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Interview: April 2, 2015

Any Marie Bostwick book is like reading a 300-page Hallmark card. You’ll be inspired, laugh and, perhaps, shed a tear --- and tuck it away to read again or share with a friend. In THE SECOND SISTER, Bostwick’s protagonist, Lucy Toomey, manages the 2016 presidential campaign to success. She can do anything…except mend the relationship with her estranged, disabled sister. But can Lucy go home again and start over? Bostwick talks with’s Dean Murphy about the craft of writing, quilting, her life as an author, and the power of the written word. Write on! The common thread, so to speak, in your inspirational fiction is quilt-making. You said that quilting references in APART AT THE SEAMS are metaphors. What are some metaphors in THE SECOND SISTER?

Marie Bostwick: Some of the same metaphors that applied in APART AT THE SEAMS are at play here as well --- the idea of stitching a life together from the scraps that come our way, and of repairing and repurposing torn relationships in life. And in this book, quilting represents all the creativity that Lucy has stifled in her life. When she finds Alice’s quilts, she discovers a new dimension to her sister. When Lucy tries it for herself, she unearths new talents, desires and passions,and the desire to live a wider, richer life.

BRC: Why is quilting an element in your novels?

MB: It’s part of that “write what you know” thing. I’ve been quilting for about a quarter century and found it to be an important form of creative expression. It just seems natural to include something that has brought me such satisfaction and joy into my writing.

BRC: Lucy can achieve anything. Why is it difficult to share time with her disabled sister, Alice?

MB: Lucy’s relationship with Alice is marred by guilt over events that can’t be altered and words that can’t be unspoken. Most people, consciously or not, avoid being in the presence of those whose mere existence reminds us of our failings. Lucy is no different. The more Lucy avoids Alice, of course, the guiltier she feels, so it becomes a vicious circle. Also, like many who never earned their parents’ approval, Lucy subconsciously tries to prove her worth by constantly striving for ever greater professional achievement. Work is Lucy’s drug of choice, it helps distract her from facing the poor choices she’s made.

BRC: I adore the uplifting theme in your novels. How is that relevant for you?

MB: Thank you. We’re all looking for inspiration, aren’t we? I hope so.

For me, that search includes an embrace of the Christian faith that has anchored my life and given me courage to keep going, even in seasons of darkness. I believe the most relevant theme centers on forgiveness --- both of others and of yourself. Lack of forgiveness holds so many back and issuch a waste of time. If reading THE SECOND SISTER can help even a handful of people realize the truth of that principle and apply it to their lives, I consider the year I took writing it as time well spent.

BRC: Please describe your typical day as an author.

MB: I’m not sure I’ve ever had a typical day as an author. With a busy speaking schedule and also trying to make time for my husband --- we’ve had a “commuter marriage” for about the last 10years --- I am constantly traveling from one spot to the next. Because of that, I fit in work as the opportunity arises: in my Connecticut office, in hotel rooms country-wide, 10,000 feet up in an airplane, and even under a salon dryer. I’m not a fast writer,so I can’t afford to waste one hour of potential writing time.

BRC: Your settings range widely. Born in Oregon, you now live in Connecticut and travel as much as Air Force One. What inspired Wisconsin as the current setting?

MB: When my husband and I first married, we lived in DePere, Wisconsin. That’s where I went to college and where our first child was born. While there, we often took trips to Door County, which is where I set THE SECOND SISTER. It’s beautiful, and I’ve never forgotten it.

BRC: You were a US senator’s staff member. Is that the basis for Lucy’s career?

MB: Yes. I worked at the Senate and on a number of political campaigns. It’s a fascinating world, but anybody over 30 is, in my opinion, too old for that kind of work. Those politicos work the kind of hours that pales my 60-hour weeks as an author. In THE SECOND SISTER, Lucy says the world of professional campaign operatives is something of a “mad monk” society. She’s right!

BRC: You attend conferences and book signings. How do you manage a Lucy-like schedule?

MB: With many calendars, to-do lists, and the help of a Sparkly Assistant who reminds me where it is I am supposed to be. I book my own calendar and manage travel arrangements, but rely on my assistant to remind me of what is coming up and also, on occasion, to help me say no. That’s a hard thing for me to do, but, otherwise, I won’t have time to write books.

BRC: How much time is spent researching compared to writing?

MB: That’s difficult to say because I do much research as I’m writing, but writing definitely takes more time. Back when I was writing historical fiction, however, it was probably close to 30 percent. For those books, I spent a good two months reading and taking notes before I ever wrote a word of the actual manuscript.

BRC: What’s your next novel? Will there be a sequel to THE SECOND SISTER?

MB: At the moment, I’m working on another book set in Texas, called FROM HERE TO HOME. It should be out in the spring of 2016. I don’t have plans for a SECOND SISTER sequel at this time. But who knows? It could happen. One book at a time is my motto.

BRC: At the Florida Writers conference, you were the Celebrity Author and launched the anthology, REVISIONS: Stories of Starting Over. Did Lucy’s story of beginning anew inspire that theme?

MB: Oh, about every book I’ve written is inspired by the idea of starting over. That theme is something everyone has to do at some point in life.

BRC: In an era of bad news, what inspiration can you share with readers?

MB: The same sort I share in my books --- that there are more good people in the world than bad, that joy can be yours if you just look for it, that no one is beyond help or forgiveness, that people are more important than possessions, and that, even though it can be hard to recognize when you stand at ground level, if you climb the heights and look to the horizon, there is a plan. Have faith. Don’t give up.

BRC: Thank you for sharing. Have you any final thoughts?

MB: Just this --- fiction is incredibly powerful, it has the potential to change lives and even societies. If you ever doubt that, consider how much longer it would have taken to end slavery in this country had Harriet Beecher Stowe not written UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. For readers and writers alike, if you ever hear someone say that fiction is dead, tell them it’s bunk. Because it is.


Here’s the Marie Bostwick video filmed at the Florida Writers conference. It was Marie’s idea to pretend to stumble at the beginning, thus the repeated phrase “start over.” The anthology name/theme is REVISIONS: Stories of Starting Over.