Tag Archives: artists

Interview with Author Maryanne O’Hara about Writing of Depression-Era Novel,Cascade

Today I have an exclusive interview with the wonderful author Maryanne O’Hara!  You can read my review of her novel, Cascade, that I posted yesterday by clicking HERE.  After the interview, there’s a paperback up for giveaway, so don’t miss out!

Hi Maryanne! So happy to have you stop by Oh, for the Hook of a Book today and offer some insight into you and your writing. We are excited to have you…how has everything been going for you?

Maryanne: Thanks for having me! Life has been very busy, especially since the paperback released on May 1, but it’s all good. And it’s spring! So yes, all is well.

Erin: Wonderful news, and I think in Ohio we’ve completely went from winter to humid summer! But it’s so nice outside, let’s have a sit under a shade tree with a tall glass of iced tea and discuss!

CascadeQ:  Where did you first come across the idea to write Cascade? Why did you choose the time period you did?

A: Originally, I wanted to write a short story about artists who painted for Roosevelt’s New Deal arts projects in New York in the 1930s. I am fascinated by that decade—there was so much uncertainty, so much social change, so much drama.

Q:  Have you always been a fan of history, or do you feel your book is more a look into society and human nature and that was the catalyst?

A: I do love history but yes, I am primarily interested in human nature. Cascade just happened to be a 1930s book. The next novel dips into the 50’s, 60’s, and 70s, but primarily takes place in the present. Or so I think! It’s only partly written, at this point.

Q:  Art is a big part of Cascade as your protagonist must choose between love and passion. I love art myself. How do you feel art fit into life at the turn of the decade? Do you feel artistic pursuits were more highly respected than now? Why?

A: The reason I first became interested in this time period was because I had seen an exhibit at the National Archives in DC, in late 1998 calle A New Deal for the Arts. I loved that our government had, in the thirties, decided that it was just as important to put artists to work as it was to put bridge builders to work. I also loved that for the first time, our government said, “art is for everybody.”  As for artistic pursuits being respected—it’s up and down, but fortunately there are always people who care about art.

Q: How do you feel that women’s artistic endeavors were viewed at the time and what women trailblazers did to overcome that gender issue? How did you address this in your book?

A: Woman are still trying to overcome the gender issue. Read Meg Wolitzer’s “The Second Shelf” essay for more on that: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/books/review/on-the-rules-of-literary-fiction-for-men-and-women.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0  In Cascade, I tried to show the times as they were. Women were respected painters, but there was always the modifier—in the Jackson Pollock movie, at one point Pollock says to Lee Krasner, “You’re a damn fine woman painter.”

Q:  Describe 1930 Boston in your own words. What of that did you try to nestle into your book? How does it compare to today’s city?

A: Boston has always been a scrappy sort of city, and unfortunately corruption comes and goes and never completely goes away. In Cascade, I reference the fact that the governor gave jobs to his Boston voters and bussed them out to the country, rather than give the jobs to the people who were being displaced.

Q:  In your book, you write about a fictionalized town based primarily on several small, real towns that were flooded in the 1930s by state engineers causing disasters? How did you research this? Handle the topic? And do you think this would ever happen today?

A: The history of the Quabbin Reservoir has been well-documented so I had lots of source material. In fact, these drowned towns happened all over the country, all over the world, so it was also easy to fictionalize my town, which made writing about it a lot more freeing. As for whether it would happen today—you can’t get much more recent than the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China, which was completed in 2012, and displaced over a million people. Earth is facing a water crisis, so who knows what will happen in future?

Q:  I love postcards! I saw on your blog the various postcards you write about and feature as a theme…I especially liked the story of the postcard your publisher found on e-bay and your eerie discovery. Can you talk a little about that particular card for my readers? Thrilling! Also, what makes you love post cards so much and do you think it is a lost art and method of communication?

