I don’t like to talk about it much, but I’ve been living with depression for a long time. It got so severe a year ago that I was almost hospitalized and I was unable to work for two months. I’ve made humongous improvements since then, but it’s still something I live with every day, and it’s something that has a profound relationship with my writing.
I finished my master’s degree in English literature eight years ago, and although it was an invaluable experience, it crushed out of me the ability to write freely and easily. Ever since then, I’ve been building the skill back up. I’ve never been a fast fiction writer, but as an undergrad, I was prolific. It wasn’t until I started writing SHARDS OF THE SEA (a few months before my depression turned frighteningly serious) that I really found the drive, the flow, again. I’ve been working on this novel for a year and a half, and it’s been like a focus point and a lighthouse of hope.
When I was feeling my worst, only two things could lift my spirit: my wife, Ruby, and nature. Two women in love, surrounded by the splendor of the natural world – it saved my life, and I want to convey some sliver of that power in my stories. That’s why I tend to place my characters in distinctive natural settings. It’s important to me to build a vivid, realistic atmosphere that I hope will convey to readers how much beauty and hope and salvation can be found in nature.
If you’ve read EIDERDOWN, my first novella, you know how much I love forests (and birds!). I delighted in creating the Randall Park Nature Preserve, basing it on an embellished version of a park I spent my childhood playing in. For that story, I wanted to create a sense of joy – a world of blossoming, unfurling verdure, bright with possibilities and sparkling with rain, where two women could meet and fall in love while exploring it together.
SHARDS OF THE SEA is another beast altogether. It takes place in Wavestead, a coastal tourist town in New England, and the beach and ocean are central players. While the woods is a place of heart-filling delight for me, the ocean is a place of raw power, of windswept sand and ominous sunrises shrouded in clouds the color of molten metal. I grew up in Maine: the ocean is glorious there but not always friendly.
SHARDS OF THE SEA is a much more serious story compared to EIDERDOWN. It has plenty of light-heartedness, of adorable ladies being adorable together (because I can’t write something that doesn’t have that! XD) but there’s a loneliness that pervades everything. Clara is a woman who doesn’t know herself, who is stuck in patterns that may have worked for her in the past but don’t anymore, and yet she clings to them because she’s afraid of letting herself dive into the unknown. She has a complex and changing relationship with the sea, and that gives me a tremendous opportunity to show its many moods and faces.