“In Memoriam: Interview with Maureen Wartski, Artist, Author, and Friend” by Joan Y. Edwards
Maureen Wartski answered my questions in December and planned to be a guest on my blog today, Monday, January 20, 2014. She died on Tuesday, January 14, 2014. I love you, Maureen. Thanks for being my friend. Thank you for sharing your life with us here on earth. I will miss you. All those who walked on the path with you will miss you. I feature that you are up in heaven painting the skies with your beautiful colors and writing haiku poetry in the clouds for our enjoyment. Thank you, Maureen. Here’s the interview with the questions as she answered them.
1. How did you do in English as a kid?
I fell very quickly in love with language. My Uncle Harry introduced me to Shakespeare, and other literary works when I was barely five. I could quote Julius Caesar till the cows came home, and I once scandalized some very proper ladies by quoting Marc Antony’s speech over the body of Caesar, the one that begins, “Oh, pardon me, thou bloody piece of earth!” English was always easy for me, and it was my favorite subject in school.
2. When did you decide to become an author?
I don’t think I ever made any conscious decision to be an author, but I always was writing something. After selling my first short story at 14, I suppose the die was cast.
3. What’s your favorite book? Why?
I have too many favorites, Joan. I loved Llewellen’s How Green Is My Valley, Dumas’ Three Musketeers and Adam’s Watership Down. Why do I like them? I suppose the answer is that they offer tremendously well-written stories.
4. Are your characters based on real people?
No—but I am sure characteristics from real people slide into what I write. My aunts have turned up in my novels, I’ve been told.
5. Did you outline and plan your books before you wrote them or did their stories flow on its own?
I write an outline. It’s not carved in stone, but like a blueprint, it keeps me steady. I often change that outline and add or remove characters, however. I almost always write the last chapter of a novel (in my head) before I start.
6. Did you cry while writing one of your books?
Sometimes. One novel that makes me weep every time I read it is The Lake Is On Fire. An editor once told me, “If you make me cry, you make me buy…” so perhaps that’s a good thing.
7. What’s your favorite book you’ve written?
That’s like asking me to choose between my grandchildren! There are some that flowed more easily, but all in all, I like them all. Two that pop into my mind are The Lake Is On Fire and Candle In The Wind.
The Lake Is on Fire
The Candle in the Wind
Candle in the Wind – http://www.amazon.com/Candle-Wind-Maureen-Wartski/dp/0449704424/
8. What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you related to your writing or book tours?
Shortly after I’d sent my YA The Face In My Mirror into the world, I received a fan letter from a Reformatory. It began, “Yo, Miss—“ and went on to say, “I usually hate reading but yurs (sic) warn’t (sic) half bad.” It was signed, “Squinty.”
9. What is your favorite genre?
I love writing YAs and mid-grade novels, but I very much enjoyed writing Regency romances as Rebecca Ward. They were light and often combined history with comical as well as serious issues.
10. How do you choose the right narrator for your book – first, second, or third person?
Choosing the right voice for a narrator can be a problem. I’ve often had difficulty choosing between 1st and 3rd person, main character. What usually works for me is to write a chapter in 1st person and then sleep on it. If it doesn’t sit well, I try 3rd main character. This ploy usually works, but it’s a tricky business. Writing Candle In The Wind, I actually wrote about five chapters in 3rd person—and hated the way it was turning out. Then, in the middle of the night it came to me what I was doing wrong —and there was no problem after that. My advice: if you aren’t sure, try different voices and see how they do.
11. Is it necessary to create an unforgettable character for fiction?
Creating an unforgettable character is absolutely essential. To my mind fiction rises or falls with character. I have learned that the more ways in which a character is depicted the better. Here are five ways:
Character in action
Character in his/her surroundings
Character shown through dialogue
Character shown through the thoughts/speech of others
Character shown through inference.
Henry slunk down the street and peered around the corner.
Henry’s room was a mishmash of odds and ends which looked as if they had been salvaged from discards of a yard sale.
“Ah—could you possibly—well, I really don’t want to ask—“ sputtered Henry.
“Henry?” the man guffawed. “That little pipsqueak? He’s afraid of his own shadow.”
The waitress saw Henry walk in, rolled her eyes and pointedly walked away.
Poor Henry! But we get the picture.
12. What is a simple way to outline a compelling plot?
Outlining a plot needn’t be an awful experience. Simply jot down the characters you intend to introduce, then write a sentence or two outlining the actions that precipitate the conflict. After that spend a bit of time isolating the problem between the characters that will constitute the conflict. The conflict should now lead to actions that will create a climax, which will in turn lead to a conclusion.
This is simplistic, of course, but I encourage writers to start with simple little outlines. When character, conflict, climax and conclusion are firmly fixed, there will be time to amplify and create a more detailed plot.
13. How do you know when your manuscript is ready for submission?
I think that this varies with each writer. The notion that the manuscript has to be read and reread, worked and reworked, sometimes backfires because by then the writer is tired of the thing! I personally do four drafts. First comes the first draft, second the ‘bullwork’ draft—where the story is worked into story form, third the ‘cleaning up’ draft, and fourth the proofing and re-reading which I call ‘icing on the cake.’
It is, of course, dreadfully important to proof read the manuscript. If you have a friend who has an eye for details, ask h/her to read the script, too. Sometimes the eye of the author skips over a word or an omission because the mind ‘sees’ it as written. Beware!
14. Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer?
I have been very fortunate—my family encouraged me to write and believed in my writing. My husband is my greatest critic and biggest fan. The younger generation thinks my stories are fun. So much for help. And inspiration? My Uncle Harry, I think, for he showed me the magic of words.
15. What are you writing now?
I have been so busy with my art that I have given short shrift to the writing. Short stories, an article or two—and my blog posts have helped to keep me alert. I write a haiku each day, and I am also chewing over an idea (the last chapter, of course, has been already written in my mind, but the rest is nebulous still).
Thank you, Maureen.
Here is more information about Maureen.
Links about Maureen Wartski:
Her blogsite/website (where you can access her writing and art) is:
Blogs She Followed:
Linda Anderson – A Writer’s Playground: http://lindamartinandersen.wordpress.com/
And recently discovered:
Tim Livingston’s: The Forester Artist: http://theforesterartist.com
Maureen Wartski was a writer, artist, wife, mother, and grandmother. She was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, they would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. She was told that her first words were, “Big Moon.”
She and Mike Wartski got married 51 years ago. They have two sons and three grandchildren. She had 56 books published. They loved to travel.
All her life she felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create grew through the years.
Yuri’s Brush with Magic – http://www.amazon.com/Yuris-Brush-Magic-Maureen-Wartski/dp/0982454252 ,
Yuri’s Brush with Magic, her latest book for middle school children, follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world.
There is even more wonderful information about Maureen in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maureen_Wartski
Thank you for being a guest on my blog, Maureen. It is an honor to have you with me in spirit, today.
A celebration of Maureen’s life was held in Raleigh, N.C. on Saturday, January 25, 2014.
Here is a link to the Obituary in the Raleigh News & Observer:
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards