I was delighted to make so many new friends after the launch of Author Journeys last Friday. Thank you so much to Vaughn Roycroft for being my first guest (if you haven’t read his interview yet, you can do so here).
Today I welcome my second guest, Therese Walsh. I enjoyed getting to know more about her awesome contribution to the writing world as both an author and a mentor, and I hope you will too.
Therese Walsh co-founded Writer Unboxed with Kathleen Bolton in 2006. Her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was published by Shaye Areheart Books (Random House). It was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2009, was nominated for a RITA Award for Best First Book, and was a TARGET Breakout Book. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was released in March, 2014 by Crown (Penguin Random House). The Moon Sisters recently reached #10 in ‘Bestselling NOOK Books’ at BarnesandNoble.com, and became a Kindle #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s Mothers and Children fiction category.
Therese was a researcher and writer for Prevention Magazine before she became a freelancer. Her favorite things include music, flash fiction, poetry, art, crab legs, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching and string Irish tea. She has a master’s degree in psychology.
Q: What was your earliest writing memory?
I recall writing plays when I was in grade school and trying to round up my friends to play different parts during recess. There was a lot of drama involving swing-sets, let me tell you.
Q: When did you realize you were truly a writer?
I was very shy about calling myself a writer for a long, long time. It was only after I’d been taking nonfiction freelance assignments for several years that I tried it on for size. “I’m a writer,” I remember saying to another mother after dropping my daughter off at preschool. The words felt too big, like wool socks in my mouth; I was sure she knew I was just a pretender and not a writer at all. But eventually the socks slithered right down my throat like the snakes that they were, and the words won. I was a writer.
Q: What was your greatest writing insight and at what point in your journey as a writer did it happen?
Sometime while drafting what would become my debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, I realized that I didn’t have to incorporate every bit of critique given to me. Coming from the world of nonfiction, I think my knee-jerk response was that I had to do that. When one of my nonfiction editors said jump, I jumped. But that doesn’t translate to the world of fiction. While you should, in my opinion, absorb your critique so that you can consider it, you don’t have to make changes unless the change feels right to you. It seems almost embarrassingly obvious now, but at the time it was revelatory: I’m in charge. I’M IN CHARGE! (You’re in charge!) That’s a pretty cool thing.
Q: What was your toughest writing lesson and how did you grow as a result of it?
I had a close call with an agent after I finished writing and editing the first version of my debut novel. After a few months of receiving critique from the agent, making changes to the story based on her guidance, she told me that the story probably should be completely rewritten in order to be presented as a different sort of book.
This was an awful, awful thing to hear after working on a story for two years. Especially because after I sat with her advice for a while—which was very in-depth and thoughtful—I realized she was correct.
After an episode of oh-woe-is-me, I decided to dig in and rewrite the story. I spent another two years on it, then found the agent who would sell the book to Random House.
Lesson: You can’t be so dedicated to your own vision that you blind yourself to a better one out of a stubborn determination to avoid hard work.
Q: In your opinion, what is it that makes a great book?
A great book is a reflection of an author’s fearless, no-bounds-here spirit. See: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Q: How do you push through hard times like writer’s block, rejection, or negative pressure from your publisher or readers?
One word at a time.
Check out Therese’s newest release, The Moon Sisters, a contemporary fiction novel available form Crown (Random House).
After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz attempt to move on with their lives. Pragmatic Jazz takes a job in the same funeral home that handled her mother’s body, while spirited, strong-willed Olivia—who can see sounds and taste words—wants to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to see the will-o-the-wisp lights that she’d written about. A reluctant Jazz agrees to go with Olivia, and as they journey toward the wisps, their acceptance of their mother’s death becomes as important as their journey to understand each other and themselves.
“This magical, moving tale is not to be missed.” –Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)
“Walsh has written a beautiful, lush novel fueled by a fairy-tale journey of grief, love, and will-o’-the-wisps.” –Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW)
Read an Excerpt here:
You can buy The Moon Sisters in bookstores, or online:
Connect with Therese:
Fan email address: therese (at) theresewalsh (dot) com