Open Mic Blog
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Flashback to 2013
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
The Silver Tattoo: an Interview with Laura Treacy Bentley by Zoe Ferraris
Between 2000 and 2004, I belonged to a writer's group, the Rogues, that had a dramatically positive influence on my writing. So it delights me to announce that this year, three of the writers from this group have books coming out. I am so proud of my fellow writers, knowing the work that has gone into their novels and the struggles everyone has faced to get their work published. Congratulations all!!
The first of these novels, Laura Bentley's The Silver Tattoo, has just been released. It's a literary thriller. Dark and brooding, its poetry forms vast, gorgeous and harrowing themes. It tells the story of Leah Howland, who is visiting Ireland to escape being caregiver to a comatose husband. She's been doing the martyred wife thing for too long, and she wants to start fresh. But the fog-bound, homey comforts of Dublin soon turn nasty when a stalker starts leaving his calling cards, and Leah finds she can't separate her own guilt and fears from the increasingly dangerous reality around her. With a magic realist edge, psychological suspense, and a true poet's eye for detail, this book delivers its frightening world in toto.
This is Laura's first novel. She is also a poet with an impressive list of accomplishments, including some serious recognition from Oprah, and a published book of poetry, Lake Effect. She's accomplished enough for Ray Bradbury to exclaim: "Laura Bentley, I dub thee poet supreme."
I think that poetry and thrillers are secretly kissing cousins, and this is deeply true about Laura's work. For this post, I asked her to answer some questions about the book, the writing, and what it was like making the leap from poetry to novels.
Tell us about the inspirations for this book. Was it a single moment of experience or a build-up of ideas?
A poem or a story often begins with a particular image for me. In the case of The Silver Tattoo, I had taken a magical photo of a busker on Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland, back in 2000, and it lingered in my mind, kept pulling me back to that enchantment. It eventually became the genesis for the opening chapter. The scene had some foreboding to it, so I started thinking in terms of a mystery or thriller and discovered what the “rules” were for those genres.
I always take many photos when I go to Ireland and keep detailed journals, so I was doing research without really realizing that one day I would create a novel. Another image that was powerful and breathtaking was The Cliffs of Moher. I was writer in residence for a month on the West Coast and stayed near The Cliffs, often walking there every day. The majestic cliffs, the surging ocean below, and the stunning beauty and intensity of this Eighth Wonder of the World got into my blood. So some key scenes from my novel take place at The Cliffs.
This is a dark literary thriller, and I can see how the thriller genre might appeal to a poet. There are a lot of short, focused scenes. Plot-wise, you could almost write a thriller as a series of poems. But I'd like to know why you were drawn to this genre?
It’s back to the idea of image again, and I think a literary thriller suits me. It values character-driven stories and plot-driven ones---a literary page-turner. Since poetry is literary and I’m a poet by nature, this genre combines my love of vivid scenes and compelling plots. I want to enter the landscape of a book, mine or others, and feel like I’m there. I also like to include “short focused scenes” in my work to change the pace or slow down a scene into a tableau of image before moving back into the stream of action.
I’ve recently come to the realization that many of my favorite books are written by triple-threat authors. That is, they write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Margaret Atwood, Truman Capote, Jill Bialosky, William Golding, Stephen Dobyns, and Sylvia Plath, among many others, are all remarkable triple threats. And, of course, Ray Bradbury was a quadruple threat: poetry, short stories, novels, plays, and more!
Do you approach your writing in the same way as your poetry? (i.e. Do you follow the same writing habits?) And what are those habits?
My poetry is often created from a journal entry where I have rapidly sketched a moment or a feeling. I can spend days, weeks, months, or years on one poem and the same holds true for fiction. My writing habits are different when I write fiction, though, because it becomes much more expansive.
I discovered that I could write the draft of a novel in a month last November during NanoWrimo (thanks, Chris Baty!). It’s a mess right now and waiting to be revised, but the story came pouring out of me. It was gratifying and scary to set that challenge for myself.
How long did it take you to finish The Silver Tattoo?
I had a very rough draft after a year or so in 2003 or 2004, and then I was lucky to have some early interest from agents. I’d revised for one and then another. Each time the story got stronger, and I was hungry for feedback and acted on the insightful comments and critique. It was a long rugged journey of hope, despair, joy, and depression. I’d stay up late at night sometimes for weeks revising and polishing. Finally in 2008 I had two agents interested in representing my novel, and I decided to sign with Foundry Literary & Media. I revised once more for a little over a year before it went out on submission. My wonderful former agent Kendra Jenkins worked intensely with me and championed my novel.
Can you describe your relationship with Ray Bradbury, who has been such an amazing supporter and mentor?
My friendship with Ray began in 1993 when I sent him a heartfelt fan letter, and he wrote back. That began our long correspondence, sharing books we liked, poems, cartoons, good times and bad. The first time I sent him one of my poems, he wrote "Send it somewhere (The New Yorker? The American Scholar?) to be printed!" His enthusiasm was contagious. He used exclamation marks more than me, and I loved that about him. His letters were always signed with an exclamation mark: "Love! Ray," and I've kept all of our correspondence, emails, and Christmas poems that he wrote each year and shared with his friends.
He introduced me to Eureka Literary Magazine and its editor, Loren Logsdon, who published a number of my poems. And, to Redbud Magazine, which published my longest poem on record which is a wild tribute to Ray. It’s called “Rendezvous with Ray Bradbury.” I got the idea after reading Margaret Atwood’s great tribute poem to Raymond Chandler.
In 2003, we did a wondrous poetry reading in Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. He suggested that the four readers, including Ray and I, read their poetry Round Robin. Ray Bradbury’s support and encouragement affected every aspect of my life as a writer. He was a mentor. An inspiration. A life force. He made me feel that what I wrote was important. His zest for life was contagious, and he always let me know that he believed in me. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Thank you, Laura! For more information on the author and her books, check her out on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter.
Zoe Ferraris at 8:58 PM
Laura Treacy BentleyJune 5, 2013 at 7:56 AM
Thank you so much, Zoe!!!
Cat PleskaJune 5, 2013 at 8:53 AM
Phil St. ClairNovember 18, 2013 at 4:10 PM
Great interview! Ray Bradbury was such an influence on me back in the day . . .
Laura Treacy BentleyDecember 21, 2013 at 3:17 PM
Thanks, Phil. Zoe asks such great questions! I know that Ray Bradbury influenced millions of us around the world, and his words and ideas will live on. I miss him every day.
My debut novel, Finding Nouf, (published as Night of the Mi'raj in the UK) and a follow-up novel, City of Veils, have been published in over thirty countries. My third novel, Kingdom of Strangers, came out in June 2012.
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|Posted on December 8, 2018 at 10:20 AM||comments (0)|
I've been meaning to post this interview on my blog for months. So, here it is. Cat Pleska, noted writer, is interviewing me at the Culture Center in Charleston, West Virginia, for her first episode of "WV Author" with Cat as the new host: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8yilGg23R-4
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Enter to win a free signed copy from Goodreads of Looking For Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage by clicking on this link: http://bit.ly/2tPMu51
|Posted on June 9, 2017 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
I am delighted to be a featured writer at "More Than Words" in Hurricane, West Virginia, at 6pm on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at Hidden Creek Mercantile. Come join us!
|Posted on March 9, 2017 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
Mountain State Press, Inc., announces their latest publication: Looking For Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage by Laura Treacy Bentley. http://www.mountainstatepress.org/
Both a chapbook and a work of art, her book creates a seamless alchemy of elegant poems and stunning photographs. The 48-page collection “... reveal[s] fresh landscapes of thought and feeling. In our rushed and muddled world, Bentley's meditative poems are like breathing spaces—elegant, clarifying, assured.” --- Julia Keller, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sorrow Road.
"You are holding in your hand a thing of beauty. Here, indeed, Laura Treacy Bentley makes 'words flicker like flame.' The imagery of the poems is married to stunning photographs forming a perfect balance. You will be taken seamlessly on a visual and poetic journey from Appalachia to Ireland, 'to the fuchsia that bleeds on Inish Mor' and 'Blackbirds seed the summer clouds' and back again. This is a work of art that achieves what the poet/photographer strives for, 'to capture wild beauty before it takes flight.'" ---Tony O'Dwyer, co-editor of Crannog magazine (Galway, Ireland)
The official release of Looking For Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage is March 11, at River & Rail Bakery in Huntington, WV, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Looking For Ireland is now available on Amazon!
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I was recently interviewed on Geosi Reads. Take a look!
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|Posted on March 10, 2016 at 9:45 AM||comments (1)|
Guess where I'll be on St. Patrick's Day?! Out to Lunch!!
If you're going to be in Huntington on March 17, come and join us! I'm kicking off this new venture with River and Rail Bakery and The Red Caboose, so watch for your favorite author in the coming months. The food is to LIVE for!
If you have already bought my novel, just enjoy the delicious lunch and conversation! This themed lunch will help support these wonderful independent businesses, and the work of local authors to boot.
