Friday, June 8, 2012

Author Interview with Elizabeth Egerton Wilder

Elizabeth Egerton Wilder’s debut novel, The Spruce Gum Box, began with her fascination in Maine’s Aroostook River and its early pioneers. She has a BA in Art and Education and has worked as a teacher, designer, colorist, small business owner, photographer and watercolor artist. She is also a published poet who believes that bits and pieces of it all, combined with raising her family and her innate appreciation of nature, were all the ingredients needed to fulfill her lifelong goal of writing a book. At seventy-two years young, Elizabeth achieved her goal.

GAIL: It is my pleasure to welcome you here today, Elizabeth. Thank you for taking time to share information about your novel and a bit of the history behind The Spruce Gum Box. (A review of the historical novel follows the interview.)

Rather than the 140 characters we’ve grown accustomed to on Twitter, can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for The Spruce Gum Box?

ELIZABETH: The seeds for the idea of The Spruce Gum Box were planted in my imagination after a trip to northern Maine to find the small town where my husband's father was born. We found that his ancestors were among the pioneers that established the town in the mid 1800's. I heard that Canadian families had lived along the Aroostook River prior to that and I wondered where they came from and why they were there.

I found no one that could give me an answer so thus began five years of research to discover that both Great Britain and the United States claimed that the valley belonged to them which led to a border dispute and a "war". Now in retirement, I finally had the time to follow a dream of one day writing a book of historical fiction. I knew how my story would begin and how it would end so spent the next year filling in the blanks between and soon realized that my characters led the way through the maze where they would many times surprise me.

The Spruce Gum Box is a story of a young father devoted to the survival of his infant son Ben when they were forced into the Maine wilds with a bounty on his head; how Jed found compassion and support among a struggling family circle of Micmac Indians and how solutions were found through the strong bond created between Jed and the leader of the tribe, Jacob. The book was launched on my 72nd birthday in 2010.

GAIL: Congratulations! Elizabeth. You’ve set an excellent example for people who think retirement signals the beginning of the end when in fact it is a beacon for an exciting new chapter in life.

Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life in The Spruce Gum Box?

ELIZABETH: If you consider Jed's "job" as one of protecting and raising Ben under the most difficult circumstances, then it was the most important part of his life. During the many months of the lumbering season, he trusted his adopted community with the care of his son as he and Jacob worked in the unforgiving forests in an effort to secure a better future of them all.

GAIL: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?

ELIZABETH: I would say the unique twist is that the genre is historical fiction but it does offer suspense in the twists and turns of dodging bounty hunters, coming within a toes length of being caught by his major antagonist and the everyday danger of working within the falling giant pines where the ax men used their skills.

GAIL: How does your main character’s profession draw him into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

ELIZABETH: Sorry, no murder but there would have been if his sweetheart's father had caught him. You see, Ben was the bastard child of Jed and his beloved Addie. The suspense is found in the struggle to survive.

GAIL: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

ELIZABETH: I have finished the sequel. Granite Hearts continues the story of the families along the Aroostook River through a young couple introduced in The Spruce Gum Box who relocate 100 miles south to the Penobscot River where he hopes to find work building the proposed granite fort to protect Bangor from a British invasion as is feared by the US government.

Life is still harsh for a "half-breed" and it is thought they could build a better future in a new location.

Where in SGB the father is the strong figure, Granite Hearts features a strong young mother with opinions not usual for a woman in the years between 1844 and 1865. This tale takes the Ryan family through the Civil War and is scheduled to be launched on my 74th birthday at the end of June. I have started research on the final in what is turning into a trilogy. Working title, The Rail. (Not sure Mr. W is pleased but it keeps my brain active.)

GAIL: This last is not a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.

ELIZABETH: It would be seasonal. Younger, I always yearned to be on an island off the coast of Maine or perhaps at an isolated lighthouse like Jamie Wyeth. Now, a bit more practicable dream would be a cabin (with wi-fi) at the tip of one of the many 'fingers' of land that reach out into the ocean. A secluded peninsular spot where I could sit under a pine and listen to the surf roll in beneath me against the rocky coast while my muse danced from one wave crest to another. 

Did you know if all the inlets and coves of Maine were stretched into a straight line there would be nearly 3,500 miles of tidal coastline? Of course, I am happy right where I am for the winter in my senior community home where I can watch the snow and not have to shovel it. 

Links to Elizabeth Egerton Wilder sites and her historical novel, The Spruce Gum Box: 

The Spruce Gum Box at Amazon: The Spruce Gum Box

Facebook: Elizabeth E Wilder

Twitter: @eewilder

Elizabeth Wilder’s blog:

Review of author Elizabeth Egerton Wilder The Spruce Gum Box
 by Gail M Baugniet
“Kept me Emotionally Invested Throughout”

One of my hobbies (or avocations - considering the amount of time involved) is family genealogy research. Of special interest is a branch that stretches from Wisconsin to Canada to France. Imagine my delight while reading the first pages of The Spruce Gum Box to discover this novel relates, in part, to Canadians in the early 1800's. This connection sent me sailing through the story.

Author Elizabeth Egerton Wilder, a born storyteller, has created characters that snap with personality. The protagonist, Jed, is a tall lanky white male, transplanted from England to Maine. How the author keeps Jed holding his own against a fatherly sagamore, a wizened tribal great grandmother, plus a set of precocious triplets, escapes me. But she does it very well.

After Jed is forced into the wilderness as sole caretaker of his infant son, salvation comes in the form of an Indian Micmac settlement and its leader. The generosity and caring nature of these people helps Jed to survive, and his son to thrive. During this time, the source of Jed's dilemma hovers in the background, always threatening to prevent or destroy any happiness for Jed and the child.

With this conflict looming, Wilder's historical novel unfolds amid a suspenseful blend of border disputes, greedy individuals, and the risks inherent in lumberjacking. Several tense logging scenes mesmerized me. Pleasantly predicable passages added to the enjoyment of reading this story. Unexpected subtle humor, and an often frustrating display of human nature, kept me emotionally invested throughout. 


  1. Great interview! I adored The Spruce Gum Box and eagerly await Granite Hearts :)

  2. Thank you for your comments, Deborah and Damyanti. I am looking forward to the release of Granite Hearts also.


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