Today I am interviewing my friend and fellow writer, Marie Bostwick…
The first two people who comment below, unless you have already been a lucky devil and won a book from me, will receive a signed book from Marie.
Cathy: Tell us about yourself. Start when you were a one year old and move up from there but don’t talk on and on forever, if you know what I mean. Not like when you and I talk on the phone, where our conversations go on endlessly and the CIA is probably listening in.
Marie: Hmmm…Interesting question. Nobody has ever asked me about being one before. And it gives me the chance to tell you something about myself that nobody, outside my family, knows.
When my mother got pregnant with me, my parents already had three daughters. My dad was hoping for a son and so, possibly in the mistaken belief that if you just say something often enough you can make it happen, he used to pat my mother’s pregnant belly and tell my sisters, “This is your baby brother.” That is why, from the day of my birth until I was about six and told everybody to knock it off, my nickname was Baby Brother.
Being the fourth in a long line of girls, nobody paid a whole lot of attention to me when I was little – not that I was neglected or anything, just that my folks had been through this a bunch of times already so there was nothing about raising a fourth daughter that they found particularly fascinating. Too, with all those kids to raise, which she did on her own after my parent’s divorced when I was about four, my mom was pretty busy. Also, it was the sixties. There were no seat belts in cars or plastic covers on electrical outlets then. Kids were pretty much allowed to juggle knives if they felt like it. A couple of my sisters actually did, no kidding, which precipitated a trip to the emergency room – one of many. My poor mother. Whoever said that little girls are “sugar and spice and everything nice” never raised four of them at once. Or met my sisters. But I digress…
As it turned out, being the fourth girl in a family headed by a single mom was the ideal atmosphere for raising a writer. For one thing, I was pretty much left to my own devices, allowed to read as much as I wanted, invent an entire crop of imaginary friends (many of whom are still with me. Unlike other people, I never fired mine when I got big), and spend a lot of time scribbling stories and sad self-absorbed teenage poetry. And well…I just never stopped.
Cathy: So that’s why you had to become a writer? A slight obsession with daydreaming? A desire to live in another reality? Not good at math?
Marie: Well, some of the stuff above certainly plays into it. But I also think that it was just a compulsion, something I was born with. The first thing I remember writing, and believe it or not I was no more than five years old at the time, was a “screenplay” to go with my grandmother’s movie soundtrack of the musical Camelot. My grandmother loved music and musicals (so do I) and she let me listen to her records whenever I wanted. Camelot was one of my favorites. I probably listened to it a hundred times but I hadn’t seen the movie so one day, I got out some paper and a pencil and started to write a little screenplay to go with the music. Why? Because I needed a story that would make all those songs hang together in a way that made sense to me, something with a beginning, middle and ending. I had bring order to all that chaos.
I suppose there’s an issue of control to all of this. When I’m writing, I get to organize the world in my own way, I get tie up the loose ends and answer the unanswered questions in a way that make sense in my mind. It’s very comforting. And usually much more interesting than real life. And, of course, I can always conjure up a happy ending if I want one. (By the way, I pretty much always want one.)
Cathy: If you were not a writer, what would you be? A ballerina? A unicorn? A welder?
Marie: Well, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to be a stand-up comedian. I think I’m pretty funny, though my children have assured me, over and over again, that I am not.
Cathy: Let the rest of us step into your wild and wacky mind for a second and dance and skip about. Tell us all about your writing process…how you get those fantastic ideas…build characters, etc.
Marie: Truthfully, I have no clue where the ideas and characters come from but I’m incredibly grateful that, even after all this time, they still do. More often than not, a character just shows up in my head and starts talking. For most people, hearing voices is a cause for concern but for a writer this is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged.
Cathy: Good to know that you hear voices, too. I like my voices. Most of the time. Sometimes they argue with me too much. How would you describe your books, darlin’?
