Jen: Today we welcome Marie Bostwick to Romancing the Book. Marie, will you share a short bio with us?
Marie: Marie Bostwick is a New York Times bestselling author of uplifting women’s fiction, historical fiction, and romance. Her first novel, FIELDS OF GOLD, was published in 2005. A SINGLE THREAD, the first book in her beloved Cobbled Court series, is now in its sixteenth printing. In 2012, TIES THAT BIND, the fifth Cobbled Court novel, won the RT Book Reviews Reader’s Choice Best Book Award in the Mainstream category. In the same year, she was also nominated for Career Achievement, Best Mainstream Author.
When not traveling the country to speak at quilt shows, libraries, and conferences, Marie and her husband split their time between Connecticut and Oregon. Marie has three grown sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable and extremely advanced grandchildren.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Marie: THE SECOND SISTER tells the story of Lucy Toomey, a hard driving political campaign operative whose lifelong dream of working at the White House is derailed by the sudden death of her older sister, Alice, who suffered a brain injury years before as a result of a teenage near-drowning accident.
When the unusual terms of Alice’s will force Lucy to return home to the Wisconsin village she hates, she will inherit, not only Alice’s quilts but her eccentric circle of friends and will discover her sister’s true legacy; a life filled with meaningful purpose, friendship, and love.
My own experiences working as a professional political operative in the late eighties through mid-nineties played a big role in shaping the characters and story line of THE SECOND SISTER. However, the original seed of the plot came from a story that two of my friends, Sandra and Reenie, told me when we were on a quilting getaway. Sandra was planning to take her first ocean cruise and was a little anxious about safety. The night before her departure, she called her daughter and told her that, if the ship went down, she wanted all her quilt fabric to go to Reenie. We had a good laugh about it, but the idea of someone inheriting somebody else’s fabric or quilts stuck with me. Before long, a much more complex and dramatic story of two sisters began to take shape in my mind.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Marie: I chose Door County, Wisconsin, as the setting for this book, a place I had visited early in my marriage, when we lived near Green Bay. I remembered it as a beautiful, almost magical spot with a unique regional character. Since THE SECOND SISTER was to be a contemporary story and it had been nearly thirty years since my last visit, I thought it would be wise to spend some time and see if it was as lovely and unspoiled as I remembered.
Door County sits on a peninsula of land between Lake Michigan and the great Green Bay that is only 25 miles across. Still, I clocked nearly three hundred miles while I was there, stopping to visit museums and parks, lighthouses and farms, taking walks through the woods and along the shoreline, and strolling the sidewalks of enchanting little villages where you can buy, among other things, books by local authors (I bought an armload so I could continue my research) and hand-tooled, locally made moccasins. (I got two pairs and they’re the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned.)
My research also involved getting a feel for the local cuisine. I had fried walleye and “cherry bounce” at a seafood bistro, Swedish pancakes at Al Johnson’s Restaurant, famous for the goats who graze on the sod roof, and enjoyed a signature Door County experience by attending a “fish boil”, which I describe in the book. Door County is home to several wineries, producing vintages from locally grown apples and cherries, so I went to a wine tasting. The tasting menu said the Cherry Reisling would “pair well with macaroni and cheese”. That little tidbit made it into the book as well.
Obviously, this wasn’t exactly hardship duty. I’m happy to report that, three decades since my previous visit, Door County is still a magical spot with a unique regional character. I loved my time there and hope to return again, very soon.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Marie: I grab the nearest pen and scribble down a couple of sentences and key words to jog my memory later. Then, when I get a little computer time, I write a short, one-page treatment of the idea and put it in a file. When it is time to write a new book, I pull out that file, read through the treatments, and choose one that seems promising.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Marie: Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Betty Smith, and Charles Dickens are the authors I return to again and again. For short stories, I love Alice Munroe and William Trevor. Some of my favorite contemporary authors are Pat Conroy, Dorthea Benton-Frank, and Fannie Flagg. I just finished THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin, which was really delightful, and I’m about halfway through SONGS OF WILLOW FROST by Jamie Ford, which is lovely and so tenderly written.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Marie: Like many of my characters, I’m a quilter. I make quilts by hand and machine, using all sorts of techniques – traditional piecing, paper piecing, crazy-quilting, and applique. At first I was a slave to patterns but now many of my quilts are of my own design. I’ve even had a couple of my patterns published in magazines and books. I’m far from an expert but, after twenty-five years, I’m making progress.
Also, in recent years, I developed a somewhat bizarre interest in RVs, spending hours window shopping for used motorhomes on the internet. This fall, I purchased a 1997 Winnebago Rialta. It’s the perfect RV for me – just 22 feet long – but definitely needed some updating. We put in new flooring, lighting, and upholstery. I painted the cabinets and walls myself, upholstered the window valances, sewed the bedding and cushions, and installed new window shades – doing up the interior in a very glamorous, very girly palette of teal and cream, with a touch of gray and a pop of bright raspberry.
Glinda The Glamper was ready to roll in late March, just in time for my four-week, eleven-state tour promoting THE SECOND SISTER. If you’re curious about her transformation, you can check out the Glinda posts on my blog.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Marie: I’m hard at work on my 2016 novel, FROM HERE TO HOME, a sequel to BETWEEN HEAVEN AND TEXAS, featuring my very favorite character, the brassy, sassy, true-blue Texan, Mary Dell Templeton.