Author on the Couch: Lea Wait
This week’s Author on the Couch is…
Lea is giving away a free copy of Twisted Threads – the first in her Mainely Needlepoint series
Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Lea: Adopting my four daughters. That was actually four experiences I was a single adoptive parents, and in a six year period in my thirties I adopted girls who were aged 8-10 from Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and India. They changed my life! Now I write mysteries and historical novels about people searching for love, acceptance, and a place to call home.
Me: What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Lea: I’m very organized. I keep files and notes and income tax receipts and calendars …. and a “bible” listing all of the characters in the three mystery series I write, and what I know about them. Essential to keeping my books and characters straight!
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Lea: I edit and edit and edit and … I try to make each book (chapter, paragraph, sentence) as perfect as I can. Of course – I never succeed. I don’t read my books after they’re published because I keep wanting to edit them …
Me: What was your high point as a writer—a time when you were happiest, on cloud nine, flying high? What happened?
Lea: Actually – two times. First, the day an editor at a conference told me he loved my book and his company (Simon and Schuster) wanted to publish it. What would my next book be about? And then the day I got a telephone call from Margaret Maron telling me my “Shadows at the Fair” was a finalist for a “best first mystery” Agatha Award. Both days I was flying!
Me: What was your low point as a writer—a time when questioned your path, a time when you felt really crappy about your writing? What happened? How did you get over it?
Lea: In 2005 my editor at Scribner retired and my Shadows series was discontinued. I cried. And then, six months later, the Simon & Schuster editor of my historical novels for ages 8-14 was laid off, and her replacement wanted different types of books. I went from having two books published a year with a major publisher to … nothing. I kept writing, but from 2007 until 2011 none of my books were published. I was, to put it mildly, depressed and frustrated. Then a small publisher picked up the Shadows series, I self-published a book of essays about living and writing on the coast of Maine, and a publisher in New York asked me to write a mystery series for them. This year I have three new books out – and next year my third mystery series, with a third publisher, will begin. But I don’t take contracts for granted anymore!
Me: If you had to pick a mental disorder to have for only one day (purely for writer research purposes), which one would you choose? Why?
Lea: I’d choose schizophrenia, because I was once married to someone who had schizophrenia, and I want to write about it one day, but so far haven’t attempted it.
Me: How many books have you written? How long does it typically take you to write a book? What’s the most painful part of the writing process for you?
Lea: My 21st book was published in November. (Thread the Halls, the sixth in my Mainely Needlepoint series.) I’ve taken up to one year just to do the research for a book, and I’ve (under pressure!) written a book in six weeks. Given my druthers and no other commitments (does that ever happen?) I could write a contemporary mystery in three months. Often I have to do it faster than that. The hardest part of writing for me is plotting, and writing that first draft. I love doing research, and editing is fun. It’s like chipping away the unnecessary and focusing on characters and story.
Me: What’s your life motto? Why does that motto speak to you?
Lea: “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” That was written by William Jennings Bryan. Although in some ways it is simplistic (we don’t choose where we were born, or to whom, or with what abilities or disabilities) it is my mantra. I have a copy on my desk, and years ago I also framed copies for my daughters.
Me: Tell me about your traditional/cozy mystery Thread the Halls: A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery.
This Christmas season there’s no time for Angie Curtis and her beau, Patrick West, to linger under the Maine mistletoe. Patrick’s mother, Hollywood star Skye West, has announced she’s coming to Haven Harbor for the holidays, bringing with her the director, writers, and her co-star in her current film. She expects to arrive to a perfectly staged Currier & Ives Christmas, and Patrick, Angie, and the Mainely Needlepointers do their best to oblige. But no one scripts the body found under the snow in back of Skye’s beautifully decorated Victorian mansion … or the poisoned Christmas cookies..
Me: Share with us your favorite excerpt from Thread the Halls.
I brushed a few snowflakes off their truck window and peeked inside. Jake was sleeping snugly in his car seat with wreaths and garland stacked behind him. In a few years he, too, would be constructing the wreaths that helped his family make it through the dark winter.
Making a living from land and sea wasn’t a bad way to live. But it wasn’t easy, either.
Patrick had grown up attending private schools and Hollywood parties and smiling with his mother in magazine spreads and publicity pictures. I suspected by the time he was twelve he’d owned a tux to wear to movie premiers.
I glanced through the truck window at little Jake.
His life would be very different from Patrick’s.
Money had made Patrick’s life easier. Had it been a better life than Jakes’s would be?
I wasn’t sure, as Alice finished attached bows to wreaths and Arvin thanked Patrick for choosing his stand to buy wreaths.
No simple answers.
You can purchase Thread the Halls here: