As a reader of Writer Unboxed, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Therese Walsh’s debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy. I have followed her blog giveaways, hoping to snag this novel for myself. You, lucky readers will also have a chance to read what I think will soon be a best seller. Therese will be answering your questions and comments. But you must comment in the box below before midnight tonight (10/27) for a chance to win!
Therese recently sold her debut novel in a two-book deal to Random House (Shaye Areheart imprint). The Last Will of Moira Leahy is about a woman who lost her identical twin–and a large portion of herself–about a decade ago, but reconnects with her former life after purchasing an artifact from her past. Through interwoven narratives, we see Maeve Leahy as she was and what led to the tragedy with her sister, Moira. We travel with her in the present day as she unravels the truth about the artifact–who’s following her and leaving her notes—as layers of her past are peeled away and the course of her future is forever altered. The novel will be published on October 13th, 2009. Therese is also the co-founder of one of the Writer’s Digest best sites for writers, Writer Unboxed. You can learn more about her and her novel at her website: ThereseWalsh.com.
A LOST SHADOW
Moira Leahy struggled growing up in her prodigious twin’s shadow; Maeve was always more talented, more daring, more fun. In the autumn of the girls’ sixteenth year, a secret love tempted Moira, allowing her to have her own taste of adventure, but it also damaged the intimate, intuitive relationship she’d always shared with her sister. Though Moira’s adolescent struggles came to a tragic end nearly a decade ago, her brief flirtation with independence will haunt her sister for years to come.
A LONE WOMAN
When Maeve Leahy lost her twin, she left home and buried her fun-loving spirit to become a workaholic professor of languages at a small college in upstate New York. She lives a solitary life now, controlling what she can and ignoring the rest–the recurring nightmares, hallucinations about a child with red hair, the unquiet sounds in her mind, her reflection in the mirror. It doesn’t help that her mother avoids her, her best friend questions her sanity, and her not-quite boyfriend has left the country. But at least her life is ordered. Exactly how she wants it.
A SHARED PAST
Until one night at an auction when Maeve wins a keris, a Javanese dagger that reminds her of her lost youth, and happier days playing pirates with Moira in their father’s boat. Days later, a book on weaponry is nailed to her office door, followed by anonymous notes, including one that invites her to Rome to learn more about the blade and its legendary properties. Opening her heart and mind to possibility, Maeve accepts the invitation, and with it, a window into her past. Ultimately she will revisit the tragic November night that shaped her and Moira’s destinies, and learn that nothing can be taken at face value, as one sister emerges whole and the other’s score is finally settled.
Published by Shaye Areheart Books/Random House (Oct. 2009)
Hardcover: 304 pages
The Last Will of Moira Leahy is available through Amazon.com, B&N, and independent or chain bookstores.
Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell
How did the idea come to you for The Last Will of Moira Leahy? Did you begin with the character(s) or the plot?
First born were a woman who knew just about every language in existence (Maeve) and an antiques dealer (Noel). I had only the slightest of plot ideas—I wanted the first scene to take place at an auction house, in the middle of an auction. There would have to be some battle over something, I decided, and scanned the list of items I’d virtually gathered for the antique dealer’s shop. From that list, I chose something that looked interesting: a wavy sword. I threw it in the scene. Later, I showed a friend my scene, eager for her good opinion. “I like it,” she said. “Is that sword going to be important in the rest of the book?” It sounded like a good idea, so I did a little research—and discovered some very interesting things about the sword, a Javanese keris.
Later in the discovery draft, I learned Maeve had a twin sister. The twin, Moira, had died, but she was still present in the tale—and at the root of everything.
What was your writing style for this book: write by hand or keyboard? out-line first or write and see where the story leads? do you write through the entire rough draft or revise as you go?
I worked almost exclusively on keyboard and drifted my way through the manuscript. I revised as went along—and I revised a lot.
In a recent interview, you mentioned that a lot of research went into writing this book. I tend to get distracted with the mass resources available when researching. How did you organize your research time without getting off track or procrastinating the actual writing?
This question made me smile, because I’m somewhat self-indulgent with my research and do sometimes use it to procrastinate. I will lose happy hours tracking down the perfect piece of information, but once I’ve found it, I’m back to the writing with fresh enthusiasm.
I know of writers who put placeholders into their work, e.g. “Where did character live prior to moving to town? Insert remembered details here.” Unless the detail is minor, I almost always stop writing to seek it out. It can halt the flow, but I’ve found that those gems—once found—can change the course of a book. So I justify my research hours.
When and how did you start working on your platform as a writer? How important is this facet to a fiction writer’s business?
Kathleen Bolton and I started Writer Unboxed—a blog meant to empower other writers with craft posts and through interviews—in January of 2006, which marks the beginning of our online-platform effort. In today’s world, I think platform is extremely important to a debut novelist because our technology-centered world is a noisy one. There are so many things to do, to hear, to see, to read. What will set us apart? How will we gain notice? We’d all like to believe that our work will be enough to gain us our due attention and propel us into a contract and then onto the NYT’s bestseller list. And it happens. To some. The rest of us have to work at it.
What surprised you about writing your first novel and what would you do differently next time?
I was surprised about the process of writing a novel—how the story would turn in a way I didn’t expect but that was for the best. I learned to trust my muse. That said, I don’t have as much time to let her play in the story this second time around (I have a two-book contract), so I’m using a note-card system and hoping a little better organization goes a long way.
You can tell a lot about writers from who they read. Who are your current or all-time favorite authors and why?
I have a full keeper shelf, but I adore Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. I love the complexity and uniqueness of the story, her brilliant plotting, and that the book made me sob as not many things in life ever have. I love Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime for inventive storytelling, too, and unforgettable characters.
Thanks for having me here at Writers Inspired, Mary Jo!
Be sure to leave a comment and come back tomorrow to see if you’ve won!