Interview: T. B. Markinson, Author of A Woman Lost

MarkinsonWomanLostFolks, please welcome author T. B. Markinson to Dab of Darkness. I started following her blog last year, long before I knew she was an author, because of her pets. Yep. What can I say, I’m attracted to small fuzzy creatures, and Miles and Atticus certainly count as cute. In fact, I knew the names of her wee beasties before I ever knew her name. So, in order to correct that, I eagerly asked T. B. if I could pester her with questions. She graciously agreed.

1) You have traveled quite a bit compared to some. What about traveling has lost it’s shine over the years and what has only gotten better? Do you take paperbooks that can be left behind as gifts?

In the beginning, when we started traveling to different countries I would get so excited and knew exactly how many days until we left. Our second big trip was to Guatemala and I think this trip changed how I prepare for trips. Months before the trip I went onto the US State Department’s website and saw all these warnings about murder, rape, and robberies. Someone even told me that some criminals would chop off your finger to steal a ring. Yikes! I was still looking forward to the trip but at the same time I was terrified. Nothing bad happened during our trip and we had a marvelous time. Since then I’ve tried to block out the nervousness by not focusing so much energy on an upcoming trip. Now I’m much calmer when I plan trips to different parts of the world. I no longer keep a countdown at my desk like I used to. Before leaving for Malaysia this past April I thought about this fact and it saddened me a little. I felt like I was taking it for granted and not appreciating it enough. I should get back into the habit of counting down for trips, just not freaking out about what could happen. I do enjoy that I’m much more relaxed when I travel. Yes I look at the warnings for each country and stay vigilant, but I don’t let my fear take over.

I do take paperbacks on my trips. So far I haven’t traveled with my kindle since I’m afraid I’ll either lose it or break it. As of yet, I haven’t left any books behind, but I’ve always had a hard time getting rid of books. They are my friends and I like to keep them close to me. I have books in just about every room in my home and I love seeing them there. I’ve been like that since I was a child. Even when I went to college I would bring my collection of books (it was much smaller then) along and squeeze them into my small room. One day I hope to have a massive library of my own with a ladder to reach the ones on the very top. If that happens, I would probably move my bed in there as well and the TV, fridge … I may never leave it.

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Author T. B. Markinson

I’ve always been interested in the lives of normal people. When I studied history in college, my specialty was the history of everyday life. I love to see how normal people survive in this world and how they react to it. As for my writing, I like to see my characters in everyday situations. Sometimes I throw them a curveball to see what happens. I wouldn’t say that I’m overly descriptive in my writing. Some authors, like Charles Dickens, Sarah Waters, and many others, can set a scene beautifully.  Reading these works is a real treat and I wish I could write more like them. However, I’m drawn to dialogue and actions. I want to know what the characters are thinking. Get inside their heads some and see what makes them tick. When I snap photos of people on my trip, I’m always wondering what they are thinking. Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to ask them.

3) Part of your 50 year project is to watch the top 100 movies. Do you feel that movies can be as powerful as books in regards to moving the human spirit? Will you share a few movies that affected you? 

I will admit that I generally prefer a book over a movie that is based on a book. That doesn’t mean that I think movies are inferior. In fact, ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved movies. And so many of them have moved me to tears. Back when I was in grad school I was working on a research paper about the Hitler Youth, the Holocaust, and survival accounts. Many of the things I read were horrifying. However, I was able to separate myself from it somewhat and focus on my research. Then I went and saw the movie, Life is Beautiful, a wonderful and moving story about a man trying to protect his son from the horrors of a Nazi death camp. I lost it during this film and ended up crying for some time after I left the theater. A few years later when I had to watch Sophie’s Choice from the top 100 movie list for my project, the same thing happened. Don’t get me wrong, when I read works like Night by Elie Wiesel, I get choked up. But when I watch the movies I can’t keep the emotions locked up inside. Meryl Streep’s performance in Sophie’s Choice is superb and I think one of her better films even though most of her performances are damn good.

4) Your debut book, A Woman Lost, focuses on a woman and her lesbian relationship. What other authors or books would you recommend in the LGBQT subgenre? 

The person who immediately popped into my mind is Sarah Waters. Her novels, Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, are fantastic and if people haven’t read them I suggest they run out to the store right now and buy them. I feel like I should add that I don’t always go looking for books that fall into certain genres. When I think of Sarah Waters, the first thought that pops into my mind is she’s a brilliant writer. I do that with most if not all books. Genre doesn’t creep into my thoughts. For me, what matters is a wonderful story. I don’t care what genre or subgenre it falls into or about the author. Story matters to me.  As long as I’m entertained, I’m a happy reader. So when people ask me to suggest books in different genres I struggle a bit. Some are easier, like mystery. Others are more difficult. It’s odd I don’t ever associate Frankenstein with science fiction, even though many claim it’s one of the first examples. For me, I think it’s a great story. The past couple of years, since I have joined reading challenges I have looked more into genres so I can meet the qualifications for the challenges. Again, though, the initial thoughts I have about these books when I write the reviews are the story and not how they are shelved in a bookstore.

