On 13th October, 2006, my book club interviewed Charles Martin, author of The Dead Don’t Dance , Wrapped in Rain , When Crickets Cry, Maggie and Chasing Fireflies (releasing in 2007) We had reviewed When Crickets Cry and then spoke to him via conference call. Here is a transcript of that interview which was fun and informative. Thanks again Charles!
CM: Hello, this is Charles
Rel: Hi Charles, Rel from Australia here. How are you doing?
CM: I’m good, how are you?
Rel: We’re well, thanks. Had a good chat about your book.
CM: Oh, yeah?
Rel: Yeah. They’ve all made heaps of noise, couldn’t stop talking and now they’ve goin all quiet on me!
CM: Well, don’t do that!
Rel: No! We really appreciate your time so thanks for giving it to us.
CM: We’re going to have to get over the language barrier!
Rel: Ok, you can’t understand me?
CM: I can understand you a little bit, but it’s more like after you say it. It takes about 30 seconds for it to kinda swirl around in my head and then it’s okay so that is what she said!
Rel: I’ll speak a bit slower…
CM: Oh, that’s much better!
Rel: We have a South African girl here so that will be even better!
CM: Oh goodness! How many of you are there?
CM: Ok. It sounds like you have a good phone or something because I can hear all of you. A lot of times when I do this whoever is calling me I can’t really hear but you all sound really, I can hear you really well.
Rel: That’s good, you just can’t understand us!
CM: I have no idea what you are saying!
Rel: Well, this a new experience for us too, this conference call so we will just see how it all pans out.
CM: It’s not necessarily new for me but its something that I am still a little , like, I mean its sort of a strange thing, I mean don’t you all have something better to do than sit around and talk to some guy in Florida and Georgia at this time of night on Friday the 13th or something?
Rel: We’re all, you know, enjoying a night together!
CM: There’s the truth of it. I’m curious, since your there in Australia, here right now it is the morning of the 13th. What is it where you are?
Rel: It’s 9.15 on the night of the 13th.
CM: Ok. So you’re almost 15 hours ahead.
Rel: Something like that – we like being ahead of the pack! How about we get into it?
A man with a painful past. A child with a doubtful future. And a shared journey toward healing for both their hearts.
It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl’s pretty yellow dress can’t quite hide the ugly scar on her chest.
Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads to his car, his mind on a boat he’s restoring at a nearby lake. The stranger understands more about the scar than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives.
Before it’s over, they’ll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry . . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.
Rel: One of the favourite questions, no doubt you have heard it before and will probably have your answer all ready, what inspired you to wrote When Crickets Cry?
CM: A couple of things. If you read any of my other stories, especially The Dead Don’t Dance, you will see in the acknowledgements, that, um, I am 36 now, when I was 27 Christy and I were out then at Virgina Beach. It’s on the east coast of the United States and it’s about due east of our capital. Anyway, we were out there at Graduate School and I was travelling to work one morning for UPS. Do you have UPS there? Postal service?
Rel: Something like that.
CM: Anyway, I was going to work for this big shipping company and I had to be at work about 3am so its about 230am and I am driving to work and I had this flash or this, I don’t know, this picture that I kinda saw that was pretty detailed for me and I guess I had seen them most of my life but never really paid attention to them and I mean its just a daydream that I see in sort of technicolour. And I made some notes, I always carry a little notebook with me, and I made some pretty detailed notes and as the months went by it sort of became more solidified and that’s when I sort of strapped a novel around it and that became The Dead Don’t Dance. That has occurred to me with most, all of my stories now and I finished, I guess I’ve written five novels now.
With When Crickets Cry the first thing I saw was a little girl in a yellow dress standing on a street corner in Clayton, Georgia, selling lemonade and the thing that struck me was a scar on her chest, it was just a little scar and a little pill container. Somewhere along that time, this kind of all happened around the same time, I began thinking about the heart and just, I don’t know, just sort of this miraculous thing I hadn’t thought of, here’s this little organ that sits in the middle of our chest and it really ticks non stop until thay day you die, it never takes a break, it never takes a vacation. Something about that amazed me.
