As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.
Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Martine Fournier Watson , author of THE DREAM PEDDLER, a work of literary historical fiction releasing from Penguin Books on April 9th, 2019.
About the Book:
Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.
Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.
Where did you get the idea?
I was a huge fan of L. M. Montgomery growing up, and my favorite heroine was Emily of New Moon. Emily wants to be a writer, and in the final book of the trilogy she writes her first novel but is unable to sell it, so she burns it. All the reader ever knows about this book is that it was a modern-day fairytale called A Seller of Dreams. Since I could never know any more than this, my curiosity about the burned book eventually led me to write my own version.
What’s the story behind the title?
I really owe the title to L. M. Montgomery as well, but hers felt a little too formal to me, so I tweaked it.
How long did you take to write this book?
The first draft took about six months, and then I spent maybe another eight months or so getting feedback from beta readers and revising. Finding an agent took a long time! Over eighteen months and a grand total of one hundred and nine queries. Once on submission, it didn’t take dreadfully long to sell—maybe about five months.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
My research was in two parts. I wanted to know as much as I could about the dreaming process and what kinds of things are possible in terms of influencing our dreams and remembering them. This was fascinating, because I discovered all the things I’d written that felt far-fetched to me are actually quite plausible!
The other branch of the research was understanding farming communities and how they operated during the early part of the twentieth century. Not quite as scintillating, but in order to make the characters and their way of life tangible, I really needed to have all the details, even down to what crops would have been planted or harvested at which time.
What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
Quite a lot! I tend to be a wordy writer, and much of my editing time is spent pruning my prose. The basic plot of the book never changed, but I definitely deleted a few scenes as well. They were originally there to give the reader a little more context and backstory for some of the characters, but in the end they weren’t necessary, and they just weren’t interesting enough.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am a pantser all the way. The process of discovery is what makes writing so joyous for me. I think if I always knew exactly where my plot was going, I would grow bored.
What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
Definitely the drafting, although it wasn’t always that way. I was in my thirties before someone enlightened me about how first drafts are supposed to stink. Once I started drafting more quickly instead of stewing over every word, it became my favorite part of the process. I love the feeling of a great idea for a scene popping into my head and rushing to get it all down.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
It depends on the book, but editing is always hard for me. Once I’ve written the book, I’m afraid to look at it again, to be overwhelmed by the mess, and I really have to talk myself into it. With my current project, I also did myself the great disservice of writing it out of order as scene ideas popped into my head, having only a vague idea of how they’d fit into the storyline. Organizing that jumble of scenes into a coherent narrative, linking them up with new writing, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a writer.
Can you share your writing routine?
I don’t have a routine, and I write anywhere and everywhere. I have to keep paper and pen handy everywhere I go! I love best to write outside, usually sitting on our back porch, but if it’s too cold you’ll usually find me on the living room sofa.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I wish I could be more helpful on this, but writer’s block isn’t something I have experience with. My head is always swimming with ideas. I do get “blocked” in terms of being afraid to sit down and do the editing work, although that’s not really the same thing. And there isn’t any magic cure except to force myself to get started. It’s like a dive into cold water—the anticipation is bad, but once you’re in it’s glorious.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell her that thing about how first drafts are supposed to be terrible.
What’s your favourite writing advice?
Ignore all the advice and trust your instincts.
About the Author:
Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.