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Shells Chats with author Barbara Forte Abate
The Secret of Lies is your debut novel. What made you move forward with publishing this book?
Absolute passion for certain.
When I first started writing this story and for years afterward I never told anyone that I was even writing a book. I think it was because I was just insecure enough at the time to feel like my aspirations were frivolous at best. As if I was supposed to be doing other things – important things. And even though I was keeping the rest of my life in tip-top order; clean house, attentive to the children, lovely presentation of meals on the table, etc, etc, I nevertheless kept this pursuit of writing as some guilty secret. “REAL writers write,” and who was I to think I was a real writer?
It wasn’t until I arrived at the point when I really needed to borrow a friend’s typewriter to transport my novel from yellow pads to neatly typed pages, that my hand was forced and my secret life came spilling out. Is seems so silly to me now, but it did take me such a long time to put my name and “writer” into the same sentence.
It was in the midst of all this, that the passion truly started to built and take over. There came a point when writing this book no longer felt like just a story dotted with characters, but rather something remarkably important and necessary.
What influenced you to start writing The Secret of Lies?
Once upon a time when I first sat down to write this book, I think I would’ve said it all had something to do with self satisfaction – of accomplishing a dream I’ve held since grade school when I started writing my “little stories.” I was so incredibly naïve to believe that I’d write my book, feel wonderfully accomplished as I basked in the glow of my personal accomplishment, and then just as easily move onto phase two – whatever that might be. That entire erroneous concept came to an immediate death even before I typed THE END, since by then I’d clearly come to understand that to truly love this intricate world and collection of complex characters I’d created was not a dream fulfilled until others had experienced it as well. Absolutely it’s the readers that provide that final essential link. The readers that hopefully come along and are captivated enough to stay along for the ride. I truly feel that a story doesn’t altogether exist until it’s been read. Until then, it’s just an author wandering alone on the page.
Can you tell us a bit about Secret of Lies?
The Secret of Lies is a Mainstream Literary novel built around the relationship of two sisters growing up on a rural Pennsylvania farm in the 1950’s, and the single shattering event that will split their lives to the very core. On the surface their lives are innocent and simple befitting earlier times. When the story opens Stevie and her older sister Eleanor are embarking on what will be the last summer they will spend at their aunt and uncle’s ancient summer house overlooking the North Atlantic. For the sisters, who every year spend the vacation with their favorite aunt and uncle at their summer house, this is the key event on their yearly calendar. They are lazy, uncomplicated, golden days beside the sea – but it is this last summer when everything will turn ugly and heinous, spiraling horribly out of control. And everything familiar is torn away into splintered fragments that even time declines to heal. It is this single pivotal event that shapes everything that will subsequently unfold into the reminder of the story.
Stevie's past plays a huge role in The Secret of Lies. Given this character's ordeal, how often do you feel that the past creeps up on people when you least expect it?
This is really such an intriguing question. So often we equate surviving things that have transpired in our past with healing. As if by successfully moving beyond that which has affected us deepest, we have effectively left it behind. But many times what feels like resolution is merely a period of hibernation, as in Stevie’s case, when for a time she succeeds at convincing herself that old injuries have been settled, only to have them reopen with the painful reminder that they are still there where she left them. Unresolved, unhealed, and potentially dangerous.
What was one of the most challenging things about writing The Secret of Lies?
In some respects it was simply writing a novel from start to finish that most tested my stamina and will. As someone who has known for most of my life that I wanted to be a writer, I thought that actually sitting down with the goal to write this book would be the hard part. Fast forward through years and years of writing, rewriting, editing, only to start again on page one in a quest to get the words right, and even then the most challenging part was yet to come. Until I actually started sending out my big fat pile of manuscript pages did I find out just how difficult it would be to knock on a door and expect someone to answer. And while on some level I might’ve expected to encounter some closed doors, I hadn’t anticipated they’d all be locked, bolted, nailed shut doors! I learned a good deal about myself in the process, not the least of which is that I apparently don’t like to take no for an answer – since the more I heard that word the deeper I dug in and held on.
A lot of people with everything going on find it hard to keep up with their writing. What motivated you to keep at it even through your busy life?
I do believe that when it comes to those things that we love and value, no matter what, we will find time to and space to fit them into our lives. It’s far too easy to back-burner those things that don’t seem absolutely necessary at the given moment. We’re all so overworked, overextended, and overtired; we can very easily rationalize what might not seem imperative. For a very long time I allowed myself to hold to the conviction that because my writing isn’t something likely to bring world peace, feed the hungry, or preserve our natural resources, to dedicate so much of my time and effort to such pursuits was altogether frivolous – maybe even egotistical. It took me many years to readjust my thoughts on this, but I think I’ve finally get it. Our talents, our skills, those things that call to us in the deepest dark of a quiet night are indeed important. They are all essential pieces that fit into one big puzzle.
Where can people find The Secret of Lies?
You can find it at all the usual places; online at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, your local independent book seller can order it, and there are also links to buy the book on my website. It’s also recently become available as an Ebook.
Where can people find out more about you?
I am a member of Goodreads, and Authors Den, and my book now has its own page on Facebook, but my website (http://www.barbaraforteabate.com) is the place where it all comes together. It’s such a pleasure when readers stop in to visit my pages or take a moment to leave their comments.