An Interview with Novelist Marie Bostwick

Marie Bostwick

Marie Bostwick


By Frances O’Roark Dowell

Marie Bostwick is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous books, including A Single Thread, The Second Sister, Between Heaven and Texas, and most recently From Here to Home. Her novels feature creative, resilient women who face their problems with intelligence and humor, and who get by with a little help from their friends. Quilting is a central preoccupation with many of Marie’s characters, making her books especially dear to those of us who love a good novel and a good quilt with equal passion.

LINK: The Novels of Marie Bostwick

I interviewed Marie recently via email in April 2016. In our exchange I discovered a delightful, funny and thoughtful woman (it’s always a treat when writers you love turn out to be nice people). For more about Marie, go to her website: http://www.mariebostwick.com/

 

Marie Bostwick's From Here to HomeFrances: Before we start talking about your marvelous new book, From Here to Home, I want to talk about your quilting. I’ve seen pictures of your quilts and they’re beautiful! How did you start quilting? What are your favorite kinds of quilts to make?

Marie: Well…I’d love to say it was because I had this deep, ineffable need to express myself creatively. The truth is I was walking by a quilt shop in a strip mall in Texas, saw they gave classes, and thought this would be a good way to get a break from my toddlers and engage in adult conversation while I still remembered how. (Bet I’m not the only one who can say that.)

The creativity part came later, when I found out how much I truly adored quilting. It brought me back to that creative part of me I’d given up on after getting a C on my wood sculpture in my fourth grade art class. I often say that I quilt because I don’t paint. (Bet I’m not the only one who can say that either.)

As far as a favorite kind of quilt; for a long time the answer to that question would have been traditional piecing. Now my favorite kind of quilting is whatever I’m working on at the moment. I set myself a goal to tackle a new technique every year or two. That’s opened up a lot of new avenues for me – applique, paper piecing, using made fabrics, learning to quilt my own tops instead of always relying on a longarmer. I’ve been more successful at mastering some techniques than others, but I’ve enjoyed it all.

Right now, I am all about crazy quilting. Perle cotton makes me go weak in the knees!

Frances: Are you a member of a quilt guild or any kind of quilting group? If so, talk about the ways these groups have been meaningful to you. What’s your favorite thing about being around other quilters?

Marie: My work and travel schedule is hectic and unpredictable so I haven’t been able to join a traditional guild. However, a few years back I started an online quilting group through my website. (That was back when websites still had forums – in the old days of ten years ago.) We started with about 25 people.

Now we have a Facebook group – Cobbled Court Quilt Circle Online – with about 1100 members. We do swaps, charity projects, post pictures of our quilts, share tips about tools and techniques, ask for advice about problems we’re having or what border looks best.

Even though it’s an online group, people make strong personal connections. Sometimes we meet in person too. Recently, I was in Washington DC so I asked if anybody from the area wanted to have a meetup. About 20 of us went to a quilting/mixed media shop in Alexandria, VA and had lunch afterward. It was great getting to talk face to face.

What I love about being around quilters is the way that it opens but avenues to meet and make friends with people I would never have known otherwise, people whose life experience or backgrounds are very different from mine. We begin with a love of quilting as common ground and, before long, we’re finding so much else we have in common.

Frances: You’re a novelist and a quilter. What kind of connections, if any, do you see between making quilts and writing novels?

Marie: Something I have discovered over the years is that artists of all stripes – from writers and composers, to sculptors and choreographers and, yes, quilters and fiber artists too – go through similar stages of the creative process.

It starts with an idea that seems very clear and very, very exciting. At this stage, you can’t wait to get to work. You’re sure you’re onto something brilliant, that you are brilliant!

