(Nancy S. Kyme is a resident of Lake Ridge, the author of Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer and campfirememories, a supplemental blog to the book. I talked with her recently in the Biscuit City Studios.)
Dan: Good morning, Nancy, and welcome to the glass-enclosed observation post here at Biscuit City studios! The staff has been excited about your coming and hopes that you will autograph copies of your book. Molly Bolt, our chief of staff, is especially thrilled that you’re here with us.
Nancy: Yes, I can see that. I’m so flattered. Do you have more chairs, I hope, so Molly and I can each have our own?
Dan: We’ll get Harrison to bring another chair in here. So, Memory Lake has been out since May of last year and is doing well, I take it?
Nancy: We crossed the 1,000 mark in paperback a few months ago. I think the Kindle sales are now overtaking the book sales. So, yes, for a book by an unknown first time author, my publisher says it is doing very well.
Dan: There’s so much to ask you, I hardly know where to start. Let’s start with you. You don’t have a conventional novelist’s background, to say the least. Tell us about your background and how you came to write this book. Please don’t leave anything out!
Nancy: I think we’ll lose your readers. It’s true, being a CPA is an unlikely profession to pair with writing. But, at an early age I was an avid reader. Before switching to accounting, I majored in linguistics. Truthfully, my writing lay dormant until the advent of word processing. I detested typewriters and still struggle with my own handwriting. It’s tough being ambidextrous. Both hands constantly fight for the writing utensil and neither is very good with it. After completing my MBA, I started writing for fun. I decided to write the kind of book I’d like to read: a science fiction- fantasy epic.
Dan: I’ve heard you refer to that book as one of truly epic length. I think you said it was 600,000 words long. That’s really something! What happened to it?
Nancy: As my writing improved, though not toward a finished product, I realized my camp memories kept creeping indirectly into my science fiction- fantasy epic through magical waterfalls, hiking and climbing, coming-of-age plots, and timeless friendships. When I attended the camp reunion, these memories gained clarity. I identified them in the epic and decided to extract and isolate them. In short, these memories demanded I write about them.
Dan: And so you wrote Memory Lake by pulling it from a longer, different story. As you said, the book is about your experiences at camp in the 1970’s, but that story is intertwined with a trip you made more recently to a camp reunion. How did those two threads suggest themselves and how did you go about managing them to such an effect?
Nancy: As the camp story grew from a short story to a novel, my current life revealed a natural parallel. I was dealing with the grief of my mom’s passing, and camp had been another time in my life when I was learning to live without her. My mom’s influence is the common thread between the novel’s flashbacks.
Dan: The emotional center of the book is the death of your mother, which is so powerfully rendered. At the same time, the story is also about the relationship between mothers and daughters. So there are two driving forces in the book.
Now, I have to admit to our audience that when I first met you at a book signing last December, I did what I have a bad habit of doing and jumped to a conclusion about your book. I thought, “Well, this will be a happy little book about summer camp.” Then I read it, and was I wrong! I see all kinds of resonances in the story, ranging from the Arthurian to the Biblical to the Shakespearean. Were you aware of these allusions and this depth as you worked with the novel and as you have talked about it with prospective readers?
Nancy: I have great respect for your expertise and knowledge, and can only imagine the hundreds of lectures you have taught on such subjects. So, I will completely defer to you on this one.
Dan: Those resonances are there and lend such depth and power to the book! At the same time, it may be read profitably as a remembrance of camp and an examination of the relationships that are so important to all of us.
You have one of the most beautiful writing styles I have seen this side of Marge Piercy and Annie Dillard. How did you evolve your writing style?
Nancy: Through editing, some editing, and more editing. Thank you for the compliment, but many authors deserve credit for helping me find that style. Depending on which novel I was listening to in my car during my commute from Lake Ridge to Arlington, I noticed variations in my writing style. I really liked the Dostoevsky period. But, it was not me. Thank goodness, my voice finally broke through the din. This event coincided nicely with my reduced commute to Woodbridge and the lapse of my library card for books on tape.
