1. Congratulations on your book! A collection of short stories which primarily feature thread and the art of sewing – this is a rather abstract theme. Who or what inspired you to pick such a theme?
When people ask me why I chose sewing as a connecting ‘thread’ for my SEWING CAN BE DANGEROUS and how unusual that is for a theme, I laugh inwardly. Why? Because before I wrote my very first fictional story, coincidentally entitled, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous,” I had been a quilt designer/teacher for over twenty years. I was surrounded by quilts (my husband always claimed we were living in a ‘padded cell’), and my studio had boxes upon boxes of fabrics and wool (I also knitted scarves for Xmas gifts), homemade folk art angels coating the walls, and two sewing machines.
So, after writing that first story, although I realized I wanted to continue writing others to go with it, I also knew that collections often needed some sort of theme; hence the sewing/craft element.
2. You’ve dealt with various demons of society in your book, be it the Nazi themed story of the story dealing with slavery yet featuring sewing as a vital part. What prompted you to pick social issues?
Reading or watching movies/documentaries about heavy social issues has always interested me. Although I’ve been told I have a great sense of humor, love to toss out a good laugh (Just ask my family, friends, and students), and howl at a good comedy, when it comes to research and writing, I enjoy discovering events from the past, and the more potent they are, the better. These often sobering events not only resonate with me, they remind me of the phrase, ‘History tends to repeat itself.’ Therefore, once I knew I wanted to combine different stories involving the fiber arts, I did not want to turn the collection into cozy little lightweight sewing stories. Not this gal!
3. Your protagonists are primarily female. Isn’t that like stereotyping by associating females with the art of sewing?
You know, you’re right! OMG...I guess at the time I wrote these stories, I related more to females in history than males. However, in my novel UNEXPECTED GIFTS, which was written after the stories and involved a young woman reading her ancestors’ diaries in order to help her resolve some of her own life problems, there were several chapters expressed through a male’s point of view. I certainly enjoyed writing those as much as the chapters with the female narratives.
4. Tell us about your writing process.
As for conceiving a book/story idea, it’s a bit like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I can come up with an idea at the oddest times––driving (ssh! Don’t tell the traffic cops), watching a movie, reading an historical article, talking to someone, hearing a news blurb––and soon, it begins to fester. Or, I can read about a time period where one little fact sticks out like a sore thumb and catapults me into an entire story.
Then, being basically a planner, I feel the most comfortable coming up with a beginning and end as soon as possible. Once I do that, I actually can feel my body relax. Although that doesn’t always happen, until it does, my mind is on high alert looking for those two scenarios.
As for outlining, I’ll start with a vague outline. Then, as I obtain more details (scene ideas, actual page numbers from the research books I have highlighted, character motivations/development, and plots), I will furiously scribble about these things on bits of paper and stuff those notes in separate envelopes. Read-Scribble-Stuff, I call the process. And then, much like turning many blocks into a quilt, I start mapping out the chapters one by one, and taping down the bits of paper into a notebook to remind myself which way I am going. I take that process chapter by chapter, but never get too far ahead of myself. Do I always stick to my outline? Absolutely not! But the structure helps me think more clearly.
Then I usually write my scenes, one at a time, always in long hand first (like I am doing now), often sitting on the bed with my favorite cat squashed up against me, his head draped over my legs (like he is doing now!) I’ll then go to the computer and type that scene up, making small edits along the way. I print it out and edit. And edit, and well…edit.
5. Any pearls of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Being a fairly new writer myself––I mean, I didn’t even start writing until I was middle-aged––all I can say is I am still learning the writing process versus the promotional process and how balance is the key. Because I write a lot of historical fiction, I’ve also come to terms with my genre not being as popular as murder mysteries, vampires, or erotic romance, but I’ve decided to follow my heart and let the chips fall where they may…Who knows? Maybe I’ll write a modern day thriller in the future, but for now...
Now for some quick fire questions
1) Crochet or Entrelac?
My mom crocheted afgans, finished the embroidery projects I would always abandon, and knitted incredibly beautiful cable-knit Irish sweaters for all of us. Talk about influences! I myself like to crochet and knit, but Carpal Tunnel has limited those activities.
2) Given a chance to learn—Fencing or Tango dancing?
Can’t I do both?
3) Coffee or Rum?
Coffee. It gets me going first thing in the morning. If it were rum, I’d never get off of the couch!
4) One habit of yours that you always wanted to get rid of but haven’t yet.
Raiding the refrigerator whenever I’m frustrated with a scene or an Internet problem!
5) Tell me something the world doesn’t know about you yet.
Hmmmmm. Let’s see...well, having been trained as a classical singer, I decided to try my hand at singing pop/rock music to ‘loosen me up’. The year was 1979, Disco was King, and when I sang in small clubs, it was a true eye-opener. I found out that I didn’t want to hang out with the band members, who reveled in staying up all night jamming as they guzzled whisky. Nor did I enjoy coming home reeking of cigarette smoke. I ultimately learned I was a more private person who loved getting up early in the morning to jog along the beach; someone who was comforted by the little things I did in my home or with friends and family. HOWEVER, the best thing that came out of that experience was I met my husband at one of those clubs and I am still grateful for that…35 years later!!
Thanks Mallery for taking time out to answer my questions!
Check out the review of her book here