About halfway in, you decide you are the opposite of brilliant. You wonder why you ever, ever thought this was a good idea. It’s just not turning out like you thought it would – not that you can really remember at this point. (By the way, when I’m writing, this feeling always hits me somewhere between pages 160 and 185. It’s eerily consistent.) You’ll be sorely tempted to give up and start something new. And it’s possible you will. But, if you don’t, you’re probably going back and doing some serious editing, ripping and re-sewing, or the like.

Then – assuming you didn’t give up – as you get toward the end, you start to become excited again. Your project might not have turned out exactly like you envisioned but there are some very good, and surprising, things about it. You’re pleased with the effort, eager to show it to others. You realize that you learned a lot in the process and are starting to think about how you can apply that to your next project. You get excited all over again.

Now, because quilting is my hobby as opposed to my profession, the emotional swings I experience in quilting aren’t as dramatic, but it’s definitely that same creative roller coaster ride. I think this is something just about every artist can relate to.

Frances: In From Here to Home, we return to the tiny Texas town of Too Much and what remains of the Templeton clan. The last time we saw Mary Dell and company, in the final pages of Between Heaven and Texas, it was 1984 and all kind of exciting things were just getting started—Mary Dell’s quilt shop, The Patchwork Palace, the romance between Lydia Dale and Graydon, etc. From Here to Home is set in the present day, which is to say some thirty years later. Why did you make the choice to jump so far ahead in time? And do you think you’ll ever go back and write about the years you leapt over?

Marie: Originally, I did plan for three “Too Much, Texas” books. But when I started to sit down and plot out the middle bit, I realized that the things that happened as Mary Dell built her business and life just weren’t as momentous as what happened later.

A good story requires drama, a seemingly insurmountable problem to be faced. That’s what I was able to give readers in From Here to Home that I wouldn’t have been able to supply in a book focused on the middle years of Mary Dell and Howard’s lives. It’s a plot that keeps you turning pages.

Frances: Mary Dell is just fabulous—she’s the best friend we all wish we had. One of my favorite things about her is that she’s so down to earth and yet larger (and gaudier) than life when it comes to clothes. What do you think this dichotomy says about who Mary Dell is? How fun is it to come up with her wardrobe choices? Do you make it all up, or are her outfits inspired by someone you know in real life?

Marie: You really hit upon something here that is important. Mary Dell’s wardrobe choices are very gaudy – she never met an animal print she didn’t love and one of her favorite sayings is, “more red is more better.” But there’s a reason for that quality that goes far beyond a quirky character trait.

The thing about Mary Dell is this: she knows she has no taste, she even jokes about having, “no more taste than a hothouse tomato”. But, guess what? She doesn’t care. She likes what she likes and she is who she is. She makes no apologies for it. That’s what I absolutely love about Mary Dell. She’s not proud but she is confident, comfortable in her own skin. I think that’s what readers like about her too.

Her wardrobe is really all of my own invention – I just sit there and try to think of the loudest, craziest combinations of colors and patterns I can come up and go with that. Yes, it’s a lot of fun.

Frances: I love Howard! I love that he’s a real (if made-up) person, not just a stick figure with Downs. But I’m curious—was it hard to get inside the head the character of a young man with an intellectual disability? And speaking of getting into men’s minds, how did you go about creating Rob Lee, who’s returned from Afghanistan with PTSD?

Marie: Thanks! I love Howard too.

You know, it really wasn’t hard at all to get in Howard’s head. Cognitive challenges or not, people are people. We want the same things – love, acceptance, happiness in our relationships, satisfaction in our work, a chance to prove ourselves. At this stage of his life, Howard wants to be independent, to go out into the world and test himself, to have control over his choices. I have three grown sons and watched them all go through that same stage of life – perhaps at a younger chronological age than Howard – but the desire was the same.

Learning about PTSD was more challenging. I read many books on the subject. The ones that contained first person narratives from people who had suffered through it, and also from the family members who were walking alongside them, were crucial in helping me get that portion of the story right.

Frances: What’s the hardest thing about writing a series? What’s your favorite thing?

