About Evenfall (from the book jacket):
Welcome to Hartman, Connecticut – home of the Murphy women, known for their beauty, willfulness, and disastrous luck with men. Fifty years ago, Gert Murphy stood aside and watched her true love, Frank, marry her sister. Now Frank’s dead – dead, but not quite gone – and realizes he’s made a mistake.
Andie Murphy is just returning to settle her uncle Frank’s estate, a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse known as Evenfall. Though Aunt Gert drives her as crazy as she always has, Cort, the wide-eyed farm boy she used to babysit, is all grown up…and has a whole new definition of the word sleepover. And if that’s not enough to distract Andie from her work, the mysterious whispers certainly are. Either she’s losing her mind, or something she can’t see is calling to her…something that insists on mending the past.
|Author photo by Elizabeth Sullivan Photography|
Liz Michalski graduated from college in Connecticut with a BA in English. She has worked as a reporter, an editor, and a freelance writer. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two small children and large brown dog. Evenfall is her first novel.
Nina sees the man first. It’s a warm summer day, the kind where, when I was alive, you’d have found me down by the creek. Fishing, I’d have said if anyone asked, though the only thing worth catching there was a long, cool breeze.
These are the opening lines of Evenfall, Liz Michalski’s debut novel. Given my fascination with ghosts, I knew from that second sentence that this was a book I could not put down. The prose is beautiful, the love stories bittersweet, the longing and regret palpable. The house, Evenfall, is not just a setting, but a character. The dog, the cat, even the goats and a snapping turtle are integral to the story, not mere props. The Murphy women, Frank, and Cort are all believably flawed and you love them for it. Neil is so flawed I wished I could scratch his eyes out. Men, don’t be frightened off by “love story.” I know of several guys who openly admit to having enjoyed Evenfall, particularly a certain few pages (see below). Word of warning: don’t hand it to a teenager without reading said pages first.
Welcome to What Women Write, Liz! You begin Evenfall from the point-of-view of a ghost, a perspective that drew me in immediately. How did you come up with this idea?
Honestly, the first line of the book just popped into my head one morning. And then a few days later, I wound up touring the house that Evenfall is based upon. The two events just sparked the novel for me -- a man who loved his life, and his home, so much he just can't leave it.
You have become quite the topic of conversation in the pick-up line at school. Tell us about that.
Hee. I was lucky enough to have lots of support from the people I met at my children's grammar and preschool. Evenfall is a love story on many levels, and mostly very clean, but there is one particularly steamy scene (starting on page 117 for those who would like to skip ahead). The month after the book came out, I was constantly having people sidle up to me at school when I was waiting to pick up my kids, saying things like "I liked your book. And, um, that scene..." Which is awesome, but also not the kind of thing you want to be discussing around the principal. : )
Nina serves as a sort of bridge between the living and spiritual worlds, yet she can’t exactly translate. Why did you choose an animal for this role? Was she inspired by a real dog?
Nina was inspired by a real dog -- (you can read more about her on the secret pages -- see below). For me, an animal was a logical bridge between the two worlds. Animals have such keen senses, it's not such a stretch to imagine they can see and hear things that we can't. At the same time, Nina can't speak for Frank -- she can only provide the same type of silent support that our own animals do.
I was very fortunate. I met my agent at Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston and connected with him right away. He worked on Evenfall with me for about a year, and then sold it shortly after he sent it out. On the other hand, it took me a really long time to write Evenfall -- like eight years to finish it -- so that part of the process was extremely long.
Your author page is wonderful and you have secret pages on there where readers can learn more about the backstory of the book. (Great idea, by the way.) If a reader wishes to access these pages, what would you like them to do?
I love my secret pages and I'm glad you do too -- it's so much fun to share more about Nina and other parts of the story. I've asked those who read and liked the book to email me (at firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll send them the links and passwords.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
An introvert who has learned to hide as an extrovert. It's nice to go out sometimes, but I'm happiest hanging at home with my husband, kids, and big dog. An ideal weekend is one where it snows or rains enough to keep everyone home and in pajamas. Sadly, that only happens about once a year.
You have small children. How do you manage to get any work done?
At times it can definitely be a struggle. When my two kids were really little, I'd write for a few nights a week after my husband came home, and then for two hours or so on the weekend. Once or twice a year I'd go away for the weekend and just crank out as many words as I could, but I always felt guilty about leaving, which I guess did serve as a great motivator to get my writing done. I spent a lot of days playing on the floor, repeating one line over and over in my head so I wouldn't lose it before I could get to the computer to write it down.
This is the first year both my kids have been in school all day. It was actually tough to adjust to at first, but I've finally developed a good routine where I work on my fiction three mornings a week, and then do freelance work or other writing stuff the other two. Of course, it will be chaos again when summer comes!
Do you prefer composing or editing? Why?
It depends. When I'm telling a new part of the story that I'm excited about, I love how easily the words flow, and how well they fit together. On the other hand, it is so satisfying to see when a chapter isn't working and be able to fix it. Which one I prefer depends on my mindset of the day -- and is usually the opposite from what I am doing!
What are you reading now?
I always have a stack of books going. I just finished Julia's Child, by Sarah Pinneo, a novel which captures so honestly the struggle between having a dream and a career and raising a family. I'm one chapter into The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey, and really enjoying it. And I'm rereading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle in preparation for sharing it with my daughter's book club.
Are you working on another novel now?
Yes, I'm working on a story about a family in which in each generation, one daughter develops the power to make things disappear. It's a different story entirely, but has the same kind of feel to it as Evenfall, I hope.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
When I first started trying fiction, a friend pointed me to Zoetrope.com, an online workshop. It was a great place to learn not only how to write, but how to give and receive criticism. I was so inspired by the stories I read there, by how seriously people took the craft of writing, and by how generous they were with their feedback. I'd read a short story I loved, then try and pinpoint why it worked for me. And then I'd sit down and write. So read. Read, read read. Try and figure out how other authors write action scenes, how they handle dialogue, how they build a plot. What makes a scene work? And then sit down in that chair and write, even if you've only got 15 minutes today. There's no other way to get the words on the page.
Thank you for stopping by today, Liz!
Evenfall is available at bookstores everywhere. If you've read the book, please tell us your thoughts in the comments below.