I am very excited to welcome Martine Fournier Watson on the blog! Be sure to check out her interview below and connect to with her on facebook and twitter!
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m originally from Montreal, Canada, and apart from the three years I spent in New Brunswick, earning my BFA in painting from Mt. Allison University, I lived there until I was 27. In 2000, I graduated from Concordia University in Montreal with my MA in art history after spending a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. You would think, with those degrees, that I would have ended up as an artist or teacher, or working in a gallery somewhere. But I followed the love of my life to Michigan after he got a job there (he’s also from Canada) and spent many years devoting myself to raising our two children. I’ve always loved writing, and had always pursued it on the side—publishing poems and short stories in literary magazines, putting out a chapbook of poetry shortly after our son was born. Once my youngest started kindergarten, I suddenly had a lot more free time on my hands, and that’s when I went back to writing in earnest. I started working on my debut novel, The Dream Peddler, eventually found an agent who sold it to Penguin, and now it’s coming out in April 2019. So, as they say, the rest was history.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I guess it depends on whether we’re talking about the Kryptonite that takes me away from writing, or the big style flaw I always have to watch out for! In the first case, it’s got to be social media. I have a Twitter addiction, so whenever I get stuck in my work I find myself going in there and scrolling through. Very bad habit. In terms of style, my Kryptonite is definitely over-writing. I write literary fiction, so I love nothing better than a great image or an unusual turn of phrase, but I really have to watch that I don’t indulge myself too much.
What first inspired you to start writing?
It was probably that day in first grade when I noticed that my teacher had put a sign up on the wall with title suggestions for short stories we could write. It’s the first time I remember my imagination being fired by something that moved me to write. My story was called “The Magic Mittens.” It was probably about ten sentences long, but because of it I was named Author of the Month at our next elementary school assembly, and that was it. The writing bug had bit me!
What author has most influenced your writing?
This is a really tough one—there are so many authors I admire, and I hope that many of them have influenced me in some way: Toni Morrison, Daphne du Maurier, Donna Tartt, David Wroblewski, Anne Tyler, Rene Denfeld…I could go on and on, so I’ll stop there. But I also think that my writing mind was profoundly influenced by what and how much I read as a child. I read everything L.M. Montgomery wrote, and reread so many times I can practically recite from memory. I found rereading old, familiar books intensely comforting. I also adored Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming series, and Susan Cooper’s fantasy.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?
I think the place, or places, I see myself don’t really have anything to do with “plans.” So much of what happens to a writer career-wise is beyond our control, so all we can plan for is the content of the work. In five years, I hope to have another book or two out, but I think that will depend on how my debut goes. I’m wrapping up edits for my second book, but no one else has seen it—not even my mother, a constant source of aggravation to her! And I’ve been jotting down scenes and little bits for a third book, as well. All literary fiction. In five more years, maybe those books will be out and I’ll be working on the fourth. I’ve also toyed with the idea of writing a memoir—there was one year in my life, in particular, that might make for an interesting book, but I’m not completely comfortable with the idea of writing about all the real people involved, so we’ll have to see.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
I think this changes all the time for me! Although, for some reason, whenever I’m asked about a favorite character, my mind always goes to the secondary cast. Maybe my main characters just have to take on too much in their roles to really be my favorites. Currently, I’m most in love with the younger sister of a main character in my work in progress, Darlene. Darlene is eleven years old and she’s brave, determined, obsessively neat, and forgives easily. There’s just something about her mixture of traits that makes me adore her, and adore writing her.
What literary world would you love to visit for a day?
Another toughie. I’ve always wanted to go back to the Victorian era, or maybe even a little earlier to the days of Jane Austen. I would have rocked all the things society women were expected to do—the needlework, the drawing, the music—and I would have looked great in one of those empire dresses. I’d love to spend a day on the moors in Wuthering Heights, or roaming the beautiful grounds at Pemberly.
What do you love most about the writing process?
The discovery. I’m a classic pantser—plotting would kill me. I love it when a new character pops into my mind while I’m drafting, and I love the process of getting to know them. If I tried to plot everything out, that would kill all the fun for me, for sure.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
To be honest, I’ve always had a pretty big crush on my beloved dream peddler. I’d love to spend a day with him, but I think it would be inappropriate to describe what I hope we would be doing.
Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
I loved querytracker.com to keep track of my queries when I was in those trenches. Along those lines, reading endless entries at queryshark.blogspot.com was a great way to educate myself about what makes a great query. You also can’t go wrong with JaneFriedman.com—it’s full of wonderful advice and information. For laughs, and to make myself feel better about my own query, I would go to slushpilehell.tumblr.com. And I wish I had known earlier about the shippingandhandling.com podcast, which my lovely agent, Bridget Smith, puts out with her agent buddy, Jennifer Udden. They impart so much useful information about writing and the publishing business, all while sharing a bottle of wine and being absolutely hilarious.
What are you currently working on?