Marie: Well, some people call them women’s fiction and I guess I’d be fine with that since I am a woman and I do write fiction. But there’s no such thing as men’s fiction so it all feels a little “pink-collar ghetto” to me. Too, I think that label discourages men from picking up my books, which is such a shame. While most of my characters are women, I’ve got some outstanding male characters too. (I think I’m getting better at writing about men as I get older.) So there is a lot in my books that men could relate to, if they’d give them a chance.
All that being said, I write books that primarily deal with issues that I think real women are dealing with in their real lives: marriage, singleness, the need for friendship, how to give to others without losing yourself, issues that come with finacial pressures, or financial plenty, questions about faith, mortality, and loss. As you can see, my characters go through some real struggles but, as I said before, there’s almost always a happy ending. Life is hard but fiction doesn’t have to be. That’s my motto and I’m sticking to it.
Cathy: Huh! I’m diggin’ your motto. But I will add this: Writing fiction can make you want to pull your hair out, strand by strand. So, if your books were made into movies, which actresses would play which characters?
Marie: Well, aside from some of my Christmas novellas, which I think would make fabulous films, I’m pretty confident that none of my books will ever be made into movies – not enough explosions or sex – so I’ve spent very little time thinking about this. However, I do think Meryl Streep would make an absolutey perfect Abigail Burgess-Wynne. But I suspect that Meryl Streep would do a fabulous job playing just about any character on earth.
Cathy: What are you working on now? Come on, Marie. Give us the scoop.
Marie: My next Cobbled Court book, number 6 in the series. This one is about a couple who is trying to resurrect their relationship and marriage after infidelity. It’s been very slow going – this is a subject where you really need to dig deep into the thoughts, emotions, and motivations of the characters – but I think it’s a book that will be of value to anyone who has ever been married or in a serious relationship.
Cathy: I’m married. Twenty years. Some years longer than others. Not as long as you, though. What’s your day like? Be honest.
Marie: My days are long and either incredibly productive or incredbily not. Either way, I work all the time, just like you, Cathy. And when the deadline is looming, I work even more. But, no matter how close the deadline, I never, ever don’t wash my hair. Some things are sacrosanct.
Cathy: Hey! Why the jab about my hair! I get busy on deadline!! Sheesh. So, What are your favorite hobbies and activities? What do you think of Keanu Reeves?
Marie: I like to read, and quilt and buy fabric. And shoes. I love shoes. I play the piano – anything you want in the key of C – and I am learning to play guitar but, so far, I really suck at it. Actually, I don’t think about Keanu Reeves. I used to but then I realized he only has eyes for you so, why torture myself?
Cathy: So you’re a shoe addict? There must be help for that. Too bad for you on the Keanu part. Glad your torture is over and you have admitted the obvious about Keanu’s feelings towards me. Are you ever – so – slightly crazy? I think you are.
Marie: Yes. I’ll tell you what my agent said about that, not long after I signed with her.
I was having a little crisis and she asked me what was wrong and I said I didn’t want to tell her because we were still getting to know each other and I didn’t want to her to think I was that crazy writer. And she said, “Don’t worry about that. You’re all crazy, you know. But you seem very high-functioning.”
I took this as a compliment.
Cathy: High functioning crazy is awesome. What’s your advice for people who want to become crazy, high functioning, published writers?
Marie: Read a lot. And read books written by writers who are better than you. Be prepared to work very hard. Learn to handle criticism and rejection. Better yet, learn how to learn from criticism and rejection. Don’t fire your imaginary friends – give yourself permission, time, and space to live and think creatively. Write the stories you like, not the stories you think will sell. And speaking of selling, if you’re doing it for the money, don’t. There probably isn’t as much of it as you think there is. Write because you can’t help yourself. Write because you love it. If you’re called to it, there is no more satisfying life than that of a writer.
Cathy: I am totally undomesticated and could burn water if given a chance. But you sew beautiful quilts. Can we see some of them?
Marie: Why, yes! I thought you’d never ask!