1/15/15

Marylee MacDonald Day 1

We are having a giveaway going on for a free, autographed paperback of MONTPELIER TOMORROW.
(Anyone can win the item by going to the rafflecopter on the right side of the page.)

Montpelier Tomorrow

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I live in Arizona, have five grown kids, fourteen grandchildren, and am married to a man who is my best friend. That’s the short  version. The long version is that my first husband was killed in a car accident when I was pregnant with our fifth child, and because of that, I became a carpenter, thus delaying my plans to be a writer. Fast forward to me turning fifty. I had just started writing again when my son-in-law was diagnosed with ALS. My novel, MONTPELIER TOMORROW, began then. I knew I was caught up in a drama that was more intense than anything I could invent, and so I kept extensive notes that became the basis for this novel. Along with this novel, I’ve written many prize-winning short stories as well as creative nonfiction. Some of those stories are up on my website, and I invite you to drop in and have a look. http://maryleemacdonald.us

Why not a memoir?

I tried to write MONTPELIER TOMORROW as a memoir, but the story voice went dead. Have you ever listened to a teacher who stands at a lectern, reads from notes, and whose delivery is a monotone? That was this book in its memoirish incarnation. To get around the deadness in the voice, I knew I had to place some who was NOT ME at the center of the book. I rode the El in Chicago (where I was then living) and wrote down physical descriptions and snippets of dialogue. One day I spotted a woman whom I knew instinctively could be Colleen. She was 5’11”, freckled, and with braid that hung to her hips. When I had her voice in my head, I could re-envision the story as if she, not I, had lived through the experience of being her son-in-law’s caregiver.
I, of course, am a saint. Sort of like Mother Teresa. I would never say snarky, mean things to a dying
man, nor would I feel exhausted and resentful. Colleen was not a saint, however. And, after she became a living person in my mind, I thought, what if the dying man isn’t noble, and what if Colleen’s daughter isn’t grateful to have her mom underfoot? That gave me a story with a lot of tension.

This sounds like a pretty bleak story. Is it?

It’s not a laugh riot, that’s for sure. I should probably issue a warning: Do not bring this book to the
beach! On the other hand, if you want a book that will put the ordinary hassles of life in perspective, this is the book for you.
Luckily, Colleen has a sense of humor. And when the dying man Tony is not being a pain in the rear, he can be counted on for some laughs. I’ve often thought about humor is an underrated coping
mechanism. A good laugh diffuses tension. It helps you get through things that might otherwise crush
you.

Do you have a favorite character in MONTPELIER TOMORROW?

My favorite character in the novel is a walk-on. She’s like the maid who comes on stage and steals the
show. Esmeralda is a high school student with a rescue dog, Bear. Both Esmeralda and the dog are just
what Colleen doesn’t need. She’s got her hands full trying to deal with what awaits her daughter.
Colleen is trying to rent out the apartment that provides her extra income. She’s a kindergarten teacher.
She’s conflicted because she doesn’t really feel like getting involved in her daughter’s life, and yet, she
foresees the day when she must. Along comes Esmeralda, a young girl who makes some claim on
Colleen that even Colleen can’t quite name. The reason I like Esmeralda is that she’s full of surprises.
She’s resourceful and has her own take on things.

Can you think of an interesting or fun fact about your book?

What’s perhaps the weirdest thing about this book is the timing. I began writing this book twelve years
ago. I revised it thirty or forty times, all the while sending it to agents and literary contests. Finally, a
year ago—my New Year’s resolution—I vowed that I would get this book published, no matter what. I
sent it to All Things That Matter Press, and within three days, I had a contract. Coincidentally, the Ice
Bucket Challenge raised awareness of ALS, and soon everyone was dumping  buckets of ice on
themselves.  The timing couldn’t have been better.

Which writers have influenced your work or helped you out with your stories?

Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Flaubert, George Elliot, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens have all
influenced my writing. What I particularly admire about those writers is that they allow their characters
to make bad decisions. In any work of fiction, there must be several “turning points.” These are
moments when the character decides to go to the left or the right. Sometimes, characters are aware of
their motivations, but at other times, the reader can see that the character is deluding him or herself.
They’re getting “it” wrong.

What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

Let your friends know you liked the book. Facebook is a good way to do that. I also really appreciate it
when people take the time to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s fascinating to see what
moves readers emotionally.

Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Join discussions on sites such as SheWrites or LinkedIn. There are many generous writers and social
media experts out there, and they are willing to share information about the publishing process.  Long
before you publish your book, however, you should learn how to use social media.  It’s stressful to try to
be learning this after the fact, though that may just be a reflection of my age. For me, at 69, it’s pretty
stressful to have to add the social media thing on top of dealing with craft elements about writing.

Do you have a favorite author? What draws you to that person’s work?

Alice Munro is my favorite author. Though she’s never written a novel, she won the Nobel Prize based
on her outstanding collections of short stories. What I love about her is that she makes the improbable
seem utterly probably. Her stories have more layers of back-story and emotional complexity than most
novels do. I saw her at a bookstore reading once, and she was a most humble and gracious woman.

Can you remember one of the first things you wrote? What makes it memorable?

After many years working as a carpenter and then as an editor and writer for building magazines, in my
mid-forties, I was finally able to clear some space for my “real writing.” The literary magazine, River Oak
Review, published “The Price We Paid” about the surrender of my oldest son to adoption. I have an
excerpt on my website. http://tinyurl.com/o25klm8 I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, but
it does have a quality that I strive for in all my writing: emotional honesty.

And, now,  before you go, how about a snippet from your book. Include links to where we can find 
your work.

From the opening  of the novel, MONTPELIER TOMORROW:
“Time robs us of chances for reconciliation. Time makes us liars. I wanted to save my daughter, and even
now, I don’t know what made me think I could keep her from going through what I had gone through,
widowed and pregnant , all at the same time. The scars from her father’s death had never fully healed,
but if not for Tony’s illness, Sandy would have sailed into her future and I would have gone on trying to
save the world, one kindergartner at a time.
That June, when I closed up my classroom and headed off to Washington , D.C., I teetered on the brink
of an exciting transition. For the past few years, aging parents had kept me in Chicago. Not that I
begrudged them: This was the natural progression of a woman’s life, or so it seemed, even though
women of my generation thought we had liberated ourselves from traditional roles. You can’t really free
yourself from love though, nor from the surprise that middle-age doesn’t mean you have more time for
yourself. Children leave the nest about the time parents grow frail. One minute you’re changing babies’
diapers and the next you’re tugging up Depends. My mother had died. I missed her terribly, but her
death had freed me. Finally, with an unencumbered heart, I could see my daughter’s new house and
help when the second grandchild arrived. The birth would give me a chance to make amends for the
baby showers and birthdays I had missed.”

MONTPELIER TOMORROW by Marylee MacDonald can be purchased at:
Amazon (Paperback): http://amzn.to/1Jc3A0t
Amazon (Kindle): http://amzn.to/13iyZNX
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1H5dw8d
Barnes & Noble (Nook/Paperback): http://bit.ly/1za4zv4
All Things That Matter Press (Paperback): http://bit.ly/13iA3Bk

You can read about my fiction at my author site at
http://maryleemacdonald.us
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Montpelier-Tomorrow-by-Marylee-MacDonald/646932498673112
https://twitter.com/MaryleeMacD

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