Now they do. I get more encouragement from others outside the family than I do from family members. That’s what the family I belong to is like. I think it’s partly because they don’t really understand what it takes to conceive of and construct a novel. Everyone thinks it’s easy when it is all consuming and demanding when I am in the creating phase.
Do you plan to publish more books?
I already have two others published and another one about to be published, then two more to go out this fall. We are planning a local book launch, and a marketing campaign that is to begin this week (first week in May). I have about eight others in manuscript form and two others that I am currently working on.
What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…
We are retired and this is our second career. I am very fortunate. I never thought when I was working on novels that in retirement the writing would take off. I never thought I’d be co-owner of a publishing company. I never thought I’d have ten manuscripts ready for publication (three already published) and over 200 poems to my name. For so long I was just a nurse doing the job that nurses do. Mind you, I was doing it well and I enjoyed the patients but it was very tiring, and I was getting older and finding that I had less stamina, and a sore back from all the lifting. When my husband said why don’t you retire, I can support the two of us, I took the chance and went on to study music, then got channelled into writing.
If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?
Probably clinical psychology, history or Womens’ literature. When I passed my RN exams, one of the residents said that with grades like that I should have been a doctor. If I had stayed in medicine I would have become a psychiatrist. I think the human psyche is fascinating. However that seems not to have been my path, and I went on to literature earning a Masters’ degree in English with an emphasis on prose and poetry from UMKC. I looked into going on for a PhD, but their program was such that it required a double major and only some departments offered the kind of oversight in areas that would have been my choice. It would have been more for interest’s sake than actually using the studies to further my career as a writer. I already had all the tools I needed.
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
I write prose at a desk on a laptop with a larger keyboard attached. I write poetry in my blue chair with a pen on a leather clipboard that I have had since graduate days. I love my clipboard. It speaks to me of the wonderful world of imagination, imagery and juxtapositions of ideas, quirky and otherwise.
Where do you get support from? Do you have friends in the industry?
I get a tremendous amount of support from my husband. He has always encouraged me and made it possible for me to go to graduate school. My brother is also very good to cheer me on. He keeps saying that Mattie’s Storyshould be turned into a play! I also have friends who are very encouraging and a few writers who have become my friends over time. One of my professors called three of us aside one evening after class and said: “You three keep on writing. You have what it takes.” Wow!
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
I keep my thank you list up to date with cards and notes and acknowledgements in my books.
There are too many people who have helped me on my way and given freely of their time and advice and wisdom. A few who have been especially helpful are Nancy Beth Guptill of Sweet Spot Marketing, Gary Ramsey, reference librarian at the Confederation Centre Library in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Patti Larsen, writer, Marilyn Russell, English Professor (deceased), my husband, John, who does the computer work and proofing for me, Lori Cheverill at Bookmark, an independent bookstore in Charlottetown. Also Francis Warner of St.Peter’s College, Oxford, has been very encouraging and helpful. So many others. I have been very fortunate in my mentors.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
A career in writing means putting a new book out every year at least. I hope I don’t run out of ideas. I am meticulous about producing a finished novel so it takes me a few months to get it all the way I want it after the story is put on paper.
It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
We have been working with Nancy Beth Guptill of Sweet Spot Marketing for almost a year now. She has guided us and taught us a lot of the ins and outs of successful on-line marketing. We have just this month begun tweeting, blogging specifically on writing topics, and Facebooking. I have been playing with the blog since last summer just to get the feel of writing one every week. It’s not always easy to come up with topics. I took a month or so off this spring because the weather had been so bad and all we were able to do was stay indoors and work. We had about 15 feet of snow but there is only so much you can say about the weather and the day to day work of writing and publishing.
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?
Anna’s Secret is the story about a murder in Lyndale, Prince Edward Island, that took place in the mid-nineteenth century. Her name was Anne and the hollow where the murder took place is called Anne Beaton’s Hollow to this day. The real story is that an ancestor of my own was the one who did her in with a turnip hoe. He was acquitted and subsequently left the Island. My uncle who told me the story said they ultimately decided that it was a woman who did the deed, and that it was crime of passion. Anne was, as they used to say, “no better than she should be” and was said to have been having an affair with the woman’s husband. I took the fact of her murder and fictionalized it. I examined Anna’s relationship with her own husband, son, neighbours and friends and the impact it had on the whole community. The ending that I created is pretty much unexpected and for reasons that no one in the fictional community guessed.
Anna Gillis, the midwife and neighbour in Mattie’s Story, has been found killed. The close-knit community is deeply shaken by this eruption of violence, and neighbours come together to help one another and to discover the perpetrator. But the answer lies Anna’s secret, long guarded by Old Annie, the last of the original Selkirk Settlers, and the protagonist of An Irregular Marriage. Join the community! Read Anna’s Secret and other novels by Margaret A. Westlie.
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Genre – Fiction, mystery, historical
Rating – G
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