Therese Walsh published her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, in October 2009. Her novel was named a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s 2010 RITA Award under the category of Best First Book.
Walsh’s novel does include romantic elements. But, what hooked me is Walsh’s focus on strong human bonds, which may be broken but are never severed.
For reasons I won’t mention here (you’ll have to read the story to find out), twin sisters – Moira and Maeve Leahy – are torn apart. The loss of that relationship haunts Maeve and paralyzes her so that healing can only take place through a mysterious object. An antique keris lands in Maeve’s hands and pulls her on a journey back to her sister and to herself.
The story takes place in Castine, Maine and in Italy. I love how Walsh brings the setting to life through the use of subtle yet powerful language. One of my favorite lines (of many) in the book comes after Maeve returns to Castine and peers out into the ocean. Walsh’s brief detail about that moment reveals the powerful connection of memory to place:
I sat on a boulder the color of elephant skin and looked out at the great blue-gray and beyond.
Along with setting, Walsh weaves details about the keris throughout the narrative seamlessly: the keris prepares the path for Maeve but never eclipses her character.
Impressed by Walsh’s writing techniques, I asked for an interview and was thrilled when she agreed. I’m honored to post her responses here.
As well, I’m hosting a book giveaway. Please leave a comment below (even just your name). On Tuesday, I will choose a winner to receive a free copy of The Last Will of Moira Leahy.
CC: The settings of Castine, Maine and Italy both come to life in your novel with such strong imagery and characterization. Was it the story of Moira and Maeve that drew you to those two places? Or, did the setting come first and give way to the story?
TW: Thank you. The characters did come first in this case. When I sat down to write Last Will, I didn’t intend to visit Castine or Rome—though I decided early on that Maeve was originally from a coastal town in Maine. Once I realized Maeve’s life as a child would have to be explored, I learned more about Castine; and when I realized an expansion of boundaries would help to open that character up on several levels, I decided on Rome.
CC: Along with setting, other details in your novel must have required extensive research, like the keris, foreign languages, and the dynamics between twins. How much time did you devote to research, and was there ever a point during the writing process when the research overwhelmed you?
TW: I’m a researcher at heart. My post-college career began when I was hired by Prevention Magazine to become a feature’s researcher. So I honestly love research. In fact, I often have to pull back from the research process so as not to let it de-rail me from writing.
Sometimes I’ll spend days on research, and other times I’ll let myself become diverted for mere fifteen minutes to an hour when exploring a new possibility. One thing I’ve learned though is that, for me, research can lead to new discoveries that inform story in intriguing and unexpected ways. Case in point: The keris wasn’t something I originally intended to include in this story. It was only through research that I learned of the rich mythology of that artifact and decided to use it as an unconventional device in Maeve’s rediscovery of herself.
CC: Under Author Bio on your website, you list a link to “The Story of the Story” where you explain your own journey of self-discovery as you followed the signs – one by one, wrote this novel, and became a published author. Has that experience influenced your writing style? Do you outline your stories before hand? Or, do you write more organically and let the story unfold as it may?
TW: I wish I could tell you that I’ve grown much wiser following my protracted experience writing Last Will (a journey that started in 2002 and ended with a sale in 2008), but not so much. I’m still a seat-of-the-pants writer. That said, I do have some necessary points outlined in my work-in-progress, and I usually know what needs to happen several scenes ahead, so maybe I’m evolving. Still, I’m often frustrated by my own near-sightedness when it comes to my wip’s twists and turns. “Trust the muse” is definitely my mantra.
CC: What are you reading these days?
TW: I just finished a wonderful book by Randy Susan Meyers entitled The Murderer’s Daughters. I’ve also just purchased a few new books, including one I can’t wait to dive into— Of Bees and Mist: A Novel by Erick Setiawan.
CC: Do you have any final thoughts or advice for writers on the rise?
TW: I’ve thought about this a lot, and I feel the three keys to taking it to the next level are these:
- continuing to hone your craft through books, classes and the like
- a willingness to truly hear critique, and make bold changes to a manuscript if that critique passes the “gut test”
The common thread here is evolution. Evolve the manuscript, evolve the self. If you do those things, you are on the road to publication.
Thanks again, Christi!
She is also the cofounder of Writer Unboxed (named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for three years in a row). Writer Unboxed hosts several authors who publish great articles on the craft of writing fiction and the business of publishing. In fact, Therese Walsh’s recent post is one you don’t want to miss: “Be Extraordinary” and reach the “realm of publishability.”
To purchase The Last Will of Moira Leahy, click here.