Monday, October 26, 2020

Dianne Ebertt Beeaff Interview - On Traigh Lar Beach


Photo Content from Dianne Ebertt Beeaff 

Dianne Ebertt Beeaff is the award-winning author of five previous books. Her poetry, watercolors, graphite drawings, and magazine articles have been featured throughout the United States and Canada. Dianne and her husband, Dan, reside in Tucson and are the parents of two children.

      
  


What inspired you to pen your first short story collection? 
Thank you for the invitation, Jean. It’s an honor to participate. 

Many years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. We stayed just down the road from Tràigh Lar Beach, in the hamlet of Rodel. The Hebrides are magical, remote and stunningly beautiful. Walking on Tràigh Lar Beach one afternoon, making our way to the MacLeod Stone on a hill behind the strand, I noticed several items tangled in the seaweed and jotted them down in my journal, thinking a short story collection might come of it. Years passed and, as I finished up the sequel to a 2000 memoir, I began working on these stories. 

Tell us your latest news. 
I am presently involved in the marketing of my ‘back catalog,’ promoting On Tràigh Lar Beach, and working on a couple of new books—another short story collection, this one based in Arizona, and another memoir, a natural history account of the cottage my father built on sixteen acres along the Conestoga River in Southern Ontario. Being subject to current Covid lockdowns, much of this is being done virtually. I’ve had the opportunity for Zoom readings and other virtual events which I’ve enjoyed very much. My most recent book, before On Tràigh Lar Beach—A Grand Madness, U2 Twenty Years After, has also been garnering a number of awards, which has been exciting. 

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? 
I write in a broad variety of genres, both fiction and non-fiction, so influences have been just as varied. My two memoirs, A Grand Madness, Ten Years on the Road with U2, and A Grand Madness, U2 Twenty Years After, were obviously inspired by the extraordinary rock band, U2. My poetry book, Homecoming, was inspired by my first trip to the British Isles. Both of my fiction titles, Power’s Garden and now On Tràigh Lar Beach, came about from visiting those two places and realizing there were focused and derivative stories to be told. I began my writing career in magazine journalism many decades ago and was always inspired by some personal experience that lead me to explore a specific area, era, subject or personality. 

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
To me, the most rewarding experience that can come from being published is hearing from someone who has been moved in some way by my work. That doesn’t happen very often, but those times when it has are very special. 

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your short story collection? 
My object always, in writing fiction, is to tell a good story well, and I hope readers will feel they’ve been a witness of sorts to some intriguing lives. As a possible aside, they might even bring their attention to one of the urgent environmental issues of our day—the pollution of our oceans. 

In your short story collection, ON TRAIGH LAR BEACH, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it. 
Erica Winchat, a young writer overwhelmed by the stress of her first book contract, discovers thirteen curious items tangled in the flotsam of the Scottish beach of Tràigh Lar. Inspired by the objects, she tells the intriguing story of the owner of each one, uncovering a series of dramatic events–from a Chicago widow’s inspiring visit to Quebec City, to a shrimper’s daughter facing Tropical Storm Ruby in North Carolina. The thirteenth item, a concert laminate badge, gives rise to the novella Fan Girls, in which the separate stories of four fans of the Scottish rock band Datha unfold in first person, culminating in their reunion at a concert in Chicago–a show where a shooting takes place. 

