16 October 2019

Decanted Truths By Melanie Forde Book Spotlight and Interview! @FordeMelanie

Decanted Truths
By Melanie Forde
Genre: literary, historical, family saga, women's
For Irish immigrant families like the Harrigans and Gavagans, struggle has been the name of the game since they arrived in Boston in the nineteenth century. For twice-orphaned Leah Gavagan, who comes of age in the Depression, the struggle is compounded by bizarre visions that disrupt her daily life -- and sometimes come true. She has difficulty fitting in with her surroundings: whether the lace-curtain Dorchester apartment overseen by her judgmental Aunt Margaret or the wild Manomet bluff shared with her no-nonsense Aunt Theo and brain-damaged Uncle Liam. A death in the family disrupts the tepid life path chosen for Leah and sets her on a journey of discovery. That journey goes back to the misadventures shaping the earlier generation, eager to prove its hard-won American credentials in the Alaskan gold rush, the Spanish-American War, and The Great War. She learns of the secrets that have bound Theo and Margaret together. Ultimately, Leah learns she is not who she thought she was. Her new truth both blinds and dazzles her, much like the Waterford decanter at the center of her oldest dreams -- an artifact linking three Irish-American families stumbling after the American Dream.

An interview with Melanie
What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?My biggest challenge is self-doubt, to the point where I start second-guessing what I’m writing. “Oh, this won’t have any shot at commercial viability. Gee, readers will have trouble sympathizing with this character because he/she isn’t politically correct or is too old or too complicated. Readers will get bored for lack of enough sex/action scenes/red herrings/other plot twists.” I try to counteract this by reminding myself that first and foremost, I MUST write in my own voice, focused on subjects that truly interest me. I spent most of my career as a ghostwriter, adapting my words for other writers targeting specific audiences. I’ve already proven to myself that I can do that. Now is the time to write what I want to write, how I want to write it. Yes, it would be very sad if no one found my voice engaging – but oh how rewarding it is when a reader, even just one, finds meaning in my own authentic words.
When and where do you do your writing?I’m a lifelong night owl, so I’m useless in the AM. With some of my books, I’ve written much of the text in the early evening. But that isn’t always practical, since there’s dinner to cook and eat and other home activities to address. Mid- to late afternoon is probably when I’m most reliably productive. I’m fortunate to have an office separate from my house and its distractions. My desk faces a broad sweep of pastureland bordered by wooded hills.
What have you learned about promoting your books?
I am probably better about book promotion than when I started, but I still find the related tasks difficult. Writing fiction is a solitary endeavor, tailor made for introverts who spend a lot of time inside their own heads. Unfortunately, introverts rarely make good salesmen. That having been said, I occasionally stumble into a book event that is genuinely fun, with a receptive, engaged audience. That makes all the difference in the world.
What are you most proud of as a writer?
Most proud of? Any writer of literary novels aspires to art. Maybe I’ve achieved that with the occasional passage, conveying an idea or image that transcends the confines of any one book and resonates with readers. That would delight me. But that’s such a subjective evaluation that I’m not sure I can draw pride from it. A more solid source of pride is my wordsmithing. We’re talking craftsmanship, not necessarily art: economically creating vivid images. I’m proud of that.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?

I’m gonna cheat and toss out the first three writers that came to mind. First: the late, great wordsmith William F. Buckley, Jr., who managed to be brilliant, fascinating and enormously charming. I had a brief exchange of letters with him eons ago and his words just sparkled off the page, even the snarky ones. Second: Dean Koontz, another great wordsmith, with a complicated backstory. I like that in the midst of the creepiest storylines, his protagonists radiate light – without being superheroes. Interestingly enough, both #1 and #2 are/were huge dog fans. So maybe we’d talk about the superiority of dogs vs. humans. Finally, I’d enjoy a chat with Emily Dickinson, who invented economical prose, conveying oceans of meaning in a droplet of words. I’d like to get her to open up about her dark side and her no-nonsense view of life.
About the Author
Raised in a Boston Irish family, Melanie Forde knew her life was infinitely easier than that of her ancestors, refugees from the Potato Famine. The storytelling skills of her elders kept ancestral triumphs and tragedies alive, so that the Potato Famine and the Easter Rebellion felt as real as the Cold War. Inheriting the storyteller gene, Ms. Forde is the author of three earlier novels, her Hillwilla trilogy. She now lives far from her roots, on a West Virginia farm. She still maintains a potato patch—just in case.
Website: http://www.melanieforde.net/

Decanted Truth's Amazon page:  https://amzn.to/2JjXbtu
Excerpt from Chapter One
With The Dream’s first visit, [Leah] had no tools of interpretation. A toddler … has no way of understanding the sensory input from deep within a sailing vessel. It took years of dreaming, reading, and schooling to identify the venue, to understand that great linen sails would snap in the wind, that the wind itself often assumed a tormented human voice, that a wooden hull would creak in protest against a rolling, pitching sea.
The Dream didn’t have much of a plot but offered vignettes of life in steerage, from the perspective of one specific passenger. Through his eyes, Leah saw care-worn faces of all ages.
The bodies supporting those faces were generally far too thin and covered in shabby, soiled clothing. The garments suggested a different era. Leah witnessed snippets of diverse human dramas: incipient love affairs, marriages fraying under the stress of the ocean odyssey, the imminence of death for some…
The passenger sharing visions with the dreamer would retreat to a recess tucked behind a hanging lantern. Leah eventually realized her guide was a boy. She never saw his face, any more than she could see her own face without benefit of a mirror. But she could see his short, thin limbs. Moreover, that recess appeared too restricted to accommodate an adult. And from the dreamer’s early twentieth-century perspective, the passenger’s odd-looking pants were a reliable indicator of a male body underneath the cloth. Nor could Leah imagine any female, even the most impoverished, putting up with such spectacularly ugly shoes. In the privacy of his hidey hole, the boy would invariably remove his boots briefly and rub his feet as if in pain. Naked, the right foot twisted horribly inward. The deformity so repelled the young dreamer that she sometimes would shake herself awake.
Eventually, she realized the scary sight was worth tolerating. After the boy finished rubbing his feet, his grubby fingers would reach for a burlap bag tucked even more deeply into the recess. His hands would then extract something swathed in oilcloth. Once unwrapped, the contents exploded with shards of lantern light in a dizzying array of colors. Looking down at the object in the boy’s lap, Leah could see his chest and belly expand briefly. Then those small hands would rewrap the light-filled wonder in the filthy oilcloth and return it to the burlap sack.
With a shove from his good foot, he would push the bag deeper into the ship’s cavity.
The hidden object filled the darkest corners of the dreamer’s soul with light. With beauty.

With hope. It stirred every corpuscle in her blood.

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