Today I am joined by Martha Engber, as part of the blog tour for her book Winter Light. Many thanks to Martha for taking the time to talk to us today about her goals as an author, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to be a part of the tour.
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.
My goal as an author is to write books that completely capture readers’ imaginations. Not partially. Not almost. But totally. In short, I’m trying to achieve the same level of immersion in other universes that I experienced while reading when I was a kid.
Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Secret Garden, Lord of the Flies, Ender’s Game. The genre never mattered to me so long as two things occurred: 1) the author launched me to where I’d never been before, and 2) the author never — not for a single moment — broke the magic of that universe. When I finished that kind of book, I’d be sad for days, wishing I could get back to that world, but knowing I couldn’t.
I suppose getting spoiled like that so early on is why nothing irks me more than sloppy storytelling where I can see author missteps: characters not acting according to their natures; plot twists that don’t make sense; telling me too much, even though the author has done a good job of showing what’s going on.
If I’m a harsh critic of other books, that means I have to be even tougher on my own, which I took to heart when writing Winter Light.
Though I wrote the first draft in about four months, I spent the next ten years turning the material over and over to see every angle of every moment, because I know as a reader how even one tiny oversight can rip a reader out of that particular world.
The most interesting part of writing this book, however, was that magical moment when I no longer thought about the reader, but instead felt overcome with responsibility to Mary Donahue and the need to tell her story right. If I was going to burden her to the point of breaking, I had to see and understand every implication of that weight and its effect on her and others.
And therein came my epiphany as an author. By losing myself in Mary’s universe, as I once got lost as a reader, I allowed Mary to tell her own story. She’s so with such strength and courage that she — not I — is the one who will bring readers into her world and keep them there to the very end.
Long live characters who allow us to feel at such a deep level!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.
Martha is running three fab giveaways at the moment – if you click on the prize info for each, it will take you to the Rafflecopter entry form. Ts & Cs for all three are underneath the entry links.
Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter links. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the other blogs on the tour to find out more about Winter Light.