Monday, 1 June 2009

June's Publication

June's publication is another debut novel (and the first deliberately positioned by MNW as a "summer read"), Maggie Dana's Beachcombing.




Sometimes old flames burn the brightest

Jillian Hunter treasures her independence. She’s raised two sons by herself, launched a small business, and restored a tumbledown beach cottage in Connecticut. But when a trip to London reunites her with Colin – an old flame she hasn’t seen in thirty-five years – Jill falls for him all over again.

Love makes Jill reckless. This could be her chance for a new beginning. But Colin isn’t quite the boy she remembers and she ends up risking everything she’s worked for – her business, her home, and her two closest friends – to make a life with him. And when she’s faced with the risk of losing Colin as well, Jill is forced to take an uncomfortably close look at the woman she’s allowed herself to become.


Hi, Maggie. Tell us a little about your novel, Beachcombing.

Here’s how a writer friend described it: Beachcombing is a coming-of-middle-age story about girlfriends when you’re no longer a girl, about growing up when you’re already grown up, and the price you’re willing to pay for the love of your life … which I thought was perfect, so I sent it to Will and they used it on the back cover.

Basically, I wanted to write the sort of book I enjoy reading, a story that would resonate with middle-aged women who’ve moved beyond novels about twentysomethings obsessed with designer footwear and bitchy bosses. I also wanted to explore the dynamics of women’s friendships and the pitfalls of trying to rekindle a teenage romance. People all over are reuniting with old flames, best friends, and former classmates, and I realized there’s an army of readers out there who’d appreciate and identify with a story of new beginnings, of a fierce and unexpected love that hits without warning, and the consequences of that improbable love.

You’re one of the growing band of American writers whose debut novel is published in the UK by Macmillan New Writing. What was the journey that brought it over the pond?

American? Gosh, it feels odd to be called that. Actually, I’m a Brit. I grew up in Uxbridge and moved to the States in my early 20s, but didn’t became a U.S. citizen until a couple of years ago when the 2008 election unearthed a passion for politics I didn’t know I had.

My path to publication is littered with diversions, wrong turns, and numerous potholes. In the 1980s I wrote kids’ books, mid-grade and YA, seven of which actually got published. Then life got in the way and it was 15 years before I fired up my keyboard again. Women’s fiction this time. I’d had no trouble finding a publisher for my kids’ books; how hard would it be to find one for a novel? (Do I hear laughter? Snorts of derision?)

In the 10 years since I began my novel, it has undergone more facelifts than the QE2, including (in no particular order) 2 agents, 3 title changes, and 4 major revisions that chopped its original 180,000 words in half. It has been scrapped and rewritten from the ground up in a different tense and POV, with a brand new plot and enough new characters to fill a phone book. It has come close, but not close enough, with several editors in New York, and it has lived in a box beneath my bed for months on end while I tried to pretend I didn’t care if it ever got published. But thanks to a couple of good friends, it did. First, Carrie Kabak, an English author who lives in Kansas City, suggested I approach U.K. publishers; then Eliza Graham offered to introduce me to Will … and here I am, and delighted to be with MNW. So’s my manuscript. It was getting awfully tired of living amid the dustballs beneath my bed.

Beachcombing is the first MNW title to be published as a paperback original. What was the thinking behind that, and how do you feel about being a pioneer?

Originally the novel was scheduled to appear in April 2009 as a hardcover. Then, last September, I got an email from Will telling me they’d had another think about it and decided it made more sense, given the title and summer-readishness (is that a word?) of the story, for it to come out in June and in trade paper. That was fine with me; a brilliant idea, in fact. And I love being a pioneer. I’m all over the notion of selling more copies at a lower price, which is what marketing probably had in mind when they made the decision to change gears. I suppose it’s a case, now, of ‘wait and see,’ before deciding whether other MNW titles will follow suit.

What is your typical writing day?

I’m a freelance book designer and typesetter, so I can set my own hours, but my workload is erratic and unpredictable, which makes it impossible to plan my writing. It gets fitted in around the edges, and when I’m motivated and going full tilt, I can write anywhere, amid any sort of chaos, including my daughter’s busy kitchen with kids, dogs, and cats underfoot. Sometimes, I’ll write all day without stopping. On the other hand, I can be alone at home where it’s blissfully quiet with no distractions at all, yet weeks can go by and I won’t have written a single word. But if I had to pick my favourite time to write, it’d be after dark. I’m a nightowl and you’ll often find me still at my keyboard well after midnight.

