T. M. Wallace lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and four children. At eight years old, she won a short story contest and was published in a local newspaper. She wrote her first book at ten years old called “The Adventures of Pinkstar,” about a stuffed rabbit who magically comes to life. T. M. Wallace received her Master’s degree in English Literature from Carleton University and a degree in Education from the University of Ottawa. In 2010 her latest book, Under A Fairy Moon, was a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel awards. Under A Fairy Moon will be published by Brownridge Publishing in June, 2011.
You can visit her website at www.tmwallace.com.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Theresa. Can you tell us what your latest book, Under a Fairy Moon, is all about?
Addy Marten is drawn to explore her new neighbor’s beautiful garden and becomes lost in twisted fairy-tale world. In this world she must win a game of Fairy Chess (against real fairy creatures) in order to return home.
The main character, Addy, has a lot of spunk. She wears her long black hair in a loose ponytail and wears a flouncy skirt … yet she constantly has scraped and dirty knees and will go tramping through a forest at the slightest hint of adventure! If she feels that something is worth fighting for, she can overcome her fears by facing them head-on. She is curious and is driven to explore the beautiful garden because it captures her considerable imagination.
Connor is another main character who is lost in the garden like Addy. He is a reluctant adventurer. He is used to books and research – reading about adventures, not living them. He is able to overcome his fears for the sake of truth and justice. Connor likes rules and structure and feels very uncomfortable with the chaos that Addy thrives on.
Enitua is the mischievous pixie that lures them deeper into the garden and into playing the game of Fairy Chess that ultimately disrupts the balance of the Realms. She is more of a supporting character, but her antics drive the plot and teach Addy about the importance of not judging a book by its cover: though she lands Addy and Connor into a lot of trouble, she also comes through for them in the end by helping Addy keep a magic crystal out of the hands of the Dark Elf King.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
My characters are usually hybrids – bits and pieces of myself, of people I know, and people I’d like to be. Of course that’s exactly what the imagination does – it takes pieces of your experiences, chews them up and spits them out in a totally new form.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
Both. I have some idea of where I am going but I allow my imagination to lead me down windy paths along the way. I start with a very sketchy plot outline and some idea of the major conflicts and premise. I write some character sketches, so that I have an idea of what the main characters look and sound like. I grab pictures from the internet of interesting places that help me to flesh out a setting and history for the world I am creating. Then, I write, and whatever comes out after that, comes out. I try to write the first draft without my inner censor – until the editing process, when the book usually needs to be trimmed and/or re-shaped.
Q: Your book is set in Windy Falls. Can you tell us why you chose this town in particular?
Windy Falls is an imaginary town that could be anywhere in North America, but I particularly had in mind the small town in Canada where I grew up – in Marmora, Ontario. I was very imaginative, like Addy, and loved to explore the natural areas around my home.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Mrs. Tavish’s garden is absolutely pivotal to the story. This enchanted garden is really a character in its own right, dominating and driving the plot and its themes. The Garden is suggestive of the biblical garden of Eden, as well as symbolizing Addy’s own inner self which is beautiful like the garden, yet has dark, wild places that she needs to face down and overcome if she is to find peace and spiritual/emotional maturity.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Connor has just rescued Addy from the troll dungeons, having fought an undead sentry with a magic sword. He has never done anything so exciting or more noble in his life, and Addy notices that he seems older and more confident. For some reason, this makes her a little uncomfortable – she’s not sure she likes this new confident Connor. It may be because she feels a little unsure of herself right now, and she likes to be the one in control.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
Addy relaxed a little, allowing the garden to work its magic. She had only to breathe its heady aromas of jasmine, mint and thyme to be carried away to a different world altogether. The garden might belong to her neighbour, Mrs. Tavish, but it was Addy’s own secret place, a hidden passageway into the fantastic kingdoms she had often read and dreamed about.
Here, she was free to be her own person, without her parents watching and wondering why she wasn’t out trying to make friends, or obsessed about stupid things like hair and make-up and clothes. Here she no longer cared that she was, yet again, the new girl in town. She could forget about that school where she had been Addy-the-Gifted, feeling lonely and awkward. In this magical place, she was whatever she wanted to be. In a beautiful place like this she could be wherever and whatever she imagined.
Today she was Nebetia the Enlightened, Egyptian princess, entering the Hall of Kings after a long absence. Rows of cypress trees became green-cloaked sentries ready to escort her through flower-bed courtyards. Stone statues and topiary, her willing subjects, awaited her wise command. Today she had walked straight-backed through arched trellises dripping in wild grapes and Virginia Creepers to claim her right to the throne.
Yet the long shadows made Addy uneasy, reminding her that this ethereal kingdom was not hers alone. For one thing: the garden was wild – untamed and untameable. The tangled and creeping masses on the fringes loomed up and over the neat little hedgerows like a storm threatening to upturn a village. These dark, secret places lured her with their promise of hidden mysteries, then surprised and wounded her with the prick of stinging nettle claws and barberry teeth.
There was also the problem of Mrs. Tavish, who was a witch. Addy didn’t really believe she was a witch, but she had recently heard a girl call her that: she had been talking to her brother, passing by the garden on the street-side and close enough for Addy to overhear.
“That’s where the witch lives,” said the girl to her pudgy little brother. He had his face full of ice-cream, but he still marked carefully the place where she pointed with his large round eyes.
“You be careful when you walk by here, Justin,” the girl had warned, pulling him away by the collar. “That place is scary. I bet she eats little boys like you for breakfast.”
Addy remembered people talking about another strange old lady in Port Perry where she had lived when she was ten. She had a house full of cats and grew herbs, and some of the kids thought she might be a witch. Was Mrs. Tavish a witch? Addy had often seen her tramping ungracefully around her kingdom of azaleas and primroses in her cotton flowered dresses and oversized black boots. However, Addy didn’t think she looked so much scary as ridiculous. She wondered if a witch would wear a wide-brimmed sun-hat trailing ribbons and lace. (Under a Fairy Moon, pages 3 – 4)
Thank you so much for this interview, Theresa. We wish you much success!