Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Meet Margaret Mendel

Today we are thrilled to be interviewing 
Margaret Mendel, author of:

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Graham Green, M.F.K. Fisher, Adam Hochschild, Amy Tam, Isabel Allende, Michael Crichton, Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith
What motivated you to become a writer and at what age?
I do not remember a time when I was not creating stories, sometimes little fibs to keep from getting in trouble for a mischievous deed. But I always wanted to know how situations were going to turn out, or why a person did this or that. I think I’ve always wanted to understand the story behind what made people do what they do. It is quite likely that this curiosity, that peeking under the curtains of people’s private lives, brought me to writing.  

What 3 words describe you as a person?

What 3 words describe you as a writer?

When not writing, how do you spend your time? Hobbies?
I love photography and grab every chance I can to take my camera out for a walk. I’m a great baker, fruit pies are my specialty, and I do a great deal of sewing and making jewellery.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I do not remember stories being read to me as a small child. Though there are two reading occasions that stick out in my mind. It was when I could read that books became important. Reading the biography of Abe Lincoln in grade school was the first book that left an impression on me. I was amazed at how someone could go back in history to reconstruct someone’s life. That curious thought remained with me and then many years later that interesting concept was rekindled when I read Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers”. It was then that I knew I wanted to build lives with words. I wanted tell stories. I did not realize then that I stood at the precipice of a love affair with words.

Describe your desk.
Hopelessly busy looking with paper and pens strewn about on a very small workspace. I am a pen and paper freak and though I try hard to keep a tidy writing space, I do need my comfort items around me. Don’t get me started about my stash of old journals.

Who is the main character in Pushing Water?
Sarah, an American, living and working in Hanoi, Vietnam, works as an archivist during the French Colonial rule in the Orient.

What is her story?
Sarah has taken a job in the farthest region of the World that she could find, in an attempt to seek relief from a profound sadness.

Where/when does the story take place?
Vietnam in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

How did the story come to you?

There was always so much about the American Vietnam War that I did not understand. It was like a puzzle with pieces missing. I was never a history buff, and quite frankly paid little attention to past events. But my curiosity brought me to an interesting place, and I began to do research. Initially all this digging into the past was just for my own interest. Well, it didn’t take long for a story to bubble up. Soon I was off and running with a plotline, a cast of characters and a commitment to a rather large project.

Who is your target audience?
The first target group would be someone interested in historical fiction. Readers who enjoy strong and interesting female protagonists would find this a good read.
This novel has a definite exotic flavour that would titillate the armchair traveler.

What makes your book different from other similar ones?
This novel has a great deal of unusual information about Vietnam before WWII.
The novel tells a complex story of Colonialism and a people struggling to free them selves from the governance of another country.
This story has a unique perspective of an American woman in a foreign country watching as the world around her vibrates with discontent and revolution.
It is also an interesting vantage point of seeing an Asian country just prior to WWII.

What do your fans mean to you?
Though I write for my own personal satisfaction, it makes me feel like I am part of a larger picture when someone talks to me about the stories that I’ve written. Fans have become an extension of my writing. They bring another level of reasoning for the long hours I sit and write. Fans are like a kaleidoscopic view of a writers work. They often see things in an author’s work that had gone undetected during the construction of a story and frequently their comments bring a new understanding to what the author had initially intended. They are absolutely a necessary aspect of why I do what I do.

Where do you get the inspirations for your book(s)?
Reading has given me many of my ideas. It’s an interesting experience to read a book and have questions pop into my head, or have a character slip into my thoughts as I drift off to sleep. Inspiration comes often when I least expect it; perhaps while I’m taking a walk or watching people pass by as I sip a cup of coffee at an outdoor café. There are times when someone mentions an interesting thing that they have seen and it give me an idea for a story. Then there are times that I simply have to write and rewrite and then write again until an entire mess of words fall into a meaningful order. During those times, inspiration is the result of hard work.

Any advice for new writers just beginning this trek down the wonderful world of publishing?
Just keep at the writing. Don’t give up. Always write your best. Rest your shoulders when they ache, but don’t let fatigue be a reason not to write. Learn from those that have come before you and never stop writing just because you hit a rough patch. Always try to write your best. 

For more details and to read excerpts from Margaret Mendel's books, please visit here.

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