Hi Dana, thanks so much for this opportunity to share information about Quintspinner and the writing process. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book.
When did you decide to be an author?
I have always loved to write - diaries, short blurbs on scraps of paper, and had vaguely thought that, "I should write a book someday". A couple of years ago, I was sitting around with my grown children and I mentioned that I wanted to learn to snowboard. Since they are all very accomplished at this sport, I thought they might give me a few lessons. My suggestion was met with a wall of stunned silence, followed by the comment, "Say, speaking of sports, Mom, did you know that lawn bowling is really catching on?" I realized then that several things on my "Bucket List" were no longer age-appropriate, and that I had better get on with achieving whatever I could. And soon. Some of the top choices on my list were: learn to play the fiddle and bagpipes (no joke!), write a book, and learn to dance on pointe. I chose to write a book. My husband is grateful. (The pointe shoes are in a drawer in my kitchen and sometimes I even put them on to wear while I'm sitting to type... this is as far as I can go in multi-tasking.)
What author or books influenced you in your growing up years?
S.E Hinton's "The Outsiders" for its gritty portrayal of teenage lives gone wrong. James A. Michener's "The Drifters" for his research and inclusion of incredible detail. Dr. Seuss's books, for proving that witty and short is a winning combination.
Quintspinner: A Pirate's Quest is such an original story. Where did you get the idea for the story line?
I think the topic of pirates has a universal, timeless appeal. However, the seed for the story came when a totally unrelated google search listed "women pirates" in the search results. I didn't even know that there were such people so I began to read about them. It turns out that there were many women pirates through the ages and most have been documented quite thoroughly. In reading about them, I came across details of life in the 1700's, a lifestyle which was, at the same time, both fascinating and gruesome. In my travels I had noticed that Spinner rings are available throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and other tropical locales. They are fashioned after ancient Tibetan prayer wheels, which were used by mystics during trances and meditations to invoke powers such as prophesy and healing. Superstition and a belief in magic were so prevalent among sailors in the 1700's, that spinner rings and their supposed powers seemed to be a good fit in a pirate adventure story set in the Caribbean (known as the West Indies back then).
Mrs. Hanley was my favorite character in the book. She was so solid and dependable. Do you have a favorite character from this book?
I, too, love Mrs. Hanley. She is loosely based on my own grandmother, who, in real life, was full of folk-lore, and was the sort of woman who had a talking pet crow, "Joe", who often sat perched on her shoulder, mumbling to himself, as Gram busied herself in her kitchen. (I am NOT making this up!)
Tess, is another favorite. When I was growing up and reading fantastic adventures, there seemed to be mostly male protagonists in the books. I have two daughters and therefore, for them, I wanted to have a female protagonist who was believable, yet strong, and a bit impetuous for her times. On the other hand, I also have four sons ( yep, count 'em - four), so to even things out and to keep peace in the family, my William character plays nearly as large a role, and I wanted him to have characteristics that I admire in my boys.
It may surprise people to find out that I also have a great fondness for Gerta, the mischievous little black goat!
You say in the acknowledgements that you spent time on a tall ship in Nova Scotia as part of your research. Can you tell us about that experience?
It was a very short and humbling experience. The time on that ship was very limited - er... like part of a day, BUT what I had wanted was the experience of hauling a sail up a mast, and I had read that the crew of the Silva in Halifax, NS, allows that on their sightseeing sailings. So I screwed up my courage (there were about 30 passengers on the sailing) and asked the First Mate if I could be the one to haul the sail. He looked me over ( I'm sure he was calculating the liability of fulfilling such a request from a middle-aged, obviously out-of-shape woman) and then he said "OK. But let us get the camera first!" (I knew at that moment, that things weren't gonna' be so good...) .
The main sail canvas was already hooked up on the appropriate boom, with ropes, pulleys, etc. already in place . All I had to do, I was told, was heave and pull. So I did. I heaved and pulled, hand over hand,and huffed and puffed and literally hung on the ropes with all of my body weight, and after a few minutes of mightily struggling thusly, I had managed to haul the main sail only about 12 feet above the deck ( and I'm being generous in my estimation here). The mast was probably 30 or 40 feet tall, so my husband and a couple of other young men sprang to my rescue ( or maybe they just wanted their own turns to show off), hauling the canvas the rest of the way up, to unfurl in the lofty breezes overhead. One of the crew told me later that that boom and canvas and such, have a combined weight of around 250 pounds. This knowledge helped to soothe my bruised ego. The experience also drove home to me what enormous strength demands sailing had - sailors were constantly adjusting their sails during voyages, and many sailors back then were mere teenagers!
I have also done day sails on replica ships in the Caribbean, but those ships were more for ambiance, rather than any hands-on experience. Sailing on a tall ship for an extended time like a couple of weeks, is still on my "bucket list". :-)
And then there was the time, our family was in a 12 man inflatable Zodiac boat off the coast of Vancouver Island and our boat was nudged by a full grown Killer whale which surfaced to spout and in doing so, swamped our boat .... who knew they were SO ENORMOUS up close?? Or the time my husband and daughter and I were sailing on a Hobie Cat in the crystal clear waters off the coast of Mexico, only to look down into that crystal clear water and realize that a 5 foot shark was swimming directly beneath us. (Fastest retreat to shore ever.) I wasn't really going for different kinds of sailing experiences but certainly got some there. These real-life experiences helped me to understand the terror of being in the water with things that could eat you...
What do you hope readers take away from "Quintspinner: A Pirate's Quest"?
Other than I hope to have provided them with a fun read and means of escape from everyday stresses if only temporarily, I hope to point out the importance of love, family, following your heart, and to note that often we don't always appreciate what we have until it's gone. I also believe that things happen for a reason, or as Mrs. Hanley would say, "There's always somethin' what comes from somethin'."
When you began writing this first book, did you know there would be more?
I was less than halfway through writing Quintspinner when I realized that there was much more story waiting to be told than could reasonably be held within the covers of a single book. I have Book Two started ( I think it's about 1/4 of the way finished, but who knows in what directions and on what adventures the characters will eventually take me?) and Book Three is roughly outlined. Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest has won several Awards now and I have heard from several readers that they can't wait for the continuation of Tess's adventures. I am very flattered that people love the story and the characters, and their requests for more make it so enjoyable to create the next part.
How can readers get in touch with you and keep up on future publication dates?
I have a Quintspinner" Group page and a personal page on Facebook, I am on Twitter ( @diannegreenlay), my web page is www.diannegreenlay.com , and my blog is www.writeonthewaytosomewhere.
blogspot.com . They can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I love hearing from readers! To you all, in the words of a long ago pirate, "I wish you a Fair Wind and Following Sea, ever and always!"
Thanks so much, Dianne! Great answers - and now I can add one more thing to my list of things to do when I get to the maritime provinces. Although I'm not sure I will be brave enough to ask to hoist the sail!
Check out my review of this book in the previous post. Add a comment with your e-mail for a chance to win either an e-book or sofcover copy of 'Quintspinner: A Pirate's Quest'. The winner will be chosen on May 1, 2011
Sorry, Canadian and US addresses only for the softcover.
Sorry, Canadian and US addresses only for the softcover.