TEN FAVORITE QUOTES FROM ON TRÀIGH LAR BEACH 
  • 1. From the Prologue, Page 1
    “Standing on Tràigh Lar Beach, you can hardly feel more solitary, more lulled by its stark beauty and breathtaking peace. Black birds shoot in and out of nooks in the ancient rock walls that line the road to Tarbert. Seagulls and carrion crows hang motionless in the air. Cuckoos call from groves of stunted trees, and hawks soar with ravens.” 
  • 2. Page 3, in Erica
    “The wide-faced clock over the bar here at the Rodel Hotel moves backward. Three o’clock in the morning posts as 9:00 p.m. I’m comforted by that, buoyed by the steady procession of hours and minutes piling up in front of me.” 
  • 3. Page 16, in Melody Rose (An Empty Ketchup Holder
    “The old man took the little girl’s slivered hands into his own, and they danced. They danced with short shuffling steps with a pure sort of wordless joy. Eyes shining. All smiles. Like fragments of broken colored glass glittering in the sunlight. Lake fallen leaves twirling in an errant summer breeze.” 
  • 4. Page 53, in Mairi (A Plastic Cigarette Lighter)
    “The city’s ceiling glowed far above them, row on row of lighted windows mounting ever upward and out of sight. Incessant rain pelted the limo’s darkened windows until the lights, diffused and blurred, appeared as through tears.” 
  • 5. Page 72, in Ruby (A Green Plastic Laundry Basket)
    “Sunrise on a clear day was about the finest part of living, CJ reckoned. On such days, a brilliant orange ball would inch up out of the blackness of the sea, rising into an ever-lightening sky. A metallic dance of light would then reflect on the heaving swells like magic. There was nothing like it.” 
  • 6. Page 99, in Glory (A Nylon Dive Flag)
    “Shriveled up beside her, ‘Papa Winn’ had leaned into the carved Purbeck marble basin, the laces of his maroon track shoes undone. He wore a Truro Bearcats baseball cap—bill to the back of his head—and a pair of khaki cargo shorts slung so low on his hips I thought they were in danger of forsaking him. Who dresses like that for a baptism? 
    Are you seeing that honey man yet? Me neither.” 
  • 7. Page 107, Plato quote, introduction to Part One of the Fan Girls novella
    “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” 
  • 8. Page 117, Voltaire quote, introduction to Part Two of the Fan Girls novella
    “Each player must accept the cards life deals . . . he or she alone must decide how to play.” 
  • 9. Page 148, in the novella, Fan Girls’, Annie’s Story (In Her Own Words)
    “Behind a Formica counter at the back of the room, Leon, a flat-faced man with spiky red hair and an ugly purple mole on his cheek, watches me with dull gray eyes. He’s slumped over the countertop, his waxy forearms spreading out on the cracked surface like lard. His stubby hands are working over something that flashes in the folds of a rag he’s pulled pretty close to his chest. The room reeks of stale sweat, cigar smoke, and urine.” 
  • 10. Page 187, in the novella Fan Girls’, Dana’s Story (In Her Own Words)|
    “We sweep down out of the coastal woods. Below and to the left, the long narrow strand of Torrey Pines Beach glows in the moonlight. Erratic lines of breakers, shredded into glassy shards, etch the black water with a shatter of glistening white foam . . . . The water swirls in wide bubble-edged arches that tinge my feet with coolness. The hiss. The rush. the thunderous pounding. The boiled fizz of retreat. As the seas come and go, we pull each other through the waves in turn.”.”
What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
I am not a very disciplined writer. I have never been able to stick to so many words a day, so many pages a day, so many hours a day. So, the single worst distraction would have to be the next shiny object that caught my attention and took me away from writing. 

What part of Erica did you enjoy writing the most? 
The first story of the collection, Erica’s discovery of the items on Tràigh Lar Beach, is taken almost verbatim from my journals. The hardest part of any kind of writing to me is a first draft. So, with the first draft having already been done, that first story just flowed, more or less, and was very enjoyable to write. I also appreciated reliving that experience. 

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
I would introduce Dana Morrison from the Fan Girls novella in On Tràigh Lar Beach to Bilbo Baggins, at least in the time before Dana meets Michael. Dana is overly practical, cynical, and suspicious. Every life needs a bit of magic and pure adventure and Bilbo might introduce her to that aspect into her way of living. 

TEN FACTS ABOUT ON TRAIGH LAR BEACH 
  • 1. Traigh Lar Beach is a machair beach, the name given to the flat, western coastal plain of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Machair beaches are made up of the shells and skeletons of ancient sea creatures which have been ground to fine sand, by the pounding of the sea. This calcium limes the acidic peat soils of the Hebrides into fertile grasslands. 
  • 2 Flotsam on the machair beaches of Harris is deposited by the Gulf Stream bringing in items from the new world. 
  • 3. Each story in On Tràigh Lar Beach is titled with the protagonist’s name which is derived from a specific wildflower that grows on the machair. Each story also opens with my black and white graphite drawing of that flower and a brief description. 
  • 4. The first story of the collection, Erica, is taken almost verbatim from my personal journals, aside from the Comstock Award references, the name of the Leverburgh waitress, and, unfortunately for me, the two-book contract Erica has been awarded. 
  • 5. Of the thirteen items written about in the collection, five were actually found at the time I walked the beach and inspired the book. These were the empty ketchup holder, a packet of arthritis pills, a jar of pickled onions, the handle of a child’s bucket, and a green plastic laundry basket. 
  • 6. Brook’s grandmother’s house in Delhi, Ontario, with the pump in the kitchen and the embroidered pillowcases, is my own paternal grandmother’s home in Delhi. 
  • 7. Ella’s meditation experience comes remarkably close to my own. 
  • 8. Part of the setting for Mairi (A Plastic Cigarette Lighter)—the description of rain in the city—comes from an unpublished short story written when I was sixteen. 
  • 9. The premise of Glory (A Nylon Dive Flag) is based on an actual funeral service a friend in England attended. 
  • 10. The four women in Fan Girls are loosely based on people I’ve met or observed as an uber fan of the Irish rock band U2. 
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know? 
At this point in my life, I would have to say the most ridiculous fact I know is that so many people in the country and in the world refuse to follow the simplest directions given by medical professionals to stem the tide of the horrific pandemic we’ve been living with for so many months. 

