Sunday, July 6, 2014

Jo-Ann Mapson talks about Owen's Daughter, Santa Fe, Italian greyhounds, and so much more

 Want to know whom I credit for my Old Gringo cowboy boot addiction? My friend, writer Jo-Ann Mapson. Back when email first started, I tracked her down, wrote to her, and virtually insisted that she befriend me--and she has, through the years offering love, support, humor and tips on boots! Jo-Ann is the author of eleven novels and a book of short stories.  Her work is widely anthologized and her literary papers are being collected by Boston University’s Twentieth Century Author’s Collection.  Hank & Chloe was her debut novel.  Blue Rodeo was made into a CBS TV movie starring Kris Kristofferson.  The Wilder Sisters and Bad Girl Creek were Los Angeles Times bestsellers.  Solomon’s Oak won the American Library Association’s RUSA award for women’s fiction.  Many of her books have been Booksense titles and Indiebound choices. Her wonderful new novel, Finding Casey, featuring some of the characters from Solomon’s Oak, will be published October 2012.

Thank you so much, Jo-Ann--for this interview and for everything.

 The questions I always ask are what sparked this particular book and did anything surprise you in the writing?

I’ve wanted to write the sequel to Blue Rodeo for twenty years.  This book is kind of a kind of sequel, but also a stand-alone story, and it fits into Solomon’s Oak and Finding Casey as well. I placed my BR character Margaret Yearwood as Glory & Joe Vigil’s next door neighbor in Finding Casey.  Maggie often babysits their children--the Vigils’ five-month-old daughter Sparrow, and Aspen, their “adopted” granddaughter.  Aspen is a handful.  She’s also kind of psychic.   

Your characters are always so blazingly alive. What kind of character work do you do?

I love to people watch, eavesdrop on conversations, and in that foggy-not-quite-clear thinking state, I imagine my characters driving, eating at one of the many interesting restaurants here, splurging on a pair of Old Gringo cowboy boots downtown, or waiting for various appointments, being annoyed by Santa Fe wind, and the loneliness people feel at whatever age.  I think a lot of people are quite lonely in our current world.  Loneliness can lead to some foolish choices.  I also love to write about romance, but realistically, and for me that means timeworn parts and issues are involved.  In Owen’s Daughter, Maggie finds out she’s in the early stages of a serious disease, just days before her grown son Peter arrives with his own suitcase of troubles.  Skye, Owen’s daughter, is freshly out of rehab at the ripe old age of 22, and going through a divorce.  Her addiction problems stem from bad parenting, a bad marriage, and having a child at age eighteen.  Sounds awful, but I love to weave stories around real life problems.  I think that makes the payoff much more rewarding.

What do you hope readers come away with?

A fervent desire to purchase all my novels, make them into Hollywood movies, and tell everyone else about this writer they must read.  Nothing makes my day when I hear from a reader who enjoyed my book, and to hear that reading got them through a rough day, or year.

What's your writing life like these days?

I live 20 minutes out of Santa Fe proper, on a dirt road with lots of solitude. I write every day, correspond with my MFA low residency students, I walk the dogs and ponder aging, and dislike the wind.  Facebook has given me a community even when I’m alone in my office, which I truly enjoy.  Occasionally, a Facebook friend will say, “Wait, are you the Jo-Ann Mapson who writes books?  I thought you were just a greyhound person.”  It makes me laugh.  Can’t I be both? Aging is weird.  My mom is almost 92, still lives in So. California, drives her BMW, plays bridge, and tells me what to do.  Her best friend died this year, and I think those losses when we’re older, are just devastating.  I decided that I couldn’t bear Opal going away for good, so I made her a character in this book, and in the one I’m currently working on.

What's obsessing you now and why?

The book I’m working on now is based on a true story, and was the very first novel I ever tried to write.  I failed miserably at it, thank goodness, because I’ve had so much time to let it percolate.   It requires massive research, some international travel, and more solitude than anything else I’ve ever written. 

What are you doing for fun? 

I rescued an Italian greyhound from Hobbs, NM, named her Chick-lit.  She is a handful.  First female IG I’ve ever had.  Very high prey drive.  That’s four dogs now, and it’s like living with a posse of clowns.  Henry just sauntered in wearing a pair of my underwear.  God knows how he got them on.  He looks both humiliated and quite proud.  Dogs are just amazing to me, as are horses, and birds.  I love to put animals in my books.  Dogs, cats, horses, whatever, are neutral love objects.  People often communicate through them.  When I finish a book, I like to make jam.  Tomorrow I’ll be peeling Meyer lemons and oranges for marmalade.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Why hasn’t Oprah called?

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