New York Times best-selling author Luanne Rice of Old Lyme has written more than 30 novels. Her newest, “Last Night,” is scheduled for release in December. Rice writes about love, family, nature and the sea. She writes by the ocean and at home with her cats: Emelina, Orian, Ivy and Patrick.
What inspires you?
It has always been family. When I was young, I was too daunted to write about family, so I wrote around family. I would write about things that mattered to my family and about things that brought us together. Nature has always been a part of me and my writing – especially the beach and the ocean. As I got older, I began to try and understand my own family, our relationships and the emotions that come with it. My novels touch on these ideas.
What made you decide to be an author?
I feel as if being an author decided me if that makes sense. I just wrote all the time when I was young. It wasn’t with the idea of getting published or having a career or studying writing. I just wrote. It’s how I made sense of the world and it allowed me to use my imagination. When I got to college, I never studied writing. Writing just helped me through very hard times in my life. I would submit stories to different magazines and I faced lots of rejection, but it was just what I did. When I started getting stories accepted, that’s when I started to realize this is my job. This is what I do.
What is the favorite book you’ve written?
It’s often the last one I’ve written. I write both adult and young adult fiction. I do like my YA novel “Pretend She’s Here.” But I also really like the novel I recently finished called “Last Night.” They are both suspense novels. I liked writing “Pretend She’s Her” because it involves two families and the grief of losing a best friend and what that does to you. The emotions you feel, fear and anger. These emotions come with life, but it’s about how the characters navigate them and express them throughout the book.
Do you have a favorite childhood memory?
The beach, summers at the beach. My grandmother had a house at the beach in Old Lyme. We would drive down in our station wagon the day school got out. We would get out of the car, kick our shoes off, and we wouldn’t put them back on until Labor Day. Swimming and seeing our friends, watching movies on the beach at night and just dreaming. We were so lucky and we knew it. The friends we made then I’m still friends with now.
What is something everyone who knows you would say about you?
They would say, “She’s a writer!” That’s what people would say about me. It’s a huge part of my identity and who I am as a person. I have a tendency to put it ahead of anything else. People will invite me to parties and gatherings and I’ll say, “I’m sorry, I’m writing.”
What is something few people know about you?
I was the junior prom queen. I’m not really the prom queen type. People voted for me for prom queen because people knew I was shy and they thought it would be funny.
Where are you happiest?
I strive to be happy wherever I am, but I believe happiness is a discipline. It’s important to be grateful and to be content where you are and to not wish things away. I will say I am happy at home with my cats.
If you could go on a trip anywhere in the world free of cost, where would you go and who would you bring?
I’d go to France and I’d bring my family. I treated my family to a trip to Paris, I’d love to do it again. Another place I’d love to go is the Arctic, the Canadian Arctic. I love Canada. I had two movies made in Nova Scotia, that’s when I fell in love with Canada.
Do you prefer chaos or calm and why?
I know I should prefer calm, but I’m drawn to chaos. I think it’s mentally healthy to prefer calm. But I like observing and understanding drama, the messiness of life.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I’ve written for so long through so many things in my life, through some really hard times. To get up early and sit at my desk and write was normal for me, even if I don’t feel like it. I went through something very hard a few years ago and it stopped me from writing. It was as if someone put a spell on me. The way I got through it was realizing that writing is not always typing on your laptop or writing with a pad and pencil. Some of it has to do with dreaming and letting things come up when they are ready. I also absorb things around me that I use at one point. I attended a murder trial and wrote an article about it for a magazine. I’ve since used that murder case to write a novel.
What advice you would like to share?
For writers and everyone else, believe in yourself. Trust yourself. Hold tight to your dreams. Trust your perceptions and feelings. For writers, let your feelings guide you in the directions you want to go for your story. When I read the newspaper, I am always most interested and moved when I feel that the journalist is invested with the subject matter. You can have compassion for all sides. Another important thing is to have compassion for everyone. Even the characters that are the “villains” in the story. For example, Mrs. Porter, a character from my novel “Pretend She’s Here.” Everyone has a story and their own background. Who knows what caused her to do those bad things she did. If you create a character in your story to be all good or all bad it’s really boring and not realistic. People have different parts to them. The trick is to get the parts to communicate with each other. Don’t censor yourself. Don’t think about what anyone else will think about your work. Let it all go. Write everything down. You can always go back and edit and see what you feel comfortable leaving on the page. A lot of times when you’re writing you feel like people will judge you or you’re afraid to reveal something you want to keep private. But, you can always go back.
If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?
A humpback whale or one of my cats.
What is the biggest adventure you’ve been on?
When I was 19, I was really interested in marine biology and oceanography, because of my strong love for the beach and the ocean. I did a course in Woods Hole, Massachusetts called Sea Education Association. It was six weeks in Woods Hole. I was studying with incredible scientists. But we didn’t just do science, we also did seamanship. We were on deck and stood watch. I had to climb to the top of the mast and stand up in the crow’s nest and watch for sharks. We swam in the middle of the ocean where it was so deep you probably couldn’t measure the bottom. During that time, I was living on the edge, away from anything comfortable that I’d ever done before – being away from home for a long time, so far away and out of communication with my family.
Ella Gannon, a reporter for The Winsted Citizen, is a junior at Northwest Regional High School in Winsted.