A: One day, I took a ride out to the Quabbin Reservoir and got stuck behind an antique maroon Ford and it seemed a bit spooky—a maroon Ford makes an appearance in the pages of Cascade. Much later, after I’d finished writing the book, and my agent sold it, Penguin’s art department was working on designing the cover. They originally thought it would be good to use old postcards in the design. They had acquired some old cards randomly, from eBay, etc. One of them portrayed a maroon car! Cool coincidence, BUT what they’d sent me wasn’t the whole postcard—it was just the photo, the “Greetings from” part cropped out. A month or so later, when we were deciding on art for the inside pages, I asked about that maroon car photo. At that point, Penguin sent the whole card, and that was when I saw that the photo was from Belchertown, MA. The Quabbin Reservoir’s legal address is Belchertown, MA.

I do love post cards. There is a wonderful coffee table book, compiled by the British artist Tom Phillips, called, “The Postcard Century,” and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts recently featured a postcard exhibit. Fortunately, people still do send them, and people love to receive them. I often send handwritten postcards to bookstores and libraries, to introduce myself and the book. Also, when I sign copies of Cascade, I give people a postcard and ask if they’d be willing to send a card to a friend, to spread the word about the book the old-fashioned way.

Q:  What advice do you have for aspiring or in-process women authors? For those that are moms, or have a busy lifestyle, what do you recommend for them in order to “fit it all in” and make those dreams come true?

A: Set aside time to write, the same way you would set aside time to go to the gym or take a shower. Seriously. Make it happen. Even if it’s only an hour, a half hour, fifteen minutes. Something. Carve out that time for yourself, set a timer, and don’t attend to anything else while you are writing.  Don’t “just throw a load of laundry in,” don’t answer the phone. Other activity distracts from the focus, from the world you’re creating.

Q:  Can you explain your road to publishing? What were your biggest successes? And your biggest challenges? What tips, stories, or tidbits do you have to share with other authors?

A: I began writing and publishing short stories just as the market for them was really starting to shrink. My first short story was published in Redbook, when they still had a serious books editor and published literary fiction. Soon enough, they stopped their monthly short stories. Another day, I came home to a message from the New Yorker editor who always read my submissions. She wanted me to call. Naturally, I expected great news, but she said, in a terribly discouraging tone, “I just want you to know I fought for this story.” Everything was changing there, she said, and not long after, she quit.

When I decided to write a novel, I knew it would be an act of faith, that there would be no guarantee that the years of work would pay off with a publisher. Fortunately, because I’d been an editor myself, I knew to be patient with my material. When I finally finished Cascade, the time was right. I found an agent and publisher fairly quickly.

Q:  I read that you were a former associate fiction editor for Boston’s award-winning literary magazine, Ploughshares. What was that like? What lessons learned do you have to share?

A: I loved finding a wonderful story—a piece that made me sit up and take notice, and pray, as I was reading it, that what had started out captivating would stay that way. As I just mentioned, patience is a good thing. Don’t send material before it is ready. You only get someone’s fresh eyes once. If there’s a part of your story that makes you cringe, that you hope we won’t notice or care about because the rest of the story is just so good—know that we will notice, and we will cringe too. I always approached the reading of each manuscript with great respect and with great hope that it would be fantastic, but there were just so many submissions that I was also looking for reasons to say no.

Q:  You have written many stories (using the term I see you mainly use yourself). What intrigues you, and/or excites you, most about telling stories? What are the types of stories you most commonly write?

A: I write about people who are struggling with some kind of inner dilemma. Many of my characters are artists/musicians. They are all struggling with the ‘why am I here’ question, I suppose. Mark Twain supposedly said, “There are two important days in your life. The day you are born, and the day you figure out why.” I guess my stories dance around that second day.

Q:  Tell us some of your most favorite works of art, artists, and places to go to view art (physically or online). We’d love to hear!

A: One of the most wonderful exhibits I ever attended was the Vermeer show at the National Gallery of Art in DC in 1995. There are only 34 known Vermeers in the world, and this exhibit displayed 21 of them, the most ever collected in one place. I went on a quiet winter’s day, before the show became a “must see,” and stayed for a couple of hours. I couldn’t pull myself away from paintings like The Geographer, Woman Holding a Balance, Girl with a Pearl Earring.

