
Lynn: I think what makes it different is the breadth of what it covers. I do talk about being a mom, but it’s not a book just for moms. I talk about trying to better at keeping house, which is a struggle for me. . .
CBP: (She’s lying!)
Lynn: (laughs) I’m not! But it’s not just a book about housekeeping. And I have different recipes in there, ways to make holidays special, but it’s not just a book about holidays and cooking. So to me it’s just the breadth of what I attempted to cover. I attempted to cover the whole range of things that women are responsible for in the home. And I also really tried not to just have practical ideas, which is the magazine approach. You know, “Ten Tips to Making a More Fun Holiday.” But I really tried to add in a lot of encouragement and a lot of valuing what the homemaker does, because I don’t think our society does that at all. I think that homemakers are almost laughed at in a way and I don’t think people value the job that we do. So I tried to do that in the book.
CBP: What do you consider to be the most important contributions you make through your writing?
Lynn: I think if I can give a discouraged homemaker some encouragement that her job is important, that she might feel that she’s not doing it perfectly, that she’s doing such a small, insignificant thing in the mind of the world; but if it can give her just a glimpse of what a huge thing she’s doing by raising kids, by trying to make a nice home, by loving her husband; if she can just get a glimpse of the importance of her work at home, that will be so satisfying to me.
CBP: What did you learn from writing this book?
Lynn: I have learned so much from writing this book! My family could tell what chapter I was working on by what was going on around the house. One of the major changes that really stuck was that I used to think the dinner hour wasn’t very important, mainly because it’s really hard when your kids are so involved in sports and music, as every Mom knows. There is no dinner hour anymore. I think in writing the dinnertime chapter I became convinced that even if it’s frozen pizza or even if it’s dinner together at McDonald’s, just having that time together is important. And I do notice a difference in our home on the nights when I have made the attempt to have dinner together we talk more and you find out things you wouldn’t find out otherwise.