"We're excited to announce a new venture with local authors that allow their readers to have a themed lunch, a reading by the author, and an autograped copy of the featured book. We kick off "Out To Lunch" on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, at noon. For March, we welcome Laura Treacy Bentley and "The Silver Tattoo!" Lunch will include Guinness Beef Stew, Guinness Cheddar Soup, salad, iced tea, and dessert! Call 304-399-1247 to reserve your seat!"
|Posted on March 4, 2016 at 10:05 AM||comments (0)|
I was recently featured on "Author in the Spotlight" at the lovely Portobello Book Blog out of Edinburgh, Scotland: /http://portobellobookblog.com/2016/02/15/laura-treacy-bentley-author-in-the-spotlight/
Stop by and stay awhile
|Posted on December 9, 2015 at 10:20 AM||comments (1)|
I was invited to be a guest blogger on Vicki Goldman Gilbert's terrific blog Off-the-shelf book reviews in the UK! My post is titled "Drive, Imagine, Write." It's for all of you writers, like me, who have written or are writing a book and have traveled that long road to publication. http://bit.ly/1IEBA8z
|Posted on October 19, 2015 at 6:00 PM||comments (0)|
I read everything from literary, mysteries, fantasy, thrillers, poetry, non-fiction and more, but my secret pleasures are often children's books like Brian Selznick's Hugot Cabret, Wonderstruck, and The Marvels published by Scholastic Press. They are literally works of art! I am the proud owner of four of his books, and now I have his autograph. Be still my heart!
|Posted on April 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM||comments (1)|
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I was interviewed by Eric Douglas on his radio show Writer's Block. I talk about The Silver Tattoo and my forthcoming short story prequel "Night Terrors." Take a listen!
|Posted on February 16, 2015 at 1:15 PM||comments (24)|
Dr. Linda Tate
StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups
Recently, I launched a weekly blog and podcast – StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups. Readers and listeners are abuzz with excitement about the new project, and many of them have asked how I got the idea to focus on stories.
Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison answers the question better than I can. She says:
"People crave narration. People want to hear a story. They love it! That’s the way they learn things. That’s the way human beings organize their human knowledge – fairy tales, myths. All narration."
I love Toni Morrison. To me, she is the great American writer alive today. And one of the primary reasons she’s a classic is that she understands the power of story. Storytelling – one person talking to another, spinning a yarn – is at the heart of all her fiction.
Human beings tell stories all the time, in so many ways. We tell each other the tale of what happened that day. Families pass down stories of treasured memories – the favorite in my family is the tale of my grandparents’ first date. Communities pass down lore, the history of the culture, spiritual lessons through oral storytelling. Writers convey stories through novels, short stories, memoir, poems. Dramatists write plays, and filmmakers tell stories through the world brought to life on the big screen. Songwriters encapsulate stories in short lyrics, little tale capsules. Even visual artists – painters, photographers, sculptors – tell stories.
It seems that we humans can’t stop telling stories – and as Toni Morrison says, we “crave” stories. We want to hear them. We want to read them. We want to experience them.
My weekly blog and podcast – StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups – celebrates this human love of stories. Each week, I highlight yet another storyteller – a fiction writer, memoirist, poet, playwright, filmmaker, songwriter, visual artist, folklorist. To bring the stories to life, I feature an audio or video excerpt from the story of the week.
And when you’re inspired (and you know you will be!), you’ll find links to read the book, watch the movie, listen to the song.
A former Professor of English, Dr. Linda Tate loves stories of all kinds.
After 26 years of teaching literature and writing at universities around the country, Linda left higher education to focus on her writing. She’d had a great run – she’d even been named West Virginia Professor of the Year – but it was time to write!
Most recently, her memoir, Power in the Blood: A Family Narrative, won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for Creative Nonfiction and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Currently, Linda is at work on Ferguson Girl: A Memoir of Family, Place, and Race. You can learn more about the research for this book at her website and blog, The Wellston Loop.
If you’re interested in learning how Linda brings her talents to the nonprofit world, check out her Tate Communications website.
Through StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups, Linda brings her knowledge of stories to you. She hopes you’ll be inspired to read, watch, listen, learn.
|Posted on December 9, 2014 at 7:00 PM||comments (3)|
Prepare to be amazed! Seriously!! Explore this innovative and exciting Virtual Reality labyrinth of books for book lovers. Turn your speakers on, take a look around, and while you're there, enter the door with my name on it: http://inkflash.com/LauraTreacyBentley ;