And then the first part of this equation was, Christy and I have three boys and the boys and I were reading somewhere in Proverbs and we ended up in the fourth chapter and the Psalmist was trying to give his admonition to his son and it starts in the second chapter and goes all the way through the third and it ends in the fourth and for some reason we got to the middle of that fourth chapter where he says “above all else guard your heart” and it just struck me, I don’t know why, but it just struck me that here is the wisest man on the planet, saying “above all else”.
Those three things occurred within about a week of eachother – the picture I saw in my head, my thinking on the heart, then Charlie and that got me going towards the book that you all read.
Rel: From that time when you had that picture was it that you finished the book?
CM: About 18 months which is a really long time for me to write a book but there is a good reason for that. Normally a book will take me 7 to 10 months, something like that, maybe 12, it just depends on the research. “Crickets” involved a lot of reasearch because I don’t know squat about medicine! I asked a lot of questions, I didn’t want to write something that just sketched the surface, I wanted to write something that really kind of got down into the details and I could write with some real specificity.
I was about six months in to working on this manuscript and I got a call from my agent who is in Los Angeles. A publisher out of Nashville had heard about me and my writing and wanted to know if I would write a biography of one of our senators, Bill Frist and I had never really written much non-fiction, I mean I had done a little bit during the years but fiction is the thing that got me out of bed in the morning but the thing was it was going to help me buy groceries so I told Chris I said yeah. It was a real short timetable and it was good money so I took 72 days from start to finish and I got to research this guy and it turns out that before he went to the Senate he was one ot the best heart transplant surgeons in the country. So in the process of talking to his friends and researching his life I really got to research the life a heart transplant surgeon, it was detail I never would have gotten otherwise. Interestingly enough, I was interviewing his friends some of whom were really some of the most well know and decorated doctors in the States right now. I’d be interviewing them about him and in the back of my mind I’m thinking about “Crickets” so I’d throw in a question that had nothing to do with him but it sounded medical and they didn’t know the difference and would answer it anyway.
I was really grateful for that chance and then I went back to work on the manuscript and I rewrote good portions of it that obviously had to do with the “floor of the kitchen” scene and of course Annie’s transplant, none of which I could regurgitate at this moment!
SH: That was our next question! (LOL)
ND: I wanted to know Charles, at first I want to comment, and say that the piece where Reese talks to Termite about the girly magazines, I thought that was brilliant! It is probably the most concise and best thing to explain that to a young guy that I’ve ever come across so that was great. Where did you get that from?
CM: It is interesting that you bring that up. A lot of groups I talk to ask me about that. I have done a lot of live radio interviews but I was doing one a couple of weeks ago and the lady interviewing me read that section of the book on air and then asked me about it and I had no idea this was coming. It is probably one of my favourite, I got about a dozen favourite scenes from the book but that is one of them because I really think it shows you Reese’s heart, to some extent.
For me that came out of, and my dad doesn’t even remember it, but I was about 12 or 13 probably just starting to wrestle with hormones in my life, and we were doing something and saw either a billboard or a cover of a Vanity Fair magazine or a Cospmopolitan and there was maybe a girl in a bathing suit or somebody half dressed and Dad made a comment, it was just in passing. I do not even know if he made it directed at me and he looked at and shook his head and said that is somebody’s daughter and it struck me at the moment, it really took that woman out of the realm of object and put her on the table on a level with my sisters. I’ve got three sisters. It did a wonderful thing for me, it made me think that that’s somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, that’s going to be somebody’s mother.
I’m not setting myself up to be a saint, all guys wrestle, we’ve got it hard wired into our DNA so I am by no means perfect but Dad did something for me in that moment that I remember and it was fun for me to put that in my book! I have had paople call me and ask for permission touse that in something that they want to share it in so I have said absolutely sure.
NG: You have referenced a few Shakespeare quotes in your book, what other authors did you use in the book?
CM: Milton, Blake, Coleridge, some Tennyson and then there is some fun stuff, you know the quote from Willy Wonka and gosh, I don’t remember, just little things that stuck in my head.
Rel: Did you have them in your head or did you go looking for them?
CM: Some of them I did. When I was in graduate school, six years in grad school, we read a lot of classics, some really great stuff and in the process of doing that I would stumble on what somebody had said or I would hear it and go and look it up and document it on my computer, things that I just liked. For some reason, when I was doing this story I thought of that and went back to it and interestingly enough a lot of those quotes had something to do with the heart, about half to two thirds of them. I started pulling them out because I wanted a character with some depth. I just thought that added some colour to his life. A lot of them I think there is a lot of value in them so….in the original draft I put in more than what you actually read but its kind of like salt and pepper, a little bit is good, too much makes the food taste bad so I pulled some of them out just because you don’t need to hear that much.
After coming through grad school, most of the folks that I read are for some reason, dead! I don’t know why that is, it just came to be.
A sleepy rural town in South Carolina. The end of summer and a baby about to be born. But in the midst of hope and celebration comes unexpected tragedy, and Dylan Styles must come to terms with how much he’s lost. Will the music of his heart be stilled forever—or will he choose to dance with life once more, in spite of sorrow and heartbreak?
The Dead Don’t Dance is a bittersweet yet triumphant love story—a tale of one man’s spiritual journey through the darkness of despair and into the light of hope.
Rel: With your characters, do you have people you know in mind when you write them?
CM: That’s a good question. Most of my characters are composites of people that I know but it is not necessarily a conscious choice to make them that way. I don’t sit down to write them that way. Do you all have that toy called Mr Potato Head?
CM: Well, I don’t really do it that way. I don’t really sort of pick and choose and end up with Mr Potato Head. I find them wandering around the back side of my brain and they just sort of show up the way that you see them and the more I get to know them, the more I spend time with them, the more they present their personalities to me. Maybe I am a half of a lunatic or something and have some issues to deal with but they’re hanging around inside my head. With Annie, I’ve never met a little girl like her and most of the characteristics that Annie presents, well, no that’s not true, a lot of the things she says and does, I drew from one of my sons. I think the interesting thing about that is the actions of a 6, 7, 8, 9 year old a lot of the time they are so unisex because they are so tender and innocent. They just sound different coming out of a 9 year old girl than a nine year old boy.
If you read my other stories you’ll see, especially in The Dead Don’t Dance, Maggie, even in Wrapped in Rain, the female in my opinion, are often real similar. They might look different but in my head they are real similar and that was a conscious choice I made as a writer about five years ago. I was sitting there trying to write The Dead Don’t Dance, a love story between a husband and a wife and I was staring to write about the role of the wife and I did not want to write about Christy because I felt like that was too much like taking a telesope and looking into my life. I got about a third of the way into the story and I turned around and looked at this female character and I didn’t even believe her, she was real cardboard and fake and stiff and I thought I’ve got to wrote what I know so I went back and I rewrote her and I gave myself the freedom to let me relationship with my wife influence my writing. I’ve done that in all my books now just because it is theonly thing I know. One of these days my readers are going to catch on that they are all the same but I am just going to keep writing them!
Most of the characters that i write that are female, look at Maggie, look at Cindy, look at Ella, they probably present a lot of characteristics that are similar, just in terms of how they react, how they love but that is because I have only been married to one woman, thank goodness. It’s all I know!
FVDP: I wanted to say you write really beautifully and is that what you always wanted to do, write novels?
