I had the pleasure of reading Therese Walsh’s, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, and reviewed in on yesterday’s blog. I had so many questions when I finished, and Therese was kind enough to answer them. She shared some great insights into her writing process, her research, and what she’s working on now.
Therese is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a blog for writers about the craft and business of genre fiction. Before turning to fiction, she was a researcher and writer for Prevention magazine, and then a freelance writer. She’s had hundreds of articles on nutrition and fitness published in consumer magazines and online.
She has a master’s degree in psychology.
Aside from writing, Therese’s favorite things include music, art, crab legs, Whose Line is it Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching, strong Irish tea, and spending time with her husband, two kids and their bouncy Jack Russell.
Therese’s website: http://theresewalsh.com
Therese’s blog: http://theresewalsh.com/blog.html
Writer Unboxed: http://www.writerunboxed.com
1. What inspired you to write The Last Will of Moira Leahy?
TW: Well, I had this twin who had a keris, and…
I think this story—which ironically is about connections we don’t fully understand—just wanted to be written. It found me while I was dithering around with a basic love-story concept back in 2002. In the original incarnation of the story, the first scene showed the main character, Maeve, and her friend Noel together at an auction house, where he helped her win an item—the keris. This was my first adult fiction story, and I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. Case in point: I didn’t have a good reason for choosing the keris as the item Maeve won, only that it was on a list of antiques I’d composed (Noel is an antiques dealer) and looked interesting. A friend of mine later read the scene and asked if the keris would be important to the rest of the novel. I decided that sounded like a good idea, researched the blade and discovered fascinating details regarding its mythology that were hard to ignore. Several chapters into the story, Moira also appeared as Maeve’s twin, and everything changed.
2. The Last Will of Moira Leahy has a complex plot structure with multiple time periods and conflicts. Did you begin the book knowing it would have those layers? Do you outline?
TW: If I’d known back in 2002 that the book would be as complex as it ended up, it would’ve scared me into never writing again! I outlined after the first version of the story failed to sell. After much thought, I decided how the story could both contract and expand to hone in on the relationship between Maeve and Moira. I developed their backstory, then outlined a different version of Maeve’s present day and wove that together with scenes from her and Moira’s past.
3. Maeve and Moira played the saxophone and piano, and there were many references to musical pieces in the book. Do you have a background in music?
TW: Yes, I began college as a music major (voice, piano), then decided I didn’t want to be an educator and didn’t need a degree to perform. I ended up in psychology but I still love music.
4. There are many themes in the book, but the idea of eling, or remembrance, seemed the most pronounced. Did you discover the word and its meaning in a Google search—as Maeve did—or did you know about it before?
TW: I did discover it in a Google search. I have a list of “weirdisms” associated with this book, and I suppose this is one of the lesser of them. When I’m writing and find these perfect tie-ins, I see them as signs that I’m on the right path.
5. Do you see yourself in any of the characters?
TW: I think there’s a little bit of me in all of them, but I identify most with the twins.
6. At one point, Maeve tells Moira that songs don’t come from within. She says, “I’ve told you, you have to be open to the sounds…The notes are in the air.” Do you feel that way about the stories we write? Do they exist outside of us, or are they from within?
TW: I think they’re there, somehow—outside of us or so far within us that we don’t recognize that they’re a part of us at all. That, for me, is the magic of being a writer.
7. This book was such a great debut. Can you say anything about what you’re working on now?
TW: Thank you! My next book is about a legally blind young woman who travels across West Virginia in search of the end to her dead mother’s story and teaches others how to see the world.
Thanks so much, Therese!