"The story will be satisfying for those who believe true love never dies, that people can change, and that underneath a cold exterior lies a soul worthy of forgiveness and happiness." - Foreward Reviews
Wealthy Anne Bennett is left widowed and penniless after her husband's firm is involved in financial fraud. In shock and forced to leave her home, she has few friends to turn to and few options for financial security. Estranged from her two adult daughters, she nevertheless accepts an invitation, or perhaps a challenge, to stay with her younger daughter, Sylvia, in Michigan. While helping Sylvia renovate an old house, Anne finds new friends and a new life, but with guilt, grief and the ghost of tragedy shadowing her every step, she must come to terms with her past in order to navigate her future.
Sequel to THE WORLD UNDONE.
Q&A with Mary Driver-Thiel
What type of hero do you like best?
My favorite heroes are those wonderful characters who combine a sense of humor with courage. No matter what awful circumstances their authors throw at them, these characters always find a way to beat the odds and thrive. I like happy endings. Life is tough, and a good story should be an escape from one’s own troubles, but the best stories show us characters with perseverance and backbone who win in the end. Bitches—especially those with a snarky sense of humor—make excellent characters because they elicit strong reactions, and they really need to change their despicable ways. But before they come to terms with their vileness, it’s fun to give them free rein to act in ways (most of) the rest of us would never consider.
What is the hardest part about writing?
The hardest part of writing for me is always that first major revision. I usually don’t have trouble with the first draft (I hope I’m not jinxing myself here). A first draft is fun because there are no limits. Write whatever seems to work and worry about problems later. Maybe that’s why I struggle so much with the second draft. I find things are out of order, transitions are missing, the gun on the mantle hasn’t been fired, and the ending is usually a mess. Fixing all those things is like a Chinese puzzle: once you change one part, everything else needs changing, and before you know it, you might as well be starting from scratch. I have to remind myself to take things one step at a time, that the next draft will be easier, the one after that easier still, and so on, until I get to a point where I feel the manuscript is acceptable.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
I have a one-word motivational phrase: Onward. That encompasses everything I need to focus on, especially when the going gets tough. As Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” And when everything is rosy, don’t stop too long to smell those roses. There is always another story that needs to be told, always another goal that needs to be set and met. My ex-husband once accused me of never being satisfied. I prefer to think of that as a positive trait. I’m always looking ahead. Onward.
How much research do you do?
I never realized how much research goes into fiction until I started writing. Not everything I learn ends up on the page, but knowing the background information helps me create a better story. Even a very short story requires delving into details, for which research is often required. For instance, this week I spent an inordinate amount of time learning the names and types of ice cream treats that Dairy Queen offered in 1975. Most of what I discovered won’t be in the story, but I’ve learned that immersing myself in information helps me imagine more deeply, just as a salient detail sprinkled here and there draws the reader in more deeply. Conversely, errors in details will destroy the reader’s trust.
I’m rather proud of something that happened with my newest novel, Twelve Thousand Mornings. After my agent read the manuscript, one of her comments was, “I didn’t know you have had so much experience renovating old houses.”
Actually, I’ve had zero experience. I did a lot of research. In addition to the obvious online explorations, I interviewed people who do have experience, and I hovered over workmen who came to my house to replace the hot water heater, re-tile the bathroom, and refinish the kitchen floor. Details from each of those three projects wound up in my book. The amazing thing about research is that in addition to learning the details, I’m often inspired to go in a new direction and/or discover new treasures to add to my story.
What else have you written?
In addition to my two published novels, The World Undone and Twelve Thousand Mornings, I’ve written a number of short stories. Several have been published in various online and print magazines, including Midwest Prairie Review, Half-way Down the Stairs, Danse Macabre, and Epiphany. My work has also appeared in Alfie Dog, an online British journal.
Occasionally, I write poetry. I find it recharges my fascination with the sound and rhythm of words, an essential element in all good writing. One of my poems won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest competition some years ago, and a short prose poem won first place in a Gotham Writers’ competition.
I have a blog on which I post something at least once a month. Contrary to all good advice, my blog is a random collection of photos and short essays about things that catch my writerly eye. The blog is called Liminalesque—yes, I know it’s a terrible name. Too hard to spell and no one knows what it means. But I like it, and I think a blog should be a place where one can write what one likes. There is a link to it from my website, so theoretically, it’s easy to find. Please come visit through www.marydriverthiel.com.
Meet the Author
Mary Driver-Thiel holds a B.A. in Fine Art and a Master of Arts in Teaching. Her short stories have been published in various literary magazines, most recently Alfie Dog (alfiedog.com), Epiphany (epiphmag.com), and Halfway Down the Stairs (halfwaydownthestairs.net). She is a member of Off Campus Writers Workshop and The Writers of Glencoe, and she is founder and facilitator of Forest Writers' Group in Lake Forest.
The World Undone was short-listed for Chicago Writers' Association Book of the Year in 2013 and was in the top 10 for the Illinois Author Project 2013.
Driver-Thiel lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Jerry, and Woki, the Wonder Dog.