Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Authors, Molly and Gary Whitney, on their award-winning book Thistle Downe

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? MOLLY This requires a somewhat unusual answer. A miniature house built of twigs inspired me to write for the first time. I started writing this book at age 74.

WAS THERE A TEACHER OR OTHER MENTOR WHO INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING? MOLLY Two teachers in particular. A high school English teacher, Miss Rhodes, who ignited my love for the English language, and Mrs. Falk, a Creative Writing teacher whom I encountered in college, who relentlessly refined my use of that language.

HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK? MOLLY My husband Gary had built a small twig house for his children years ago to accommodate a set of little troll figures presented to them as a gift. They grew up, circumstances of Gary’s life changed, and the house went to the care of a librarian friend of his who stored it in the rafters of her garage. It remained there for years, forgotten. Fast forward to 2012, when Gary and I married. His friend returned the magical little twig structure to him and I was instantly entranced. We began to make additions to it including lighting and exterior facades. Gary, an interior architect, and designer, let his imagination take flight with shapes and structure of the additions. Tiny handmade beds, sofas, and chairs furnished the rooms, and I began to see it as a fairy house. Friends, fascinated with the tabletop home, kept asking what the story was behind it, so we decided to write one. Gary gave me carte blanche on the writing, with the caveat that a troll have a place in it since trolls were the genesis of the house. Thus the story of Tyson, a troll, and Amelia, a fairy, was born.

MOLLY It may be a spoiler, but my favorite line is the last one of the book. "He was ready to start his joyous new journey with Amelia, down the road to Happily Ever After." It’s my favorite because it defines Tyson from beginning to end. Always looking ahead with enthusiasm and an intrinsically happy heart, determined to overcome any obstacle.
GARY "His shoulders sagged momentarily, but then Amelia reached out and rested her slender fingers on his forearm as lightly as thistle down, and he rallied." It is my favorite because it explains the reason for the name of the book and of the house. It is very powerful, that light, reassuring touch.

MOLLY Probably Amelia. I grew up in the Deep South in the 1950’s. I was taught to be well-mannered, a good conversationalist, and to take pride in my family heritage. Emphasis was placed on my education and on exposure to the arts. Also, my great- great- grandmother emigrated from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Her name was Amelia. Her portrait and mine always hung side by side in my childhood home. Gary says he identifies with Tyson because he is a troll who fell in love with a fairy. How’s that for making his wife feel very special?

WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL GLEAN FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK?  MOLLY & GARY Never give up on your dreams. Honest determination and tenacity are your best tools. If you fail it’s not the end. Just get up and try again and again. Keep your spark no matter what.

MOLLY As I began to write the book some of the characters first appeared in my dreams before I transferred them to paper.

IF YOU COULD BE COMPARED TO A WELL-KNOWN AUTHOR WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT THIS TO BE AND WHY?   MOLLY I would consider myself presumptuous to compare myself to any well-known author. I greatly admire Margaret Mitchell, whose first and only book captured the imagination of the world, and Harper Lee, whose first published book did the same. They were both from the South, as I am, and I would love to aspire to their quality of writing.

WHAT BOOK HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE?  MOLLY The most constant book in my life has been the Bible. It is ancient history and relevant guidance at the same time. It’s a book for every time and all time.

HOW DID YOU GET PUBLISHED?  We knew of a local publisher in Houston. We were so green we didn’t even check their requirements for submitting a manuscript. We just delivered it to their office. Fortunately for us, they liked our book so we didn’t suffer through countless rejection slips we had heard stories about.

IF A CLOSE FRIEND OR LOVED ONE WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK, WHAT GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?  MOLLY Write about something you know regarding plot, characters, and locations.

CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK?  Have a website built for your book or learn to do it yourself. Build a presence on social media promoting your book by means of a page on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at the very least. By all means, enter competitions for book awards. Speak at book clubs and, if your book is appropriate for it, in classrooms. Always be alert to any opportunity, no matter how unexpected, and be generous with your time and talents.

This Literary Classics Gold Medal, of course! To have such a personal effort as writing this book to be recognized by a national group of judges as having merit is an indescribable feeling.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ASPIRATIONS?  MOLLY I’d like to continue in the company of the trolls and fairies of Orkney, letting their lives take me into new books about their adventures. I have come to know them so well that sometimes they lead me to new places, and not the other way around. I don’t expect to write great literature in my lifetime, but I think sometimes small stories can touch someone’s heart. We have a real empathy with today’s young people and the obstacles they face, like prejudice, bullying, loss, illiteracy, lack of self-esteem. They are the same barriers Tyson has to face, and we hoped that he could inspire kids to persevere.

TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT THEY MIGHT FIND INTERESTING:  MOLLY My parents thought my college education should be a practical one that would ensure my eventual employment, so I was 45 years old before I took my long desired first art lessons. I became an accomplished water-colorist with gallery representation in two cities.  Gary lived aboard a sailboat in the boat basin on the Hudson River in New York City for five years while he worked in Manhattan. We both illustrated Thistle Downe ourselves.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?   MOLLY If there is a book in you, it is never too late to write it.

DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?  MOLLY A sequel to Thistle Downe is underway. People kept asking what happens next. We didn’t know, so we decided we had better write a sequel to find out! Are children a part of Tyson and Amelia’s life together? Are there rough waters ahead for the couple? Do we introduce any new characters? Stay tuned…..

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval http://www.clcawards.org

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