Check it out! Interview with the author of MATEGUAS ISLAND on “The Time Warriors” U.K. Blog!
TW talk to author Linda Watkins. What lies on Mateguas Island?
Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Connecticut, but moved to Michigan when I was quite young. After college (CarnegieMellon University ’70), I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I lived most of my life. I worked at Stanford University School of Medicine as a Senior Financial Analyst during that time. Following that, I lived in Oregon for a brief time then moved to Chebeague Island, Maine where I wrote MATEGUASISLAND. Currently, I am back in Michigan, living with my three rescue dogs, and writing full-time.
When did your passion for writing begin?
It started early. When my sister and I were little we used to write satirical plays based on popular TV shows (Maverick, Cheyenne, etc). As an adult, I wrote songs, poems and bits of whimsy for family and friends. Stories have always been rattling around in my head, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually decided to write anything of length.
What made you decide to do it as a career?
I didn’t really make a conscious decision to pursue writing as a career. I wrote MATEGUAS never actually thinking that it would ever be published. I just wanted to write it. However, once it was done, I had a burning desire to actually see the book, hold the book, and place it on my bookshelf. So, I took the plunge and published it.
What writers and movies influenced you growing up?
Writers – of course, early Stephen King (Salem’s Lot, The Stand, The Shining, and most of his short stories), Peter Straub (Shadowland), Dean Koontz (Watchers), John Fowles (my all time favorite book, The Magus, and The Collector), Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle). Movies (most based on books!) – Gone With The Wind (the basis for every romance novel), To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee), Elmer Gantry (Sinclair Lewis), The Long Hot Summer (Faukner shorts), Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (Tennessee Williams), Dracula (with Bela Lugosi), Psycho (the original), The Birds.
Tell us about your first book. What was the genesis behind it?
My first novel is MATEGUAS ISLAND. The locale of the novel, a remote island off the coast of Maine, was inspired by the actual island I lived on, Chebeague Island. Chebeague is the largest unconnected island in Casco Bay. By unconnected, I mean that there is no bridge, no causeway – access is only by boat, private and ferry. I liked using this locale for a ‘horror’ story because it inherently creates an atmosphere of isolation and seclusion. The novel was originally going to be one of those ‘house’ stories – i.e., there’s something evil lurking in the walls of this old house. However, as I wrote, the story evolved and became something quite different. I did some research into Abenaki Indian legends and these serve as the basis for the paranormal activities that take place on the island.
Does each book strengthen you as a writer and make you more comfortable with the process or is it different with each story?
MATEGUAS took me 3 years to write and edit. Over this period of time, I was learning my craft, and as time went by, I became much more comfortable with the process. I think my writing has evolved quite a bit and is much tighter than it was when I first began.
How do you make your characters different and unique and what sort of characters can readers expect to meet in the books?
My characters are flawed and sometimes not all together likable. I’ve been criticized for this by some of my reviewers, however, who is life is perfect? I strive to make my characters real so sometimes they can be petty, selfish and weak. But, they do grow and, hopefully, become better by the end of the book. These are the people you can expect to meet – some are brutal, some are selfish, some are driven by jealousy and desire, but they are all essentially human (oops, except for the malevolent spirits that hang about reaping havoc for my weak humans!).
How does that enhance the story for you on a personal level?
I like to think of MATEGUAS not as a ‘horror’ story, but as one woman’s journey of discovery of what is really important in life.
How many books have you written and can you tell us about them?
I’ve written two full-length novels. MATEGUASISLAND (published) and RETURN TO MATEGUAS ISLAND (to be published). MATEGUAS is the story of a family forced by circumstance to move to a remote island off the coast of Maine. But, unbeknownst to them, the property they will soon call ‘home’ is steeped in ancient Native American magic – magic that may seek to destroy them. An arcane locked box, a dark trail leading deep into the woods, a seductive young woman and tales of a malevolent spirit are just some of the perils Karen Andersen will have to face in order to find a way to save her family. MATEGUAS is the recipient of the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal in Fiction – Supernatural.
RETURN TO MATEGUAS takes place ten years later – Karen’s twin daughters are now grown up and want to know what really happened on that fateful night of the storm on the island. So, Karen and her family return to Mateguas. I can’t say much more without giving away a major plot element that occurs early in the novel. Suffice to say, one of the twins, Terri, will encounter and become involved in the magic and legends that surround their once island home.
