In The Handbasket: Amy MacKinnon

You will probably think me lazy for having yet another guest at the Handbasket this week. (Really, I’m off buying school supplies and helping Pom answer that age-old question: What to wear on the first day of junior year?) But I wanted to make sure I introduced Amy MacKinnon to you; her debut novel, TETHERED, hit the bookstores this Tuesday.
TETHERED is the story of Clara Marsh, a Massachusetts undertaker whose deep personal scars and thoughtful reticence attract others who are suffering into her life. There is tough material in TETHERED: child abuse and pornography, random crime, and more dead bodies than you can shake a stick at. Amy has a deft, poetic hand, and her language is dense and lovely even in the most unlovely scenes.

I don’t know Amy well, but her friends at The Writers’ Group blog do, and have written an endearing series of posts on Amy’s journey and success. You can read more about TETHERED here. And don’t miss what her husband has to say!

I expect you’ll be hearing lots more about Amy and her books. Before you wander off to find out more, here’s what Amy had to say when I asked her a few questions about TETHERED, her writing life, and exotic pets.

Welcome, Amy!

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Is it the same thing that motivates you to write?

One night while nursing my youngest, I wrote my obituary. It terrified me that I had so little to include. Knowing how fragile life can be — I was comatose and on life support after the birth of my first child — I started my writing journey soon after. It’s important to have a dream and even more important to pursue it.

Scars–particularly the physical kind–play a very important role in TETHERED. Do you have a favorite scar? How did you get it? (Thanks, Jan!)

I find scars utterly intriguing, not ugly at all. Each one tells a story. The ones we bury deep within, those are the ugly ones. My favorite scar is on my back. I had a blemish, showed it to my doctor fearing it was skin cancer, and she said not to worry, it was nothing. Over the next several days, the warning in my gut grew to near physical proportions. I went back with my three children in tow and insisted she remove it. She still resisted, saying it would leave a huge scar. I pointed to my children and said I’d rather that than they be left without a mother. Turns out we caught it just in time.

What was the biggest surprise that you uncovered as you wrote TETHERED?

This might sound strange, insane to non-writers, but I was shocked to learn my story had a path that I was supposed to discover, not forge. It required a lot of patience to allow it to unfold. I never forced it.

I would definitely describe TETHERED as a thriller novel. Did the writing of it frighten you at any point?

It’s funny how different people read it.You’re the second person to consider it a thriller, some classify it as a mystery, others literary suspense. The Borders’ buyer, who nominated it for their Original Voices Program, read it the way I’d always intended it be received. That was hugely gratifying. It was never intended to be frightening, it’s more an exploration of faith: in one’s self, in another, in a higher power. The only part that frightened me is the story of the real Precious Doe, how she was murdered and her body discarded. The book is dedicated to her.

How did the mortuary science research you did for the novel affect your attitude toward death?

We are of the nature to die, we all will die. I’ve long had my funeral plans filed with my uncle, the funeral director who helped me with the research and is the inspiration for Linus. I haven’t changed a thing.

What’s the first song you remember learning as a child?

Seasons in the Sun. It’s about a man who learns he’s dying and says goodbye to those he loves. Ironic, eh?

Here’s a question from my eight-year-old, Bengal. “Do you have a pet monkey? If not, have you ever wanted one? And what would you name it?”

Oh, Bengal, I don’t, though how did you know I’ve always wanted to adopt a chimp? My husband did have an ape, a gibbon, while growing up in Thailand, Gregory Haig, and a monkey named Susan. We do have two naughty cats and the most wonderful English bulldog, Babe. And this summer, a ferocious storm shook free a squirrel’s nest and we helped raise them. Each morning there are 27 turkeys prancing around my yard and at night the deer come to eat from my garden. When I was your age, I begged my parents for a pet skunk. They never gave in.

3 thoughts on “In The Handbasket: Amy MacKinnon”

  1. Helen says:

    Even if Amy had never said one word about her book, I would have wanted to get it, just from “listening” to her talk about herself!

  2. Hey Laura–and Hey Amy! Congratulations on the wild success of Tethered.

    If you haven’t met Amy yet–just between us, she’s amazing. And incredibly generous. She’s spent countless hours shepherding and mentoring new authors, teaching, assisting and being everyone’s touchstone. And a source of endless info.

    And her book is–what can I say. A unique voice. One of a kind. And of course, that’s the highest compliment!

    Laura–so nice to see you! You were such a hit at Thrillerfest. And congrats on your 101st-so now this is 102? May you have hundreds more.

  3. Larramie says:

    “Brutally gorgeous,” that’s my description of Tethered. And, although she claims to question her faith, Amy is a true believer in the hope/hard work that anything is possible.

    Yet best of all, we’ll be forever tethered by daisies — a true honor!

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