Today on my blog I’m honored to welcome author Normandie Fischer. We met through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) a few months ago, and I recently read her Carolina Coast Novel, Heavy Weather.
Normandie writes Southern women’s fiction threaded with sailing, real life, and hope. She has four published novels: Becalmed, Heavy Weather, Sailing out of Darkness, and Two from Isaac’s House.
My review of Heavy Weather is here.
- First of all, welcome to my blog! I’m so glad to have you here. You’re the only Normandie I’ve ever known. Were you named after the province in France?
I always wished I’d been named after something as glamorous as the beach or the province—or even the ship. Instead my father saw the name on a small street in the California town of Redlands, where he grew up. Nothing exciting about that, but when I eventually married Michael, I discovered that he had also grown up in Redlands and had delivered newspapers on Normandie Court. Isn’t that a hoot? My father loved what he imagined a coincidence. Of course, it wasn’t, was it?
- Have you always loved words, stories, and writing? Please share highlights of your road to publication and any stories that inspired you to write.
I studied creative writing beginning in eighth grade under a teacher who drew so much from us. He taught me the poetic, and I’ve written it ever since. But I also sculpted. I’d always been able to replicate whatever I saw and attended art classes at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, and later in Italy. I received my first portrait commission in my teens. I also wrote for school literary magazines.
In my twenties, I took a job as a proofreader, which led to a copy editing position, then to the job as a developmental editor, and ultimately to the position of senior editor. I loved the work. I continued to sculpt and teach, and won a number of awards while my work landed in various parts of the country. But I wanted to try fiction, which meant a shift in focus. I studied the craft. I bought every book I could find and joined critique groups. I finished a fun story set in Italy and the Middle East (Two from Isaac’s House) that I submitted at a conference. With it, I won the best new writer award for that year and felt the excitement surge–only to plummet when the then-acquisitions editor at Tyndale said he’d love to publish my award-winner if I’d please add more of a salvation message to it. I heard the same from the other two houses whose editors had given me the award.
But we have to know ourselves and our audience, don’t we? I’m a Christian, and my worldview is certainly Christian, but I write for the me I was before I met the Lord. I write real stories of real people for real people, and I hope they reveal truth as I see it.
Life grew complicated in the mid-nineties when the father of my children decamped and I began taking care of my aged auntie, the same woman who had taught me to sail. I was hired by the late Iranian actor and director Reza Fazeli to write his action memoir, which was very exciting, and I began writing Southern women’s fiction (often with a sailing component). Eventually, I met and married the love of my life, and my auntie and I moved to California with him. The rest of the story involves buying a boat big enough for us all, setting sail, writing from on board, finding one agent and then a second. The second found publishers for my first two books, and I decided to indie publish Heavy Weather. And here I am. Many years later, much wiser, having a grand time. Writing, writing, writing.
- Now to your thrilling and emotionally rich book, Heavy Weather. How did this story, and these very lifelike characters, come about? Was it one particular character, or a situation from the news? Or perhaps the vibrant, small-town setting of Beaufort, NC?
Storylines come to us in so many ways, don’t they? I began HW knowing I wanted to tell Hannah’s story. We’d learned in Becalmed (where she was Tadie’s sidekick) that Hannah and Matt had lost two baby boys. So, how would Hannah feel if her friends were pregnant? To up the ante, I thought it might be interesting to have her find, rescue, and fall in love with two children, children who would never be hers.
Which brought Annie Mac to my notice. Now I had to learn who she was, why the bad stuff had happened to her, and what could be done to help her. We’d also met Clay at the end of Becalmed, so his entry into this story worked.
I love the idea of small towns in which folk know each other. What I discovered from spending childhood vacations with my family in New Bern (NC) and near Beaufort was that odd folk fit in. They’re often accepted in ways you don’t see in cities. Every family seemed (in those days) to have its odd maiden aunt or its miscreant or some issue that required the town’s help—or at least the town’s tolerance. I’m not suggesting that everyone in any town fits this image, but I know that my spinster aunt had a slew of friends of all sorts, and they supported each other even in their different lifestyles. So, when I decided to use Beaufort as a small town in which to place my characters, I created a core of friends who told each other the truth, who wept with each other, and who rallied together to help someone like Annie Mac.