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The grumpy cat, Atticus.

If I answered this question last week I would have said my writing cave was a complete disaster. On Monday, I reached for a book on my desk and everything crashed down around me so I decided to take a couple of hours to clean it up. As I write this answer, I’m on day three after I tidied up. I won’t say it’s a complete disaster again, but it’s getting there. I have two tea cups (empty), one water glass, notebooks, books, pens, and papers around me. They are still somewhat organized. Give me another day or two and it will be a mess again.

I prefer writing at my desk in my office. My office, which is a spare bedroom in my London flat, overlooks a lovely garden. However, I have my desk facing the wall otherwise I would stare at the garden all day and not get anything done. I have been known to go to a pub to read and edit drafts. I find I need to be away from my computer when I edit. Sometimes I listen to music, but most of the time I work in silence, unless you count Miles’s barking.

6) You’ve traveled and lived in multiple places. Is there a single library or bookstore that truly stands out in memory and do you mind sharing what made it so memorable?

I have many fond memories of bookstores and libraries. Since you are asking about one that stands out I would have to say the Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado. When I first walked in I was stunned that it had different levels. At the time I was 14 and it was the biggest bookstore I had ever been too. I lived in Colorado for many years, and I spent many wonderful afternoons getting lost in this store. If my memory serves me correctly, they even had stacks of books on the floor in some places. I loved it. My favorite section was the bargain basement. I can’t remember a time when I left the store empty-handed.

Miles - taking a nap while T.B. writes.

Miles – taking a nap while T.B. writes.

7) Since I am an animal person, I have to bring Atticus and Miles into this. How do they take your novelist career? Supportive, moping, hadn’t noticed? 

Miles, my dog, loves that I work from home now. The only problem is he wants to play all the time. He just doesn’t understand why we can’t go for long walks all day, play fetch in the park, or take naps on the couch. He’s pretty good though and sleeps on his bed in the office. His bed used to be my papasan that I loved reading in. Miles has decided it works better as a dog bed and now that it stinks like him, he can have it. Atticus, the grumpy cat, sleeps on a blanket on my desk for most of the day. Occasionally he walks over the keyboard to add his own thoughts and he doesn’t understand why I get upset when he deletes a day’s work. For the most part, Atticus only cares about his naps and eating. He’s glad I’m around more to fill his food dish several times a day instead of just in the morning and night. Pretty much I’m a servant and playmate, not a writer to them.

About T. B. Markinson:

T. B. Markinson is a 39-year old American writer, living in England, who pledged she would publish before she was 35. Better late than never. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling around the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in England, or taking the dog for a walk. Not necessarily in that order. A Woman Lost is her debut novel.

MarkinsonWomanLostAbout A Woman Lost:

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Petrie has it all. She’s rich, beautiful, intelligent, and successful. None of this matters to her mom. Les-Bi-An. That’s all her mom sees. Despite’s Lizzie’s insistence that her mom’s antagonism does not bother her, Lizzie distances herself from her mom and the entire family. When her brother, Peter, calls her out of the blue to announce he’s getting married, Lizzie’s entire life changes drastically. Peter’s fiancée wants to bring the lesbian outcast back into the family. Will this desire cause Lizzie to lose everything dear to her? Sarah, Lizzie’s girlfriend, is ecstatic about this change in Lizzie’s personal life. Sarah, the hopeless romantic, wants it all, including settling down with the fiercely independent Lizzie. Can Lizzie be tamed? And can she survive her family and all of their secrets?

Places to Find T. B. Markinson

Author Blog: Making My Mark
Travel, pets, books, movies: 50 Year Project
Goodreads
Twitter

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Why I Read It: The Estella Society was hosting a read along.

Where I Got It: The Library

Who I Recommend This To: Ghost-story lovers who like a slow build up with lots of nuance.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Books on Tape (2009)

Length: 13 CDs

I enjoyed this book from the beginning because of Simon Vance’s voice, a narrator I have been enthralled by on several books. I became captivated by the story because of Sarah Waters‘ nuanced take on a gothic-style ghost story. In fact, if I did not know from the beginning this was a ghost story, this tale would have been a historical fiction in my mental categorization for nearly all of the book.

The story follows Mrs. Ayres and her two grown children Caroline and Roderick through the eyes of our story narrator Dr. Faraday. Each of the main characters has some loss and some deep-seated longing and those two things drives the flaws in them. Set in post-WWII Britain, Hundreds Hall has gotten quite dilapidated. The Aryes can’t admit to themselves or their peers what financial conundrums keeping the place is putting them in. So they struggle on with a part-time cleaning lady and a slip of a girl servant, with Roderick making house repairs and Caroline helping out with the cooking. They both milk the cows.

