Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Interview with Molly Ringle and Book Contest! Plus a mistake and an apology!!
Now, once again, I'm pleased to have Molly Ringle with me this week! Molly has published five books to date, though some have yet to be released. Her titles include: THE GHOST DOWNSTAIRS, SUMMER TERM, WHAT SCOTLAND TAUGHT ME, RELATIVELY HONEST, and the novella OF GHOSTS AND GEEKS. She told me she has finished at least three other novels, but they need a lot of revision before they're ready for the world.
First, Molly's official bio: "Fiction on the side has sustained Molly Ringle through an anthropology degree, a linguistics degree, and several office jobs. She especially enjoys writing (and reading, and watching) stories featuring love, laughter, culture, travel, the arts, and the paranormal. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two highly active sons, and may someday be brave enough to get a dog." Visit her at http://www.mollyringle.com
Molly told me she has been writing since she was a little kid, but she first got excited about putting stories together when she was around twelve years old. She says that "the unfairness and cruelty of other middle-school kids had something to do with it." She discovered she could "take refuge in an imaginary world where she controlled everything, which was reassuring." Plus she felt like she might actually become good at writing if she kept at it. And since I've read several of her novels, I can vouch for that last part. She has become very good at it indeed.
I asked what comes first for her, the plot or the characters. She told me that usually depends on whether she's writing paranormal or non-paranormal (real world) fiction. For her paranormal stories, plot tends to arrive first. In THE GHOST DOWNSTAIRS she first thought up the haunted former sorority house, then worked out the identities of the ghosts and the living residents. In OF GHOSTS AND GEEKS, the premise of the ghost occupying an old book and irritating each of its successive owners came first, with character details coming later.
I've read THE GHOST DOWNSTAIRS, and it is one of my favorite ghost stories. I highly recommend it. Now I'm just counting the days until OF GHOSTS AND GEEKS is released. I'm very excited by the premise.
For her real-world fiction, she says it's often the characters she thinks of first, with only a hazy idea of what their story is going to be. In WHAT SCOTLAND TAUGHT ME, she wanted to write about a young woman (somewhere around age 20) figuring herself out during a romantically rocky trip to Edinburgh. She knew her character's passions and flaws before she knew what exactly happened to her there. And in RELATIVELY HONEST, she created a handsome young Casanova from London, who she knew was going to fall in love and change his ways, but it took her years to form the plot and twist it in the most effective directions.
I wondered how she came up with her great titles, and she admitted that she arrived at them by getting them wrong the first time around. She worries that she's proven bad at choosing her own titles. Fortunately, other people are there to point out any problems and force some brainstorming sessions. THE GHOST DOWNSTAIRS was originally HOUSEBOYS, until she realized that people who don't know the inner workings of sororities don't understand what a houseboy is, and they tend to think it's something much dirtier than she intended. Her husband suggested the new title, which she liked right away. OF GHOSTS AND GEEKS had the boring title ONE WEIRD GHOST, which her editor tactfully suggested rethinking. Again, she likes the new title much better. WHAT SCOTLAND TAUGHT ME has had at least three previous titles, as has RELATIVELY HONEST. Maybe the lesson here is that "there's no single ideal title for a story." Or, she says, "Maybe you shouldn't give *me* the job of choosing it."
She says she has spells where pushing the story forward feels hard, but she doesn't like to call it "writer's block." Sometimes "big ol' plot holes" crop up. Usually when that happens, she obsesses over it while she's awake, and sleeps on it for a few nights (or weeks). Eventually the problem unravels, and she can get chugging again. It also helps her to switch gears and work on something else for a while -- like a short story, or revisions for a different novel. And she says it never hurts to read books by other people, or watch movies. She's interested in how those writers handled plot and characters. She never knows what little detail may end up shaking the answer loose in her brain.
She says her reading is rather eclectic and all over the map. The classics have influenced her since her teens: the Bronte sisters, Victor Hugo (Les Miserables in particular), George Eliot, E.M. Forster, J.R.R. Tolkien, Daphne du Maurier. Those are probably her biggest influences when it comes to sweeping romance and beautiful literary prose. But she also loves modern writers who have taught her quirky humor and wildly creative (sometimes paranormal) story ideas, such as John Irving, Susanna Clarke, and Neil Gaiman. She says that it's possible she could credit Robert Louis Stevenson with the story idea for OF GHOSTS AND GEEKS, since he had a similar theme (a purchased object haunted by a supernatural being) in his short story "The Bottle Imp," which she first read in high school. She said she has never been able to pick a single favorite writer, and to decide her favorite book would be almost as hard. She craves variety too much.
