Joan Wright Mularz is the author of the E.T. Madigan YA mystery series.
Linda talks with Joan Wright Mularz, author of the E.T. Madigan YA mystery series.
Joan Wright Mularz lives in Florida and summers in Maine. She is the author of the E.T. Madigan YA mystery series. The third book in the series, Maine Roots Run Deep, was a Finalist for BEST YA BOOK at the 2018 Independent Publishers of New England Book Awards. Kirkus Reviews said "Maine Roots Run Deep" was "A winsome tale of a girl whose paranormal gift is only one of the traits that makes her exceptional."
Her short story, "The Souk," was awarded an Honorable Mention by the Bethlehem Writers' Roundtable, 2017. Another short story, "Barbara Screechie." was published in the anthology "Whittier Than Thou: Wit and Whimsy inspired by the Life and Works of John Greenleaf Whittier," 2019.
Visit Joan’s website at www.joanwrightmularz.com to watch for the publication date for her new book Slate—A Band of Friends Mystery.
Get to know Joan: The Tart Words Baker's Dozen
1. Plotter or Pantser? Combo? Combo
2. Tea or Coffee? Coffee
3. Beer, Wine, or Cocktails? Wine
4. Snacks: Sweet or Savory? Savory
5. Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid? Hybrid
6. Strict Writing Schedule: No
7. Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? Computer
8. Daily Goal: Yes
9. Formal Track Progress: Yes
10. Special Writing Spot? No
11. Writer’s Block? Sometimes
12. File of Ideas: Yes
13. Favorite Author(s)? So many, but here are a few: Tana French, Marc Levy, Mark Pryor, Martin Walker, Susan Kiernan-Lewis, Lisa Genova, Donna Leon, Viveca Sten, Jeffrey Siger, Paul Theroux
Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited. Please forgive typos and grammar.
Episode 102 – Joan Wright Mularz
Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them. Chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share tart bites, tart thoughts, and Tart Words.
Joan Wright Mularz lives in Florida and summers in Maine. She's the author of the E.T. Madigan YA mystery series. The third book in the series, Maine Roots Run Deep, was a finalist for Best YA Book at the 2018 Independent Publishers of New England Book Awards. Kirkus Reviews said “Maine Roots Run Deep was a winsome tale of a girl whose paranormal gift is only one of the traits that makes her exceptional.”
Joan’s short story “The Souk” was awarded an Honorable Mention by the Bethlehem Writer’s Roundtable in 2017. Another short story, “Barbara Screechie,” was published in the anthology "Whittier Than Thou: Wit and Whimsy inspired by the Life and Works of John Greenleaf Whittier," 2019. You can visit Joan's website at https://www.joanwrightmularz.com/ to watch for the publication date for her new book Slate, A Band of Friends Mystery.
Joan and I are members of the Florida Treasure Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime, and we've also both spent time in Rangeley, Maine. Rangeley is a small town in western Maine, up in the corner by Canada in New Hampshire. My great-grandparents lived there, and we would visit during the summer when I was growing up. We stayed at the family camp in Oquossoc on Lake Mooselookmeguntic. Most recently, I was there in 2018 when we had a family reunion, and I climbed Bald Mountain for the first time. Today Joan joins me to talk about her character E.T. Madigan, Maine Roots Run Deep, Rangeley, and writing.
Welcome to the Tart Words podcast, Joan.
Thank you. It's good to be here. Linda.
When my family had a family reunion a couple years ago, it was really nice to see that Rangeley has not changed a lot. How did you come to Rangeley?
My husband and I were looking for property back in 1983. We wanted it to be near a ski area and also lakes. And we kind of stumbled into Rangeley and fell in love with it. And we built a house that year and have been going up ever since.
The thing that always struck me was how nice to get away it was you know, there wasn't a phone at the camp. There wasn't a TV because there was no television reception. The radio stations that we could pick up were from French Quebec and they were in French. So mostly we would do board games, we’d play cards, we would read. We'd swim in the lake and water ski and canoe and do back to nature types of things. Is that what you find yourself doing when you're up there?
Oh, yeah, we hike we ski we kayak just get outdoors all the time. And very watch very little TV. We didn't have one for years. And put one in a couple years ago just for the news. But seldom watch it; really a gem of a place to get away from it all.
Have you climbed Bald Mountain?
Many times, in every season.
We climbed it when we were there. It was an adventure and I'm glad I did it.
The real adventure is when you do it in the winter and the top gets really icy.
You have to do it in snow shoes. You're a better person than I am. I would not do that in the winter time. The view is amazing. The view is spectacular. Tell me about your latest book. The short version is it's about a 15 year old girl with psychic sensitivity who spends a year in Maine and has dreams about the disappearance of the Abenaki natives of the region telling her there's a mystery to be solved. I like that but slightly longer version is her name is Ellen Theodore Madigan. She's past events in her dreams and has the smarts to solve the mysteries they hint at. At age 15 she arrives in a small lake town in the mountains of Western Maine. Up until then, much of her life had been lived near her dad's archeological digs in other countries. However, he's on sabbatical and Ellen and her family spent a year at her grandparents lake house. Before long she's having strange dreams about Abenaki Native Americans, the first inhabitants of the area who seemed to have disappeared, and she's encountering loons on the water which she senses are trying to communicate paranormals sensitivity
I was on alert and she knows there's a mystery to be solved. So with the help of her first boyfriend and a loner girl, she befriends, she looks for answers.
That sounds really interesting. And you mentioned that's part of a series. Is Slate part of the same series or is it different series?
No, the E.T. Madigan series has a girl protagonist, the Slate is the beginning of a new series, and the main character is male. And this one is set in New York City. So it's quite a departure.