Dan: “My voice broke through the din.” That’s the kind of phrasing I’m referring to. You describe the experience of finding one’s voice as a writer so well. And how fortunate it happened just as your library card expired.
I know you hear from readers and you’re very accessible as a writer. What are some of the best stories you’ve heard from readers about the book and their experiences?
Nancy: My favorite stories are from readers who have found inspiration within its pages. So many of life’s lessons need to be relearned, over and over, and I too found inspiration from this story while writing. It’s the most gratifying experience ever to hear a reader say “Memory Lake helped me overcome my own fears.” Their stories have ranged from tales of grief and unemployment, to work or school pressures.
Dan: That’s remarkable that readers make the connection to their own lives in different ways from your story about camp and the reunion.
You work full time and lead a typically busy Northern Virginia life. How do you find time to write? What is your writing routine, if you will?
Nancy: In truth, I write all the time. If I’m not before the computer, I write in my head. I think all writers do this. I squeeze in as much time as possible on the computer as my schedule allows, either morning, noon, or night.
Dan: You recently were on a panel about marketing one’s book sponsored by Write by the Rails, our local writers’ group. Could you talk about marketing for a bit? You are phenomenal when it comes to connecting with people at book signings and finding a way to help them see how their lives resonate with Memory Lake. It’s almost like you have radar and can tell when people have the slightest interest in your writing.
Nancy: You are kind to notice, and I don’t want to sound glib, but Memory Lake is so much a part of my life that when a connection is made with someone, not everyone, (Nancy just looked askance at Molly who is still sharing her chair), I naturally use it as a frame of reference. We are wired to interpret other’s thoughts based on our own. I suppose it’s a sort of empathy. When the science fiction - fantasy epic is finished, if I’m blessed with fans I will probably run from them.
Dan: So, what do you see happening with Memory Lake? A sequel—or two? A movie? I think it’s quite cinematic.
Nancy: I am determined to finish the science fiction - fantasy epic. However, there are few new prevalent themes indirectly creeping into the work. Perhaps when the time is right, real life events will draw them to the surface.
Dan: What are you working on now? When can we expect to be able to read it?
Nancy: Nancy: I have been blogging, and I have 1.5 books done toward the epic. I can’t promise a time frame on the epic but I’m posting a new blog entry weekly. Also, I am amassing notes on a sequel toMemory Lake
Dan: You are an advocate for sleep-away summer camps and getting kids outside. Would you speak to some of the ideas and thoughts you have on these topics?
Nancy: Memory Lake is my way of describing the entire camp experience, to include a connection to nature, gaining confidence, finding one’s character strengths, honing an ability to overcome weakness, setting a foundation of faith, and forming lifelong friendships. Who does not want these things for their children? Why not send your kid to camp to jump start this process?
Dan: You are certainly an articulate advocate for camps, and I wish you well in that effort.
I want to thank you for coming by this morning and sharing with us. You’re a remarkable lady and an incredible writer. You also have incredible powers of concentration to ignore the Biscuit City staff with their faces pressed to the studio window like kids at a candy shop window. The staff is eager to talk to you and have you autograph their books, so we’ll let you get to it. Thanks again, and take care.
Nancy: I enjoy your writing very much and I look forward to more poetry and insight on Biscuit City. I hear you have a novel in the works, as well, and can’t wait to read it!
Dan: Thank you. That’s very kind. The novel is in the testing stage and we shall see what happens with it. If it’s one-tenth the book that Memory Lake is I will be very happy indeed.
This has been an Extra Gravy interview with Nancy S. Kyme, author of Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer, blogger, CFO, MBA, and CPA. Memory Lake is available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, booksamillions.com, and at independent bookstores. Read more about Nancy and Memory Lake on her website, http://nancyskyme.com/, and on her blog, http://campfirememories.wordpress.com/author/campfirememories/.
Biscuit City features occasional interviews with artists from all fields. We hope you enjoyed today’s show. So, remember, don’t text and drive, carry cash for bail, and call when you get there. This is Dan Verner for our guest, writer Nancy Kyme and the Biscuit City Network.