INTERVIEW: NANCY SPRINGER

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome back Nancy Springer, whose first venture into mass-market psychological suspense Dark Lie was recently released. You can see our earlier interview with her here.

Dorrie White, the main character of Dark Lie has lupus, an auto-immune system disorder which can affect a person a little or a lot. Dorrie has a bad case of it. Her face is roughened and reddened by a malar rash, and steroids have given her chipmunk cheeks and thunder thighs. Because unrealistic societal standards make Dorrie unable to think of herself as attractive in any way, she is a bit vulnerable emotionally. Even as she steps up to the plate in a life-or-death situation, she thinks of herself as “just a housewife,” nothing special.

Because her lupus causes joint pain, fatigue, and fever, she is also vulnerable physically. Far from chasing down bad guys, she cannot even run from them. She is the archetypical underdog. She must truly struggle, and use her wits, to win.

“I do not have lupus, but still, I feel that Dorrie has a lot in common with me and many American women like me,” Nancy revealed, “women of a certain age, overweight but underfit and definitely underwhelming in terms of making any impression socially. Many people, not just the very scary villain, underestimate Dorrie’s integrity and sheer grit of character as she faces challenge after challenge to save her daughter. If her lupus is symbolic of anything, it may represent the wolfish predation, mostly dark and secret, that every woman has dealt with.”

Nancy is very much a character-driven writer and she told me, when it comes to plotting, “I fly by the bottom of my bloomers all the time…once the main character takes on a kind of life of her/his own in my head and I can hear her or his voice, I am ready to start writing.”

She knows what the conflict will be, which is often dictated by what sort of trouble the character would be likely to get into.

“I don’t need to know how things are going to come out,” Nancy explained. “All I need to do is let the character take charge of what s/he does in response to difficulties. I think that, while writing, I am in as much suspense to see how everything works out out as later a reader might be. But my suspense sustains far longer!”

She can’t stand to not be writing, so she often starts writing something within two or three days of completing a project—and will probably choose something very different than what she was writing.

She doesn’t do research before writing; instead, as questions come up during the course of the book, she will make note of them—waiting, if possible, until the second draft to get her facts straight.

Nancy tried writing an outline once for a book she was working on but after finishing the outline, she never went back and wrote the book.

“I felt as if I were already done with it and had lost all enthusiasm for it,” she admitted. “My ‘pantser’ approach really challenged me when it came to writing the Enola Holmes books, each of which had three intertwined plots: Enola searching for her mother, Enola eluding her brothers, and Enola finding a missing person. (Add Enola finding herself, and that’s four plots.) But, honestly, I did not outline. I undertook each chapter as I came to it, I researched along the way, and I seldom knew what was going to happen next in any given book, or how it was going to come out. I frankly do not know how I pulled it off, except to say that Enola is an extraordinarily strong and astute character and she led me exceedingly well.”

“What is the hardest part about writing for you?” I asked.

“Not having co-workers. In other words, loneliness. If it were not that I have an adorable husband who comes home for supper, I would go days at a time without seeing another human being. I don’t know how frontier folks did it. I’d go crazy. Working alone was okay when I had family, kids at home, and then I went through a spell when I worked in restaurants, where I could exchange chit-chat with the staff and other regulars, but my present situation doesn’t allow that. The Internet provides a kind of virtual belonging and the telephone allows an occasional long-distance conversation, but often, as a full-time writer, I do feel very alone, and it can’t be helped.”

She told me that she can’t blame this entirely on writing, though, because she grew up in a home where the tacit expectation was that members should distance themselves. Her father came from Ireland and only went back twice in his life. Her mother had a sister and three brothers who lived in distant states and was visited on summer vacation.

“I had a grandmother on my father’s side, but I hardly realized she existed until I was fifteen and she died. Now my two kids live far away and lead busy lives that don’t much include me. I have no grandchildren. Occasionally I talk with one or the other of my two brothers on the phone, but it’s been years since I’ve seen either of them,” she said. “Within the context of my upbringing this is all completely normal, but I can’t help noticing that I am surrounded by people who go to family reunions. Also, they often form surrogate families at their places of employment. Naturally they envy me for not having to punch a time clock or put in a 40-hour work week, and I agree with them; I’m spoiled. But my life is a trade-off. Either I can write, or I can have human contact, but usually not both at once. Usually that doesn’t work so great.

“It doesn’t work so great with cats either, unfortunately. Cats are ruinous to office equipment. I once had a cat total a new printer simply by barfing down the paper slot. Nobody could fix it, or maybe nobody was willing to.

“What’s hard about writing itself? Everything and nothing. Once I get into my work, I never feel lonely, because I’m with people — my characters — and conversing with other people — my readers. But I can only write a few hours a day. The well needs time to refill. And it’s the down time that’s difficult.

“When I am between books I am impossible. I utterly don’t know what to do with me.

“Friends? Yeah, they help. A lot. Especially now that I’ve given up the ideal of the lifelong friend and adapted to reality: there’s a fluctuating quality to friendship. Which old Greek was it who said that you never step in the same river twice? I am grateful to my friends. I just wish they’d stay around longer and not go moving away or dying on me.

“Heraclitus. That’s who the old Greek was.”

About the Author:

Nancy Springer has passed the fifty-book milestone, having written that many novels for adults, young adults and children, in genres including mythic fantasy, contemporary fiction, magical realism, horror, and mystery — although she did not realize she wrote mystery until she won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America two years in succession. DARK LIE is her first venture into mass-market psychological suspense.

Born in Livingston, New Jersey, Nancy Springer moved with her family to Gettysburg, of Civil War fame, when she was thirteen. She spent the next forty-six years in Pennsylvania, raising two children (Jonathan, now 35, and Nora, 31), writing, horseback riding, fishing, and birdwatching. In 2007 she surprised her friends and herself by moving with her second husband to an isolated area of the Florida panhandle, where the birdwatching is spectacular and where, when fishing, she occasionally catches an alligator.
Find Nancy online at
http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000015705,00.html
http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780451238061,00.html Dark_Lie_Nancy_Springer
http://www.facebook.com/pages#!/NancySpringerNovelist
http://store.untreedreads.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6_314

In this gripping psychological thriller — smart, chilling, and unrelenting — Nancy Springer establishes herself as an exciting new suspense writer with a distinctive voice and some surprises up her sleeve…
To their neighbors, Dorrie and Sam Clark seem a contented couple in America’s heartland, with steady jobs, a suburban home, and community activities to keep them busy. But they’re not quite what they appear to be. For plain, hard-working Sam hides a depth of devotion for his wife that no one would suspect. And Dorrie is living a dark lie — beset by physical ailments, alone within herself, and unknown to those around her, following the comings and goings of the sixteen-year-old daughter, Juliet, she gave up for adoption when she was hardly more than a child herself.
Then one day at the mall, Dorrie, horror-stricken, sees Juliet being abducted, forced into a van that drives away. Instinctively, Dorrie sends her own car speeding after them — an act of reckless courage that pits her against a clever, depraved killer, and draws Sam into a dogged, desperate search to save his wife. In a confrontation that unites mother and daughter in a terrifying struggle to survive, Dorrie must face and conquer her own secret, tormented past.

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