Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Interview with Molly MacRae
This post is my first interview with another author! Meet Molly MacRae.
I've had the great pleasure of knowing Molly MacRae for the past four years. She is a wonderful writer with a delicious sense of humor. Together, we have formed "The Mystery Cats," a writing critique group and traveling duo. Molly's new book, "Wilder Rumors," was recently published by Five Star Press.
You ran a bookstore in Tennessee. Was it anything like the one you describe in Wilder Rumors?
Philosophically, yes; physically, no. Like Marilyn Wooten’s Blue Iris Books in Wilder Rumors, The Book Place, in Johnson City, Tennessee, was a wonderful, independent bookstore selling both new and used books. And, like Marilyn, we had a nice selection of local history and natural history books. But The Book Place was in an old grocery store building, with all the charm that implies. Blue Iris Books is in an antebellum workman’s cottage, actually a slightly rearranged version of the house my parents lived in for a time in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The crooked window in Marilyn’s kitchen was in my parent’s living room, but the binoculars hanging from a nail in the window frame were my mother’s and my father built the birdfeeder Wilder sees out the window. The picture frames containing paint chips and wallpaper fragments that Wilder looks at as he climbs the stairs are borrowed from a friend’s staircase, a detail I loved as soon as I saw it.
What is the personality profile of someone who likes to work in a museum full time? How do you know?
Oh, it’s slightly strange. If you think about someone who’s happy sorting through old mule shoes, who doesn’t find it mind-numbing to measure, write descriptions, and minutely number dozens of clay marbles, or who gets spine tingles touching the finger impressions baked into a brick hand made 175 years ago, you might get the general idea. I once read a child’s description of a history museum as being “a dead circus.” That’s an interesting image, and not entirely off the mark. So, yeah, someone who rummages around a dead circus for a living might be considered a little different. How do I know? I was curator, then director of the Jonesborough-Washington County History Museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee for several years before jumping ship and taking the bookstore job.
Is your setting imaginary, or is it a real town in Tennessee?
Nolichucky, Tennessee, exists only in my mind. There are some similarities to Jonesborough, Tennesse, but there are also similarities to other places I’ve lived. I named the town after the Nolichucky River which runs through Upper East Tennessee. There is no Nolichucky Jack History Museum, though Nolichucky Jack, himself, existed. And the story of the Widow Brown and Nolichucky Jack that Wilder tells the school children is said to be true. ‘Nolichucky Jack’ was the nickname of John Sevier, governor of the short-lived state of Franklin and first governor of Tennessee. Stonewall, Tennessee, where Wilder’s aunt lives, is also fictitious, though it bears some similarities to Johnson City, Tennessee, and my old home town, Barrington, Illinois, as it was forty or fifty years ago.
Will there be a second Lewis Wilder book?
I hope. I’ve got a title and a very general outline. But it has to wait its turn.
You've written and published quite a few short stories. How is short fiction writing different from writing a full-length novel?
Short takes less pencil and time, but otherwise I approach short and long fiction pretty much the same way. You get an idea. You map it out, either in your head or on paper or screen. You write it (and revise it somewhere along the way.) You send it out to seek its fortune. So far that’s worked for me. I’ve had seven stories in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, the most recent one, “Fandango by Flashlight,” illustrated on the cover.
Who are Margaret and Bitsy, and what are they up to now?
Margaret and Bitsy are the characters in the Hitchcock stories. Margaret owns a bookstore in Stonewall, Tennessee. Bitsy is her older, somewhat annoying, sister. For some reason, they’ve never run into any of the people in Stonewall that Lewis Wilder knows. But they’re around. It’s summer, you know, and it’s hot, so not much is happening. But they’re in a novel I’m getting ready to submit and another I’m working on. They’re the reason Lewis Wilder has to wait for his second book.
Don't miss Molly's short story "Wilder Dancing" in the Summer 2007 issue of Mystericale