Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Q&A with Marie Bostwick




Marie Bostwick is the author of the novel Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly. Her many other books include The Restoration of Celia Fairchild. She lives in Washington state.


Q: In our previous interview, you said, “I can almost never pinpoint one moment or idea that sets me off to write a novel.” Was that the case with this novel as well? How did you create your character Esme?  


A: Yes, it was. 


I wish I was the sort of writer who experiences clear “Ah-ha!” moments, who knows exactly what her book is about and the journey her characters will take even before she types “Chapter One.” There are such writers in the world; I’m friends with quite a few. But, alas, I am not among them.  


For me, every book is a struggle, a long and winding road with lots of dead ends that require me to retrace my steps. I can write outlines until the cows come home but at the end of the day, I’m someone who simply has to write her way into her characters. It’s not efficient, but it’s my process.


This was especially true for Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly, a book that I ended up completely rewriting more than once. Even though I had an idea of who Esme was—a determined, driven woman with an artistic bent who has experienced a lot of well-deserved success in her life but is now dealing with a season of disorienting failure.


It wasn’t until I got pretty far into the story that I realized Esme needed a companion for the journey, someone who had also had her life plan upended and battled her way back from failure, taking a lot of detours along the way.


That someone was her late grandmother, Adele, whose life story includes a chapter that Esme never knew about, that of a gifted artist who never received her due.  


Once Adele stepped onto the stage, I started connecting the dots between her story and Esme’s, the book got really interesting. Though Esme’s story was a good one, it wasn’t enough on its own. With Adele in the picture, Esme’s journey became wonderfully rich, and took on deeper meaning.


But that’s the way life always is, don’t you think? Our true purpose only becomes clear in the context of our connection to others.


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The book wasn’t the only thing that evolved during the writing process, the title did too.


My original working title was Esme Bishop’s Last Resort, which wasn’t bad.


Not only did it hint that the book was about a woman who is experiencing the kind of desperation that forces people onto unexpected paths, it gave a nice little nod to the fact that the story is set at a lakeside resort, one of those rustic, slightly rundown fishing lodges where families vacationed back in the day (log cabins with torn screen doors and no AC, canteen in the lobby where you can buy candy bars, sodas, and tubs of fishing worms).


But the more I wrote, the more I realized that the core of the book was about coping with failure. One day, the phrase “spectacular failure” popped into my brain. As soon as it did, I knew that had to be the title.  


At some point in life, absolutely everybody feels like a spectacular failure, so I knew this title would have nearly universal appeal. And since it’s also pretty funny, I thought it would let readers know there is a lot of humor in the story, and that Esme is someone they will identify with. 


Q: The author Kristy Woodson Harvey said of the book, “Esme Cahill is a protagonist to root for who will ultimately uncover the true meaning of family, the power of ancestral memory, and how, sometimes, failing spectacularly is the only way to begin again.” What do you think of that description?


A: Well, mostly it makes me think that Kristy Woodson Harvey is a very keen and insightful reader, and that she knows a good story when she reads it. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: As I always say, my first and most important job as a writer is to entertain. So, more than anything else, I hope that when readers close the cover, they will feel like the time they invested in reading the book was well spent. 


And if readers walk away wishing they had a little more time with Esme, Adele, and the other characters—there are wonderful secondary characters in Esme’s community—so much the better.


Something I have learned over decades of reading and writing is that books have a way of falling to the hands of the people who need them, often at the moment they’re needed most. 


So, if someone who is battling through a season of spectacular failure and sidelined plans reads my book, I hope that Esme’s story will help them understand what Kristy said so succinctly, that sometimes, “failing spectacularly is the only way to begin again,” and that someday they may look back to the crossroad of failure and realize it was the first step to a life that is better than they could ever have imagined. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: At the moment, I’m working on a first draft of a book that's different than anything I’ve written before. I don’t want to say a whole lot more just yet, except that it’s set in the early 1960s.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes, there is!


I’m setting out on a 12-state book tour with 30-something events on the docket. It’ll be grueling, but fun. 


Please check out my online calendar to see if I’ll be in your area, come say hello. Here’s the link. https://mariebostwick.com/calendar/


You might also want to check out my lifestyle blog, Fiercely Marie. Every week, I put up a new post with a recipe, craft tutorial, travel guide, book recommendations, fashion roundup, or anything else I think will help my readers “live every minute and love every moment.” That’s my philosophy of life in a nutshell, and I think it’s a pretty good one. 


Thanks for letting me spend time with you and your readers, Deborah. This was fun!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Marie Bostwick.

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