My current work in progress, which I’m tentatively calling Nothing Gold, is another literary novel centered on the coming-of-age of two thirteen-year-old protagonists. Lucas Miner is struggling with the abandonment of his mother, while his classmate, Caroline West, has a difficult home life with her gambling-addicted father and distracted mother. While the two forge an unlikely friendship, neither one of them realizes they are also deeply connected through their past mistakes, which may eventually threaten to tear them apart.
Can you share an excerpt with us from one of your novels/projects?
I’ll share the opening chapter of my current work in progress:
It must have been the way the truck’s front bumper was torn jagged now and hanging. It was sharp enough to slice something. They were still driving around that way as if it didn’t matter, as if this were nothing more than a dress with a fallen hem.
Lucas rode beside his father in the cab, as far away as the space would allow. His head was against the window, seat belt chaffing the right side of his neck. Every so often he yanked it away, but as soon as he let go the seatbelt slyly worked its way back, like the tight woven tail of some animal starved for affection.
They were heading out of town on Route Six because Lucas needed new clothes, and the K-Mart over in Silver Lake had the best deals. Whenever he grew, his body became sudden enemy, betrayer. For weeks, he’d sense his father eyeing the ankles and wrists sneaking out of his clothes, and he’d pull his arms up instinctively, trying to shrink himself. He was still shrinking now, taking up as little space as he could on his side of the cab, staring straight ahead.
Until a black shadow raced across the road in front of them. When the truck made contact the shadow hardened fast into flesh, and the impact forced a sound out of it, squealing and brief.
“Shit,” his father said, pulling onto the shoulder. “Shit shit.”
Lucas heard the driver door slam while he left his own open. The dog was lying in the road behind them, and he ran to reach it first. Nestled in the black hair matting with blood, the dog’s dead eyes were open, staring into the trees. Lucas reached down to the red grosgrain collar, shifting it gently around the animal’s neck.
“What are you doing?”
“Looking for tags.”
There were none.
The milkweed underbelly had been sliced open, and the organs flopped pale and pink out onto the asphalt like bubbles blown from gum. Around them a slick bruise of blood slowly widened, shiny with sun.
“Keep a lookout for cars,” his father said. “I’ll be right back.”
Lucas looked around. There were no houses nearby, and he wondered where the dog could have come from. The jellied stomach had burst, and a wet mound of dog chow was reeking the air. He glanced over his shoulder at his father, whose back was toward the scene as he opened the truck bed, then turned and stared again into the dog’s last meal.
There was a sparkle there, a faint glitter like a Cracker Jack prize, and he reached down and pulled it from the mud of food. A ring. He wiped it off with the tail of his shirt, then held the base by his fingertips like a tiny wildflower. Its center was greener even than the summer evening grass, greener than ocean or envy or mint jelly. It was circled with what looked like diamonds, but they couldn’t be real, he guessed. It couldn’t be valuable, but that’s how it looked. He polished it once more, and pushed it down deep into his shorts pocket.
This was a big dog. It would be as heavy as Darlene in his father’s arms, when she fell asleep on the sofa and he carried her back to her room. His father returned, and in just that way he wrapped the dog’s remains in an old tarp, and brought it over to the grass at the side of the road.
“God, what a mess.” He stripped off his buttoned shirt and used it to wipe his forearms and hands. The shirt took up the blood as he stood rubbing and swearing, then he tossed it into the truck bed. Underneath he wore a white t-shirt, its armpits stained blue from the deodorant he always used. He motioned Lucas back into the truck, and Lucas obeyed.
They drove away in silence, Lucas with his hand in his pocket, protecting his prize. “Are we just going to leave him there?” he asked.
“There isn’t anything else we can do. He’s not going to any vet. We don’t have any way to find the owner. So that’s it.” He reached over as if he might tousle Lucas’s hair, but pulled the hand back, maybe remembering the blood drying under his fingernails. “You’re sure there weren’t any tags?”
They stopped talking, and Lucas watched his father’s hands shifting around the wheel. Lucas was still, arms pressed to his sides. He felt something growing inside him, something he wasn’t sure he could contain, and making himself as small and tight as possible was all he could do. He stretched one finger in the darkness of his pocket to touch the ring, and its faceted surface innerved his skin with wonder. He found himself rubbing it like a talisman. He didn’t believe in luck, but he thought it might bring him something.
Anything you’d like to say before you go?
Only that it has been a great pleasure to do your interview—one of my first! Many thanks for inviting me, and I hope all your readers enjoy it.
Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.
A little blurb about The Dream Peddler:
The dream peddler came to town at the white end of winter, before the thaw . . .
Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.
Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.
Gorgeously told through the eyes of Evie, Robert, and a broad cast of fully realized characters, The Dream Peddler is an imaginative, moving novel of overcoming loss and reckoning with the longings we keep secret.
“Astonishing . . . The Dream Peddler unfolds like a gorgeous poem, leading us deep into the lives of its characters, and exploring the vast underground legacy of our own desires. This is the must-read book of the year.” —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder
Web site: martinefournierwatson.com