Sunday, March 31, 2013

"The Fishing Widow" by Amy K. Marshall

The Fishing Widow
by Amy K. Marshall

You can read my earlier blog post to find out more about Amy Marshall's book, The Fishing Widow. It is available as a FREE download from Smashwords. Today we're lucky enough to be talking to Amy herself. Amy has also generously donated some wonderful prizes to our giveaway. Make sure you enter below!

Interview With the Author
Hi Amy, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book The Fishing Widow.

Which writers have influenced you the most?
I’ve always been a fan of C.S. Forester (The Hornblower Series), William Hope Hodgson (The Ghost Pirates, and The Boats of ‘Glen Carrig’), and, of course Lovecraft. After I wrote the first three drafts of The Fishing Widow, I picked up Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard, and fell in love with his twisted-history style. Lately, I’ve added Haruki Murakami to my list of favorite authors.

What age group do you recommend your book for?
I think seventeen and up is a good fit. I mean, some of the language is a little rough (they are fishermen), but with the ages of the crew and all, it almost is a Young Adult type of story. When it opens, Ethan, the main character, is 19, and in Chapter 1, he’s only 23. Even the crew aboard the 1835 whaler, The Covenant, is mainly comprised from ordinaries and mates in their early to mid-20s.

What sparked the idea for this book?
I wrote a book (still in edits) in 2009 with a character who, before the book opened, had been a commercial fisherman out in Bristol Bay - at least, that was his backstory. A group of writers I played writing prompt games with knew of this character’s terror of being “put on a shelf”. The joke was that this character sent his buddy Colin, the Captain in the story, over to tell me another story. This is the story Colin told.

Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
Colin came first. Well, Ethan likes to think he was there first, but Colin really was the first one to show up and start talking. I write like Robert E. Howard - of Conan fame. Howard said that he never really wrote anything, it was just these characters who would show up, so he’d sit down with them and say, “Okay, tell me a story.” And they would. There was nothing planned at all in The Fishing Widow. Where my readers tell me they were “surprised” by unexpected twists is where I was surprised by unexpected twists. It’s enjoyable for me to “sit down” with the characters and talk about their “experiences” with the story; and when you can get a good debate going about what really happened? That’s the best part of the fun.

What was the hardest part to write in this book?
1835 because Priam Hartt scared the bejabbers out of me. He was a character who I found most difficult to allow a “voice” because that voice was so dark. In the end, who you might think the villains are, may not be the villains at all. That’s one of the twist-iest parts of the book for me. Oh, and the ending. The ending was difficult because it was the ending. I think the ending changed at least six times in the revisions (there were 17 revisions of the book based on beta reader feedback and because it needed it). There’s nothing quite like typing THE END only to have Brett (the most insistent of the “inner editors” on the crew) mutter, “Lindgren, you are so full of shit.” And I would stare at the page and say, “What? He’s lying??” Yes. Other writers will understand that bit of the process.

How to you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope they love the adventure. I hope they care about what happens to the crews - both in 1835 and 2010. My favorite feedback involves fishermen and fisherwomen who have read it and remark that they’re either glad to not be on a boat at the moment, or wonder how in the world they’re going to face a midnight wheel-watch after reading it. But, it’s not just fishermen and it’s not just people on boats. I also hope people look at the mythical creatures and want to find out more about them. Oh, and I hope parts of it scare you silly and other parts make you cheer.

How long did it take you to write this book?
Colin showed up in December 2009. I started character sketches at that time. I started writing scenes in February 2010 and did not feel comfortable that it was done until December 2012.

What is your writing routine?
I’m a mom. So, my writing routine involves staying up late after the kids have gone to bed and writing. I usually begin around 10pm and keep going until 2am. It means I don’t get much sleep, but it’s amazing how much sleep you don’t need when you hit your 40s. When I was doing the first draft, Ethan would “wake me up” consistently at 4am with new ideas. That, or surprise me in the shower when I didn’t have a pen handy. Sometimes I get to write on the weekends - especially on my son’s wrestling weekends because there’s so much time between his matches.
How did you get your book published?
I initially got nibbles from some high powered publishing houses and several agents, but what it came down to in the end is that it’s a suspenseful, supernatural story that revolves around … fishing. Specifically seining. How does someone in New York City sell something like that? And, that’s why I thought, well, I’ll show you how you sell something like that. I started Alaskan Gothic Press to get The Fishing Widow out there. I know where my market is, and I think, as an indie press, I have a good chance of carving out a good niche for the boys.

What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
If you believe you have a good, viable story, if you’ve done your research, have consulted with betas (beyond your family and friends), but have hit a wall with traditional publishing, you should consider (if you have the right combination of sense and insanity) going out on your own. Get to know other writers, make any and all the connections you can. Sell YOURSELF as well as your story. It’s hard. I know it’s difficult because writers tend to be a solitary type of animal, but that’s what you have to do to get the fire lit. Blog and get involved in blog hops. Read EVERYTHING and review for people. Better yet, become a beta for someone you don’t know. Keep learning.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to fish (really), read, hike, travel, sail, hang out with my awesome family, and walk the dog. She’s a border collie. I walk my dog. A LOT.