We’d love to have Four Random Facts about you, and as I’m a Kirk Douglas fan, one of them has to be about him!

1. OK, Kirk comes first. In November 1960, I attended a media bash at Festival Hall where a friendly blond fellow with an intriguing scar on his face chatted me up. He owned a modeling agency and needed half-a-dozen young women with long, dark hair for an upcoming publicity gig. Was I game? Since it involved being paid and getting a free hairdo, I agreed. A week later I found myself dressed as a Roman serving wench and dispensing champagne at the London premiere of SPARTACUS. A bit nervous about my acute clumsiness, I asked the friendly blond fellow what I should do if I dropped my tray or spilled champagne on a guest. “Faint,” he said. “Close your eyes and collapse gracefully.” And I almost did when Kirk Douglas grabbed me, draped his arm around my shoulders, and told me to smile in his gravelly, trademark voice. Then he turned his best side toward the cameras, and our photo made the front pages of the next morning’s papers: Kirk Douglas in full dimple mode; me looking as if I’d just dropped my tray and was waiting for the friendly blond fellow to kill me. Wouldn’t have been too hard, either. He was standing twelve inches from my left elbow, all done up like Spartacus in a leather skirt and holding a thunking great sword.

2. I used to be a bell ringer.

3. I’m a card-carrying arachnophobe. Spiders scare me witless.

4. My children’s great, great, great grandfather (on their father’s side) is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Do you have a writing mantra?

Stop mucking about and get on with it.

Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what …. and why?

I’ve been typing so long, it’s the only way I can write. The minute my fingertips hit the keyboard, they turn into 10 tiny brains, which makes it rather inconvenient when I accidentally slice one open with a paring knife.

Who are the writers you most admire? Can you trace their influence in your own writing?

I’d like to say Tennyson and Tolstoy, Coleridge and Keats, but I’ll be honest and own up to loving Trollope. Not Anthony, but Joanna. Then there’s Buchan … not John, but Elizabeth. I admire both these British women authors. They’ve provided me with many hours of reading entertainment to say nothing of inspiration and encouragement for my own writing.

What are you working on at the moment?

Advanced writing avoidance techniques … and mulling over a few ideas for the next novel.

Beachcombing is scheduled for release on June 5th, just in time to pick one up on your way to the shore. Best of luck to Maggie and to the book.

10 comments:

Doug Worgul said...

Congratulations, Maggie. Dynamite interview. Best wishes on the launch.

doug worgul

Aliya Whiteley said...

Congrats, Maggie! Wishing great things for the book.

Brian McGilloway said...

Best wishes for publication, Maggie. May you enjoy every success.

Matt Curran said...

Will pick up a copy this Friday (sounds like a great book) - congratulations, Maggie, on being an MNW trailblazer. It'll be interesting to see how well the paperback does vs hardback sales.

And thanks to David for a great interview too...

Tim Stretton said...

Congratulations, Maggie. I hope the book is a real smash.

Looks like I will be getting to meet you after all!

Alis said...

Great interview Maggie! Looking forward to meeting you on Thursday...

Ann Weisgarber said...

Finally your launch date is here. Congratulations, Maggie. If the book has half the snap and pop of your interview, it'll be THE read of the summer.

See you Thursday!

Maggie Dana said...

Thanks, all. Am at friends' house trying to get comfy with their PC (I'm a Mac person) and it ain't easy, making a smooth switch. Plus their keyboard has stuff in different places so my emails and posts have some very unusual bits and pieces in them.

Looking forward to seeing some MNWers tomorrow night and let's hope we'll be celebrating for Ann as well.

David Isaak said...

"And thanks to David for a great interview too..."

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that the intrepid Tim Stretton was the interviewer. I merely posted it, as Tim was in New York doing something. (Perhaps he's selling out ot Broadway?)

Frances said...

Really good interview, Maggie. The very best of luck for your novel.