M.L. Shafer tells us about her book, The House on Crooked Pond, a family saga spanning several generations.
Please tell us about your book . . .
The House on Crooked Pond: A Cape Cod Family Saga is a collection of four novella-length stories revealing how members of the Lyman family, living three centuries apart in the same isolated house on Cape Cod, deal with lies, intimidation, betrayal, and revenge. Because I couldn’t decide on one historical timeframe in which to tell my story, I chose four. The Quakers who first held meetings in what is now my neighborhood of West Falmouth around 1685 had a compelling past. During the War of 1812, my town of Falmouth was bombarded by the British ship Nimrod. The coming of the railroad to Falmouth in 1872 opened travel to the west and the gold to be found there. I wanted to tie the stories together by including a contemporary story in 2014.
Part One, The Collector. It is the year 2014 and journalist Abby Jenkins is assigned by her editor to go to the deteriorating Lyman house on Crooked Pond to interview a once-famous actor, the now 74-year old John Linton, to get an article on his collection of war memorabilia. When she meets this strange, volatile man she finds she cannot trust him for he has lied about the contents of his collection, and about the real reason he asked for her to interview him. He wants her to write a story based on all of the collections he found in the old Lyman house. As he leads her through the sometimes grim, and sometimes shocking collections, she fears that she made a grave mistake in going to the house alone. The collector’s story continues in Part Five with Abby making an important decision.
Part Two, The Farrier’s Daughter. It is the year 1712, and the Quaker settlement in West Falmouth, not far from Crooked Pond, is home to Tacy Swift and her father Samuel, the village blacksmith and farrier. When Samuel and Tacy go to the Lyman house to tend to their iron work and sheep, she meets the two Lyman brothers, Edmund and Thomas. She feels intimidated by Edmund and attracted to Thomas, the younger. But Edmund has ideas which result in a family split that lasts for 100 years.
Part Three, The Matriarch. It is 1814 and Olivia Lyman Lyman’s family on Shore Street in Falmouth is now reunited with the Lymans on Crooked Pond after the 100 year split. She feels betrayed, for she is miserable living with the part of the family she had been taught to despise. But when her great-grandson, William, and his new cousin, Harry, decide to get into trouble, she decides to punish them. In doing so, will she discover that she is able to adjust to life on Crooked Pond, or will her life become more intolerable?
Part Four, The Adventurer. Daniel Lyman has left home to find his fortune in the goldmines of the Klondike, and to escape being tormented by his older brother Charles. Now, in 1912, he returns as a rich gentleman, but with a dark secret. He wants to pay Charles back for the unbearable childhood he suffered under this cruel brother, and decides that the gentlemanly way to do this is to build an elaborate wine cellar in the house on Crooked Pond to make him jealous. But when Charles, with the help of Daniel’s unpleasant housekeeper Mrs. Kelley, continues to punish Daniel, Daniel’s revenge takes a different turn.
Part Five, The Author. It is 2014 once more and Abby Jenkins has to decide whether or not to take John Linton’s request for her to write a story based on all of his collections and not just the war material he had originally told her editor about. He will pay her a lot of money to do so, but she will have to agree to certain of his conditions, and he will have to agree to all of her conditions. Will she become the author, or will John Linton have to hire someone else?
And your influences and inspirations?
From a very young age I have always been drawn to books with unforgettable characters and a great storyline: The Huckleberry Finn of Mark Twain; Charles Dickens’s Miss Havisham in Great Expectations; John Irving’s title character in his Prayer for Owen Meany; and Stieg Larsson’s title character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
My other interests include reading and writing historical non-fiction, studying the geology of Cape Cod (its effect on the first settlers), and working on my family genealogy (I actually have some Viking ancestors). I also enjoy golf, and I’m still involved in circumnavigating Cape Cod in my kayak; one bay, marsh, and inlet at a time.
A strong sense of place in history has significantly influenced me. Growing up in a small village on the banks of the Hudson River left an indelible impression on me with its Revolutionary War history. Living now on Cape Cod I’m captivated by its early 18th century history with Quakers and Pilgrims and Puritans. There is a quaint little historic house (1780) at the bottom of the hill where I live, and my curiosity over who first lived there has inspired me to find stories about the first families who built and lived in other Cape Cod houses. And so, bringing together my interests in storytelling, genealogy, and history, I was driven to write this historical fiction account of the characters of one family, living about one hundred years apart, and how they dealt with difficult situations.
It took me four years to write the book, and thanks to my family, my critique group, and the support of the Cape Cod Writer’s Center, those years take a special place among the best years of my life.
Do you have one message to convey to your readers?
Some problems confronting families depend on their time and place in history. But some, such as lies, intimidation, betrayal, and revenge, are timeless and universal. Only the resources to solve these problems may change depending on when and where the families live.
Any plans for a sequel?
I am presently developing plans to write a sequel, focusing on what happens to one, not previously mentioned, member of the Lyman family on Crooked Pond. It will be a single work of historical fiction.
Events, marketing ideas and promotions?
I have a February 11th PowerPoint speaking engagement with the Falmouth Genealogical Society on Falmouth’s Historic Half- Houses and the Families Who Built Them; Currently developing my website to contain a blog on Cape Cod’s Historical Half Houses and the Families Who Built Them; Planning book signings and talks throughout Cape Cod and the Islands as well as New England.
What was your favorite part of publishing with iU?
My favorite part of my publishing experience with iUniverse was working with the consultants. They were easy to contact, and willing and able to answer my questions in a timely and professional manner.
Lastly, any advice for aspiring authors?
If you are writing historical fiction, be sure to keep well-organized notes on your research into the history. Situations will arise where you’ll need to refer back to this information when you are well into writing your novel, or even into your final revision. It must be easy to find.