Monday, July 1, 2013

In Pursuit of the Facts with Author Elizabeth Wilder

Author Elizabeth Wilder
Today’s special guest for a FAST FORWARD interview, which focuses on the second novel in a series, is author Elizabeth Wilder. Betty and I first met through the Internet writers group, The Independent Author Network. Her first novel, The Spruce Gum Box, captivated me from the first pages. In my review, I wrote, “Author Elizabeth Egerton Wilder, a born storyteller, has created characters that snap with personality.” As a senior that never gave up on her dream of finding time to write a novel, she launched The Spruce Gum Box on her 72nd birthday. 

Thank you for participating in this interview, Betty, and sharing information about your second novel, Granite Hearts, your research process, and interesting trivia about mason jars gathered in your pursuit of the facts. 

E.E. WILDER: Thank you Gail for including me in your “Fast Forward” interviews. Your questions were probing, causing me to examine my own thought process. It took me a while to work through some areas and in doing so grew to better know my own process. BTW – My muse was most appreciative. 

FAST FORWARD: A story’s protagonist often reflects an author’s personality, or displays characteristics the author has chosen to explore. In your series, the protagonist is “One family, One Journey of early Maine settlers.” Can you please share with us some of the back story that defines your protagonist/family but isn’t included in the published novels? 

E.E. WILDER: Although I can see many traits of people in my life and those of my own in characters in Granite Hearts, I did not start this “journey” with a specific protagonist in mind. I am by nature a curious creature who likes to find the why and how in any new scenario. 

In researching my husband’s family as “pioneers” who helped settle the town of Washburn along the Aroostook River in northern Maine, I found that when they “hacked their way in” through the forest from the coast, many Canadian families were already well established along the river. When visiting the museum housed in the original Wilder home, no one could tell me why the Canadians were there first. So began the five-year process of research to uncover the history and find a way to tell the story of the battle between the US and UK over the boundary of this lucrative lumbering area and the plight of the Micmac Indians being displaced. Thus the story of Jed and Ben evolved to tie the gems of history together. 

In Granite Hearts, the “family” once again was the string, which held together the fascinating history along the Penobscot River. This area was rich in events so the story travelled another 20 years from building Fort Knox, to the Penobscot Indians and their plight, to the underground railroad, to earliest women’s rights. The story continues to the election of Hannibal Hamlin as Lincoln’s first VP, then to the heroics of the Maine 20th under Joshua Chamberlain in the Civil War. What you showed me was that the protagonist(s) in my stories was the nugget of history I wove together by character driven tales of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and struggles to survive sometimes-cruel situations. 

FAST FORWARD: After writing the first novel in a series, it seems that subsequent novels would flow out fully formed. The author has the basics down: format for the storyline; a feel for the proper number of plot lines and chapters; techniques for creating a charismatic protagonist and supporting characters; secrets to making the antagonist likeable; and guidelines for adding conflict right up to and through the denouement. How has writing become easier for you; and what remains as difficult now as when you wrote the first novel? 

E.E. WILDER: I had to chuckle at the notion of Granite Hearts flowing out fully formed. I feel my writing technique has become more natural to me, it is easier to form a chapter that will lead the reader to the next and it is not as difficult to dig for new or validating information. I guess I truly like my character protagonists so it is not difficult to make them someone you may want to meet. I have never struggled with secrets to make an antagonist likeable. Just the opposite, I enjoy squeezing every bit of despicable out of them. In Granite Hearts, however, the lead antagonist is an inanimate granite fort that provides a living but at the same time proves negative for the family. 

The final outcome is known to me as is the beginning before I start writing. This helps me focus on ways to reach that outcome. As for how writing is easier, I have gained a lot of confidence in my skills – mostly through trial and error, write and rewrite. My need for research is as difficult now as it was with my first novel for I want fact to be fact, and fiction to be fiction. For example, I wanted the youngsters in Granite Hearts to chase fireflies and put them in mason jars. Were there mason jars at that time? Turned out it was still too early for them. Guess I’ll have the next generation chase them. 

FAST FORWARD: Great comment about squeezing every bit of despicable out of your antagonists! To hold a reader’s attention, a series protagonist must continue to grow or change in each novel. In The Spruce Gum Box, the reader is introduced to the Smythe family, Jedediah Smythe and Adelaide Wingate, and their son, Ben. Early in the novel, Jed meets three boys, including Sean “Uncle calls him Trouble.” Without revealing any spoilers, how does Sean Ryan represent family development and change in Book 2? 

E.E. WILDER: Of the three brothers one had left the Indian settlement on the Aroostook and lived a quiet life as a teacher near Bangor on the Penobscot River. Of the two left only Sean would jump at a chance to start anew with his bride in hopes to provide a better life for her and to escape the bigotry still strong within the growing communities along the Aroostook.  He felt his father’s red Irish hair and fair complexion would carry him in a new environment where no one knew his background. They had just started clearing the land for the new fort and he was not afraid of hard work. His nickname of Trouble still held and his obsessive drive to succeed with dreams of becoming a finish stoneworker drove a negative wedge into his part of the Ryan family development.  

FAST FORWARD: A series requires the presence of a continuing main character. Often, however, there is another recurring character. In your novels, the family represents the protagonist. In Granite Hearts, Sean Ryan is the recurring character who continues the family story with his wife, Gert. However, Gert is actually the strong female protagonist who carries the story. What is Gert’s purpose/role within the story and how well does she handle the suspenseful and often life-changing situations that arise? 

E.E. WILDER: I have always considered The Spruce Gum Box a father/son story but was very surprised when Granite Hearts became a mother/sons story.  I’m not sure if Gert would have become so strong if not for the influence of her next door neighbor, Mrs. Hodge. Her late husband was unusual among men of the times for he made sure their home and large farm was deeded to his widow. She was well traveled, well read, a community activist and no nonsense boss of her thriving farm. She and Gert shared a common love of reading and from there a deep friendship developed that would allow Gert to grow as a woman, not merely a wife under the thumb of a demanding husband. Through grit and determination Gert raised her boys and at times a child-like man, her husband. She handled difficult situations with outward bravery and private weeping. When I told my son that Granite Hearts was becoming a story of a strong woman, he replied “Should I be surprised?” 

FAST FORWARD: Researching a new novel takes the author on a journey to many new places, whether through books, movies, newspapers, or physical travel. What did you most enjoy about the research process of your second novel, and where did your research take you? 

E.E. WILDER: Obviously, we made trips to Fort Knox in Prospect, Maine across the Penobscot River from Bucksport to walk the grounds and tunnels. We drove around on one trip and found the spots to place the Ryan and Hodge homes and I took photographs of the terrain, river and roads. We visited museums, read archived newspapers, and chose names from mid 1800’s genealogies. The only books I read were about Joshua Chamberlain and Civil War battles. I have never thought of taking research from movies – I like to discover my own information. In addition I studied antique maps and searched the areas via satellite using MapQuest. I enjoy digging deeper and deeper into bits and pieces on internet search engines. I love finding the occasional surprise that works perfectly to drive the story. 

Where can fans of your novels find you and your books on the Internet? 


Facebook author site

Blog  LizLogic

Books through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indie Bound – ordered through your local bookstore.
Kindle versions through Amazon.
Wholesale through Ingram, Baker and Taylor, and publisher direct. Discounts given to qualified book clubs.



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