The scent of dragon was in truth the scent of human connection. . . . it was wanting just the same. . . .
‘Well, there is that, isn’t there?’ I said [to Hobbs], giving him what he needed and what was true at the same time. ‘You are saving me–helping me, at any rate–and when I need you the most. Don’t you think that’s an argument in favor of things happening for a reason?’ ~ Olivia Moon in The Moon Sisters
I admit, the quote above doesn’t do justice for the magical kind of read within the pages of Therese Walsh’s new novel, The Moon Sisters. What the quote does, for me anyway, is highlight the way in which one of the protagonists, Olivia Moon sees the world.
Olivia has synesthesia, which means that sights and sounds can trigger her other senses, too. Hope tastes like “a mix of berries” to Olivia, like “the drizzle of honey and another drizzle of lemon” and her mother smells like “the scent of clothes right off the line on a summer day, the sunshine itself.” She also has complete confidence in fate. Her outlook on the world, both physically and spiritually, sends her packing after the death of her mother and propels her on a journey of discovery as she deals with her grief.
Olivia’s sister, Jazz, sets out on the same path, traveling with her sister all the way to a place called Cranberry Glades, but more by way of rescue. Jazz is the logical one of the sisters, she believes, and is determined to bring her wandering sister home and make her face the reality of what happened to their mother. Only after they both take chances along the way, either willingly or by force of hand, do they find the truth they are looking for, along with compassion for themselves and for each other and understanding for those they love most.
Fate, logic, and chance: three words that help weave this beautiful tale of grief, recovery, and relationships.
I’m honored to host Therese for an interview today and thrilled to be able to share a copy of her novel. I read The Moon Sisters in short order, which is always a sign that I’ve got my hands on a really great book. Drop your name in the comments; Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, April 1st (seriously).
Now, welcome Therese Walsh.
CC: How did fate, chance, and logic play out in the development of The Moon Sisters from the seed of an idea to full-grown novel?
TW: Fate, luck, control, and logic did play a significant role in developing the story, to set up the more philosophical conflicts that Jazz and Olivia Moon would have to contend with while trying to come to terms with their mother’s death and with their own perceptions of what happened.
From the start of the story, Jazz Moon rejects the ideas of luck and fate—those, to her, are ether. She believes in logic, in “if this, than that” scenarios, and she believes in control via logic. But after her mother, Beth, dies, there’s a gap between logic and control that no longer makes sense. Though she may not consciously realize it, much of her journey is about coming to terms with control.
Olivia, on the other hand, was raised to believe that “everything happens for a reason” (fate), though you should also cross your fingers and wish for good luck just to be certain your bases are covered. She’s neither interested in control or logic, but prefers to live by whim.
Is life directed by fate, luck, or even chaos? Is it controllable? Is it always logical? These arguments aren’t at the surface level of The Moon Sisters, and I wouldn’t say they’re the primary themes of the book, but they are critical and rather thrum under the story’s skin like blood.
CC: How was writing The Moon Sisters different from writing your debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy?
TW: They were both personally challenging novels for me to write, but when I wrote (and re-wrote) The Last Will of Moira Leahy (2002-2008), I did it for me. I wasn’t under contract. I was exploring my ability as a writer, and then pushing up against and redefining those boundaries as I grew. It was an exhausting but intensely rewarding experience.
When I wrote The Moon Sisters, I was under contract, as I had a two-book deal with Random House. Instead of writing for myself, as an exploration of ability, I was writing for a publisher, who had an expectation of ability. And, really, I had to live up to that expectation. That made me nervous, and even made me a little fearful. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I only had one book in me?
Ultimately, I did work through those fears, and—who knows?—maybe the fear helped. I’m very proud of the book The Moon Sisters has become; it’s the truest and best thing I’ve ever written.
CC: In a conversation we had on Twitter, you said several readers have seen themselves in either Olivia or Jazz. I certainly carry shades of Olivia in the way she deals with her mother’s “up and downs” and in her belief in serendipity. What about you? Are you more of a follow-your-heart kind of person like Olivia or all business like Jazz? Or, are you a healthy mix of both?
TW: I’m definitely a mix of both. I can see myself in each of the characters, even a character like Hobbs.
Each of my real sisters is more like one of the Moon sisters than the other, though: I have both a whimsical, Olivia-like sister, and a pragmatic, Jazz-like sister.
CC: As co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a flourishing website for writers, and a host for the Writer Unboxed group on Facebook, you are in contact with a huge online writing community. Do you meet with writers locally as well? If so, how does the face-to-face compare to the online world when it comes to camaraderie?
TW: I do have a handful of local writer friends who meet every few months to talk about everything and anything, often over lunch and sometimes after massages.
You might think that meeting online friends in real life for the first time would be uncomfortable in some way, but for the most part I find that those meetings buzz with authentic connection. There’s immediate recognition, almost always (thank you, Facebook!), and easy conversation because commonalities have already been determined online. And truthfully, my first response when I meet someone from my online world is usually to want to give them a hug.
So all in all, I think the real world compares quite well with the online world. I believe you can forge real connections online, and that those connections can be strengthened all the more when you meet face to face.
Therese Walsh’s second novel, The Moon Sisters, was published on March 4th, 2014 by Crown (Random House). Her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2009 and was a TARGET Breakout Book. Therese is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a site that’s visited daily by thousands of writers interested in the craft and business of fiction. She has a master’s degree in psychology. Aside from writing, her favorite things include music, art, crab legs, Whose Line is it Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching, strong Irish tea, and spending time with her husband, two kids and their Jack Russell.
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to get your hands on The Moon Sisters. Read more about the novel here.