What makes fantasy such a good canvas for a story to be told against for you?
With magic anything is possible! There are no boundaries – the only laws are ones you, as writer, create. Of course, you have to abide by your laws – if you don’t, it spells disaster!
Were they always intended to be a multi book series?
Once I envisioned the end of MATEGUAS (I write the ending early on in the writing process – usually after I have written the first 20,000 words), I knew it had to be a series. It will be a trilogy – the 2nd book is in draft form and I’m writing the final novel in my head right now. I know how it’s going to begin and how it’s going to end. The fun will be in determining how I get there!
What platforms do you use now to promote your work?
MATEGUAS is enrolled in Kindle Select so, right now, the eBook is only available on the numerous Amazons. The print book is available both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Was it a harder journey than you thought it would be?
Going it alone – self-published – is tough. There’s a lot more work involved in promoting than I ever envisioned. And, it can become obsessive! But, I have tried to stay focused on the work – make sure I keep writing – and keep things in perspective.
What can people expect from the books?
If one is looking for a bloody, gory, horror story – then don’t read MATEGUAS. The ‘horror’ in my novel is soft – I call it old-fashioned horror – not everything is right out there to see with the naked eye. It’s what’s lurking in the shadows or hiding under the bed – those things that go bump in the night and make you want to hide under the covers. The story builds slowly – taking time to let the reader get to know the characters. But, once things start happening, it’s hard to put down.
Did your stories change at all while you were writing it or was it pretty much as you planned?
Yes, like I stated in one of the questions above, the first novel was going to be an ‘evil house’ book. But somewhere in the writing process it took a turn – I think the characters had their own story in mind and I was just the vessel used to make sure it was told accurately!
Describe the feeling when you held the very first copy of your book?
WONDERFUL! MARVELOUS! INCREDIBLE!
How involved are you in deciding on the covers?
The cover designs are basically mine. I actually took the photographs that are used on the front and back of MATEGUAS when I lived on ChebeagueIsland. A dear friend, H. William Ruback, did the colorization of the pics for the cover and suggested the fonts to use. The cover of the prequel, SECRETS (a novelette), also uses a photo of mine. I did that cover by myself using Amazon’s Cover Creator.
How important is networking for you?
Very important. I have many cyberfriends who have been incredibly helpful and supportive. I don’t think I could have gotten this far without them.
It was once said to me that being a writer is the loneliest job in the world. Would you agree?
I write alone – so in a sense, it is a lonely job. However, I am constantly surrounded by all these wonderful characters – so it doesn’t really seem lonely!
What kind of writer are you? Do you write to a schedule or do it when the zone takes you?
I am not a ‘plotter’. I don’t do outlines, write down notes or anything like that. I block things out in my head – scenes, dialogue, etc – before I sit down at the computer, but, basically, I just write. As I mentioned above, I usually get about 1/4 of the way into the story then skip to the ending and write that. I try to write something every day, but sometimes the spirit does not move me in that direction. You can’t force it. The flow has to be there.
What inspires you in your craft?
All the other good books out there!
What defines the perfect book for you?
The perfect book is one I couldn’t put down, one that moved me, one I hated to see end. My favorite all time book is THE MAGUS by John Fowles (original version). It is a masterpiece.
What is the most frustrating part of being a writer for you?
The stuff that comes after – the promoting, etc. I’m a shy person by nature so it comes hard for me.
What has been the greatest lesson you have learned since becoming a writer?
That I can do it! I never really thought I could!
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for writers getting their books out there today?
It is very difficult to break into the traditional publishing world. I tried, but no one would even look at my work. Then, there’s the technology – so many different formats for eBooks, etc.
What advice would you give to any budding writer out there?
Don’t give up and EDIT, EDIT, EDIT! Then when YOU are through editing, get a professional to look at your work!
What are you currently working on?
Well, RETURN TO MATEGUAS is out to my copy editor and when that comes back I will be doing some rewriting, I’m sure. I’m also working on a couple of short stories. Am thinking of putting together a small anthology of my work – a couple of shorts, some poems, songs, etc.
Where can people find your books?
My books are available on all the Amazons (.com, UK, AU, CA, DE, IN, etc) and the print book at Barnes & Noble.
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