1) What inspired this book? You mentioned what inspired your favorite novel, “Tending Roses,” but what inspired “Blue Moon Bay?” What event helped bring the book together?
The simple explanation for where the brother-sister relationship in Blue Moon Bay came from is that it originated from a conversation with my editor. We were sitting at dinner one night talking about stories, and story ideas, and what things haven’t been talked about a lot in fiction. Somewhere in that conversation, it came up that while women’s fiction often mines the relationship between sisters, fewer books delve into the sibling relationship between brothers and sisters. My editor pointed a finger at me and said, “You know what, you should write about that.”
So, that’s the simple story of how Heather and her failure-to-launch brother, Clay, were born. But on a deeper level, as a writer you find that what you write about comes from life in some way. There was a reason I loved writing about the brother-sister relationship. I grew up as a little sister.
I feel certain there must be special place in heaven for tag-along, left-behind, picked-on little sisters who grow up with two older brothers… I really do. The truth is, I owe my brothers for a few things in my childhood. They never knew, back when they were leaving me in their dust, that they would one day be at my mercy, because the little sister they (not so lovingly) christened with flattering nicknames like Wheezer and Doughface would one day grow up to be a writer and put them in a book.
I think that’s the underlying lesson Heather learns in Blue Moon Bay. The bond between siblings is like no other. You grow up together, build lives together, share space and share experiences. It’s a gift filled with challenges and blessings, wrapped up in the ties that bind, sometimes whether we want them to or not.
2) There were some very deep things said toward the end of the last chapter, like around page 360. Are those from personal experience? Can you comment in the post regarding family relationships and what it should look like versus what our culture has turned it into?
Even though the character in this book, Heather, is actually the older sibling in the family, I enjoyed thinking about the unique push-pull of brothers and sisters. It was fun to remember car trips where we were ready to kill each other in the back seat of the Oldsmobile, and to talk about the sweet moments, too.
There are parts of life you only share with your siblings. There are Christmas mornings, and first-day-of school jitters, and evenings lying side-by side on a blanket in front of the TV. I remember the night a boy stood me up for a date, and I ended up going out for frozen yogurt and a movie with my brothers. It wasn’t so bad. I don’t even remember that date-ditching boy’s name, but I do remember that sweet time with the two boys I grew up with. It was almost enough to make me forgive them for offering to get rid of a splinter by amputating my toe when I was five.
The quirkiness aside, though, I think that Heather’s journey teaches some deeper lessons about family relationships. In some way or other, any story you write comes to some degree from personal experience. While we’ve never experienced the sort of tragedy and dysfunction that divided Heather’s family in the story, every family is a series of little dramas.
How you choose to react to them dictates much of the outcome in family relationships. I think one of the things my parents taught me–perhaps partially because we always lived geographically far away from our extended family–was that family, regardless of flaws and differences, is valuable. You can’t sit back waiting for people to fit your parameters of what you think they should be. You can either choose to love them the way they are, or choose not to love them. That’s the decision Heather faces in the book, and I think the decision many people face in family relationships.
Heather realizes that, by waiting for her family members to be what she wants them to be, she has missed the value of what they are. It’s a lesson in grace, but on a larger level, it’s a lesson in gratitude, and a reminder to me to be grateful for the people in my life. When you are busy being grateful for something (or someone) it’s much harder to harbor resentments and complaints.
3) Do you have a picture of that wall at Moses Lake that you could share?
The wall in The Waterbird is fictional, but it was inspired by a conglomeration of small cafes and lakeside stores we’ve visited over the years. I love the hole-in-the-wall haunts that serve as community gathering places. If it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner time, you’ll find folks gathered there, sharing stories and swapping jokes. They may also talk about the weather, the price of livestock feed, politics, or fishing — all of which seem to carry fairly equal importance.
Moses Lake in the book is actually based on Lake Whitney, Texas, and the idea for the Waterbird Bait and Grocery’s Wall of Wisdom in the book came from the wall in a local cafe, where visitors are encouraged to sign a special wall, leaving behind a record of their passing. Like Moses Lake in the book, Lake Whitney is not only beautiful, but steeped in local lore, legend, and quirky characters. There’s never any shortage of material for stories!
Many thanks to author, Lisa Wingate for granting this interview and providing the pictures of the inspiration for Moses Lake in Blue Moon Bay! You can view her website here, join her on the “front porch” here, and read my review here.