New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin turns memories of her beloved mother-in-law into a gentle story in The Christmas Clock. The author's first hardcover novel sensitively addresses the challenge of Alzheimer's disease and illustrates how love heals and restores hope.
The Christmas Clock is a departure from your usual writing. What inspired you to write this story?
My husband’s mother, a wonderful lady, had Alzheimer’s disease. I saw first-hand what a terrible disease it was. Watching her slip away became the kernel of an idea for this story.
What meaning does Christmas have for you? What are some of your family’s traditions?
We always have a real Christmas tree. There is something about the scent of pine and candles. We cook a turkey and have the whole family over on Christmas Day and also plan something special on Christmas Eve.
Is there a special clock in your life that has special meaning to you?
My mother collected antique clocks. They all had special meaning for her. Though she is no longer with us, I felt that the clock in the story could have a similar special meaning for Lottie.
What glimpses of Kat Martin are there in this book?
Well, I love Christmas and to me it’s a very special time of year. I am a true romantic and I love happy endings. You will find one in every one of my books.
The book begins and ends with an adult Teddy recalling a series of significant events that forever impacted his life and the lives of those around him. Can you describe a time in your life that you can see that all the pieces fell into place at the right time?
I would say that meeting my husband was the significant event that changed my life. Because of him I started writing. With his encouragement, I’ve continued a career that I feel is my life’s calling.
One theme throughout The Christmas Clock is returning—Sylvia Winters returns to her hometown, Joe Dixon returns after prison, they both return to college, Sylvia and Joe return to each other, as do the Culvers. What significance does the idea of returning have to you?
Sometimes returning to a place completes the circle. Unfinished problems are resolved. Unfinished relationships are made whole. Returning can be a healing process.
Home also serves as a significant theme throughout the book. Syl moves home. Teddy needs a home. Joe and Syl want to create a home. Even the Culvers find each other by creating homes for birds. What does home mean to you?
Home is a place that lives inside us! A place where we can feel safe, somewhere we feel connected to our past. Some of us go home, some of us don’t, but the notion of home stays with us throughout our lives.
A third theme involves the loss of significant relationships—grandparent, parent, child, lover, even the loss of self through disease and prison. How have you learned to deal with loss?
People deal with loss in different ways. My way has always been to look forward, to think of the future, rather than dwell in the past. I would hope that is what my lost loved ones would want me to do.
The Culvers, who have been married for many years, live estranged lives. In your opinion, what does it take to keep a marriage healthy, happy and fulfilled?
Spending time together. Being able to forgive each other. We are all bound to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing at one time or another. Love each other unconditionally. That is the key.
What unique challenges did you encounter in writing The Christmas Clock?
I did a great deal of research on Michigan, cervical cancer and, of course, Alzheimer’s disease. Putting it all together was also a challenge.
How does writing fulfill you?
It’s like putting puzzle pieces together. Once the story is completed, there is a terrific feeling of satisfaction. It is even more gratifying when readers enjoy the book.