Dr. Faraday comes from working-man stock and through perseverance on his part and great sacrifice by his parents completed medical school to become a country doctor. In many ways, he straddles the two main classes of society – the working, uneducated poor and the landed nobility. The tale starts off with him as a small child sneaking peaks at a magnificent party at Hundreds Hall while his mother performs her function as a servant. The bulk of the story takes place later in life (Dr. Faraday is in his 40s) and due to his roots and his education he finds that he is welcome few places as anything more than a doctor.

This book kept me riveted during my commute and on days when I didn’t commute, I often thought of reasons to run a few errands just so I would have time and opportunity for this book. I truly enjoyed the slow buildup of the mystery; were all the unfortunate and abnormal incidents at Hundreds Hall due to some paranormal force or aberrant human behavior? This book kept me guessing to nearly the end. I also liked how there was some ambivalency to the ending, leaving it up to the reader to decide one way or the other. In short, this book made me think, and we all know I like a good think.

Simon Vance, as always, was a welcome voice on my ears. His word pronunciation is clear and his pacing excellent. I love how he imbues the written word with an undercurrent of emotion. Once again, The Little Stranger was a quality performance.

What I Liked: Easily read as a historical fiction or ghost story; the portrayal of the class differences was deeply interesting to me; none of these characters are superb heroes or supermodels – they are all flawed in some way; the reader had to pay attention and think throughout the book to make a decision about the ending.

What I Disliked: At a certain point, Roderick has to go off for medical treatment and we as the readers see very little of him afterwards – I think I would have liked a bit more of his presence in the book.

Read Along Part I

Read Along Part II

Not only was this book part of a read along, I also read it as part of Stainless Steel Droppings’ R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event (and I would dual categorize this book as Gothic and Supernatural). It’s not too late for you to play along, so check out Stainless Steel Droppings for details.

The Little Stranger Read Along Part II

Welcome back all to the second, and concluding, part of the read along of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Once again, this most awesome pick was the choice of the folks of The Estella Society, so make sure to wander over there and sample their take on this book.

The Little Stranger Read Along Part I

There Be Spoilers! You have been warned.

OK. So, everyone has some tragedy haunting them in this book. Dr. Faraday never met the woman of this dreams and had a family; Caroline is so plain and ordinary, she couldn’t really hope to attract a love match and once she had found a place in life as a war nurse and escapes her family, she got called back to nurse her injured brother; Mrs. Ayres lost her first child, daughter Susan, to diphtheria and found that she never loved anyone quite the same again; Roderick had his war accident that left him scarred and a little crippled.

So, with that as our starting point, this old once-majestic house seems to be haunted. At first, we can’t tell whether or not there is an actual paranormal presence or merely a variety of abnormal human behavior. In fact, this book had me flip-flopping back and forth until the end. I loved that about the story. There’s the eerie little fires that eventually lead up to a true midnight nuisance that almost kills Rod and is the final straw that sends him and what little is left of his psyche off the mental hospital. Next, the servants and Caroline are plagued by calls at the most inconvenient times followed by the summoning bells and whistles (those noisemakers used to summon servants to any part of the house to carry light-weight objects from one side of the room to another). This silly game finally culminates in Mrs. Ayres in the old nursery, trapped behind a locked door, desperately wanting out, breaking the glass on the window, and ending up severely lacerated. Throughout it all, Dr. Faraday maintains that there is nothing with ectoplasm running about the house. He maintains this when even greater tragedy occurs – Mrs. Ayres taking her own life.

As the story moves forward, Dr. Faraday and Caroline become engaged. Yet, it is such a hesitant engagement on Caroline’s part – she shows no interest in the arrangements, the clothes, the date, the decorations, the food, etc. Granted, she has grief and hardship on her mind. The family was in financial straights before Rod went off to the institution and the house was gloomy and sad before the tragedy with Mrs. Ayres. So it wasn’t until somewhere in the last 2 CDs that I started to really worry for Caroline – Why wouldn’t she marry? If she doesn’t marry, what will happen to her and Hundreds Hall? Would Dr. Faraday’s heart be irrevocably broken and would he make a scandal and fuss over it?

But then Caroline becomes the hero of the story, flying in the face of then societal expectations. She makes the momentous decision to sell Hundreds Hall and leave the country, possibly planning to go to the Americas. Awesome! Oh, but she won’t be marrying Dr. Faraday, and in fact never loved him, just kind of had it all muddled up inside her head. All this only like 2 weeks before the wedding. I think my heart broke a little bit for Faraday over that scene. Still, Caroline had it right in that marrying out of gratitude and staying at Hundreds Hall could have ended up being the greater tragedy.