CM: When I was about fifteen……well the short answer to your question…mm, there is no short answer! When I was about fifteen I started writing stories, just little short stories and for some reason in my life at that point I was wrestling with hormones and grades and sports and am I going to be good enough to play sports, can I go to college and play. School is hard and the hormone thing is really difficult and I don’t know it was the first of the perfect storms in my life and I don’t think out loud. It doesn’t come out my mouth, I usually stew on it for a couple of days and then it will come out of my mouth. That was my process so when I was fifteen I started writing stories because it helped me deal with whatever emotion I was feeling on the inside. The stories might have nothing to do, if you read them you might not think I was dealing with school or whatever, but something about the process helped me purge the emotions. It was almost like my fingers could speak better than my mouth. So I took that throuhg high school with me and college.
When I was 27 and started working on The Dead Don’t Dance, the same was true then and I think it is true today, I ‘m still wrestling with stuff on the inside and I am just able now to kind of make a living out of it! When I wrote TDDD I wanted to show that one man could love one woman that much and it can hurt that much, when I went back and wrote Maggie, I wanted to show that when two broken people love eachother they can make on pretty whole person. Wrapped in Rain I was wrestling with how do you love someone when you are so bitter on the inside and you have all read Crickets so you got the idea of what I am dealing with there. This last book Ive just written, I’ve just turned it in called Chasing Fireflies, its my fifth book and comes out next June and if you unpack it, strip away the layers I’m dealing with the role of the father and what role the father plays in the life and development of the heart in the son. You have to read that in order to get to that and you might not get to that until the end.
These are just things that I wrestle with and the story just seems to be the way that I ferret it out or figure out how to think about it. I didn’t look at being a novelist and think gee, I want to be a novelist because these guys wear tweed coats and smoke pipes and they sit back and talk on the phone to people in Australia!! It was kind of like breathing.
AS: Charles, do you view When Cricket’s Cry as a poetic writing?
CM: umm……………..I’ve had a lot of people say that. I don’t know if I do or I don’t. I know I have spent a lot of time in the past decade trying to work on how I say what I say, mostly in my writing. I spent a lot of time in Crickets trying figure out how to do that. If you go back in Crickets and read the introduction when Reese walks out on the dock and the letter is spread across his chest, I probably wrote that scene twenty times, rewrote it and rewrote it. It was important to me that I said exactly what I wanted to say.
I was never a really big fan of Hemingway, it never kind of interested me. When I got to grad school and I studied him a little bit more, I still think he was a manic depressive, an alcoholic, whatever but one thing that hemingway did really well was he told a story without a good lot of fluff. He got a lot of mileage out of very few words and one of the reasons he did that was he had an editor by the name of Max Perkins. I’ve looked at that and I go back into my writing and I strip it down – can I get more mileage out of each word and I think that when I do that you guys perceive it as poetic. I perceive it as cleaner, less static and probably better able to communicate what is on my heart. Make sense?
All: Yes, it does!
Rel: I’ve read on your website that you weren’t much of a reader growing up, has that changed?
CM: Ah..do want the honest answer?
CM: Um…I go in spurts but to be honest though I am not really much of a reader. I think by the end of the day I feel like I have been reading all day and it is the last thing I want to do, to sit down and open a book again. I do go in spurts, lately I’ve been reading some Louis L’Amour. By the mid eighties he’d written 85 novels which had sold more than a million copies each. He died in his 90’s he sold over 200 million books. He wrote westerns and I love listening to his stories. Most of what I read is probably non-fiction. I don’t know why that is other than the truth is strange enough but I love non-fiction that reads like a novel.
Rel: Ok. Got any you can recommend?
CM: The last couple I’ve read over the last couple of years; one called Ghost Soldiers and the writer’s last name is Powers. It’s the story of an Army Ranger team who goes back into some island and rescues survivors of the Bhutan death march and it’s a story of the most miraculous rescue in history, They did not lose a single person. Second is Jon Krakaeur’s Into Thin Air and that’s the story of, in 1997 there was a bunch of people ascending Mt Everest and it went really bad and about 13 if them died. It is a fantastic book and because it takes place on Mt Everest he is constantly describing the cold. By the time I finished that book, my teeth were chattering!
Rel: We’ve had great discussions about the ending of the book! Some dispute over what exactly what it was that Reece whispers to Annie.
