Q&A in Plymouth Sun-Sailor newspaper

View online: http://sailor.mnsun.com/2015/05/08/authors-first-novel-tackles-growing-up-in-the-plymouth-wayzata/

Author’s first novel tackles growing up in the Plymouth, Wayzata area
By Derek Bartos
May 8, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Valerie Kjos is a young Gen X’er in the ‘90s whose life is just barely coming together with her boyfriend. Then his Iranian mother, Goli, comes for a visit that seems to never end.

Valerie must decide what’s more important to her — doing everything her own way or her beloved Naveed with his live-in mother, who might not approve if she knew everything about her.

“Roseheart” is the first novel published by Catherine Dehdashti. The book is “semi-autobiographical” and follows a young woman coming of age in the 90s in the Plymouth/Wayzata area. (Submitted image)
“Roseheart” is the first novel published by Catherine Dehdashti. The book is “semi-autobiographical” and follows a young woman coming of age in the 90s in the Plymouth/Wayzata area. (Submitted image)

However, as she’s about to learn, Goli has secrets of her own.

A story about family, “Roseheart” is the debut novel recently released by Catherine Dehdashti. Dehdashti (born Catherine Kjos) grew up in Plymouth and attended Wayzata public schools.

And while the book is fiction, the story takes place in Wayzata, around Lake Minnetonka and in Minneapolis during the era of the writer’s own coming of age.

Dehdashti has been an essayist, food writer and communications professional for nearly 20 years. She has written for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Midwest Living, Iranian.com, the Minnesota Daily and others. She currently lives in Eagan with her husband and their two children.

“Roseheart” is available through numerous online booksellers and on Kindle. It can also be ordered through any local bookstore.

Dehdashti recently shared her thoughts about her first novel with the Sun Sailor:

You have written for many publications. What made you want to write a novel? How long have you been working on it?

A couple of years ago I found a lump in my breast. It was actually three lumps, strung together like pearls. I’ve always dreamed of writing a novel. Results were benign, but I decided to get cracking on my dream before the next time I’m forced to envision my life coming to an end.

Some of the writing was started 14 years ago in a class I took at the University of Minnesota, and I also got feedback from the late Carol Bly. She said I had “a nice tail flip” to my style, and I never forgot those encouraging words. Teachers at The Loft Literary Center helped me move it forward.

I wrote books on wide-ruled notebook paper as a kid in Plymouth, tying yarn through the punched holes for binding. My little niece, Geneva Fackler, does that now — so watch out for that name in the future.

Who is “Roseheart” targeted to?

It’s about a young woman in the 90s, so the now-grown Generation X women are my main readers. But long-time journalist and food critic Jeremy Iggers read it, and told me he loved it, and some of my other readers told me they were reading parts of it out loud to their husbands and college kids. It crosses genres and cultures, so maybe it crosses the sexes and generations too. And anyone familiar with Wayzata, Plymouth and Minneapolis will recognize the settings.

The book is described as “semi-autobiographical.” How much of the novel is based on your real life?

Enough that I’ve had some explaining to do. It’s mostly based on my real life, but “based on” doesn’t equal “is.” The characters don’t look like people I know when I visualize them, except for one or two, and I’ll never tell which ones.

Like Valerie, I was a troubled waitress at a kebab restaurant owned by an Iranian-American family. I fell in love with a straight-laced engineer whose mother came from Iran for a visit and ended up living with us for seven years. But you can’t trust “Roseheart” to tell you the truth about anyone real. That’s why its official category is fiction.

Does the book have a message/lesson? Is it one that you learned growing up?

Valerie and all the other characters are such flawed human beings — there’s no way they can be the moral authority. But maybe that’s the message. You don’t have to be perfect or get along all of the time to have love. You just have to take an interest in the people who land in your life.

By the way, that’s also a piece of writing advice I got from Bly. Take an interest in people: the rich, poor, young, old, hoarders, people who golf too much, people from enemy countries. Take an interest in them and what they have to teach you.

I should have learned this growing up, but I didn’t. I cared too much about what people thought about me. That can become a form of self-absorption. Still, the book is introspective because it’s a journey to get to that point of being able to see others.

What role does food play in the book?

Cooking is a bridge between Valerie and Naveed’s mother because, while they don’t speak the same language, Goli Joon teaches Valerie Persian cooking and the language of the kitchen. Some of the funniest moments in the book are food scenes. That bridge across cultures can crumble quickly.

My early readers said reading “Roseheart” made them hungry. Although I have a bit of a food writing background, the novel is more like romantic comedy than a food book. Readers can satisfy their cravings with a few of the recipes at catherinedehdashti.com.

What’s been the best thing about publishing a novel so far?

One of the most fun things about bringing a book to market these days is making a trailer for it, just like they do for movies. I like drawing, so I made my own animated trailer. It’s really short, and you can watch it at bit.ly/RoseheartTrailer. But the best thing, all in all, has been the support of my family. I wasn’t sure they would ever talk to me again after reading the book, but they are full of love and enthusiasm. They get me, and that feels great to discover.


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