Author Interview: Marianne K. Martin

28 12 2012

Hello, Readers!

This week we are interviewing Marianne K. Martin about her books  Love in the Balance and The Indelible Heart. Ms. Martin is co-owner of Bywater Books and currently splits her time between writing and publishing.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It seems as though I was always writing something – little stories, poems. All through school, whenever there was a choice between a written or oral assignment, I always chose the written. Later, writing became affordable therapy. I taught in the public school system for 25 years, as closeted a profession as there is, except possibly the religious sector. Expressing and exploring who I was as an individual, as a whole person, had to be done secretly and during those times when I wasn’t teaching, coaching, or losing my mind. It is the need to express beliefs and thoughts and feelings that had been suppressed for so long.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, a story must be relatable and believable. As a writer, I want to immerse the reader in the lives of my characters, in hopes and dreams that may be lofty but reachable, and in struggles that are realistic and frustrating, and even frightening. If I can do that, the reader will be able to live the story with my characters.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I have a great amount of respect and admiration for a number of authors. It’s difficult to single out one as a favorite. Each offers me something special, unique to their style and presentation. Alice Walker offers introspection and a raw, yet palatable honesty. Harper Lee gave us an unrivaled one-time shot to the gut challenge to our humanity. Sarah Waters masterfully weaves her fictitious characters through places and time in history. And, I have yet to find an author whose craft is more impeccable, or plotting more effective, than Val McDermid.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have written 9 books. Each has something that makes it special to me. The first, Legacy of Love, for the obvious reason. Love in the Balance has an emotional connection to my mother, and to a hate crime that was committed near where I live. Mirrors emerged from my teaching experiences, and losing a student on my watch. Losses in my personal life, and an unexpected connection with the daughter of the hate crimes victims, made The Indelible Heart a difficult and unforgettable effort.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Most surprising, I think, was the depth of my sense of injustice. At times it bordered on anger, and it was such a cleansing, therapeutic experience to be able to express and explore that through my characters.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

My biggest writing challenge is embracing the freedom that I have now from page and word restrictions. My first few books were published by Naiad Press, and were subject to restrictions. I learned to make every word count, minimalize description, and move quickly from scene to scene, all of which improved my craft. But, now I can expand the scope of my story lines without fear of drastic cuts.

Which character do you relate most to?

The character created most closely from my personal experiences is Jean Carson, the teacher in Mirrors. Her struggles were mine, her hopes and fears were mine. She struggled to protect her job, while trying to help a bullied student. I kept my job, but lost a student to suicide.

Were the hate crimes which were described in Love in the Balance based on an actual crime?

The hate crimes described in Love in the Balance are based on the hate crime murders of Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett, committed in Huron Township in Michigan. I was honored to have their daughter, Cynthia Pittmann, write the poignant Foreword for the sequel, The Indelible Heart.

What are the challenges of publishing a lesbian romance such as Love in the Balance?

One of the reoccurring challenges I incur is that my stories don’t fit neatly into one category – there is too much social commentary for the romance genre and too much romance for general fiction. It makes marketing a challenge, as well as award nominations.

Do Connie and Kasey live ‘happily ever after’?

Within the circle of friends, Kasey and Connie have the most stable relationship. My hope is to leave the reader with the sense that this couple has the tools to work through the challenges that long term relationships face.

You explore the connection between love and grief poignantly through Sharon, have you ever struggled with grief as she does?

As have so many LGBT people, I formed a family of choice throughout the years – people who accepted and nurtured and loved me for who I am. During the writing of The Indelible Heart, I lost three of those people. There wasn’t enough time for me to recover from the grief of one loss before I was faced with another. The once solid ground beneath me was gone. And, at the same time that I was trying to get through my own grief, I was having to take Sharon back to hers. It has made this the most difficult book for me to write.

Is the release of Mr. Crawford merciful? Do you think he paid the debt for his crimes?

That’s the dilemma the group of friends in The Indelible Heart had to face. And, as in our larger society, their opinions ran the gamut from indifference to merciful release to let him rot in hell. As I wrote, I found myself weighing and evaluating my own belief. As it turns out, I find myself leaning closer to Sharon’s ‘let him rot’ opinion, with a gentle nudge to force justice to take the hand of forgiveness.

The Indelible Heart explores the struggle between balancing a personal life while striving for political justice- where do you strike the balance?

That balance has been a real struggle for me. And, balance truly is the key, I believe. It’s a fluid thing, something that changes as our lives change. There were times when I could expend time and energy on marches and rallies and petitions, and there were times when I needed to secure my personal place in the world. The truth, I’ve realized, is that it takes a community, recognizing its fluidity and maintaining its focus. It takes leaders. It takes everyone doing what they can. For me, for now, it means writing stories of palatable consciousness.

Do you think the LGBT struggle for civil rights is akin to the fight for racial equality?

I believe there are a number of similarities, common struggles to change social attitude. But, unlike the racial struggle, the LGBT community, for the most part, has had the option of the closet – to stay hidden, to live the lie. And, I think in the long run, that has lengthened our struggle. Without that option, we would have had to fight harder and sooner.

Will your next book also feature Kasey Hollander, Connie Bradford, and Sharon Davis?

My next book will be a prequel to Under the Witness Tree. I never say never, but I don’t foresee featuring these three characters again.

Do you expect to explore the same themes again?

What is unfortunate is that our community is still embattled, facing ongoing challenges to our rights and security. I would think that as long as those exist, there will be a need and opportunity for me to write stories of how those struggles effect our lives.

What other themes do you plan to explore?

I have a couple of things niggling my mind. One, partly fueled by the importance of the women’s vote in the recent election, is to explore the history of our fight for the vote. Another is the problem of animal neglect and overwhelmed animal shelters. Of course, these issues will have to explored by characters in a storyline that balances love, hope, and social consciousness. I just can’t seem to help it.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

As I said, my next project is a prequel to Under the Witness Tree. I fell in love with Nessie Tinker. Nessie was a 90+ year old black supporting character who challenged me to know more about her and where she came from. I wanted to know what her life would have been like growing up in Georgia in the 1900’s. What were her dreams and hopes, her disappointments? And, what of love, between two young women, one black and one white? This next book is the result of that curiosity and search.

Where can my readers buy your books?

All my books can be found at Bywaterbooks.com, Amazon and B&N.com, Barnes & Noble, Joseph Beth, and all independent bookstores.

, LGBT

You can learn more about Marianne K. Martin and the books she publishes at Bywaterbooks.com

Read  about her books at http://redroom.com/member/marianne-k-martin

Blog and online bookstore:  http://redroom.com/member/marianne-k-martin

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One response

29 12 2012
Irma Vorberg

excellent interview,i love Marianne’s books,only discovered them a short time ago and have read 7 of them,and reading most over again as i discovered the re-appearance of the characters,and now like to read themin sequence.cant wait for a sequel to “under the Witness tree” and i hope there will be more books to come.

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