I’m dying to go to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam now that it’s open again after 10 years. I love every Paris museum, especially the little ones like Musée Maillol.  And DC’s Phillips Collection. The Frick and MoMA in New York. I love my own city’s museums: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which I am going to today, actually! The Institute of Contemporary Art, the MFA, the Harvard museums. Many museums have great online sites now, so even if you can’t visit, you can view the art.

Q:  Do you have more work in process? What else will you be writing about in the future?

A: I am working on a new novel. More people, more inner dilemmas!

Q:  What has been the best thing for you since publishing Cascade? What are some of the most positive memories you’ll have?

A: Most definitely, it has been connecting with readers. I love meeting them, hearing from them via email or letter, and talking with them in person or on Skype.

Q:  Best place to eat in New England? Best dishes? Best tourist places near Boston?

A: Oh, New England is such a big place. We’ve lots that’s good. But lobster in Maine is not overrated. And steamers with butter. Oh, you’re getting me thinking about summer now. Can’t wait.

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A: I have contact information on my website; my author address is MaryanneOHaraAuthor@gmail.com.

Erin:  Thank you so very much for stopping by and taking a break to talk to me, Maryanne. It was so very nice discussing your book with you. Best wishes for many more years of success!

Maryanne: Thanks so much, Erin! I enjoyed all your questions. Thank you for spreading the word about my book, and thank you to all of you who will read it! I hope it gives you a lot to think about.

Giveaway~

We’re giving away one (1) paperback of Cascade and it’s open in the U.S. only. Please comment below, or on my Facebook link to the review, or email me at hookofabook@hotmail.com.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. EST two weeks from date of the post.  For an extra entry follow my blog, for +2 entries “like” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cascadevirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #CascadeVirtualTour

CASCADE, Synopsis~

CascadePublication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback; 384p

A Slate Magazine “Best Books 2012″
A People Magazine “People Pick”
A Library Journal 2012 “Best Bet”

During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Praise for CASCADE

“The protagonist is Desdemona Hart, a woman drowning in the choices she’s been forced to make: a marriage of necessity to save her father’s legacy and put a roof over his head as he dies……trouble escalates, and so will the rate at which you turn the pages. Cascade is perfect for sitting by the fire on a chilly day contemplating the immutability of things.” –Slate: 2012 Best Books, Staff Picks

“When state engineers created the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s, four Central Massachusetts towns disappeared beneath the waters. In her debut novel, Cascade, Ashland resident Maryanne O’Hara chronicles the fate of one such (fictionalized) town and its inhabitants, notably Desdemona Hart Spaulding, an ambitious artist trapped in a loveless marriage. O’Hara, a former Ploughshares fiction editor, shapes her protagonist’s story to pose questions like: If art is not lastingly valuable, what is? Ponder that over your next glass of tap water.” –Boston Globe, Best of the New, 2012

“Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.” –People Magazine

Link to the Official Book Trailer: http://www.maryanneohara.com/cascade-trailer/

Author Maryanne O’Hara, Biography~

Maryanne O'HaraMaryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at the award-winning literary journal Ploughshares. She received her MFA from Emerson College fifteen years ago, and wrote short fiction that was widely published before committing to the long form. She lives on a river near Boston.

www.maryanneohara.com

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cascadevirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #CascadeVirtualTour

Cascade Tour Banner FINAL

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Q and A with Authors, Starting with ME!

**Please note**This is from 2011! I can hardly believe it. Time to update!**

Since doing the Red River Writers BlogTalkRadio show, Dellani’s Tea Time yesterday, I decided to go ahead and post my questions and answers to inquiries about me and writing and about my book series. Some of these were talked about on the show. I think these answers will give great insight into me for anyone that is curious.

Introducing Erin Al-Mehairi, author of this blog and aspiring author:

I am a mother of 3 young children in mid-Ohio. My fiancé Tim Busbey and I own a writing and public relations business that we work out of our home called Addison’s Compass Public Relations and a fine art nature photography business called Breathe Beauty Art and Photography. We are both coming back to our dreams of being creative writers and I am working on my first children’s book series as well as my poetry, and he is halfway through his adult religious history thriller. If you want to know more about me, click on the tab at the top of the blog.

When did you start writing?

