Margaret Ann Spence joins the blog this week to chat about her latest book, Joyous Lies.
Author Name: Margaret Ann Spence
Book Title: Joyous Lies
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: February 15, 2021
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Welcome, Margaret! Please tell us about Joyous Lies.
The tagline: If plants can protect their young, why can’t humans do the same?
The story: Trees live in an underground network of cooperation, and the idealists who founded the commune of Joyous Woods wanted to do the same. But human needs and misdeeds can only be buried for so long.
What sparked the idea for the book?
Reading Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire and Richard Powers The Overstory allowed me to see plants from a different perspective. That is, we need a more holistic approach, and since I have always been interested in organic farming (I love to garden!) this led to a story with two viewpoint characters, Maelle, a young botanist, and Johanna, her hippie grandmother, who runs an organic farm.
I love that inspiration came from books and your own experience. How long did it take for you to write the book? Did you do have to do any research?
I wrote this book in about 18 months. It required a ton of research — on the latest botany science, on organic farming, and on the Vietnam War era — all of which I loved doing!
What drew you to the women’s fiction genre?
I grew up as an only girl with three brothers, had three sons, a stepson, and no daughter, and have always craved and loved the sisterhood of women. Both my novels deal with the relationship between sisters. It is not surprising that my very favorite childhood book was Little Women.
Where do you get ideas for your books?
Ideas come at me all the time. The problem is finding the story within them. In my first book, Lipstick on the Strawberry, my heroine Camilla is an English caterer estranged from her family, culturally adrift in the United States, and recently divorced. I wanted to explore how someone who is bombarded with the psychological message that she doesn’t belong can dig herself out of that sense of displacement and arrive at a sense of well-being.
In Joyous Lies my characters all refuse to conform. Maelle’s research is way out there, Johanna and the communards were originally Vietnam War resisters who created a working organic farm from the Norther California wilderness using nothing but hand tools. They raised their children in an equally unconventional way. Maelle, brought up on the commune from the age of ten after her mother died, is confronted with the possibility that her mother may have died as an animal-rights activist, and investigates. What she finds challenges everything she’s believed.
For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing?
The first chapters of the first draft are like chipping away at a rock face. Once the first draft is done, though, revision is pure pleasure.
What do you love most about it?
I love the flow when the story is moving along in the right direction.
In what ways do you think you’ve evolved as an author over the course of your career so far?
From a craft point of view, I am better now at sensing the architecture of a story, its peaks and troughs. But writing is only part of being an author (sigh!) We have to do so much marketing these days and I’m learning to expand more there, and spend a lot of time of social media.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love to travel and before the pandemic was often on a plane. I am an art lover, active in various art related organizations around town. But I also love domesticity, baking bread, having friends for dinner, and gardening.
Are you working on a new project?
I have a new novel percolating at the moment, also about a woman who loves plants.
How are you adjusting to marketing a book during a pandemic?
Hello zoom! Actually, it has made all of us more creative, don’t you think? Because of social media, including zoom, we authors can now reach a wider audience than we could with our in-person launches.
Where can readers find you (website, blog, social media, etc.)? Feel free to include any upcoming, live/online events, workshops, too!
I’ll be speaking (via zoom) to the Society of Southwest Authors February 28, and have a couple of podcasts coming up. Please watch my social media for details!
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Margaret+Ann+Spence
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/margaretannspence
Thank you, Margaret! Joyous Lies is available NOW!
Maelle Woolley, a shy botanist, prefers plants to people. They don’t suddenly disappear. Raised on her grandparents’ commune after her mother’s mysterious death, she follows the commune’s utopian beliefs of love for all. Then she falls for attractive psychiatrist Zachary Kane. When Zachary claims her mother and his father never emerged alive from his father’s medical research lab, Maelle investigates. What she discovers will challenge everything she believes, force her to find strength she never knew she had, and confront the commune’s secrets and lies. What happened to love? And can it survive?
After working in publishing, as a journalist, as a consular officer and as a real estate agent, I found that writing fiction was much more fun. Born in Australia, I’ve lived on three continents and both coasts of the United States. These places find their way into my books. Though I love to travel, the theme of home is central to my fiction, and I writes about women, the choices they make, and what happens next.