Even though I believe that Facebook is secretly run by aliens, studying the human race, I like it when it brings new friends my way. One such new friend is author Mary E. Dawson, who took some time to share a little bit about herself and her new book:
ENGLE: Thank you so much for dropping in! Why don’t you start by sharing about your writing process? What motivates you? Do you ever waver from it?
DAWSON: Although I’m not an illustrator, my writing is motivated by images that portray aspects of the physical world, especially photographs. New photographs often capture the magic of a place, or the beauty of a person or gesture. Old photographs stimulate the imagination, enticing the viewer to imagine what life smelled, felt, and tasted like in a different time and place. For me, they are the starting point of a story because they present so many questions about the people in them without giving any of the answers. The rest of the story is a blank page to be filled by your imagination.
ENGLE: That’s a very interesting way to get started. Tell me about your most recent publication. What’s it about? Where did the story idea come from?
DAWSON: My most recent publication is the Florida historical adventure, “The River Way Home: The Adventures of the Cowboy, the Indian, & the Amazon Queen” which was recently named Best YA Book and Best Florida Adult Fiction for 2013 by the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. It’s set in 1914 and tells the tale of three young teens (two boys—a Cracker and a Seminole—and an African-American girl) who lose their boat in a storm on Lake Okeechobee, and have to make their way home through the magical and mystical Florida Jungle. When the Ashley Gang blocks the only road home, they take a detour to see the ocean and the train, have adventures they never expected, and discover who they really are.
In keeping with your first question, it was inspired in large part by a photo of fishermen on Lake Okeechobee in 1915. One of them, a young man in overalls and a straw hat, is standing upright and looking directly at the camera. I became so enthralled with his image that he became a main character in the book. Now, I’m in the process of writing a series that reveals the rest of his fictional life and family history, from his grand-parents through his great-great-grandchildren.
Previously untold local history provided the rest of the inspiration for “The River Way Home.” While researching the Martin Grade, a road in western Martin County, Florida, that is covered by a beautiful tree canopy, in an effort to have it designated a Florida Scenic Highway, I discovered that the area between Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean has a fascinating history full of Seminoles and cow hunters that nobody had told. Then I discovered that Zora Neale Hurston had walked these lands as well, and all the characters fell into place.
ENGLE: That’s fascinating. I love historical elements in fiction, and I think the way you’ve weaved them all together sounds awesome. And congratulations on the book’s success! What an accolade! So, what’s the most difficult part of the writing process or anything unexpected you encountered while creating this book?
DAWSON: The most difficult question I had to resolve in producing “The River Way Home” was whether or not to include the photographs that inspired so much of the story in the book. The argument for not using them was that they might deprive the reader of the intimate connection with place and character that is created when the reader internally provides the visual aspect of the story. The argument in favor of using them was that they were so wonderful to look at. I just wanted everyone else to see them, too. We reached a compromise by including them at the end along with a series of historical essays that explain the truth behind the characters and the fictionalized story. I’m thrilled with the result. Many readers tell me they make the book that much more exciting.
ENGLE: You said ‘we’. Are your books traditionally published and are you agented? Explain how that came about.
DAWSON: “The River Way Home” is a hybrid. It was published by WRB Publishing, a small independent publisher that handles only a few authors. Under WRB’s program, I retained all my copyrights. Although several agents and a traditional publisher showed great interest in the book, we were not able to reach an agreement with any of them. Then a fellow author introduced me to WRB, and I’ve been very pleased.
The book-publishing business is in a state of transition triggered by the rise of ebooks, and major book producer/sellers such as Amazon. Traditional publishers still retain at least 85% of the sales, but no longer provide significant marketing programs for new, unproven authors. As a result, most authors must do their own marketing no matter who their publishers are, and they make a larger return per book if they do it themselves.
ENGLE: Very interesting. Now that you’ve got our attention, where can we find your book? Do you have a website/facebook/twitter you’d like to share?
DAWSON: The paperback edition of “The River Way Home: The Adventures of the Cowboy, the Indian, & the Amazon Queen” is available at the Stuart Heritage Museum and Barnes & Noble in Stuart, Florida, and from online bookstores, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s also available in the Martin County and Tampa libraries. The ebook is available for Kindle users at Amazon.
We’re currently running a giveaway on Goodreads, which ends on November 13. (Not a member of Goodreads? Join. It’s free and great fun for people who love to read.)
ENGLE: And finally, if you could be a Muppet, which would you be and why?
DAWSON: What a great question! The Mary Muppet, of course. (Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary fame.) I can see myself tossing my long straight blonde hair and singing harmonies to all the old songs in that folksy contralto. What fun it would be!
If you appreciate learning more about Mary and her book, please support her by picking up a paperback or ebook edition. Why not enter in the giveaway, and be sure to tell your family and friends to enter as well. New authors rely on the word of mouth support of others, so please pass this link through facebook and twitter to get others involved!