CM: Well, what do you think it was?
Rel: Some people believe that it was what was written on Emma’s medallion. Is that right?
CM: Yes, that is what he whispered.
Rel: There you go!
CM: I have received that questions from I don’t know how many people! I didn’t intend for it to be that much of a mystery. When I first heard getting the questions I went back and thought did I write that? So I went back and I reread the last 3 or 4 pages and I think Reece answers that question but then again what I think people get from my stories and what people get from my stories, I’m learning are two different things!
Rel: What was he really tryiing to communicate?
CM: The thing that, when I first met Reece and I got to know him kind of in my head, the thing I hoped he would walk away with was while he had spent his entire life learning how to master the heart medically and physiologically and he did that to some extent he had lost an understanding of it , which Emma knew perfectly. And she knew a lot about how to laugh and to live to a much better extent than he did. And I guess it was somewhere in that operating room and he could not bring Annie back that he realised that despite all his talent and skill, I am not the one who jump starts this heart. That was Reece’s bottom right there.
TW: You just said, “when you met Reece” – how does that happen in your head because I don’t understand that!
CM: Writers are all crazy! I don’t know how to tell folks that other than it is just something that happens. I don’t know, if you and I hang up the phone right now and you go to the store and are walking down the grocery store aisle, you’ve got a jug of milk on your mind and you turn to the dairy aisle and there is somebody with a cart. They were walking down theother aisle and just because you didn’t know they were there didn’t mean they weren’t. You say hi and walk on and do your thing. In my head, I think sometimes the same thing happens, I just turn a corner in my story and ther’s a characeter I hadn’t anticipated or a a person or animal or a place, I don’t know I guess its the way our mind works or something. I’m not sure that, everybody’s mind doesn’t work this way I think that us writers because we put it on paper are more attuned to picking up the details.
I think if you were to stop my kids, I think they’ve spoken to imaginary people far more commonly than adults do. Somewhere in the process of getting from childhood to herehood, we lose that and we just sort of forget, maybe I am a kid who just never grew up, I’ve often wondered why those people are still bouncing around in the back of my head!
“When Maggie opened her eyes that New Year’s Day some seventeen months ago, I felt like I could see again. The fog lifted off my soul, and for the first time since our son had died and she had gone to sleep—some four months, sixteen days, eighteen hours, and nineteen minutes earlier—I took a breath deep enough to fill both my lungs.”
Life began again for Dylan Styles when his beloved wife Maggie awoke from a coma. A coma brought on by the intense two-day labor that resulted in heartbreaking loss. In this poignant love story that is redolent with Southern atmosphere, Dylan and Maggie must come to terms with their past before they can embrace their future.
Rel: Could you just tell us briefly about the writing process?
CM: Sure. It’s become more developed since I have written more stories. When I wrote The Dead Don’t Dance, I just sat down and wrote it. Now that I’ve got about 7 under my belt, I always make myself do it, when I begin to think about the story, I ask myself what’s the point, what’s the theme that is carrying this book. Then I begin making notes, sketches of people, their characteristics. If I want to make notes about Charlie, it would just be blind, boat builder, dances, sings in the rain, walks along guidewires, laughs, sees better than Reece, just stuff like that. I make a real physical chart on the wall of scenes and then I will start literally writing. I’m really good early in the morning. Like 3.30-4 in the morning!
Rel: So this is late for you?!
CM: The reason for that is the three boys. Our house sort of cranks up about 7-7.30 in the morning. They’re up running around, getting ready for school and if I can get up before them, I can have a quiet house. If I get up about 4, when they get up at 7, I’ve sort of met my word quota by that time of the day and then I have the freedom to go back once they are at school and rewrite or keep going and I work till about noon and usually by 2 or 3 o’clock I’ve had enough and I go running and then I try to spend some time with my boys in the afternoon and by 9 or 9.30 at night I turn into a pumpkin! Christy tells me all the time, she laughs, because she likes to read at night and when my head hits the pillow, I’m about 30 seconds from being asleep! She laughs and says next time I’m getting married, I’m doing a premarriage interview and I’m going to find out if that person likes to read or do they just turn into a pumpkin!
