What is your inspiration when writing…where do you get your ideas?
I think of my stories as tapestries. Woven into the plot and dialogue are snippets of my life, overheard conversations and moments witnessed from afar. Whenever I meet new people, I always interview them on the sly, mining their life stories for nuggets of ideas that can be hammered into my own stories. I keep these ideas in notebooks that travel with me always.
I believed in my first novel, The Cyber Miracles, and was completely frustrated when, after following all the recommendations of those book publishing guides, I couldn't get a single person in the publishing industry to read the story. Then I met someone who self-published on Lulu. It was different from those vanity presses—no big costs to the author. I had no idea this option existed. I compared Lulu with CreateSpace and selected the latter as my publisher. By now I have self-published three novels and a new one, The Terminal Diner, is coming out in June.
Tell us about your new ebook, 3/17.
Why did you write it?
I'm a traditional Irish musician and have played in restaurants and bars on St. Patrick's Day for the past two decades. It's a hellish gig, trust me. You deal with amateur drinkers, toddlers lunging at the speaker towers, tone deaf "singers" begging to sing "Danny Boy" and the evolving Hallmark card-style wardrobe for the day: pint of Guinness hats, flashing shamrock sunglasses and green mardi gras beads. You could say that the book doubles as post traumatic March 17th therapy for me.
Where is your favorite place to write?
When I write a first draft, it's in longhand while sitting in a comfy chair or lakeside in the Finger Lakes. The second draft is always typed at home in my den.
You have a new book coming out. Can you give us a sneak peak?
The Terminal Diner is set in a restaurant near an airport and the story opens on the day before Sept. 11. It tells how the terrorist attacks affected the lives of the diner’s owner, Walt Brady, and his two daughters indirectly. It’s a contemporary tale filled with suspense. Here’s a sample from the first chapter:
“Men like pie.”
Maria Brady gave her oldest daughter that advice when she was 16 years old and Elaina still recalls the moment. It was a misty September morning and frost-nipped vermillion maple leaves tumbled around them as they waited for the marigold flash of the school bus in the distance. Elaina had developed a crush on a student who transferred to her high school. She wanted to get his attention somehow and was desperate for advice. Of course she didn’t tell her mother any details about him—instead she mustered up the courage to casually ask her mother’s opinion of what the opposite sex liked, what attracted them. Maria suspected a young man had caught her daughter’s eye. She smiled as the bus pulled up. “Men like pie,” she said and then waved goodbye. It was the last time they saw each other.
It didn't take Elaina long to discover the truth—and irony—of her mother’s words. Later that day she was suddenly promoted to pie maker at The Terminal Diner, her family’s restaurant. Their previous baker was, of course, her mother. Maria abandoned Elaina, her younger sister Dee Dee and their father Walt abruptly when a trucker from Missoula gave her a lingering, hungry look after she slid a slice of her perfect lemon meringue pie in front of him.
If Elaina had spent her teenage years like a normal girl, she’d probably understand more about men, such as how one lusty glance can make you dump everything you hold dear and hitch a ride with a stranger on the first interstate going west. Normal never arrived, and its lack of an appearance meant Elaina never could figure out men or her mother’s decision. All she knew for certain was the pie thing. Apple, blueberry, lemon meringue, pecan—my God, a man couldn't end a meal without a slice. Every day there had to be pie.
Tell us something about yourself, your writing or one of your books that no one else knows.
The Terminal Diner started out as a short story called Spice of Life that I set aside for several years. When I reread it several years after Sept. 11, I got the idea of connecting the two plots into a novel.
Author Web Site: Mary Pat Hyland