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5 Burning Questions with Christine Davis Merriman

This Tuesday, Oct. 9, we’ll feature two fiction writers–a slight departure from our normal structure! (Spooky, we know.) One of our two fiction writers this month is Christine Davis Merriman.

Below are Christine’s answers to our 5 Burning questions (and a couple of bonus ones for our in honor of our 4th Anniversary):

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I wrote my first story just about as soon as I learned to use a pencil. In a black-and-white composition book my mother bought me to use in kindergarten or first grade, I printed a story about an amazingly strong little mouse.

How many drafts = done?

For me, that number is incalculable and, perhaps, infinite. Shall I begin the count with the first conversations I had with characters in my mind?; memories of stories that first came to me in early childhood?; early chapter versions extrapolated from short stories written as an MFA candidate forty or more years ago?; the first full manuscript submitted to my publisher about seven months ago?; a series of edited versions produced after input from copyeditor, content editor, style and format editor, and history fact checker?; a newer version in which chapters were rearranged to make the chronology work better?; an expanded version in which a scene has been added or dialog expanded to develop a theme or reveal a character more fully? Even now, as I read the first published version of my debut novel, potential revisions come to me: “I could have said it better that way” or “I should have crafted that sentence or that paragraph differently.” How many drafts is that?

And don’t forget, each reader will take in a slightly different version, filtered through her or his interpretive lens.

What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?

My favorite book-of-the-moment is Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour, which is about nuns and the Irish-American community they serve in 20th century Brooklyn. In reading the book, I began noticing (and trying to learn from) the way McDermott immerses the reader (seamlessly, from page one) in plot and setting (including sights, sounds, smells) and at the same time develops character (using gesture, physical appearance, dialog, and internal monologue).

What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?

As a fiction writer, I get excited when I am in the shower and an epiphany or an enlightenment of theme comes to me, or when I go for a jog down a country lane and my characters begin to talk with me, revealing something new about themselves.

What’s your favorite word or words? What about it/them appeals to you?

My favorite word is psithurism, which means the sound of wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves, a sound I love to hear while sitting outside on my balcony; it’s a soothing and comforting sound. Hearing it, I feel as though the trees are whispering to me. The pronunciation of the word itself is onomatopoeic and imitates the sound it refers to.

Bonus question: This reading is our 4th anniversary reading. What is something you either have done for four years straight or something you hope to do for that amount of time?

I retired in 2017 to focus on writing fiction. I hope to continue writing fiction for four years straight so that I can complete the Lissa Power series, which I have just begun with my debut novel.

Here’s the projected lineup:

At the Far End of Nowhere: Set in Baltimore and northern Baltimore County, this novel takes Lissa from age four through 22 and portrays the unique bond between young Lissa and her elderly and eccentric father. Published in September 2018 by Green Writers Press.

Where Everything Begins: Lissa awakens from her sheltered American childhood as she spends her junior year abroad in France (1973–74) and travels around Europe. This novel is a work in progress.

Culture Shock (provisional title): Lissa experiences a whirlwind year of activity and culture shock when she returns home from France to finish college and pursue her dream of becoming a writer. This novel is still in the conceptual stage.

More Lissa Power Novels: I anticipate writing additional novels that follow Lissa through marriage, motherhood, divorce, and beyond. Stay tuned!

___

CHRISTINE DAVIS MERRIMAN, a Baltimore native, completed her MFA in Imaginative Writing–Fiction at UMass Amherst forty years ago. As an undergrad, she won Towson State University’s John S. Lewis Fiction Award for a collection of short stories, and was eager to pursue a career in fiction. Then “life” intervened, with marriage, a son, divorce, a second marriage, and a thirty-year career at Johns Hopkins. In 2017, she retired, put down her technical writer’s pen, and completed her debut novel, At the Far End of Nowhere. Christine and her husband live in a 1929 farmhouse in northern Baltimore County, Maryland.

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