On the path to becoming a novelist, Marie Bostwick worked in the bean fields of Oregon, sang and danced in musical productions, acted in TV commercials, taught religion to deaf children, ran an event-planning business, worked as the scheduler for a U.S. Senator and directed women's ministries for a large church. But as diverse and enriching as these experiences were, it was a conversation with a stranger that pointed Marie toward her true calling.
Marie's fourth book, A Single Thread, will be her first contemporary novel and the story of a displaced Texas homemaker who moves to Connecticut and pursues her dream of opening a quilt shop. But, on the day the shop opens, the owner discovers she has breast cancer. She survives, with the loving help of her friends.
In A Single Thread quilting brings together women of diverse backgrounds and illustrates the single thread that ties them all together. What is that single thread?
Friendship, but in the deepest sense of the word. The friendship that binds Evelyn, Abigail, Margot, and Liza is an almost sacred trust. They are there for each other through the best and worst that life can throw their way. They know each other's strengths, weaknesses, eccentricities, and blind spots, and still, they stick together. In my mind, that's what true friendship means. It's a very rare commodity, but I think it's something we all long for.
You obviously know the quilting world well. What function does quilting play in your life?
I always say that I quilt because I can't paint, and it's true. Quilting speaks to the artistic side of my soul. I think I'd panic if someone handed me a paintbrush and put me in front of a blank canvas, but playing with fabric feels completely natural to me, which makes sense, because I've been sewing since I was a little girl. Quilting allow me to experiment with design and color in a medium that I feel totally at home in.
Too, I'm someone who always feels compelled to be working on something, to make myself useful, so quilting fits the bill for me there. Even though it is a hobby I find relaxing and expressive, the end product is extremely useful. Of course, there really are only so many quilts one family can use, so most of my projects end up as gifts for others. And I like that, too. In my mind, nothing is as precious or heartfelt as a gift you've made with your own hands. It's so much more personal than just buying something. When I give someone a quilt, I'm letting them know how much I care about them.
How would you elaborate on the view of Evelyn Dixon that quilting is a metaphor for life?
Evelyn is right about that. Quilting is the ideal metaphor for a life well lived - we take the snips and scraps that Providence hands us, and, with ingenuity, skill, and love, we stitch them together into something useful and beautiful. What could be more important?
What was your inspiration for this first in your Cobbled Court series?
It all began with Evelyn, or rather, with the woman who was the inspiration for Evelyn, a dear lady named Deb Mella.
Until recently, Deb was the owner of my favorite local quilt shop. A few days before she was to host a Quilt Pink event to raise money for breast cancer research, Deb herself was diagnosed with the disease. When her customers heard about her illness, we circled the wagons to support her, sending notes of encouragement, remembering Deb in our prayers, and contributing to her daughter's Race For The Cure effort. I think Deb was surprised and touched by the outpouring of affection for her. It really was wonderful the way her friends and customers supported her all through her treatment.
Once Deb was on the road to recovery, I got in touch and asked if I could talk to her about her experiences. That interview was the real beginning of A Single Thread. Though Deb and Evelyn are utterly different in outlook, personality, and circumstance, Deb and the outpouring of friendship that came her way during her illness were the true inspiration behind the book.
The setting of A Single Thread, New Bern, Connecticut, feels as it it could have been lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting. Is New Bern a real town, and why did you choose to set your series in this quaint community?
New Bern is a fictional town, and, yes, it is an idealized setting in many ways, but I modeled it on Litchfield, Connecticut, where I've made my home for the last five years. In that time, I've fallen in love with rural New England. Sure, my little Connecticut village has the same kinds of problems that you'll find in any town--no place is perfect--but it also has a very strong sense of community. People know each other here. Most of the time, they are kind to each other--or at least polite. You really can't afford to be rude in a place this small. Everybody would find out about it. And I think that's probably a good thing. Feeling the way I do about my little village, it felt natural to put my characters in a similar setting. I want them to be as happy in their community as I am in mine.
A significant plot point in A Single Thread is Evelyn's battle with breast cancer, and yet this is an uplifting story that touches women on many levels. How did you provide this balance between reality and entertainment?
Strong women realize that, even when tragedy strikes, life goes on, and so we learn to laugh, even through tears--sometimes especially through the tears. If you're going to survive in this world, that's a skill you need to learn. That's reality.
Being incredibly strong women, that's exactly what the characters in A Single Thread do; they live and love and laugh through life's toughest challenges, and they do it together. This is a real ensemble cast of characters. They are all utterly different from one other, yet each woman brings something special to the party that the others need. If Evelyn, Abigail, Margot and Liza were trying to deal with these challenges alone, this book wouldn't be nearly as entertaining or as inspiring as it is. Fortunately for them (and for readers), they have each other, and that keeps the story on a hope-filled trajectory.
You have said A Single Thread is the launch book in your Cobbled Court series. Tell us something about the second book, and when may we expect to find it on sale in stores?
The next Cobbled Court book, A Thread of Truth, will be in stores in June, 2009. A Thread of Truth brings in a new character, Ivy, a young mother in her mid-twenties. who has fled an abusive marriage and is trying to start a new life in New Bern. Evelyn, Abigail, Margot, and Liza are eager to come to Ivy's aid, but they don't know the whole story about Ivy's past--no one does.
As in A Single Thread, I've chosen to write about a difficult subject, but I'm trying to do so in a way that will keep readers engaged, uplifted, and, by the end of the story, will have them cheering for Ivy and the other strong-willed, big-hearted women of New Bern.