Marie: First off, let me say that I’ve never written a series by planning to do it. What happens is that I finish a book and find that I want to know more about the main character, or I realize that a secondary character has a story of they want to tell.

Part of the reason I never plan to write one is that it is just really hard to do. You’ve got to figure out a way to make the story, setting, and characters seem fresh to people who read the previous books and, at the same time, you have to make sure that you cover enough of the older story so new readers won’t feel like they came in at the middle of the movie. It’s a tricky balance to strike.

However, the part I do like about writing a series is the sense that you’re getting to visit with an old friend, someone you’ve missed talking with. From the letters I get, I know that is what readers like about reading a series as well.

Frances: I know you’re working on something now. Are you the kind of writer who resists talking about her current project or can you tell us a little of what it’s about? If you don’t want to spill the beans just yet, can you tell us when we can expect to see a new book in the stores?

Marie: I really don’t like to talk about a book until I’m finished with it. However, I can tell you that my next book is set in Seattle, involves three sisters who are failed artistic prodigies. One of them is a part time mermaid. As you can imagine, I’m having a lot of fun with that.

Frances: What’s your big quilting dream that may never come true, but is fun to think about (owning your own quilt shop, spending your retirement years taking quilting cruises)? Do you have any special hopes for your writing career?

Marie: My quilting fantasy involves making a Baltimore album quilt – by hand – and doing it well. This doesn’t really seem like something that will ever happen though; my needle turn applique skills are less than stellar. And where would I ever find the time? But it is nice to think about.

As far as writing, I’d like to live long enough to write 50 full-length novels. I’ve got 38 to go.

I’d like to do that well, too. Really well.

***


Marie’s Books on Amazon

marie_bostwick_books

GoodReads – Birds in the Air (10 Copies!)

Enter the Goodreads.com Giveaway now.

Enter the Goodreads.com Giveaway now.

Enter for a chance to win one of 10 signed copies of Birds in the Air, a novel that Marianne Fons calls “a truly enjoyable read” about “the power of quilts to connect, heal, and restore the soul.”

In her first novel for adults, Frances O’Roark Dowell (bestselling author of Dovey Coe, The Secret Language of Girls, Trouble the Water and other “beloved books for tweens and teenagers” (New York Times Sunday Book Review) — has created a warm, funny novel about fitting in, falling out and mending frayed relationships one stitch at a time.

Fans of Marie Bostwick and Jennifer Chiaverini are sure to love the resilient quilters of Sweet Anne’s Gap.

Enter to win one of 10 free copies of ‘Birds in the Air’ Now!

The Quilting Novels of Marie Bostwick

“As far as writing, I’d like to live long enough to write 50 full-length novels. I’ve got 38 to go.

I’d like to do that well, too. Really well.” –An Interview with Marie Bostwick on The Off-Kilter Quilt blog

A Single Thread (Cobbled Quilt #1) by Marie Bostwick

A Single Thread (Cobbled Quilt #1)

by Marie Bostwick

Marie Bostwick weaves the unforgettable story of four very different women whose paths cross, changing their lives forever . . . It’s a long way from Fort Worth, Texas, to New Bern, Connecticut, yet it only takes a day in the charming Yankee town to make Evelyn Dixon realize she’s found her new home. The abrupt end of her marriage was Evelyn’s wake-up call to get busy chasing her dream of opening a quilt shop. Finding a storefront is easy enough; starting a new life isn’t. Little does Evelyn imagine it will bring a trio like Abigail Burgess, her niece Liza, and Margot Matthews through her door . . . Troubled and angry after her mother’s death, Liza threatens to embarrass her Aunt Abigail all over town unless she joins her for quilting classes. A victim of downsizing at the peak of her career, Margot hopes an event hosted by the quilt shop could be a great chance to network-and keep from dying of boredom . . . As they stitch their unique creations, Evelyn, Abigail, Liza, and Margot form a sisterhood they never sought-but one that they’ll be grateful for when the unexpected provides a poignant reminder of the single thread that binds us all.

