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Friday, April 9, 2010

Mari Sloan's Beaufort Falls


Mari Sloan dropped by to answer a few questions about Beaufort Falls. Welcome, Mari. Please give us a brief bio.

I am a Southern writer whose family is from Atlanta, Ga., now transplanted to Southern California where I live in a small apartment with my husband and a huge black cat. Writing is my part-time vocation, and I work fulltime as an AdMin for a furniture store, although my past has included counseling, teaching, disaster relief work for the American Red Cross and night and weekend director for a domestic violence center. Mental health, crisis intervention and the welfare of women and children have always been high priorities in my life.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

The Author’s page on my webpage begins with a statement that I think sums up most of my writing. I tell everyone, only partly tongue-in-cheek, “my Mother was Scarlett O’Hara and my Father was John Wayne.” My Great-Grandmother was the first prison matron for the state of Georgia, a saintly woman who wore an apron instead of a uniform and who stopped a prison break once (two women on foot who had decided to leave the work farm) with nothing but a stern look and a switch. From an early age I was told that my life should matter to more than just myself, and I was expected to be of service to others in some way. When you add the influences of some decidedly off beat religious experiences and a Grandmother who had learned through contact with prisoners at an early age how to predict the future and who was never wrong, I had all of the elements for a first class novel before I was ten.

LOL. I love it! Tell us about Beaufort Falls.

In Beaufort Falls a determined ghost comes back from the grave to protect her living children, still in the custody of her abuser, and to avenge her murder. This is accomplished with the unconscious help of her very strange ex-lover, who manages to evade arrest himself by a series of creative impersonations, beginning with posing as the first man he is supposed to have killed, and ending as the biggest, most awkward woman you could ever imagine, a part I picture as being acted if it ever becomes a movie by Bruce Willis. A mix of characters rotate around this main plot, a dangerous religious fanatic, two cute little kids, women whose biological clocks are ticking loudly, lost boys adrift in a mental health system gone astray, two of the most inept “hit-men” you could ever image, with an action packed finish that leaves room for a sequel. “Nothing is what it seems, in Beaufort Falls!”

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Yes, a definite message of hope for victims of domestic abuse, the mental health system, and people who are dealing with injustice anywhere. Not even death prevents Eliza from taking care of her children and making sure that they are taken care of. A secondary message, or its “subtext,” is that you never really know what you or anyone else is capable of just by watching life move around you. What may seem ordinary on the surface can be very bizarre indeed. Who knows what his or her neighbor is really thinking, or what goes on behind their little white picket fence or closed doors?

How do you develop characters? Setting? That all-important first sentence? Your “voice?” Influences?

My setting is, of course, the land of my childhood, the sleepy, sultry, Deep South, where superstition, religion gone insane, agenda determined aberration all move beneath the surface of normality in grooves worn by centuries of the misuse of power and sanctioned abuse of the weak. My characters are all shaped by this, but show extraordinary creativity, strength and ingenuity in overcoming the obstacles placed in their way. The ones regarded as the weakest are actually the toughest, and you cheer for them every step of the way.

I lived in Southern Alabama, Beaufort Falls’ setting, for several years and found it much like my Atlanta home and my childhood in hot, humid South Georgia. My first sentence? "Beaufort Falls was not exactly what you would call a ‘happening’ town.” Not on the surface, anyway. My voice is satirical, in the best tradition of Southern writers, and my greatest influence has always been Pat Conroy, probably the best portrayer of human nobility and fallacies in the history of the written word. Want to see me do the dance of joy? Compare me to Pat.

Where do you write and what particular distractions do you have to overcome? What helps you concentrate, aids your creative process?

Life throws distractions at me with the accuracy of a curve ball pitcher on a pro baseball team. I live in a studio apartment with a mate whose schedule is my opposite and there is always confusion and noise around me. The plus side of this is that he is my soul-mate, and nothing I say to him disturbs him. We both have to be creating something to be happy, so it’s not at all unusual for conversation on a Friday or Saturday morning to go like this:

“Mari, come here and look at this! Look what Microsoft is doing now!”

“Leave me alone. I’m writing!”

“But look! Should I send this out? Come proof this for me.”