Best date you've ever had? 
The best date I’ve ever had would be the hiking date I had with my husband, Dan, the day after I met him at the Village Inn Pizza Parlor in Phoenix. We hiked with my sister, Carolyn, and Dan’s friend, Darrel, deep into the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix. Inspiring and stunningly beautiful surroundings. 

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be? 
I have no regrets at all about the way my life has unfolded, but if I HAD to I would follow through with an article I signed onto, on speculation, for Islands Magazine to profile Manitoulin Island in Georgian Bay. I think I would have liked to have done more travel writing in my career and that opportunity, had I gone through with it, might have opened a travel writing door or two. 

What event in your life would make a good movie? 
Many years ago, Dan and I, and our son Dustin, hiked into Power’s Garden in the Galiuro Mountains of Southern Arizona. The ranch at Power’s Garden was involved in a tragic shoot-out between Mormon lawmen and Texan ranchers in 1918, a shooting that many years later became the backdrop for my historical fiction novel of the same name. After staying overnight at the ranch, we hiked out to our base camp on Deer Creek to find that our gas had been syphoned out, probably by a couple of trouble-making Mormon boys in the area and we had to seek out the help of a nearby Texan rancher who patched up our car and gave us a bit of gas. We sailed back into the Safford Valley, making it there by the skin of our teeth, as the threads had been stripped in the gas tank in the undercarriage. There would have to be some poetic license taken to further add to the suspense, maybe taking a wrong turn or two on the trek in or out, but the bare bones of a good story are there, I think. 

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? 
Any sort of travel, long or short. Traveling, even to the next county, state or province, or country opens your experience to other ways of living in this world, to other cultures and experiences, all of which broaden a person’s ability to grow in wisdom and understanding, and to empathize with other ways of being in the world. 

What is one unique thing are you afraid of? 
Not really a fear, per se, but I’m not at all fond of severe thunderstorms. Rumblings are fine and quite enjoyable, but the sudden flash of lightning with an instant booming crash is never appreciated. My nerves fray with any such experience. I believe this reaction comes from the lofty chimney of the brick yard behind my house being struck by lightning when I was alone in the house at the age of sixteen. 

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer? 
It has only happened a handful of times, but the best memories of writing have been when I hear from a reader that something I have written has impacted or made a difference in their life. 

Where can readers find you? 
I have a website at www.debeeaff.wordpress.com which includes a blog. I have a Facebook Author Page @ Dianne Ebertt Beeaff, and am on Instagram #diannebeeaff. Always enjoy hearing from readers. 


Eric Winchat, a young writer overwhelmed by the stress of her first book contact, discovers thirteen curious items tangled in the flotsam on the Scottish beach of Traigh Lar. Inspired by the objects, she tells the intriguing story of the owner of each one, uncovering a series of dramatic events -- from a Chicago widow's inspiring visit to Quebec City to a shrimper's daughter facing Tropical Storm Ruby in North Carolina.

The thirteenth item, a concert laminate badge, gives rise to novella Erica calls an Girls, in which the separate stories of four fans of the Sottish rock band Datha unfold in first person culminating in their reunion at a concert in Chicago -- a show where a shooting takes place 

Praise for ON TRAIGH LAR BEACH

“Dianne Beeaff has a keen eye for specific settings and an uncanny ability to express the unique concerns of people from a broad spectrum of humanity. On Tràaigh Lar Beach deeply satisfies because its vivid descriptions pulled me into the characters’ experiences and kept me wondering until I reached each of her stories’ unexpected, but not illogical, conclusion.” ―Carol Sletten, author of Three Strong Western Women and Story of the American West: Legends of Arizona

“On Tràigh Lar Beach is rich in lyrical prose and stunning detail and takes a poignant look at human connectedness, how unremarkable items are mirrors of lives an ocean apart, yet link us in the most human way.” ―Susan Haught, award-winning author of A Promise of Fireflies

You can purchase On Traigh Lar Beach at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you DIANNE EBERTT BEEAFF for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of On Traigh Lar Beach by Dianne Ebertt Beeaff.

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3 comments:

  1. The event in my life that would make a good movie is my love of dogs, I have 4 dogs.

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  2. Thanks so much for posting this interview! Most appreciated!

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