Marie Bostwick was born and raised in the northwest. In the three decades since her marriage, Marie and her family have moved frequently, living in eight different states at eighteen different addresses, three of them in Texas. These experiences have given Marie a unique perspective that enables her to write about people from all walks of life and corners of the country with insight and authenticity. Marie currently resides in Connecticut where she enjoys writing, spending time with family, helping out at church, gardening, collecting fabric, and stitching quilts.


A Thread of Truth (Cobbled Quilt #2) by Marie Bostwick

A Thread of Truth (Cobbled Quilt #2)

by Marie Bostwick

Come home to Marie Bostwick’s poignant novel of new beginnings, old friends, and the rich, varied tapestry of lives fully lived. . .

At twenty-seven, having fled an abusive marriage with little more than her kids and the clothes on her back, Ivy Peterman figures she has nowhere to go but up. Quaint, historic New Bern, Connecticut, seems as good a place as any to start fresh. With a part-time job at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and budding friendships, Ivy feels hopeful for the first time in ages.

But when a popular quilting TV show is taped at the quilt shop, Ivy’s unwitting appearance in an on-air promo alerts her ex-husband to her whereabouts. Suddenly, Ivy is facing the fight of her life–one that forces her to face her deepest fears as a woman and a mother. This time, however, she’s got a sisterhood behind her: companions as complex, strong, and lasting as the quilts they stitch.


A Thread So Thin (Cobbled Quilt #3) by Marie Bostwick

A Thread So Thin (Cobbled Quilt #3)

by Marie Bostwick

While New Bern, Connecticut, lies under a blanket of snow, the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop remains a cozy haven for its owner, Evelyn Dixon, and her friends. Evelyn relishes winter’s slower pace–besides, internet sales are hopping, thanks to her son Garrett’s efforts. In addition to helping out at the shop, Garrett has also been patiently waiting for his girlfriend, Liza, to finish art school in New York City. But as much as Evelyn loves Liza, she wonders if it’s a good idea for her son to be so serious, so soon, with a young woman who’s just getting ready to spread her wings. . .

Liza’s wondering the same thing–especially after Garrett rolls out the red carpet for a super-romantic New Year’s Eve–complete with marriage proposal. Garrett’s the closest thing to perfect she’s ever known, but what about her own imperfections? The only happy marriage Liza’s ever seen is her Aunt Abigail’s, and it took her decades to tie the knot. Soon, Liza is not only struggling with her own fears, but with the mixed reactions of her friends and family. And when she finds herself torn between a rare career opportunity and her love for Garrett, Liza must grasp at the thinnest of threads–and pray it holds. . .


Threading the Needle (Cobbled Quilt #4) by Marie Bostwick

Threading the Needle (Cobbled Quilt #4)

by Marie Bostwick

From New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick comes a beautiful novel of sisterhood lost and found–and of the ways we create the rich tapestries that encompass the past and the future…

The economic downturn has hit New Bern, Connecticut, and Tessa Woodruff’s herbal apothecary shop, For the Love of Lavender, is suffering. So is her once-happy thirty-four-year marriage to Lee. They’d given up everything to come back to New Bern from Boston and start their business, but now they’re wondering if they made the right decision. To relieve the strain, Tessa signs up for a quilting class at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop, and to her surprise, rediscovers the power of sisterhood–along with the childhood friend she thought she’d lost forever…

Madelyn Beecher left New Bern twenty years ago and never looked back. But when her husband is convicted of running a Ponzi scheme and she’s left with nothing but her late grandmother’s cottage, she is forced to return to the town she fled. Unfortunately, the cottage is in terrible shape. Madelyn’s only hope is to transform it into an inn. But to succeed, she’ll need the help of her fellow quilters, including the one friend she never thought she’d see again–or forgive. Now Madelyn and Tessa will have to relive old memories, forge new ones, and realize it’s possible to start over, one stitch at a time–as long as you’re surrounded by friends…