- I don’t often read stories with multiple points of view. Heavy Weather was a refreshing change. Each chapter is written through one of four main character’s eyes: Hannah, Annie Mac, Clay, or Roy. And wow—writing in the antagonist’s (bad guy’s) point of view must’ve been a challenge, yet it enriched the story because the reader grasps where he’s coming from and what makes him tick. Which character’s POV did you enjoy writing in most? How about least?
I loved them all, but I may have enjoyed writing in the bad guy’s head the most. It was certainly the most challenging: how to make him real, believable, and convinced he’s right. He was searching for family in his own highly warped way, just as each of the other characters was. Writing from multiple POVs is so much fun because it gives me a chance to imagine how I’d feel if I were each one. Once I do that, they take on a life of their own and their actions grow organically. They act—or respond–because of who they are and what they’ve experienced. I believe that all actions have reactions or consequences, and how we respond to those consequences—whether the result of our actions or another’s—determines our growth. Roy refused to grow, and the lies he told himself brought on consequences for everyone, including himself.
- Heavy Weather is gritty and real, filled with glimpses of raw real life. Infertility, abuse, and racism are heavy subjects. Did the weight of your characters’ lives and difficult situations ever become too much while writing, or was the telling of their stories freeing, knowing it could be helpful to those going through the reality of such situations?
I used to be involved in a counseling ministry and heard more tales than you can imagine. I’ve also lived many years with my share of heartache and loss. I don’t think anyone gets through life without pain or loss in some form, so delving into these issues, watching my characters grow—or not—as each confronts his or her circumstances, not only fascinates me, but also gives me hope. I want to continue to grow as a person, and I think growth only comes when we recognize the lies we’ve told ourselves and figure out how to overcome and accept who we are and how we fit into our world.
- I might have a teensy fictional crush on Clay, Beaufort’s police lieutenant. Do you have a favorite character from Heavy Weather?
Clay’s great, isn’t he? I think he’s rather crush-worthy myself. But then, I felt that way about Will and Teo—a sailor and a crippled mystery writer. Honey, if you can’t fall a little in love with your heroes (no matter what they look like or what they do or where they come from), then how can you imagine anyone else will?
- I’d love to hear about your other books and the story you’re currently working on.
Becalmed (2013) was my debut title and introduces Tadie, Will, and Jilly to readers, so it was fun to write them into Heavy Weather. In it, Hannah has the role of Tadie’s best friend. Girlfriends are so important, so she had to have her own story. (Hence, Heavy Weather) I’m working on another Beaufort book, still titleless, that picks up Annie Mac and Clay’s evolving story and introduces a few more fascinating people who have just moved to town, including another single mother and her bi-racial daughter. I have another nasty fellow in this one—a very, very different sort, but still fascinating to me as I uncover the lies that allow him to act as he does. I can’t wait to reveal more of that story as it evolves. I also have the beginning of a fourth Beaufort book that deals with family issues revolving around an elderly member with dementia.
Sailing out of Darkness (also published in 2013) is another book about consequences and guilt, which I set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the Italian Riviera. It has some wonderful characters in it—and some of the ditties I wrote. It was a finalist for the Maggie from the Georgia RWA in strong romantic elements and for the Aspen Gold out of Denver. (Becalmed won the Catherine from the Toronto RWA in manuscript form and was a finalist for the 2014 ACRA from the Ancient City RWA for 2014.)
I resurrected Two from Isaac’s House (remember that book that won me the first award? The one that didn’t get published?) because I loved the story. It’s my first foray into romantic suspense and should release this November. I’m also working on a prequel to it, my first novella. My goodness, but they are much harder to write than a full-length story.
Normandie, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing about your stories, characters, and yourself. Heavy Weather is a deeply moving tale of friendship, love, regret, and healing.