photo by Rich Beauchesne
from the studio
I love to talk about writing. In fact, once I get going, it's hard to shut me up. So feel free to get in touch.
- I read somewhere that you live on a boat. Is that true?
Yes! Well, during the warmer months, anyway. Where we live, that's
usually May through October. A boat's a wonderfully peaceful place
to do creative work and I get a lot of writing done there; plus it's a
great place to wake up in the morning. Think of it as a gently rocking
summer cottage. During the cold months, we suck it up and move
back to land where we have a couple acres of woods, a barn, a tractor
and a garden that I make an enthusiastic and well-intentioned start on
each spring—eventually giving up on it because we're never around.
- How long does it take you to write a book?
Each one has been different. Margel's Madness took some 15 years from start to its final published version, mostly because it was so personal and difficult to write. An amalgam of fiction and memoir, it’s what I often refer to as my auto-bio-novel—a semi-autobiographical take on escaping a toxic family situation. So why not write a true memoir? Short answer is I'm not that brave. While writing the book, I kept flashing back to certain incidents which made me feel very out of control. The only way I felt I could continue with it was to surround myself with characters whose actions I could dictate. It was many years before I felt okay with the vulnerability that writing it down brought out in me. Anyone who’s grown up suffering ongoing and insidious emotional terrorism by a parent can tell you the scars last a lifetime, affecting every aspect of one’s existence. Still, the endless writing and rewriting have exorcised many of the demons, and for that I’m grateful.
Hunter Huntress (Snowbooks, 2010), the second book I wrote, though the first to be published, took four years. A lot of research in that one, plus it was originally drafted in past tense—something I eventually realized put too much emotional distance between the reader and the immediacy I was trying for in the story. So I rewrote the whole thing in present tense. Problem solved. I learned a lot about craft with that one.
Matinicus the first in my Maine Island Mystery Series (Maine Authors Publishing, 2012), took two years to complete which was a surprise considering it's actually a century-spanning double mystery with a secondary, historical plot line that required a lot of research. This was my first time writing from a male point of view and it was a hoot! A challenge, certainly, but hardly as difficult as I thought it would be. I also made the leap to first person with this one—another real eye-opener for me, craft-wise.
Three years after that, I finished Reese's Leap, the second Island Mystery featuring the same male protagonist (Maine Authors Publishing, 2013). He'll also be featured in book three, Ragged Island, due out at the end of 2018.
- Did it take you a long time to get published?
Sure felt like it, and there were times I was really frustrated, but I've
heard stories of far longer waits than mine. Robert Persig's classic, Zen
and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was rejected by 121 houses
prior to publication. By comparison, Hunter Huntress was turned down
by a paltry 35 before Snowbooks picked it up. I did have an agent for
a while, which is how everyone tells you to go, but after five years
and no takers I decided to go it alone. Amazingly, that's when I found
Snowbooks. So there you go. Then again, there's Karl Marlantes,
whose debut novel Matterhorn was stuck in literary purgatory for more
than thirty years before he found a publisher willing to take it on. He
simply refused to give up. And that's the key, really. You need to have
the attitude that "every no gets you closer to yes."
This is both a very scary and tremendously exciting time to be
publishing. Scary because the industry is in such turmoil right now.
Publishers are less likely than ever to take a chance on new, unproven
authors—especially authors of fiction. A chance at a debut is hard to
come by. At the same time, all the new e-book options are working to
broaden readership as well as authors' accessibility to the market. In
the end, that's what it's all about.
- How do you get the ideas for your books?
Sometimes, as in the case with Hunter Huntress, it starts with my
getting a flash of character—in this case a lone woman jogging along a
tree-lined street out in the country. It's fall, and the leaves are falling
around her. She's tall, lovely and lithe, something sad and a little
haunted in her expression. With that, Jamie Lloyd was born, set free to
avenge the death of her two-year-old son three years before the start
of the book.
Matinicus started with the location—an island off the coast of Maine
by the same name that's totally unique. The very definition of the
phrase "life on the edge." My husband and I just sailed into the harbor
one stormy afternoon, dropped anchor, and discovered a defiant,
ruggedly self-sufficient lobstering community that's virtually closed to
outsiders. The island itself? Lush with biodiversity, not to mention a
haunted house. I mean really, actually haunted. Perfect setting for a
murder mystery. Once I had that, my characters came to call.
I caught the first glimmers of the story that would eventually become Reese's Leap while on an annual, all-female retreat on a remote island off the coast of Maine. Take five women itching to raise some hell, put them in a rambling, hundred-year-old lodge with no electricity, phone service or other connection to the outside world, throw in a three-day fog, and the imagination can't help but run a little wild.