Here is the page where the Frequently Asked Questions of the novel Waiting For Spring live. Be aware that there will be spoilers.
Some answers have been covered already in blog posts, and are rather extensive. In those cases, I’m taking the lazy way out and posting a link to the blog entry.
This section is a work in progress, so if you have a question that isn’t covered here, feel free to leave it in the comments section, or feel free to leave feedback in general. If there’s one thing I love more than just about anything, it’s talking about my book.
- Are you an artist, like Tess? And what is Van Dyke Brown?
Well, it depends on what your definition of art is. This is an example of my work, entitled “Arms Up, Arms Down, Arms Behind Your Back”:
Seriously…no, I’m not. Like Tess I sometimes struggle to express myself verbally. Instead I have my keyboard. She has her paintbrushes. I did do a great deal of research before I put those brushes in her hand, though. I have a close friend who is an artist (her stick figures are much better than mine), and I peppered her with so many questions that she stopped answering her phone when she saw my name pop up on the Caller ID. Next I read several books and visited lotsa websites to fill in some of the blanks. Finally, I bought a canvas, easel, and a bunch of acrylic paints and brushes and went to work. The result was hideous, and was subsequently destroyed (doing so was also research, if you remember what happened to Kineo…and yes, I cut my fingers, just like Tess did), but it did give me a feel for the process. And it gave me one of the biggest headaches of my life. I was kinder to Tess, and let her paint with the windows open.
Van Dyke Brown: http://www.pchenderson.com/pix/user/vndyke_brwn_p.jpg
- Are New Mills, Brookfield, and Westville real towns in Maine?
Nope. Struggling mill towns are a sad reality up here, so it wasn’t difficult for me to create this fictional world, but Portland and Mt. Kineo (located in Rockwood on Moosehead Lake) are the only real locations visited by the characters in WFS. (Hallowell and Bangor , which are both mentioned briefly, are real as well).
- Is the story about the Indian Princess who jumped to her death from Mt. Kineo true, or did you make it up for the book?
Sort of both. I’ve heard many versions of the story, wherein a woman (of Polish, Russian, or American Indian descent, depending on the version) is rejected or abandoned by a lover or husband, and as a result kills herself by jumping from Mt. Kineo into Moosehead Lake. Sometimes the woman is a princess, sometimes just a woman of wealth. I decided on the princess because it sounded kinda romantic, and because I felt that Tess wouldn’t have been as affected by the story if it was simply a rich woman, given her attitude towards money and those with an abundance of money. I decided on the Indian version because:
a) my hubby is part Mic Mac, and I thought it would be cool to give a very indirect nod to him.
b) there are other Indian legends about Kineo’s being haunted, so it seemed very natural that a local waitress would tell that version of the story to Tess and Jason.
c) I thought “Indian Princess” sounded better than “Russian or Polish Princess.” (No offense intended to Russia or Poland, nor to any of their inhabitants, princesses or otherwise).
- Given Tim’s rather violent death, do you approve of vigilante justice?
In the real world, no. In fiction…well, sort of.
- Is Waiting For Spring in any way autobiographical?
Not factually autobiographical. Perhaps, in some ways, emotionally so.
- Do you consider Waiting For Spring’s message to be pro-choice or pro-life?
- Do you, like Tess, hate the New York Yankees?
Yes. With the fire of a thousands suns.
- What about Yankees fans?
I’ve met many Yankees fans who are fine, upstanding citizens. We simply choose not to talk about baseball. After all, there are plenty of other safe topics – like politics and religion – to discuss.
- What is tourmaline?
It is a semi-precious stone that can be found in the U.S., Brazil, Africa, and Afghanistan. The best tourmaline, of course, is the kind you find in Maine. (*Not necessarily a scientific fact.) Watermelon tourmaline mineral, which is what Tess’s engagement ring from Jason was made from, looks like this. Depending on how it’s cut, a gemstone can be pink, green, or a combination of both. It can be cut like a typical gemstone like this, or it can be cut into ‘slices’ which can look cool and funky like this.
This isn’t necessarily a ‘frequently’ asked question, but a comment from one reader that covers a topic I wanted to discuss:
- “I think what I like most about Zeke is that he’s not a ‘token gay character.’ As the owner of a sports bar, there is nothing stereotypical about him. He has struggles of his own that have nothing to do with Tess, and nothing directly to do with being gay. He’s a deep, likable, three dimensional character who really just happens to be gay.”
That’s probably because I didn’t create him strictly as a gay character. Any secondary character, regardless of how interesting, or even complex, exists for one reason: to act as a complement or foil to the main character(s). They have to be written with that in mind. In this case, I knew Tess needed a confidante (and ultimately a confessor). Because of her relationship with her mother, Tess is incapable of befriending other women. We see this with her rather awkward relationship with Laura. Although the two are friendly, they are by no means friends until the very end of the book; once Tess is ‘healthy.’ Even before her move to New Mills, when she is still married to Jason, Tess has no women friends (other than her sister-in-law, Kim, who although a sort of a friend by default, is not really a confidante), while Jason, in contrast, has a group of buddies he hangs around with and talks to.
Still, Tess looks at most men as either an authority/father figure or a sexual conquest – or both. Even after she falls in love with Brian (especially after she falls in love with him) she finds it difficult to confide in him. Thus, giving her a platonic male friend was just as difficult a prospect as a woman friend. The only way to solve the predicament was to make Tess’s confidante a man she knew was gay before she even met him, and so would not immediately try to seduce. Thus Zeke was born, not as ‘the gay best friend,’ but rather as the only possible friend Tess could have had at that point in her life.
Because of that, it was very important to me that his being gay was not his main “struggle” in the present. Although we learn that coming out in his small town in the past was a difficult thing for him to do, that there were serious repercussions in him doing so, and that there is still a certain amount of cordial standoffishness towards him on the part of many of New Mills’ residents, it isn’t his present story arc. Rather, it’s that of not living his life to the fullest because of residual guilt unintentionally left behind by his mother’s sacrifice – a parallel of Brian’s struggle. I guess you could say Zeke’s existence kills two birds with one stone.
All that being said, I was very happy to have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the kinds of hardships gay men (and women) experience in rural communities.
Is there really such a thing as ‘hippie chimps’?
Oh yeah, there really is. They’re called “Bonobo chimps” and I first heard about them from a buddy of mine named Alice (as you may remember from the acknowledgments) whom I met on a movie message board back in January 2004. She posted a link to this story (appropos of nothing related to the movie the message board was set up for, which tickles me every time I think about it) while I was in the middle of writing the first draft of WFS, and it struck me as something that could be the subject of a funny, yet innocent (if slightly odd) ice-breaker that introduced the topic of sex between Brian and Tess. I changed it from a newspaper article to a television documentary for the book, because I wanted the reader to understand that in the time just prior to Tess’s arrival in New Mills, Brian spent much of his alone time watching television. A bonobo chimp documentary struck me as the kind of thing a guy like Brian would watch to kill time very, very late at night, after all of his cop shows were over, when he just couldn’t get to sleep.
Were you high when you wrote the scene where Tess and Brian get stoned and get it on ‘underneath the mischievous stars?’
Here. Read this.