Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Luanne Rice, the bestselling author of 34 novels and more, most of which center on love, family, nature, and the sea. I asked her to tell us a bit about herself and her writing, and this was her response:
I have always written. My first publication was a poem in the Hartford Courant when I was eleven. Magically it appeared in the paper one day—I thought that one simply wrote and her work appeared in print, until I found out my mother had submitted it. My first novel was ANGELS ALL OVER TOWN, and my most recent is LAST DAY. In between there were lots more novels, including three YA’s, short stories, and essays. I feel so lucky to have been able to do what I love—write—my entire life.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Tower Books –though they should totally check here first!)
Find me wherever you love to buy books!
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I would be so thrilled to have you follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@LuanneRice), and Facebook. I also post blogs and news on my website, www.luannerice.com.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from The Last Day?
I write about families, often sisters, and the secrets within our houses. Even the most “normal” families—the people next door—have extraordinary lives, sometimes darkness hidden behind happy-appearing façades. That’s the case in LAST DAY, my most recent book. It is inspired by a real-life murder that affected my family. My writing is set in New England, most often on the Connecticut Shoreline.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
Because Last Day is so close to my heart, the story flowed easily. But I needed to research police investigations, forensic science, sailing in the open ocean, and American Impressionism. I spoke to a special agent in the FBI, homicide detectives, a Connecticut state trooper, and an expert in forensic biology. I studied history of art in college, and I live in Old Lyme, Connecticut—the birthplace of American Impressionism—and was lucky enough to be able to visit the Florence Griswold Museum and speak to a gallery owner—to know more about that aspect of the book.
What was the inspiration for Last Day? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
Years ago I wrote a magazine article about the murder of a woman in our small town. My then-husband and stepdaughter were important witnesses in the trial of her killer. The case has always stayed with me. Although the details in Last Day are changed significantly, the core of the story has always been how a violent crime affects everyone in the family—even friends and neighbors—changes them for life.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I am grateful for the relationships I have developed throughout my career. I’ve had the same literary agent from the very beginning, editors I love and with whom I’ve become great friends. I am in awe of booksellers—how books are their passion, and all they do for writers and readers. Social media has made it possible to connect more personally with readers; I am touched by their posts and messages, to realize that they’ve been affected by my books.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Write every day, don’t let yourself worry about what your mother-husband-best friend-first grade teacher- will think about your work. Just write it. Keep the writing between yourself and the page. Believe in yourself and in the story you are telling.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
New England is my heart and soul. I was born and raised in Connecticut—I still own the family beach cottage built by my grandparents, where I spent every childhood summer. When I’ve lived far away—New York, Paris, LA, and other places—I’ve sat down at my desk, closed my eyes, and felt New England flooding back to me. When I was young I went to school in Woods Hole MA, and worked as a maid in Newport RI; I used to go to Belfast and Swan’s Island ME to revise my books—each place inspires me, and I’ve written about them in various novels.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
I love to sit by a window when writing. There are two baskets on my desk—an old tiger maple table—and they are usually filled with cats. I have four—Emelina, Orion, Ivy, and Patrick. My desk overlooks a salt marsh, with incredible bird life—constant activity. An hour ago bobcat walked across my porch, and Emelina went wild with excitement. I also love to write in hotel lobbies—I’ll be deep into the story, only slightly aware of the people around me, but suddenly I’ll blink and look up and see an amazing person, or interaction. It’s all inspiring.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
Definitely! (See above…)
Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?
Lots and lots of black coffee!
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
That my characters are so much wiser than I am. I’ve learned to let them tell their stories and not get in their way. A therapist used to say that my books were predictive—that I would write them, and later something I’d written about would come true in my life. I think that’s because it’s all so deeply unconscious; writers reach down into parts of themselves they don’t even know exist until they come out on the page.
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions, Luanne!