Monday, May 2, 2011

Author Interview: Nancy Volkers

Earlier today I reviewed A Scottish Ferry Tale by Nancy Volkers.  Now Ms. Volkers has taken the time to answer a few questions for us.

Girls Just Reading:  I’m a fan of May/September romances. I can understand why Cassie is drawn to Ralph. What compelled you to tell their story?

NV:  I'm a fan, too... I guess that's obvious. ;-) Cassie and Ralph are in two very different places in life, yet something draws them together. What is it? What are they seeking from the other? In general, I'm endlessly curious about the way people get to know one another, how they decide who's important to them in a relationship. I'm also fascinated by what people say as well as what they omit, and the gulf that's sometimes there between what people say and what they mean. All of these things went into Cassie and Ralph's relationship in one way or another.

GJR:  Care to give us a hint on what happens next to Cassie your new novel Scotland by Starlight?

NV:  The sequel opens with Cassie flying to Scotland to move in with Ralph. She's her usual nervous, hyper-analytical self... but she's come a long way. Cassie and Ralph do spend more time on Coll, and the reader gets to learn more about characters introduced in A Scottish Ferry Tale, including Jamie, Saoirse, Leslie and Mona (one of Ralph's sisters). And we learn a lot more about Ralph's childhood and how it shaped him. I shouldn't play favorites with books, but I admit to favoring Scotland by Starlight just a bit...maybe because it's not just one storyline. The book has made people laugh out loud, as well as cry... there's a lot going on in it.

GJR:  Whre does your love for Scotland stem from?

NV:  I first visited Scotland for a few days, long ago. I remember clouds, rain, Edinburgh  Castle... and lots of pubs. I visited again a few years later and spent a couple of weeks there, including time in Oban and on Coll. I fell in love with it. The people, the accent, the countryside, the ocean, the sheep. It's a tough place to live and the people are tough too, self sufficient, yet so kind. Writing these books has made me desperately want to go back! 

GJR:  A Scottish Ferry Tale is the product of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. Can you describe your writing process during that month? 

NV:  It involved frantic typing and lots of coffee! I have a full-time job and also freelance write & edit, not to mention having a family, so time was tight. I remember writing mostly after my kids were in bed (they were 6 and 3 at the time), and one weekend I went to a meet-up with other Vermonters doing NaNoWriMo. We met at a coffee shop and I banged out 3,000 words while

I was there. I definitely work better under pressure. The point of NaNo is to "let it flow" -- not to go back and edit anything or rewrite. It was the first time I'd really allowed myself to do that, and it was very liberating!

GJR:  Who are your favorite authors?

NV:  I'm an eclectic reader, so I'll try to choose 10 diverse ones. Tana French, Bill Bryson, Anne Lamott, Curtis Sittenfeld, Roald Dahl, Markus Zusak, Steve Martin, Barbara Kingsolver, Atul Gawande, and Shakespeare. And I did read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and really enjoyed most of them (though the seventh one frustrated me beyond belief).

GJR:  What are you currently reading?

NV:  A book by Byron Katie - she writes about how we live large parts of our lives based on assumptions, and how miserable that can make us, and how to break free of that. I recently finished You Know When The Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon - it's a book of short stories set in Ft. Hood. - and An Object of Beauty, a novel about art by Steve Martin. My daughter and I are reading The Name of This Book is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch. I think I might be enjoying it more than she is... I'm dying to read ahead and find out what happens.

I don't actually read a lot of chick lit or romance. Is that like blasphemy? ;-) I read some romance novels after A Scottish Ferry Tale came out, because I was arguing with a fellow writer about whether it was a romance or not. I've come to accept that it is, but I'm not sure I can say the same for Scotland by Starlight. I'll let the readers decide that one!

GJR:  If you were not a writer, what would you be doing?

NV:  I would prefer to be independently wealthy so I could spend a lot of time with my kids, outside, reading, napping, writing, exploring, traveling and generally enjoying myself. ;-) Whatever it is, it would have variety. I have a biology degree, love being outdoors and started a PhD program in ecology; I've considered medical school; I like teaching. I think changing careers every year would be great... I like learning new things but then get sort of bored once I've learned them. That's why freelance writing is a good fit --

I have to learn all I can about a certain topic, write about it, and then move on to something else. Same thing with writing novels... I learned a ton about Scotland, Scottish Gaelic, and Scottish food, customs and superstitions (they are very superstitious!). I have a novel in progress now that's leading me to learn about running, cell biology, police work and snippets of Italian.

GJR:  What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent writer?

NV:  Getting the word out. Even with the Internet and social media, there's a lot of legwork involved in getting your book out there to the people who would be most likely to read it. And I may be unusual among writers but I'm not a big self marketer. I love writing and I love to hear when my writing has touched someone or made them think or laugh or cry. Or if they didn't like what I wrote, and why. But I don't love getting out there and pushing my book at people.

GJR:  Something different: I think that living in Vermont would be quiet, peaceful and perfect. Am I off the mark? What is it really like to live there?

NV:  Right now, it's muddy. ;-) I grew up in a small town in New York, and there's a lot about Vermont that reminds me of growing up. It's a wonderful place, great for raising kids, there are lots of artists and interesting people living here. People are self-sufficient but also willing to lend a hand if you need it. Sort of like Scotland, really. There are great local farms, cheeses, wines, chocolate, and of course Ben & Jerry's... and you get to experience all 5 seasons (the usual 4 plus mud season). However, you really have to enjoy winter!

Thanks again ,Nancy for spending a little time with us. Check in later today for a chance to win
A Scottish Ferry Tale.

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