Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
I am very pleased to welcome Martha Engber here today as I found her answers to my questions fascinating – especially about how she came to write Mary’s story and the impact on her of doing so. Read on to discover her answers, find out more about her and her book, Winter Light, and have the opportunity to enter not just one but three giveaways!
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
After attending a small parochial school from kindergarten to eighth grade, I went to a huge high school in La Grange, IL, near Chicago. We had about 1,000 kids in our freshman class alone. The school was so big, there were two campuses, with shuttle buses running between them.
To me, the school exploded my universe. There were so many things to do — clubs, choirs, sports, etc. — and I wanted to do them all.
But soon after starting school, and for the first time, I saw kids who were failing. They were tough kids who did drugs and partied and cut school, and I wondered why they would throw away the hundreds of opportunities around them, including the chance to do well in school so they could go to college.
That question of why burned in me for years, until I finally began writing Mary’s story. She made me think hard for years until that magical moment when I finally understood what Mary was trying to teach me. When I did, I was blown away by her strength under so heavy a burden.
I love Mary. If you read Winter Light, I hope you do, too.
What is your writing process?
I usually write a first draft quickly and spend the next 10 years turning over the material again and again. I want to see every angle, color and implication of every moment until I completely see what the characters wants me to understand. To keep me enraptured for so long, the subject and characters have to be deep and worthy indeed!
Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
I haven’t used a pen and paper — or a typewriter, for that matter — since 1986 when the university I attended (for a degree in journalism) got a computer lab filled with Apple Macintoshes. I do write my daily to-list with pen and paper, however, which makes checking off each item extremely satisfying.
Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
I’d argue that for me to stick with characters for so long, I have to love them all, even the ones who cause so much trouble. That said, Mary in Winter Light is a rock star. She’s really flawed, but underneath, a powerhouse of courage. She is so complex that she’s got me thinking about a sequel. When characters are as deep as real people, there’s always so much more to learn.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
I feel really shy about this question. I’m an observer by nature, so I don’t ever want to be in my stories, nor be any of my characters. On the periphery, I’m hopefully so absorbed in my characters that I allow them to act according to their natures, rather than imposing my thoughts and desires on them.
Though I wouldn’t want to be any of the characters, I admire Mary enormously.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
Since I based Winter Light on where I grew up, I chose the type of names I heard every day in a suburb with a huge Irish and Polish/Eastern European population. I went to a Catholic school filled with kids of those heritages. O’Connor, O’Malley, Kowalski, Popernick. When I started writing Mary, she chose her name.
If book clubs read your book, would you be willing to virtually chat with them?
Of course! I think most authors — except maybe the mega-literary-stars who might be inundated with requests — would be happy to virtually meet with book clubs. I don’t know how many do contact the author, but hopefully as more writers spread the word about their willingness to talk with readers, more book clubs will take advantage of that offer. If any clubs would like to discuss Winter Light, let me know (email@example.com).
Thank you for this opportunity to answer questions for your community, Elaine! And thanks for supporting authors with such enthusiasm.
My contact links
Please feel free to post my contact links so readers can connect with me. Thank you!
My website: http://marthaengber.com
WordPress writing blog: https://marthaengber.wordpress.com
Facebook fan page (Martha Engber’s Creatives): https://www.facebook.com/MarthasCreatives/
GoodReads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/674291.Martha_Engber
Fifteen-year-old Mary Donahue of suburban Chicago is a kid on the cusp of failure during the brutal blizzard winter of 1978-79, the end of a hard luck, hard rock era sunk in the cynical aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Though a smart, beautiful kid, she’s a motherless girl raised by an uneducated, alcoholic father within an extended family of alcoholics and addicts. Aware that she’s sinking, she’s desperate to save herself and so reaches out to an unlikely source, Kathleen, a nice, normal kid from English class.
But when the real storm hits, the full force of a harsh adult world almost buries Mary. Only then does she learn that the only difference between life and death is knowing when to grasp an extended hand.
Author Bio –
Martha Engber’s next novel, WINTER LIGHT, will be published Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. She’s also the author of THE WIND THIEF, a novel, and GROWING GREAT CHARACTERS FROM THE GROUND UP. A journalist by profession, she’s written hundreds of articles for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. She’s had a play produced in Hollywood and fiction and poetry published in the Aurorean, Watchword, the Berkeley Fiction Review and other journals. She’s also a freelance editor, workshop facilitator and speaker. She currently lives in Northern California with her husband, bike and surfboard.
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Giveaway to Win an e-copy of Winter Light (Open INT)
Giveaway to Win a Book Club Chat from Martha Engber (Open INT)
Giveaway to Win a free hour book development consultation with Martha Engber (Open INT)
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