Rel: I’m with her on that! I didn’t read at night for the first two years of my marriage because my husband thought it was terribly rude! I’ve changed him though – slightly!
So do you work on a chapter and redo and redo that or do you write the whole book or…..?
CM: When I’m working on a theme, I don’t actually label it a chapter until I have actually finished the book. I just did this this past week. All of my headings are just kind of scenes. Chapters are so definite. Scenes, I can move around. Usually I try to get it on the page first and rewrite it. If you all saw my first draft of Crickets it’s very different to what you read! To go back and work on the words and the craft, the specificity with which I use each word only after I have the words on the page.
Rel: And how do you cope with the editing process?
CM: With a lot of medication!! I’ve had good editing processes and not good editing processes. I am grateful for them and in each case the book has ended up better than when I first turned it in. So editing is, I liken it a lot to, Michaelangelo going to the quarry and cutting out this huge piece of marble and bringing it back to his work room and looking at it a little while and then going and getting a big hammer and wacking a way for a little while then he comes back with a small hammer and a chisel and some files and pretty soon this form starts showing up and a few years later he rubs it down with a damp cloth and he looking up at the statue of David. I think if you were to ask that piece of marble how did you enjoy that? I’m sure it would tell you it didn’t like it a lot but it likes what it sees now in the mirror. For me as a writer, editing is a lot like that. Its hard and it hurts but what is left, what remains, I really like. My editing process is more something I impose upon myself. Its easier for me to take it and and cut it or telling myself i need to cut it than somebody else coming in and saying this doesn’t fit or this doesn’t work because a lot of the time they don’t understand what I am trying to do with my story so they might be cutting the heart of my story. When in fact I just haven’t said what I needed to say the first time. So editing is really good for my books and it made them better in every case.
SH: Do you believe God guides your thoughts and ideas with your writing?
CM: I hope so! I talk to Him all the time about my stories. Some days I feel like He gave me a gift and if He did I want to use it wisely so..you know one of these days I am going to get to heaven and be standing in front of Him and when I do I want to see my books on His shelf!!! My goal with my writing is to tell great stories, to reach down inside people’s hearts and touch something tender and fill them with hope. That’s my goal. Whether I end this life with five books or fifty, I still want the hope to be the same, my book to reach down inside of people and touch their hearts in ways that maybe they haven’t been touched in a while and make them see something different or hope something they haven’t hoped for a long time. When I hear from people, the readers, and they tell me their stories and their thoughts and that is what my heart listens for. Did my book touch you because if it doesn’t I really didn’t do my job right. And if it did, then it’s the power of that that my heart’s been waiting for.
Rel: Well, I think all of us agree on that point with you!
Rel: In speaking of your faith, how difficult do you find it to weave your faith into your books?
CM: Let me just speak about my faith. I am really just trying to write the story that just kind of bubbles up out of my heart. Now, that being said, somewhere in Matthew 5 Christ says something like, from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. So if He’s in here and i’m talking to Him about my stories and my life and all that sort of stuff then I can’t help but find places where those conversations and that faith and that hope and that love inserts itself into my stories and I don’t ever want it to come across like a slegdehammer to your head. Most of the time I am sharing conversations with you that have occurred in my heart. So I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally sat down and thought how can I weave my faith into my stories but I have haven’t stopped my heart telling the stories that are there. I don’t know if that makes sense but that is kind of where I am.
NG: I think most of us were very impressed with the love story between Reece and Emma. There was a whole lot of romance about the way they related and connected. You have mentioned your heart quite a bit in talking to us now! Do you have that same romance with your wife? Maybe we should ask her that?!
CM: I’d have to go and wake her up, right now!
Rel: Don’t do that!
