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Tivadar's House (Made Things Book 1)

Seána Kee

Valerie is an unusual child, not altogether surprising as both her mother and father have died and she is being cared for by her brothers. Robert is in his 20s. It’s a huge responsibility that he has taken on board. He steps up to the mark and does a good job – most of the time. His younger brother Pete isn’t a great deal of help; he’s too interested in cars and finding a girlfriend.

Social services are watching closely, waiting to take over if they feel that Robert is failing his sister, which is why Valerie’s behaviour is such a cause for concern. After all, a child who talks to the doors and windows, the bowl in the kitchen, everything around her, and what’s more seems to be expecting an answer – that must be a cause for concern. Right?

One day, Valerie did something Robert had forbidden her to do. She went to a flea market in a part of town that was not safe. She travelled on the subway, totally ignoring Robert’s wise instruction. Things went wrong. She was followed by a young man, not just around the market but on the train home. She took refuge in an old man’s shop, a friend of the family.

Terrified that something could have happened to her, terrified that social services would find out and take her away, Robert lost the plot and punished her with the mysterious belt that had hung on the wall in their home for years. He was mortified. He didn’t know what made him do it.

Yet this set off a chain of events that led to amazing discoveries including finding that his small family had a host of aunts, uncles and cousins that they had never known. And more importantly, that Robert had powers that he had never realised, or perhaps he had but repressed those memories in an effort to fit in with the new country in which his family had made their home.

We learn about the difficulties of being an immigrant family, the hostility towards Germans and Jews in this brave new world they lived in, the humiliation and rejection for those who stood out as different. We hear of the support networks that the immigrant community established in the face of rejection from the host country, of the friends who became family, those that searched to reunite family with relatives missing due to war and upheaval. It asks the insightful question – who is really your family? Is it blood that ties people together? Or shared experience, care and loyalty?

The impact on Robert was massive. He had to live with his regret at losing control and hurting his sister. And he now heard the same voices that his sister had always done. He found out that he wasn’t losing his mind, that ‘makers’ can give instructions to the things they create, that a pan can be made to never burn, a bowl to keep food hot, a door to keep out enemies. These items will happily tell you what they have been made to do.

Robert discovered that the door to their home took this duty seriously, but he needed to understand why the door was hostile to his new found family. They were rich and powerful and very seductive with their generosity, offering Robert and his brother work in the family business. What did the door know that Robert didn’t?

Robert delighted in his new found powers, pushing horizons, finding out what he could do. He was a ‘maker’ of great potential, yet he kept all this hidden. Something warned him not to share his secret.

The writing is engaging. We sense clearly the personalities of the siblings in this little family. Robert is weighed down with responsibilities, working to make ends meet, yet still naïve and very young in experience. Pete wants to take his share pf the burden but can’t quite hold up his end of the bargain. Valerie is a sweet child still. Old Mr Schmidt is always there for them, not very talkative, not always that friendly, but never failing them.

The contrast with the new family is clear and yet at first we are sucked into the ‘good fortune’ of finding this part of the family, and we think how great this will work out for Robert, Pete and Valerie. Perhaps they will get the love and support they deserve, but then again, perhaps not.

The period is well portrayed. There is no need for dates to tell us when this story is set. The descriptions of places and attitudes of the people who inhabit this world let us know. It’s a fascinating insight to a time that has moved on.

This is the first book in the series. I read this and was left wanting more. I want to know about the magic Robert can do. Where will it take him? I want to find out what is wrong with the new relatives. Can they really be so bad? I want to make sure that Robert and the others are alright, and their world is safe and happy for them. As I finished reading Tivadar’s House, I was already recommending this book to family, and I have downloaded book two in the series, Robert’s Pen.

I asked the author to tell us a little about themself and their publishing journey

I spent my entire adult life (30 years of it) writing in secret. My husband knew I was writing but wasn’t allowed to read anything. Nobody else – not my family nor my closest friends – knew I was writing anything, let alone entire books by the dozen. Then I met someone in a closed group who encouraged talking about the characters in our heads. I started sharing snippets, then finally decided to put it on Kindle, and if anyone else wanted it, so be it.

That first story was Haru, the first book in my Pacifica trilogy. Despite my total lack of novel-writing education at that point, I’m still immensely proud of it. I just re-read it last week, and I don’t see any changes I would make now that I more or less know what I’m doing. A lot of people say they cringe when they read their early stories, but I don’t have that. Maybe because I have 30 years of early stories that DO make me cringe, and somehow worked my way past that by the time I got to Haru. I call those years ‘honing my craft’. Which is something my character, Robert, learns about in the Made Things series. Sure you can throw magic at a bowl you’ve made of clay, but should you if it’s a cruddy bowl? Learn to make a good bowl first, then learn to throw magic at it, or you’ll be stuck forever with a leaky bowl you can’t destroy.

It took me about a year to tell my two closest friends I had published. One of them said, “That’s not my genre, but because you wrote it, I’ll try it.” A couple hours later she had her nose buried in her Kindle. “I’m on chapter two already. I am SO hooked. This is not my thing, but you’re somehow making me LIKE it.” Maybe someday I’ll reach the point I can casually mention to people, “Oh, and by the way, I’ve written a book you might like.” But I’m not there yet.

I’m self-published through Kindle only. I didn’t see the point of going the traditional route. I’m related to someone who tried this and I saw the difficulties of her journey. I didn’t see any reason to put myself through that.

I’m terrible at marketing. I couldn’t sell ice in a desert.

I’ve been writing a daily blog-type thing on Facebook for nearly 900 days. It’s a couple paragraphs of humor, quirkiness, life observations, or just some sort of thought. It’s mostly an exercise in finding something fresh to write about every – single – day. I keep hoping it will draw people in, get them hooked on my writing style, and interest them in my books. If anyone wants an interesting thought a day in their feed, feel free to send a friend request!

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