I remember writing all through childhood. I won a local children’s writing contest in my tween years; it was a Christmas essay contest in our local newspaper. I wrote stories, essays, lots of poetry and have always been an avid reader. I was mentored and encouraged by many of my English teachers from elementary on. I became engrossed in Journalism in high school and then obtained a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and English (as well as History) from Ashland University. I was mentored by many fabulous and distinguished English teachers and edited for the university group Poetry Press. I was encouraged in my writing by one of the most phenomenal Journalism and English professors ever, Dr. Daniel Lehman. I was always writing articles and essays, many times about children in my life or causes that laid on my heart. I continued this writing in various forms along with my newspaper articles for the college paper. During and directly after college, I kept up with my poetry. In 2002 I took a job in public relations and for the next 7 years wrote consistently technical and newsletter type articles, as well as copy writing for web and advertising. I was so busy working so many hours a week that I lost my time for creative writing, and in many ways lost myself. I was in an abusive marriage and trying to raise 2 children. In 2004, I left my marriage. Later on I met the man who is my world today. In 2007, I was pregnant with my third child and though a joy for us together, I was also very ill with both pulmonary and fighting several autoimmune diseases. Taking a risk in hopes of getting my life back, I quit my job. The last year and half at home with my children, while doing freelance article and copy writing and photography, has allowed me to take the long and healing journey back to writing creatively, reading, art, and photography. I’ve come back to myself and it feels really good. I think if I hadn’t done this, hadn’t rid myself of all that way tying me down, I would never have been quiet enough in my mind for my children’s book idea to percolate and summon me. I am so happy to be writing again!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

 I don’t know if there was ever really one special moment. I’ve always read and I’ve always written. If there was paper in front of me, and a little time, my pencil would move and create poetry without me even trying. It would move and create essays and stories on children and or nature. I’m excited to say that in the past 6 months, my pencil has been moving that way on paper again. I think it is something that possesses me without me even deciding to do it. Writing isn’t something I decided to do, it is just something that is me.

What gave you the idea for your first book?

I always knew I wanted to write a children’s book, but never had a specific idea. As I began turning my love for fine art nature and historical photography (and repurposing old wooden furniture) into a business while being home with my children, who are 11, 7 and 3, for the past almost 2 years, my creative juices seemed to start working. Before the winter (winter of 2010/2011) we went on many long walks around the older parts of the neighborhood, taking photo pieces of historic houses, an abandoned train depot, old barns and doors and windows. We wanted to know the history behind those places. As we had these mini-adventures and I watched the interactions of the kids, especially those between my two young daughters, my idea sprang to mind. My daughters are opposite personalities and that can become really hilarious at times. I saw using their personalities for humor in the book, while some of our adventures and photographs gave me ideas for the plot of the books.

What is your latest release?

Continuing on with my last answer, I’m just in the starting phase of my book series. I am writing a fiction novel for young first or second graders with two young girls as the main characters, slightly modeled after my own two girls. I had spent time listening to their conversations and I really saw how different their interests are and how unique it makes each of them. And it came to me, I could write a book stemming loosely from their relationship. A 7 to 9-year-old girl who is girly, yet likes sparkly skulls, black, jeans, art, mystery, pop songs, and is super subdued unless spiked by her sister compared to a girl age 3 to 5 who is the total princess package including pink and more pink, dresses, dance and ballet, classical music and song who is really confident. Stemming from their personalities, I’ve come up with the name Monster Princess and Little Diva. My rough outline of the entire series includes the girls having to move with their single mother to a new town and/or state in New England. Since Mom is very busy, the girls start to head-off for walks and in each book of the series, they end up at an old building or house or area. There they find a special item that transports them into an adventure or chaotic happening where they are able to help the people they encounter. For instance, when they find a paintbrush, they are transported into a world they enter that is all one color. They will be able to use the magic brush to show the people how to put color into their lives, embracing diversity. The moral of the story is to embrace the many different “colors” of life. Another story has them helping a cupcake store who has no sugar because a naughty squirrel has stolen and hoarded it. The moral is about sharing.

What age group are your books intended for?