“In a minute. Charlie knew that he …”

“But Mari, I’m going to send it …”

“Shut up!!” Eventually I take a look and then this same restless man sits still and lets me read my chapter to him, even when he’s heard it dozens of times before. Beaufort Falls took three years to finish its first draft and then it went through more than ten major and minor rewrites before I was happy with it, and this poor man heard it read out loud to him every word of the way. Then we suffered through the publishing process as partners, creating It’s ME! Ink Press and learning together how to launch “the baby.” Now I’ve gone through three years of creating its sequel and reading IT out loud, as well.

What are your current projects and where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Road Trip, the sequel to Beaufort Falls, should be out by August of this year. I’m working at rewriting and editing it now, and in it Molly, who was only eight in Beaufort Falls is a troubled teen-ager who teams up with her biological Dad to transport a pink trailer to Hollywood where she believes that she can sell it and make her fortune. There is a cosmic subplot to this thriller and an entirely new array of characters as they cross the country. Native Americans, Chinese gang members, a god-like superhero “more like Spiderman than Superman,” a vicious, super-powered black cat, and more make this novel even more multi-faceted than the first.

You can find Beaufort Falls for sale on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, Barnes and Noble.com, anywhere books are sold online or you can order it from your favorite bookstore by author name (Mari Sloan) or title (Beaufort Falls). It should be delivered to your door within ten days, either way.

You can reach my website using either
http://www.beaufortfalls.com/ or http://www.marisloan.com,or/ visit my blog at http://mari-thewritersblock.blogspot.com/ . I’m also active at Book Town and you can always send me messages here, whenever you’re around.  (Mari's interview will also be posted at booktown.com)

It’s a pleasure to hang out with Susan and I thank her for her time and her wonderful questions. If there is anything else you want to contribute or ask me, leave a response here, under the interview, and I’ll reply right away!

Thanks so much, Mari. Continued success!

11 comments:

Henya said...

Mari...how wonderful to come across such beautiful women, who also happened to be accomplished writers.

markhenderson said...

Beaufort Falls is one of that handful of novels that I've read twice and enjoyed even more on second reading. It's rich, moving, emotive, funny and wonderfully atmospheric, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys quality fiction and is looking for a new and distinctive narrative voice. I intend to be one of the first purchasers of Road Trip.

Dreamer said...

what a wonderful look into your past and present thank you for giving us that your book sounds like one id love to read i am a big fan of suspense

Dorinda Jade said...

Mari I love that you have chosen to take this history of yours and put it into a novel. That shows strength of character. Big Hugs~

James Smith said...

Obviously, from what you've stated, the people and places in your story are heavily influenced by the events in your life. Did you find it difficult translating the people you knew into characters in your book?

Mari said...

Dreamer and Jade
I'm glad that my history was not quite as "colorful" as "Beaufort Falls," although it had its moments. I went to church with my grandmother after she experienced a "faith healing," and witnessed people "speaking in tongues." She was Pentecostal for many years, and I used to love revival meetings as a child. Mostly, I loved the music.

Mari said...

James. not at all. I've never known a cross-dressing serial killer, I don't think, but I have known people who had the same qualities that Charlie has, acting ability, creative opportunist, all of the attributes that made that work for him. I've also know people whose conclusions were "skewed," and whose interpretations of reality meant that their reactions to situations were FAR from any I would have.

This book was fun in that I was able to take people I have known who appear normal and push them to the outer limits of what I feel they were capable of doing.

Thank you for this great question!

Mari said...

Mark, you are a sweetheart. For those of you who don't know Mark Henderson, he also is published, and has a wonderful book, a suspense thriller, "Perilaus," one of my favorites which has a surprise ending you don't see coming.

Henya, I believe in women. Nothing stops a Mother who wants to protect her children. We are tough, and it was important to me that women who are trapped in situations that they cannot control never lose hope.

Dreamer, writers almost always write about what they know, even if they distance it by using science fiction or fantasy. Scary, isn't it?

Mari said...

Jade, I appreciate your comment. We never escape our past, but it can be material.
:-)

Anonymous said...

Really liked the interview,Mari,and let me learn more about you that I didn't know.Great job.
Zack

Anonymous said...

Mari what a wonderful interview. This book sounds very interesting. I think it is great and that another is coming out soon.

Kathy Lynn