CM: I was somewhere the other day and got a real similar question. I’ve been real careful to tell people that while you want to talk to me about my stories, my story of how I got from nowhere to somebody who has written the stories that you have just read, is really not the story of me as much as the story of us. I got a real neat gift in my wife. I was able to write about this in the acknowledgements to Maggie. It was a story I wanted to tell because…in the process in my life and I won’t bore you with the whole story, there was a point at which I had to make a decision am I going to continue to walk up this corporate ladder because I had a straight shot to the top, so to speak or am I going to step of completely and take a swan dive out into a pipe dream and try to become a writer. And Christy really gave me the freedom to take that swan dive and she would take it with me. There’s a definite moment in time when she cam along side me and said we are going to do this. I mean we are not perfect, we have been married 13 years so we’ve had good days and bad but throughout it all she has loved me enough to try and do this thing that made me tick. She gave up security and white picket fence and a big house, initially, to let me try and do the thing that made me happy so if my stories come across with an honest and true romance it is because I have a wife who has shown me some and we’ve lived some. The great thing about this is that it has been OUR journey and we’ve been able to do it together and in all seriousness my books would not be what they are and I probably wouldn’t be in books without Christy.
Rel: That’s lovely!
CM: IN 1997 Christy and I moved back down to Florida and we were pregnant with what would be our first son, Charlie. He was born in July. Christy is 5’10” and she was about a size 4 when we got pregnant with Charlie and she really did look like, I say this in TDDD, a telephone pole with a basketball. You know all the ultrasounds said that he was about 8lbs and you know we would have a normal delivery but in the delivery room when his head popped out, he was a lot bigger than they thought and all Hades broke loose in the delivery room because they had made a mistake. And if you read TDDD, you’ll read the delivery scene and I was able to write that because I lived it. Christy spent a couple of days in intensive care and we had to give her a bunch of units of blood and all that kind of stuff but she’s fine. But the reason I could write the realism of the delivery of that child because I lived it.
In TDDD, Dylan works as an adjunct teacher at a junior college and I worked as an adjunct professor in a college in Virginia and I really fell in love with my students. So I was able to kind of write some of those experiences, or at least flavour those experiences with some of my own. The book is set in South Carolina and I’ve spent a lot of time in South Carolina. With regard to Crickets, it takes place on Lake Burton and I’ve spent the last 18 summers with my wife whether on the weekend or vacation staying wit some close friends of ours on Lake Burton.
All of my books have been set in places I have spent some time and many of the experiences that the characters kind of go through, I’ve been through myself or I’ve been able to research.
Rel: So are you a rower?
CM: No, that’s one thing I had to research. I’ve spent a lot of time in a kayak, kind of the reverse of rowing so I know the feel of the water, but the actual process of rowing is not something I know.
They have one summer to find what was lost long ago.
“Never settle for less than the truth,” she told him. But when you don’t even know your real name, the truth gets a little complicated. It can nestle so close to home it’s hard to see. It can even flourish inside a lie. And as Chase Walker discovered, learning the truth about who you are can be as elusive—and as magical—as chasing fireflies on a summer night.
A haunting story about fishing, baseball, home cooking, and other matters of life and death.
Rel: Some of the main themes of Maggie are forgiveness, children and integrity. Are there other themes you wanted to explore in Maggie?
CM: There are two things that took my back to writing Maggie. One was how do Dylan and Maggie start again after 4 and ½ months of her being in a coma. Because at the end of TDDD there is a lot of hope but it isn’t all tied up in a neat little bow so how does that couple start over. Secondly, one of my favourite characters I’ve ever created is a guy by the name of Bryce. I wanted to know what happened to Bryce. Bryce ends in TDDD in one place and while he is better he is still very much broken. What caused the break in Bryce, what’s the thing in the past that made him who he is, how do we unpack that and how do we find the real Bryce beneath the alcohol and all the walls he puts up. So that took me back into it. There’s a paragraph where Dylan makes a statement, he says I can love broken and that was really the point of me trying to write it. I wanted to show that just because something is broken it doesn’t mean it is not good, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still work. It just means it is broken and that’s ok. Dylan is trying to show maggie that and Maggie’s sort of stubborn in her own beautiful way and it sort of takes him about 300 pages that he can love broken. That is what I was trying to do in the book.
