Krista Bourne has always been surrounded by the strength, love and wealth of her family and their homes in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard. She has never had to think for herself. Living with boyfriend Michael and her elderly grandfather, she can also summon up the comforting ghosts of her beloved father and grandmother. In vivid dreams she flies with her pilot father, and when awake remembers idyllic childhood holidays spent with her bohemian grandmother.
When Krista impulsively walks out on her career as a professional dancer, it is the beginning of a new chapter in her life. She feels unsettled and excited by the sense of imminent change around her.
This feeling turns to panic, then fear when she realises that she is pregnant and is uncertain whether or not she wants to keep the baby, bringing her and Michael to a crossroads in their relationship. Adamant that she alone must deal with the situation, Krista rejects all offers of support from him, isolating her at a time when she most needs help.
Krista’s journey and emotional upheaval take her back to her summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, where she is surprised to find out that she does not know her family history quite as well as she imagined.
I’m so happy to welcome Marlene on to my blog today with a specially written guestpost
Favorite Things About Writing Off-Island
Some of the things I enjoyed most about writing Off-Island include the book’s US-based locations, its quixotic characters, the unanticipated weaving together of fiction and reality, and the recent self-publishing journey. The last of these was my favorite aspect of all because it was the most unexpected development. Who would have guessed I would ever publish a book? Not me. It was sheer adventure.
About a year and a half ago I met a wonderful author who had just published her first novel with Troubadour Publishing. As she described it, “Troubadour was the Rolls-Royce of self-publishing and extremely cost-effective.” I began to explore and found this to be true. I knew I had a literary property just waiting for the moment I had time—which is usually never—to submit it, so I took a page out of her book and sent Off-Island to the professionals at Troubadour. Every step of the way, from submission to e-book, paperback, promotion and sales accounting, was an easy learning process. While the real genesis took place many years ago, the actual bringing of the book to publication was rapid and seamless. And did I mention fun?
The locations in Off-Island primarily include New York City, midtown and a brownstone in Greenwich Village, and Martha’s Vineyard, including the ferry from the mainland, a fictitious summer house and various beaches. I was living in these locations when I wrote the book so the feel of them was immediate and the research at my fingertips. I personally love NYC, the buzz, the people and the endless possibilities. The brownstone was based on a friend’s home, where I once stayed. I hoped to capture its warmth and history—a bit of the older NYC. Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most historic and stunning natural treasures in the USA. It was a joy to write about the old whaling captain’s house and some of the quiet reserves on the island, where I spent many a happy hour.
The characters all came to life on their own. I found Krista to be exasperating and yet endearing, and no matter how average I tried to make her, she sprang to life as a real beauty with a commitment—stupidly or not—to doing things her own way. Michael was an amalgam of friends I have known who demonstrated the patience of Job. Krista’s mother was all theory and no practice, which I also enjoyed. After Krista, I most admired Ilsa because she demonstrated a love for her granddaughter that helped her survive her emotional turmoil. I also liked Krista’s grandfather because he was, is and will always remain, a mystery!
What I liked most about the writing process was the dipping in and out of reality, whether it was where I happened to be living at the time and that finding its way into the story—NYC and Martha’s Vineyard, a horseback ride that was meant for an article for the local newspaper later appearing in my novel–or the issues of the time, like abortion and the right to choose. It all felt like a wonderful tapestry that I at once created and yet watched while it created itself; a bit like an artist I once met who worked with various materials. She would pause, look at her canvas, survey the fabrics and found objects at her feet, and then create. She had no overarching vision. It came together piecemeal.
The outcome of Off-Island, having a paperback in hand, has been priceless. Knowing every person involved (albeit, in most cases, virtually) from copy-editor, cover designer, marketing person to social media guru, has been a great party. When I hold a finished copy of the book I smile, not because it is a literary triumph, but because producing it was fun–pure unadulterated fun.
All About Marlene
Marlene Hauser is a professional writer based in Oxford, UK, where she lives with her husband and teenage son. She served as editor of the Writer’s New York City Source Book and originated the television film Under the Influence, going on to serve as Associate Producer and Technical Consultant. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and has received numerous awards, including a residency at the Millay Arts Colony in Upstate New York.
Where To Find Marlene