Carrie’s Conversation with Lynne Griffin, Author of SEA ESCAPE
Carrie: Without giving too much away, give us an idea about what SEA ESCAPE is about.
Lynne: SEA ESCAPE is a story inspired by my parents love letters; it’s about the ties that bind mothers and daughters. Laura Martinez is wedged in the middle place, grappling with her busy life as a nurse, wife, and devoted mom to Henry and Claire, when her estranged mother, Helen, suffers a devastating stroke. In a desperate attempt to lure her mother into choosing life, Laura goes to Sea Escape, the pristine beach home that Helen took refuge in when her carefully crafted life unraveled years ago, after the death of her beloved husband. Believing the beauty and sway of her father’s words have the power to heal, Laura reads the letters bedside to her mother–a woman who once spoke the language of fabric; of Peony Sky in Jade and Paradise Garden Sage–but who can’t or won’t speak to her now. As Laura delves deeper into her tangled family history, each letter revealing patchwork details of her parents’ marriage, she finds a common thread. A secret, mother and daughter unknowingly share.
Carrie: What inspired you to write SEA ESCAPE?
Lynne: After my own mother passed away in 2000, I found love letters written to her by my father. As I read, I went so far as to imagine excerpts of my father’s beautiful writing shining within a novel I might someday write. In those musings, SEA ESCAPE was born. The letters were then and are now a treasure. The love captured within, pure and sincere. Yet to my storyteller’s heart, reading them then, I couldn’t help but think–not enough conflict, no secrets, no dramatic reveal. Certainly I didn’t want those things to come by way of my parents, but right then I started imagining a different story belong to a different daughter. That story is SEA ESCAPE.
Carrie: Is there an underlying theme of SEA ESCAPE?
Lynne: I’ve been a family life expert for more than twenty years, and there’s so much about my work counseling parents, observing children, and teaching educators about families that I use in writing fiction. My desire to capture family life in authentic ways feeds the themes of all my novels. There’s no shortage of seeds from my work that I use to inform my writing. Anton Chekhov called them little particulars. Right there in my everyday life are organic details that give genuineness to the stories I create. I’ve had my own grief work to do over the years; I lost my father when I was fifteen and my mother when I was forty. As a professional who’s taught classes and counseled parents and children about healthy grieving, I’ve always been struck by the choices people make related to the loss of a loved one—the healthy and unhealthy ways grief work gets done. So I write about the choices people make when faced with unbelievable pain. What really holds a marriage together when it’s tested. I examine the impact of loss on all kinds of relationships—mother, brother, sister, daughter, friend. If they start off strong—or don’t—what happens? Why do some people thrive after a loss, finding true purpose, while others don’t come out of it stronger?
Carrie: Which character do you identify with the most in SEA ESCAPE? How much of yourself did you put into these characters and did you realize you showed up in SEA ESCAPE? If so, while you were writing or only afterwards upon review?
Lynne: I truly care about all my characters—in all their shades of humanity—yet the one I love the most is Helen. Like my own mother did, Helen struggles with what’s called prolonged grief disorder, a specific kind of depression brought on by loss. For some, grief refuses to follow the typical trajectory toward healing. In my years as a grief counselor, I’ve met countless people who simply can not move through the grieving process. I empathize with Helen, stuck in the past, gripped by the pain of loss. I have enormous compassion for her because of what my mother experienced after the death of my father. For this reason, SEA ESCAPE is a deeply personal and emotional novel for me. Helen is a character I will be forever connected to.
Carrie: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about writing fiction?
Lynne: Close the door on the marketplace while you write. Writing to trends–trying to guess what readers want–isn’t for me. I feel an obligation to write for the story, to let the characters tell me about their lives. I believe if my story and characters are authentic, the novel will find its audience.
Carrie: Can you offer a glimpse into your “real life” and share with us a bit of your personal life—Outside of writing, what’s important to you?
Lynne: I live in a seaside town much like Anaskaket depicted in SEA ESCAPE. I’m married to the most supportive husband a woman could have, and we have two college age children; a daughter studying vocal performance and music education, and a son studying jazz piano and music sound recording. My family provides me my greatest joy in life—and there’s a lot of music in my life too. My husband and children support, encourage, and ground me in unbelievable ways. I am very blessed. If I’m not spending time with them, or writing, I’m reading. The to-be-read piles of books in my home are an embarrassment of riches.
Carrie: What authors, books, or ideas have influenced your writing?
Lynne: Everything I read influences my work. If a novel isn’t working for me, I try to analyze from a craft perspective, why that’s the case. And if I love it, the same applies. I want to know how and why it sings. There are so many novels on my keeper shelf, books I dip in to, to be inspired. Wally Lamb’s, The Hour I First Believed; Margot Livesey’s, Eva Moves the Furniture; Nicole Krauss’s, The History of Love. I love everything by Ann Patchett, Sue Miller, and Jonathan Safran Foer. Novels I’ve recently read and adored include Day for Night by Frederick Reiken, and Little Bee by Chris Cleave.
Just a Bit More About Lynne Griffin:
Lynne Griffin writes about family life. She is the author of, Sea Escape-A novel (Simon & Schuster, July 2010) Life Without Summer-A novel (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), and the nonfiction parenting title, Negotiation Generation (Penguin, 2007). Lynne teaches family studies at the graduate level and writing at Grub Street Writers in Boston. She appears regularly on Boston’s Fox Morning News talking about family life issues. Lynne writes for the blog, Family Life Stories.
**Click HERE to visit Lynne’s website
SEA ESCAPE Excerpt ~ Chapter 1
Letters are windows casting light, illuminating the ties between two people. I could’ve sneaked a peek inside my parents’ romance by reading his letters to her, but I respected my mother’s love of curtains. At forty-five, the details of their marriage remained a mystery to me; I had no desire to confirm what I already knew. Even dead, she loved him more than me. My mother spent her days drenched in memories of safe arms and sweet music, reading his precious words, faded ink on yellowed stationery. I looked for ghosts around corners, certain I was running out of time to find a way to be enough for her. An inability to live in the present was one thing we had in common.
“Are you okay in there, Mother?” Well aware she startled at loud noises, I knocked lightly on the door nearest the driveway. No answer. By the fourth rap, I couldn’t stop myself, I was pounding.
The first pinprick of worry jabbed me as I wondered if this was the day I’d find my mother dead in her double bed, cold, even though she was covered by her wedding quilt of interlocking green and pink floral circles. Juggling two grocery bags and reminding the kids to stop at the end of the boardwalk leading to Anaskaket Beach, I jiggled the lock, but she’d bolted and double-bolted the place as if Sea Escape sat on a main street in the city instead of on waterfront acreage south of Boston.
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