What does your family think of your writing?
The kids think it’s cool, but wonder why they have to be 30 to read it. My husband is my biggest fan - he’s the one who named me “A Diamond in the Dark” and tells me we just need to find someone to shine a light on me. My parents? Well, I wrote A LOT as a teenager (I submitted a fantasy novel to Ballantine back when I was 14), and my dad never understood me. The thing is, my writing is the only thing my dad and I ever fought about when I was a teenager (he doesn’t remember this, he’s 82 now); we fought so much that I stopped writing. About a year ago, I had a mockup paperback made of The Fishing Widow and I sent it to my dad. He read it. He LOVED it. Now, my dad was never a reader, but, guess what? Because of my book, he’s started reading. My dad. READING. Even if I never sold a single book - that my dad now reads makes writing The Fishing Widow worth every head-banging-on-the-desk moment.

Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
It was a rough start. I mean, I used to joke, until a few weeks ago, that I could NEVER be a writer because there was never any major trauma in my childhood. My parents are awesome and there was nothing beyond the normal hormones-running-amok stuff in my teenage years…. But then, I did find out there WAS a bit a drama back there. I’m adopted. I suppose I should have led with that. I was born and abandoned in the restroom of a launderette in Lawrence, Kansas in 1964. I found this out on Christmas Eve 2012, so it’s not like that episode ever influenced my writing (yet). At four months, I was adopted, lived six years in Derby, Kansas, and then moved to New York State (about 80 miles north of NYC). When I was in sixth grade, my mother said she had had enough of the school system and I found myself at The Hackley Preparatory School in Tarrytown, New York. Like I said, my parents are great and we’re still close. There were just those first few hours on the cold floor of the bathroom at the launderette in Lawrence ….

Did you enjoy school?
I loved school. I didn’t so much enjoy the social aspects of it, but I love learning new things. After high school, I went on to get a B.A. in Medieval Archaeology and an M.A. in Maritime History & Nautical Archaeology (which goes a long way in explaining the whole boat-thing).

Did you like reading?
Yes and no. I love reading, but I’m dyslexic and it doesn’t come particularly easy to me. Writing has always been easy, but reading … well, not so much. I love good stories, though, and read whenever I can. I just wish I could read faster.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was seven when I banged out my first short story “The Witch’s Window” on my mom’s old Royal typewriter. And, like I said, I never enjoyed the social aspects of the school experience, and found myself bullied more than once because I walked to a slightly different drumbeat. One day, when I was 10, my mom put up her hand and said, “I don’t want to hear it. Put it in a story.” Now, that may sound cruel, but trust me, wiser words were never spoken; that gave me the tools to not only write but to codify my feelings and begin to form strategies for dealing with what was going on.

Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
They have in other stories, but not so much in this one.

What was your favorite book growing up?
Robin Hood by Howard Pyle and a retelling of Cinderella that I still have in a trunk somewhere; I can’t remember the author, but it was from about 1966.

Who were your favorite authors as a child?
Judy Blume, Dr. Seuss (if you go back that far), and I got into C.S. Forester really early, Tolkien, too.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
My readers are helpful. They have no problem telling me what they think works and what they think doesn’t work. I’m glad they do that. One thing people in town and on the island have let me know is that there’s a feeling that they are also invested in the book - that they know these characters from crews they’ve worked with. It makes me smile when readers come into the library where I work and stand around the circulation desk and tell me stories of this person who’s so much like Danny, or the time when the guy who’s like Mike did such and such. They’re also surprisingly protective of the story, too. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but it’s almost like I told THEIR story.

What can we look forward to from you in the future?
In the near future, I have an undead retelling of the Old Peter’s Russian Folktale Salt coming out (April 2013). In October 2013, my short story Salmon in the Trees is being published as part of The Dead End Drive-In Anthology that will be raising money for a literacy charity. 
I have several other Alaska-based projects: In Dark Places, which is set in a copper mine in 1913, Music Wood, set in the 1980s on a Southeast Alaskan island that may be Prince of Wales, and Lost At Sea, which is set in the present-day around Haida G’waii to the south of us. I’ve also started working on several non-Alaskan projects, none of which are thrillers or are scary in any way (at least as far as I can tell so far): Reading Nietzsche at the Taco Bell (sort of a love story) and The Gardener of Eden (a historical fiction with some non-fiction thrown in for good measure). Strangely enough, this is the first time I’ve ever had a projects list.

Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Amy. I certainly look forward to reading more of your work in the future. And thank you so much for you kind donations to our Giveaway.

Amy had been kind enough to donate two gift packs for our giveaway. They each consist of a paperback copy of The Fishing Widow and a Raven's Brew Giftpack (consisting of Whole Bean Deadman's Reach coffee and a Deadman's Reach Travel Tumbler).

Paperback copy of The Fishing Widow
Raven's Brew Giftpack

The Giveaway is open internationally. Please show Amy your appreciation by entering.
To explain the Deadman's Reach connection, Amy states, "Raven's Brew loved it when I sent them Josh's story of The Reach in the book. It's a fictionalized homage to the REAL Deadman's Reach story wherein the Tlingit women used shellfish to take out a Russian garrison (in mine, they take out Spanish monks in a mission). Anyway, Raven's Brew has been INCREDIBLY supportive of everything I'm doing (and have even volunteered to help me with a Kickstarter campaign)."

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