So let’s talk about that ending. Caroline dies on what was to be her wedding night in an empty house, falling from an upstairs landing as Betsy the servant watches in surprise and dismay. Faraday spent that night in his car, in that lonely still glade where he and Caroline parked and had the most regrettable first tryst. He yearned so greatly for the life he was to have with Caroline – living at Hundreds Hall chief among them. Of course, there was the legally required inquest in which her death was ruled a suicide while she was not herself. After that, the rumors fly about the Hall being haunted. This leads to difficulties with it selling and it becomes even further run down. Faraday is the only one who visits the Hall on a regular basis, tending to it as he can.

The ending lets the reader decide if there was a phantasm, or ghost, or spiritual energy and I admire the craftsmanship that went into this novel. For me, I believe the unexplained and unfortunate events were the work of Faraday’s deep longing to be a part of Hundreds Hall. I also like how that kind of ending gives symmetry to the story: Faraday is a firm believer in the tangible and science and not in the paranormal.

So, what say you?

Do you believe that our deepest yearnings, hopes, dreams, wishes, and prayers can affect the world around us? Perhaps even manifesting unknowingly in a negative manner to get what we desire?

The Little Stranger Read Along Part I

Hello everyone. Welcome to the read along of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. This read along is the brainchild of those lovely, quick-tongued, and highly entertaining folks over at The Estella Society, so make sure to stop by and enjoy their site. As stated on their site, this is kind of a loosey-goosey read along, aiming for the midpoint today (Sept. 10th) and to be completed Sept. 17th. As of posting this, I haven’t seen a midpoint post at The Estella Society. If I see one go up, I’ll put in a direct link to it as we wouldn’t want to miss the fun. (P.S. the midpoint post went up Sept. 11th).

This is my first time reading anything by Sarah Waters. Her clear writing style and knack for including small mysterious or quaint detail drew me in straight off. The Little Stranger is set in rural Warwickshire, England, post  World War II. We first meet Dr. Faraday as a young boy sneaking peaks at a fancy party at Hundreds Hall where his mother works as a maid. The story then moves forward ~30 years or so and Hundreds Hall has faded greatly in grandeur. The Ayreses (Caroline, Rodney, and their mother) try to keep the place up with their own hard work.

I decided to check the audioversion, read by Simon Vance, out from the library. There are 13 discs and I am on Disc 7. Without spoiling any of the story, I just wanted to chitchat about a few points that have made this story interesting so far.

1) Rodney and Caroline are adult children and, based on their physical efforts to keep up Hundreds Hall, perfectly employable. So I had to wonder why at least one of them didn’t go get a job? Can that truly be any less ‘noble’ than milking the cows or doing the cooking? And the answer simply, is Yes. Based on the time and culture, it would have been next to unthinkable for landed nobility to go out and get an office job, rubbing elbows with the unwashed masses. Truly, the family would have been ostracized from high society. Yet, how it is now, the family rarely has peers over (due to the dilapidated state of their Hundreds Hall) and rarely are invited out by their peers (again, what would they wear?).

2) I love how the author made Caroline a sensible woman and very plain in appearance instead of making Caroline a financially poor belle of the story. I found myself relating to her from the first few encounter with her. I love how she cleans, gathers berries, milks cows, and cooks. She is also practical in footwear and her lack of stockings for day-to-day antics.

3) Based on this book being part of Stainless Steel Droppings’ R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, I am guessing there is a supernatural element to this story. Yet, as the reader, being ~halfway through, I am still not positive. I am thoroughly enjoying how the author has woven the story so that all unfortunate events to this point can be described by abnormal human behavior.

4) Class difference keeps raising it’s ugly head. The story is told through the eyes of Dr. Faraday, a man whose parents poured everything they had into his education and who himself has worked hard to obtain and maintain his local practice. While his profession is often referred to as noble, there are still the small societal slights, on both sides, concerning him spending so much time with the Ayreses. I find this interesting as it is not something I personally have bumped into, having spent most of my life in the desert Southwest USA.

For those of you reading along, or having read Sarah Waters’ works before, what has drawn you in? What has kept you hooked?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII

I’ve decided to join the fracas over at Stainless Steel Droppings, where some of the best fracases have been. This particular one will involve the spooky, the mysterious, and the frightening for the next two months (through Halloween). I’ll let Stainless Steel Droppings fill you in on the details (and remember to stop by over there if you want to play too):

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

My goal will be to read 2 scary RIP selections over the next two months and to also join in the two read-alongs that will be happening.

The Estella Society will be hosting the read-along of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger from September 1-17.

Stainless Steel Droppings will be hosting the read-along of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book starting October 1st.

If you want to join in any or all of this, it is not too late to check out Stainless Steel Droppings and The Estella Society. Enjoy!