Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview with Nancy DeMarco

Today I'm welcoming Nancy Demarco to The Edible Bookshelf. Nancy's Finding Sara is our book up for review this week, and Nancy was kind enough to answer some questions about her self and her writing. This was a fun interview. Nancy's responses were great, in fact I think I need to have her husband come rig up my treadmill too! Read on to find out more about Nancy and her novel, Finding Sara.

1.      I know you starting writing as a form of therapy after an illness. Can you describe how writing benefited you during your recovery? 

I had Lyme disease, and it went undiagnosed for 17 years. I had a great deal of trouble reading, fell down a lot, got lost every time I got in the car, and lived in constant pain. Like Sara, I occasionally heard voices in my head.

Even when I recovered, the neurocognitive deficits remained. I couldn’t reliably finish a sentence; my mind would wander off and grind to a stop, and I’d go blank. Or I’d reach for a word, and what came out of my mouth was something related to what I wanted to say, but not quite right. Like, I’d try to say, “I can’t find my shoes,” and instead I’d say, “I can’t be a shirt.”

The process of writing forced me to build complete thoughts. It gave me a chance to slow down, to find the words I wanted, to build something step by step. Over time the process got easier and faster, and as my writing improved, so did my speech, as well as my balance and coordination. By then I was hooked on writing, so I kept going.

2.  Many aspects of this book come from personal experiences (we'll touch on those later), but where did the idea for Finding Sara come from? 

I started out writing cute stories about my pets – narrative non-fiction. Then I joined a writers’ group. Horror was big in this group, complete with killing and maiming, suspense and terror. I felt out of place. So I hid my cute stories and started fictionalizing scenes from my life. I tried taking something ordinary, like playing alongside a lake, and changing one key thing in order to add a shock factor. From these vignettes came what I called my “Torturing Sara Series,” about a young woman who heard voices in her head. Eventually I strung these scenes together, developed a plot, and this became the outline for Finding Sara.

3. I know you did a lot of research for this book, looking at guardianship laws, mental illness, etc. Can you tell us about your research process? 

I started with Google, then went to email, then spoke to a handful of people in the mental health field. I interviewed one person who heard voices in his head, but who was not delusional – he understood that they were a hallucination.

I don’t remember who I spoke with regarding State-of-Maine guardianship laws, but the scenario I had envisioned had never happened, so there was nothing concrete in place. I ended up changing the plot in order to avoid the gray areas of the law.

I also use a drug, midazolam (brand name Versed). My research for that involved being under the influence myself for oral surgery, and then questioning my oral surgeon and the nurses about its effects. It did exactly what I needed it to do for the book, and my own experience bore that out.

4. Horses have been a part of your life for many years, and your knowledge of them shows through in your writing. Sara is deeply linked with her horse in Finding Sara. How have horses affected you personally? 

I still remember being a horse-crazy kid. I’d follow hoof prints for miles down the side of the road, hoping to catch a glimpse. I got my first horse at age 11, and I’ve had horses ever since. I can’t explain the bond, or the need I have to be with in horses, but it’s always been there. Horses are a part of who I am.

5. Your use of humor in Finding Sara lends a lighter tone in just the right places, keeping some moments from being too dark. You've shared with me previously where some of the inspiration for Paul's unique qualities came from, but would you mind sharing it with my readers? 

Paul is based on my husband Jim. Paul is shorter, and to be honest, I’m pretty sure Jim would not have dated a woman who told him she’d been in a mental institution. But Paul’s loyalty and devotion, his ability to find humor in the darkest moments, his gentle nature, and yes, his yogurt cup collection – that’s all Jim.

6. Finding Sara is your first novel. Can you tell us about the publishing process and your experience getting your first novel published? 

It’s been a learning experience. The hardest part for me - I haven’t been writing for very long, and my writing continues to evolve. So at every turn, I’ve wanted to start this book over from the beginning and make it better. Even now I want to rewrite every passage. I hope I feel this way about every book, because that will mean I’m becoming a better writer.

7. Do you have any interesting rituals or habits when you write? 

Well, I do write while walking on the treadmill. My clever husband (okay – he’s a bit of a geek) has set up a big screen TV connected to my laptop, and he attached a keyboard to the treadmill handles with plastic twist ties. I walk about 10 miles a day. If not for this, I’d be a lot pudgier than I am.

Once I start a project, I’m completely obsessed. I write for 10 to 16 hours a day, often fall asleep in front of the laptop, wake up, and continue to write with my eyes half closed. Right now I’m between novels, and I’m rediscovering my life. But I have another novel poking at me, so this freedom won’t last long.

8. Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? 

Saving Gracie is my current work in progress. It’s a murder mystery set in the town where I live, with a quirky protagonist in her early 70’s. I love it. The tone is lighter than Finding Sara‘s. There’s lots of humor, lots of plot twists, fun characters, and quite a bit of suspense. It was a blast to write. I’m in edits now, doing research for local police procedure as well as interactions of various State agencies. Our Chief of Police has offered to be my expert. I’m so excited!

Get your copy of Finding Sara on Kindle today at Amazon. Paperback and other ebook versions are coming soon. I'll keep you updated!