Yes, it is. Where do you get the ideas for your main characters?
You know, E.T. Madigan is a girl and in Slate it's a male character.
Where do you get your ideas?
For Ellen in the E.T. Madigan series, it was more because I grew up in a generation that had gender specific expectations. I wanted the opposite in my protagonist, a strong, smart and capable girl who follows her interests unhindered by gender bias. I also wanted her and this is the teacher in me to be a positive role model for showing girls that they can be assertive, active, curious, adventurous and still feminine. My main character for three books, Ellen Theodore Madigan, loves science is energetic and solves mysteries and gets crushes on boys. And then finally I wanted her name to honor my two grandmothers, who were each strong in different ways. Ellen is for my Nana, who raised six children alone after her husband walked out. And Madigan is for my grandma who immigrated to the states from Ireland on her own at the age of 16.
Isn't it amazing how young some of these women were when they change their lives?
Yes, she had no support and went to work as a maid in New York City and somehow thrived.
Good for her and good for you for honoring them. That's really nice. Where did you get the ideas for your books?
The first two in the series were set in Europe. And it was because I was living there at the time. The first book was set in Italy and I happen to live near Kuma which is an ancient Greek settlement where the Sibyl one of the ancient seers used to make predictions in a cave. And I was fascinated by that. So that was the setting for the first book. The second book was set in Munich, Germany, and I lived there for six years. And we're surrounded by lots of landmarks from the Nazi era, but I was taking German class and there were monuments to some students who died at the hands of the Nazis for handing out folders, and they were called the White Rose Society. And I again, I was fascinated by that. And that became part of the premise for the second book. And of course, the third book in Maine is because I had been there for since 1983. And I loved the area and I thought it was time to bring Ellen back to the states.
It’s not the coastal Maine that I think some people think of when they think of Maine, you know, the Portland or Bar Harbor or some of the rocky beaches or islands that are off the coast of Maine, but it's just really beautiful. And there are ski resorts in the area. There's a lot to do if you like to do outdoorsy things. And it was terrific for me growing up because I love to read and there was nothing like being on the glider on the porch of the camp looking at the lake, reading a book or you know, running down to the lake and swimming for a while then coming back up.
And just having you know a great time. Tell me a little bit Do you have a writing routine?
My routine is I write every day, I don't always write about for the book. I have lots of projects in the fire. Lately I've been busy with revisions for Slate, although they're completed right now and it's been submitted. I also write a monthly blog for my website with the theme Journeys. I do a monthly prompt for my fiction writers critique group and I do short stories for competitions and I usually write for several hours, mostly afternoons.
Is there a creative outlet that plays into your mysteries or gives you a creative respite from writing? Do you cook or craft? I was a family consumer science teacher. So I've done lots of both. I do a lot of sewing. I also do a lot of artwork. In fact, I did the artwork for several children's picture books. And those are my main hobbies. I love to cook; I always mention food in the books. In fact, the main book has a lot about Swedish cooking because the grandmother in the story is Swedish. We talk about Swedish celebrations in Swedish.
You mentioned sewing and art. Do you find that they help with your writing just to give your mind a break and let sort of let your subconscious work while your fingers are busy. And you're sort of focused on
The sewing or the painting or the artwork?
Yeah, I find that anytime I reach a point in my writing where I reach a block, or I, I'm not sure where I'm going next, it helps to do something else, whether it's one of the crafts or whether it's to get out and walk, or go with no swim. So just, I think anything like that, let you think in different directions, particularly if you're doing something physical, I think it helps.
And I found for me sometimes that if I'm driving, particularly like when I've been on a drive to the Orlando airport, and I go out 60, and up the turnpike, so there are miles and miles of not much traffic at all, and miles and miles of just orange groves, or citrus groves to the north and south of 60. And at that point of the Florida Turnpike, east and west, there's a lot of ranch land, there's a lot of open space. And they are you know, there's always some other vehicles on the road, but not a lot, not like 95. So I found that just being in the car by myself, and having great wide open spaces to look at helps me when I've got a story problem that I haven't been able to work out, I always seem to find some kind of solution.
And in fact, when I'm a passenger in the car, I often make notes on my phone that I use later if I'm driving or walking or it's amazing how helpful that is because little things that you jot down, you might forget it; helps to fill in details.
I've also found that washing dishes, I don't know why if it's the sound of the water or just sort of the mindless repetition, I can wash the dishes and let my mind sort of rest, not just sitting down typing. It's you know, you have to move a little bit to I think that helps stimulate your brain and your mind.
Oh, definitely. Yeah, one of my friends calls them plotting walks. I walk every morning and three miles really gives me a chance to plot.
We'll wrap up our chat for today. For listeners, you can visit www.JoanWrightMularz.com. I'll put that link in the show notes. And you can visit that website for her latest books and also the books that are currently available. Thank you so much, Joan. This has been a pleasure.
Oh, my pleasure as well. Linda, thank you. Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit www.TartWords.com/Tart102. Before you go, subscribe to the podcast to receive new episodes when they're released. Subscribe now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for bakers, readers and writers at TartWords.com/About. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.
Joan Wright Mularz lives in Florida and summers in Maine. She is the author of the E.T. Madigan YA mystery series. The third book in the series, Maine Roots Run Deep, was a Finalist for BEST YA BOOK at the 2018 Independent Publishers of New England Book Awards. Her short story, "The Souk," was awarded an Honorable Mention by the Bethlehem Writers' Roundtable, 2017. Another short story, "Barbara Screechie," was published in the anthology "Whittier Than Thou: Wit and Whimsy inspired by the Life and Works of John Greenleaf Whittier," 2019.