Rel: You weren’t initially intending to write a sequel were you?
CM: No, about 18 months after the book came out I sort of gave myself the freedom to say I’d like to write a sequel. It was my first book. I was so happy to write one that to write two on the same story I wasn’t quite sure I could do that. But then after it was received pretty well and people kept asking me questions and talking to me about it I guess I gave myself the freedom for those characters to start walking about in my head again. But I get questions now about a sequel to Crickets and I don’t think so!
Rel: Well there is some concern here! Someone here wasn’t completely comfortable with the Reece and Cindy relationship so you might need to!
CM: Do you think there needs to be more there or less there?
Rel: There was a bit of a feeling that Reece and Emma had something so special that maybe it couldn’t be repeated.
CM: I would agree.
Rel: They could have something different!
CM: I sort of gave myself the freedom not to tackle that as Reece had to tackle something first and that is Reece is in no position to love anybody until he sort of deals with everything that happened. It really isn’t until the moment he has Annie on the table does he deal with any of that. So I don’t know if there is anything between Reece and Cindy, I just know that he isn’t ready to really love anybody for 315 pages of the book. It is not even on his radar screen.
Rel: Now we have other women saying what about Charlie?! We all loved Charlie!
CM: He was one of my favourite characters, I did. I do love Charlie. He was a lot of fun to write. He was a great character. Even from the first time I “saw” him, I knew he was blind.
Rel: I think Charlie was Reece’s lifeblood in many ways.
CM: Charlie is far more healthy than Reece. On the surface it appears that Charlie is dependant on Reece but it is the opposite. You are right, he is Reece’s lifeline. I loved getting to experience the orchard that night when they ran through the trees – that was a lot of fun to write. I loved the story where he is talking to Annie and he puts the blindfold around her head and tells her I can see better than most. Maybe there is a sequel for just Charlie!
Rel: We will certainly be reading your other books! We have really enjoyed Crickets and really appreciated the time you spent with us tonight or this morning, whichever way you want to look at it!
CM: I appreciate you all reading my story – I really do! If you boil me down and you sort of peel away all my layers it is a surreal thing for me to just write a story which is quite natural – it’s hard but I very much enjoy doing it – than for that story to be wrapped between two covers and sent around the country and somehow hop the ocean and be in Australia and you guys read it and want to talk to me aboutit, that is strange – but welcome and really neat – I did not expect that as a writer, but it has been a lot of fun so I appreciate you including me in my process!
Rel: No worries! You take care. (clapping madly!)
CM: I think that’s the first ovation I’ve ever received.
Rel: Well, if you write a sequel for Charlie we might even stand to do one!
Rel: No worries. Say hi to your wife and thank her letting us have this time with you and your boys too.
CM: Ok. I really appreciate that. Thanks a lot and take care.
“Tucker, I want to tell you a secret.” Miss Ella curled my hand into a fist and showed it to me.
“Life is a battle, but you can’t fight it with your fists. You got to fight it with your heart.”
An internationally famous photographer, Tucker Mason has traveled the world, capturing things other people don’t see. But what Tucker himself can’t see is how to let go of the past and forgive his father.
On a sprawling Southern estate, Tucker and his younger brother, Mutt, were raised by their housekeeper, Miss Ella Rain, who loved the motherless boys like her own. Hiring her to take care of Waverly Hall and the boys was the only good thing their father ever did.
When his brother escapes from a mental hospital and an old girlfriend appears with her son and a black eye, Tucker is forced to return home and face the agony of his own tragic past.
Though Miss Ella has been gone for many years, Tuck can still hear her voice—and her prayers. But finding peace and starting anew will take a measure of grace that Tucker scarcely believes in.