Ties That Bind (Cobbled Quilt #5) by Marie Bostwick

Ties That Bind (Cobbled Quilt #5)

by Marie Bostwick

Christmas is fast approaching, and New Bern, Connecticut, is about to receive the gift of a new pastor, hired sight unseen to fill in while Reverend Tucker is on sabbatical. Meanwhile, Margot Matthews’ friend, Abigail, is trying to match-make even though Margot has all but given up on romance. She loves her job at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and the life and friendships she’s made in New Bern; she just never thought she’d still be single on her fortieth birthday.

It’s a shock to the entire town when Phillip A. Clarkson turns out to be Philippa. Truth be told, not everyone is happy about having a female pastor. Yet despite a rocky start, Philippa begins to settle in–finding ways to ease the townspeople’s burdens, joining the quilting circle, and forging a fast friendship with Margot. When tragedy threatens to tear Margot’s family apart, that bond–and the help of her quilting sisterhood–will prove a saving grace. And as she untangles her feelings for another new arrival in town, Margot begins to realize that it is the surprising detours woven into life’s fabric that provide its richest hues and deepest meaning.


Between Heaven and Texas (Cobbled Quilt, #6)

Between Heaven and Texas (Cobbled Quilt, #6)

by Marie Bostwick

In this luminous prequel to her beloved Cobbled Court Quilts series, New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick takes readers into the heart of a small Texas town and the soul of a woman who discovers her destiny there.

Welcome to Too Much–where the women are strong-willed and the men are handsome yet shiftless. Ever since Mary Dell Templeton and her twin sister Lydia Dale were children, their Aunt Velvet has warned them away from local boys. But it’s well known that the females in Mary Dell’s family have two traits in common–superior sewing skills and a fatal weakness for men.

While Lydia Dale grows up petite and pretty, Mary Dell just keeps growing. Tall, smart, and sassy, she is determined to one day turn her love of sewing into a business. Meanwhile, she’ll settle for raising babies with her new husband, Donny. But that dream proves elusive too, until finally, Mary Dell gets the son she always wanted–a child as different as he is wonderful. And as Mary Dell is forced to reconsider what truly matters in her family and her marriage, she begins to piece together a life that, like the colorful quilts she creates, will prove vibrant, rich, and absolutely unforgettable.


Apart at The Seams (Cobbled Quilt, #7) by Marie Bostwick

Apart at The Seams (Cobbled Quilt, #7)

by Marie Bostwick

New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick welcomes readers back to picturesque New Bern, Connecticut–a perfect place for a woman whose marriage is in turmoil to discover a new pattern for living. . .

Twice in her life, college counselor Gayla Oliver fell in love at first sight. The first time was with Brian–a lean, longhaired, British bass player. Marriage followed quickly, then twins, and gradually their bohemian lifestyle gave way to busy careers in New York. Gayla’s second love affair is with New Bern, Connecticut. Like Brian, the laid back town is charming without trying too hard. It’s the ideal place to buy a second home and reignite the spark in their twenty-six year marriage. Not that Gayla is worried. At least, not until she finds a discarded memo in which Brian admits to a past affair and suggests an amicable divorce.

Devastated, Gayla flees to New Bern. Though Brian insists he’s since recommitted to his family, Gayla’s feelings of betrayal may go too deep for forgiveness. Besides, her solo sabbatical is a chance to explore the creative impulses she sidelined long ago–quilting, gardening, and striking up new friendships with the women of the Cobbled Court circle–particularly Ivy, a single mother confronting fresh starts and past hurts of her own. With all of their support, Gayla just might find the courage to look ahead, decide which fragments of her old life she wants to keep, which are beyond repair–and how to knot the fraying ends until a bold new design reveals itself. . .

1 2 3 4 5