Author Spotlight from Baker & Taylor Forecast
New York Times best-selling novelist Luanne Rice is used to mining her own life to tell tales of family, friendship and love. But for her 27th book, The Silver Boat (Viking, April 2011), Rice says her writing is more personal — and darker — than what readers have seen before. The Silver Boat follows a trio of sisters grappling with addiction, strained marriages and a parent who isn’t around to give answers. Rice chatted with Forecast from the East Coast, where she splits her time between New York City and a beach cottage in Olde Lyme, Conn., which inspired some scenes in The Silver Boat.
Forecast: The Silver Boat centers around the larger-than-life role a house can play in our dreams and family dynamics. What drew you to that? Luanne Rice: My grandparents had a beach house where my sisters and I spent every summer. One of the most touching things for me is we come from a working class family, so I was really in awe that they pulled the money together to buy the land and build the cottage. I had this sort of vision of becoming the family matriarch myself and keeping the house going the way my mother had. But when my mother died, it was like the light went out of the house, and my sisters and I had different ideas as to what to do with it. It made me reflect on what a house means—Is it just a setting? Real estate? Is it a repository of dreams? We put it on the market, but didn’t clean it up—this was psychological—let it look like a small-scale Grey Gardens. It didn’t sell. I eventually decided to buy my sisters out, and it’s wonderful having it.
FC: A ghost ship appears as we follow the sisters’ search for clues to their father, a boatbuilder, presumed shipwrecked in Ireland decades earlier. What is it about the sea that conjures up such feelings of being lost or haunted?
LR: I grew up in New England, where the coast is strewn with shipwrecks. There is so much mystery about the sea; it’s vast and the elements are so intense. On a foggy day, you’re not sure what you’re seeing, and that makes you feel anything is possible. When you lose somebody, and it’s so unfinished, with so many questions, you want so badly to have that person back. When their father disappeared, it makes sense they would look to the sea.
FC: You’ve written more than two dozen books since your first novel was published in 1985. What keeps you going? LR: My mother always encouraged my writing. When I was a child, she would hold workshops
around our family’s oak table. She’d have us write down descriptions of rocks and sand. I felt like I couldn’t stop writing. There was a long spell when I got things back in self-addressed envelopes. My mother was so thrilled to see me become a writer and get published. I miss being able to tell her news of jacket art. Writing can be an isolating job; it’s me and the three cats. But I am very active on my website and forums and it’s wonderful, because you can open up a screen and suddenly all those people are there.
— Interviewed by Emily Achenbaum Harris; photo © Adrian Kinloch.