Below is an excerpt of a Q & A I had recently.
Question: You made your writing debut in 1985 with ANGELS ALL OVER TOWN. THE SILVER BOAT is your twenty-ninth novel. How — if at all — has your writing process changed over time? Have the Internet and other technological advances affected your writing experience?
Luanne Rice: In many ways my process has changed very little. My novels always begin with a character. I wait for her to tell me who she is; often she inhabits my dreams. Once I know her name, I’m ready to start writing. Although I now work on a MacBookPro 15, I still like to write the earliest scenes on a yellow legal pad with a fountain pen. The Internet makes research go faster, but something is lost. It’s too easy to search for information, take what I need, and move on. I prefer to do research from books, getting lost in the background and immersed in the realm of whatever I’m trying to learn.
Q: The importance of family is a recurring theme in your novels. How did your own upbringing influence your decision to become a writer?
LR: My family was loving but complicated. Our house was filled with secrets and bass notes. As a child I was a detective, listening at walls and going through drawers, looking for answers to what was wrong. My writing has been my lifelong solution to figuring things out, finding the love I know was there, learning everything I can about the way families work, ways of loving and trying to be happy.
Q: “Was that the inspiration for Dulse’s latest adventure? Dar wasn’t sure. She only knew that her ideas came from deep down, experiences and emotions of her own” (p. 282). Part of what makes your novels so heartfelt is that each of them comes from a deeply personal place. What was your inspiration for THE SILVER BOAT?
LR: The answer has three parts:
a) Like the McCarthy sisters, my sisters and I had to face what to do with our beloved family beach cottage after our mother died. It was an immense challenge. The house contained so many ghosts and memories. My grandparents had built it; no other family had ever occupied it. It sits on a granite hill, and the top step still has three pennies placed there by my grandfather in 1938, the year it was built. We put it on the market for ten seconds — selling felt unthinkable. My sisters were very generous and let me buy them out. I still want it to be the family house.
b) My father had a way of disappearing. Not forever, like Michael McCarthy, but frequently, and without explanation. I’ve been writing my way into that situation my whole life.
c) The silver boat actually exists.