She says that when she's not writing she would *like* to sleep, but her two little kids don't allow a lot of that. Sampling perfumes and teas are two of her recently active non-writing interests. She's accumulating what you could almost call collections of those substances. Also, though she's not a hardcore gardener, she likes tending the family garden. She finds it soothing and uplifting to have thriving, fragrant plants around her home.
I was curious to know what she hears from her readers. She told me that brief comments come in every few weeks or so on average; more if she counts the reader reviews she finds on sites like Goodreads. So far the comments have usually been friendly and delightful, and sometimes even say the things she most wants to hear, like: 1) I made them laugh, and 2) I made them fall in love (or infatuation) along with the characters. Best recent example is a woman saying she "squealed in unhinged delight" at certain romantic twists in WHAT SCOTLAND TAUGHT ME. Molly says she feels she's done her work if she's temporarily unhinged a reader.
On a more personal note I asked Molly, "What is the strangest thing you've ever eaten?" She supposed that would be haggis, which she ate in Scotland. However, she said it really wasn't that weird. It was like a mild meatloaf. She actually liked it and said it's good with mashed potatoes. She's had bison, too; which is also pretty good. On the flora side, she's interested in edible garden plants. She said, "Some folk might think it strange that I've picked and eaten nasturtiums, rose petals, blackberry leaves, and grapevine tendrils."
She describes herself as an introvert and a "night person." But she wouldn't go so far as to request a graveyard shift -- she still basically wants to sleep at night. She likes evening stargazing, when weather allows. She says you can stargaze before dawn too, but she wants to be sleeping then.
I asked if she could wish for anything what it would be. She observed that those wishes always come with a devious curse in stories. So perhaps she'd wish for something minor that the Fates wouldn't feel threatened by, like getting a magical 90% discount every time she bought chocolate. Or, to be a bit more ambitious: plane tickets to Europe for her whole family (including the grandparents, so they could help watch the kids), along with paid reservations in charming hotels, and a guarantee of minimal jet lag. "Yeah, I could live with that," she said.
She also wishes science would invent a medical scanning device (like on Star Trek) that figures out what's wrong with you by a simple, quick test, and creates an antidote on the spot. "Okay, that's a tall order," she says, "but I'm sure someone in bioengineering is working on it. On a smaller scale, a pit-less cherry would be nice."
She admits to being afraid of thunder and lightning. She told me a distant, charismatic rumble during a cozy rainstorm was okay -- maybe. But the kind of storms where lightning shakes the windows and splits trees in the neighborhood scares the hell out of her. She likes the Pacific Northwest because "we get very little lightning at all, just nice, quiet, well-behaved rain."
Personally, I think Molly's books are perfect for those nice rainy days. And I highly recommend checking out one or two of her books the next time you have some rain running down your window pane. Actually, don't wait for rain. Go pick up one of her books today. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
I asked Molly to share a recipe with us today, and she passed on a healthy, flavorful recipe for Lime Cilantro Coleslaw. It serves six. You'll need:
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice (juice of one large lime)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12-oz or 16-oz) package coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
1. In small bowl mix together lime juice, olive oil, sugar, and jalapeno.
2. Combine green onions, cilantro, and coleslaw mix in large bowl.
3. Drizzle juice mix over coleslaw mix; toss well to coat.
Many thanks to Molly for being my guest today. Here is the link to her website again. http://www.mollyringle.com
Molly is offering a signed copy of either THE GHOST DOWNSTAIRS or SUMMER TERM or a download of WHAT SCOTLAND TAUGHT ME -- winner's choice. (Her cool book covers are just above and below). So be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the contest. The winner will be announced in a few days and will be selected at random.org. Leave your e-mail in the comment box -- if you feel comfortable doing that -- or check back in a few days to see if you've won! I'll post instructions when I announce the winner.