I had wanted to write a hardcover picture book and I think that is because of my love for art as well. I’ve always been an avid collector of picture books for children. Finding a first printing of an old Madeline book in a used book store was so exciting for me! I see just how Monster Princess and Little Diva would look in a book and how cute they would be. However, for right now for my own books I’m trending toward doing the series first for about a first or second grade level. I may take the characters up in age a few years from my own in order to gain the first grade audience. I want to make a book for that age that takes the readers into a different type of adventure that is outside the box, outside of the normal school related adventures that seem to saturate the market. What made you decide to write books for children? As I mentioned before, I think just my own love for children’s books of any age and watching my own children grow up. When I see children’s books, I fall in love. I want to create one to make children’s happy about reading. My daughters are very excited about my series and when I see the gleam in their eyes, I hope that other children might get that too.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your work?

I think just learning what age my characters should be to relate to certain readers. Even children of the same age are at all different reading levels. For the first half of the school year I went every Tuesday for over 2 hours to listen and help the first graders in my daughter’s class read individually. The reading levels were all over the place. Beyond that, my main challenges are fitting the writing into my schedule with 3 kids and finding quiet time to write. I must have quiet to be able to think or I don’t even know what I’m typing!!

What experiences have inspired you?

Certainly, the experiences with my children and in my art and photography hobby and work have inspired me with the story. Sometimes when you look at art or a photograph you can either see it as a flat surface, a flat perception, or you can look FURTHER into the photograph and begin to think about might be behind the door, behind the scene, behind the history. I love to come up with stories that lead you from that first flat look. My illness and other life hardships have inspired me to remember that life is short and we must spend the time with those we love, doing what we love. Otherwise, why live?

What other authors/ artists have influenced you?

Dandi Daley Mackall (www.dandibooks.com) is a children’s author who has inspired me since I was young. She lives in my area and is a friend who I have always looked up to from the moment I met her. She has written over 400 books while living a simple life in rural Ohio. She writes because she loves to do it and she writes wonderful books with great moral guidelines for children. In my talks with her, I’ve really been encouraged to want to be a children’s writer myself. I’ve also always enjoyed the writing and art in Jan Brett’s books. Growing up, and even still, I enjoyed Madeline L’Engle, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and all the Grimm Fairy Tales. Right now I really like Victoria Kann, who writes the Pinkalicious series.

Do you find that you “collect” people? In other words, you meet or see someone who eventually finds their way into a book?

I think we first learn about attributes people have from someone we may have encountered in our real lives. Of course with the main characters being molded after my daughters’, I suppose I’ve done that. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors/ illustrators? Don’t be afraid that you can’t write or don’t have the time. Give yourself some quiet time to discover your creative side. If you can only write 15 minutes most days, then that is at least a start. Just write for yourself first. Everyone should make their dreams a priority and not feel they are being selfish. There are many more opportunities out there today for anyone who wants to write.

Tell us about your publication journey.

I’ve just started so I haven’t found a publisher yet, or even looked that much into publishing. I want to get my story out on paper right now since my main motivation is to tell the story. Then I pray the publishing comes. I want to create a legacy for my children.

Please share with our listeners where they can purchase your book(s).

Of course I don’t have a book done yet, but you can follow my journey on writing and read my book reviews of books for all ages at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com and my group for children’s books on Facebook called Teaching Kids Through Books. I sell Kane/Miller and Usborne Books at www.ubah.com/z2837.

If you could ask your favorite author a question, who would it be & what question would you ask? How would you answer that question yourself?

I don’t know if it would be about asking just one, but to many authors in general I would ask first, how do you stay focused and secondly, how do you handle any rejection to something you present that is such a part of you? In answering this myself, again I say that you have to make writing a priority and schedule time for it. The only thing I can say about rejection is that you have to be strong enough to love your own story for what it brings you, even if someone else doesn’t agree.

To hear me, as well as mystery writer Beth Groundwater, children’s author Amanda Thrasher, and illustrator Wade Zahares on our BlogTalkRadio show, click on this link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2011/02/14/dellanis-tea and it will start playing. Put on your headphones and listen while you work, or just listen through the speakers.

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Filed under My New Children's Book Series, Q and A with Authors