By Melissa Patafio
**Giveaway is now closed**
Maddie Dawson is making her debut on the chick-lit scene with her compelling book “The Stuff That Never Happened” (which was published on August 3rd). She grew up in the south with relatives that she describes as “outrageous storytellers” and really, what better environment to breed an eventual future storyteller? She held various careers in her life but soon realized that writing was her calling. Maddie currently resides in Connecticut where she spends part of every day writing on her screened-in back porch overlooking a willow tree, rose bushes, and a family of cardinals.
I recently had the good fortune of interviewing Maddie, who immediately won me over with her openness and honesty. I am sure she will do the same for all of you and I hope you will enjoy getting to know her just as much as I did! She also offered to give away two copies of "The Stuff..." to some lucky readers in the US and Canada.
1. How long did it take you to finish writing “The Stuff That Never Happened”?
It took me about 18 months to write this book once I really buckled down and got serious about it. Of course, for the first few months, I was walking around with Annabelle’s voice in my head, as she explained and explained what her life was like, while I simply took notes. But then, once I started writing and figuring out the story, it all came rather fast.
2. What was the journey to publishing like for you?
I was so fortunate to have an editor who immediately loved the book and gave it her full support. I’ll never forget the evening that I got her voice mail two weeks after I’d handed in the manuscript. I was riding home on the train and checked my messages—and there was her voice screaming, “I love love love LOVE this book!” (Truly one of the great moments of life.) Unfortunately, however, before the book was published, she moved to another publishing house. But then fortunately, (isn’t this like one of those yay-boo stories?) her wonderful assistant shepherded the book through all the shoals and narrows of publication and publicity, and stood by my side every step of the way. Publishing is a harrowing adventure, but I’ve been so lucky that the entire staff at Crown has given me lots of help and support every step of the way. Really, I couldn’t have asked for better friends!
3. You grew up in the south and you currently live in Connecticut, how did you end up there and would you ever move back to the south?
I grew up in Northern Florida, which is more like Georgia than anything that comes to mind when you hear the word “Florida.” (No palm trees, mai tais or retirees.) When I was a teenager, my parents divorced, and we moved to Southern California where I spent most of my truly formative, trouble-making years. I got married young, and my husband and I moved to New Haven so that he could attend Yale grad school. Soon after that, our marriage ended and he left Connecticut…but I have never managed to make my getaway, either back to Santa Barbara OR back to Florida. I miss both of those places every single winter, but I seem to have put down roots here and am stuck here like quicksand.
4. Do you have a specific writing routine?
I write every day—but not all in one fell swoop. I like to dabble a little bit in the morning, then come back to my book in the afternoon—and then, in a habit I would LOVE to break, I get a full second wind at about 10:30 at night. If I’m not careful, it’s 2 or 3 in the morning before I quite know what has happened. I love the way time just disappears when I’m really writing—how five hours can feel like five minutes. But if I could truly manage myself better, I’d be a strictly daytime writer and would wrap up my work at a reasonable hour and then do other things for the rest of the day and evening. I seem to be stuck with a brain that likes the late nights best!
5. If “The Stuff That Never Happened” were made into a movie, who do you see playing Annabelle, Grant, and Jeremiah?
Hmmm, I was just having this conversation with a friend yesterday. We decided that Richard Gere should play Jeremiah, with Gary Oldman playing Grant…and perhaps Annette Bening or Laura Linney being Annabelle.
6. Did you experience any challenges while writing “The Stuff”?
Actually…the book presented lots of challenges. (Don’t they all?) One of the main ones was taking a character who is flawed and who makes mistakes and having her be someone the readers would still love. It’s always hard to present a fully three-dimensional person who steps off the page and yet does hurtful things to other people—and still make her sympathetic. Grant was also a challenge. I loved his character, but I was mad with him for his coldness toward Annabelle. And it wasn’t until I was probably three-quarters through the book that I realized that he wasn’t a cold person; he was simply furious with his wife and expressing it the only way he knew how, by withdrawing from her. It was also a challenge—but lots of fun—to write the book in two parts—the chapters from the 1970s when they fall in love, and the chapters in 2005, when they fall out.
7. Who are some authors that have inspired you?
I love so many authors. I’m inspired by Alice Munro and Anne Lamott. I love Lorrie Moore and Laurie Colwin, Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, Sue Miller, and Mark Haddon, among many others.
8. What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I love cooking and gardening and reading…and getting together with my friends. One thing that is hard for me about the writing life is that it’s a solitary life. When you’re deep in a book, you have to sequester yourself for whole hours of the day, for MONTHS. It turns out that books don’t get written if you only devote an hour or so to them every now and then, or only when you happen to feel inspired. (I’ve had to learn this the hard way!) So when I’m not currently in a novel I’m wild for social life—lunch, long walks, phone conversations, facebook.
9. You posted a bit of the back-story of how the novel came about on CarolineLeavittville, have you seen the “once-loved” man since that day on the train?
I haven’t seen him since that day. It’s a funny thing about that kind of thing. I believe that we run into the people we truly need to see, and after all those years, it was important that he and I have some sort of closure talk, one that we couldn’t have had earlier perhaps. But then once that had happened—well, there’s simply no place we have in each other’s lives anymore. It was as though we released each other permanently that day.
10. What is your favorite type of music?
I love the rock music that I grew up with in the 60s and 70s, and also lots of classical music. I love folk music and soft jazz. Can’t stand loud, jangly music these days—while I’m writing I listen to alto flutes through my headphones, or else music that has lyrics that helps me illustrate the characters I’m writing. I made myself a soundtrack while I was writing “The Stuff That Never Happened,” and whenever I sat down to write, I’d play some of the songs, just to get me in the mood.
Special thanks to Maddie for answering all my questions and for offering the books for the giveaway.
How to win "The Stuff that Never Happened":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)
For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: Who was/is your first love?
2. Please tell us: Who was the "one who got away?"
3. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
US/Canada only. Giveaway ends Monday, August 30th at 6:00 pm EST.