Can you give us a little background on “The Kiss”? What inspired you to write it?
I’ve always enjoyed film noir, vintage crime fiction, and the suspense, mystery, and horror radio shows of the 1940s and ’50s. I wrote “The Kiss” during the summer of 1998. I’d just moved from Canada to the San Francisco Bay Area where I married my husband and fellow writer, Norman Partridge. Frank Sinatra had gone on to the Big Casino in the Sky several weeks before I moved to the town of Benicia, across the Carquinez Straits from Martinez, where the martini was invented. This part of northern California is very beautiful and has a rich history. “The Kiss” evolved from all these elements.
I understand you’re a musician as well, and “The Kiss” is woven through with references to music and musicians. Do you find that your music and your writing influence each other?
I’m not a musician by any measure, but I do love playing and listening to music. I spent nearly fifteen years in various bands up in Canada. I’d have to agree that music has influenced my writing, not so much as a subject matter (“The Kiss” is an exception), but when it comes to the sound of the words themselves and their arrangement within the story. I think because it’s an aural art form, it can be difficult to translate the language of music onto the page. But there’s a poetry in music much like the poetry in writing. You can develop an ear for it if you slow down and listen. “The spaces between the notes,” as a band mate of mine used to refer to them, is something I’m much more conscious of now than I used to be. That is, it’s not simply the words themselves that have significance, but the meaning and emotion that lie between those words. It’s all important.
What are you working on these days? Anything upcoming for you that you’d like to tell our readers about?
Short stories are fun, but my first love is novels. It’s been a dream of mine, and I’ve waited far too long to jump in. Right now I’m working on revisions of a novel about four soldiers in the Irish Brigade, set during the Battle of Fredericksburg,1862. I’d call it historical fiction with a dark, magical edge by way of the Emerald Isle. We’ll see what comes of it!
What’s the spookiest place you’ve ever been?
Don’t get me started! Canada’s largest cemetery, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Montreal, which I visited when I worked briefly in Quebec, made a solemn impression. I recalled an evening walk there when I wrote “The Kiss.” Alcatraz has an oppressive atmosphere, but a stark and unexpected beauty with its wildflowers, birds, and Pacific winds. The remains of Jack London’s Wolf House in the Valley of the Moon. The Prince House in Heritage Park, Calgary, Alberta. The Frank Slide, in the Crow’s Nest Pass, Alberta, is haunting—miles of limestone debris from the rock slide that destroyed most of the town of Frank in 1903. The nearby Bellevue Mine was chilling, like a tunnel to the underworld. Our tour guide, a friend, told us privately she’d heard voices and whistling there many nights when she was alone in the mine. But I’d have to say the two spookiest places I’ve ever been was the attic of the old Manitoba farmhouse I lived in when I was five, and the root cellar of what my brother and I called “The Yellow House” in the Alberta town I lived in when I was seven. I still have dreams!
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