Sandra Appleby Joyce and Beverly Monette Milbrath were classmates at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. Their long time friendship evolved into a fulfilling writing relationship. This is their debut novel and a sequel is in the making. Both are indebted to the Minneapolis Writers Workshop for their valued insight and encouragement. Sandra, who is widowed, lives in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. Beverly, also a widow, resides in Stillwater, Minnesota.
1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
The suspense in Where the Tamarack Grows revolves, not around ‘who did it’, but how the villain was exposed. We tracked the villain and main characters to the mystery’s conclusion. I had the idea of writing about my experiences as a social worker and collaborating with Beverly Monette Milbrath. From our years at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls I knew that she was an excellent writer. However, the characters took off and ended up writing the story. Consequently, there’s no mention of welfare, clients, etc, as we became totally engrossed in the world of our imaginations.
2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
We didn’t do research until we began writing. A Police Chief gave us information about guns and he actually provided information that became the turning point in the story. We did research on insects and the factual realities of a sinking automobile, but much of our research we used very little, if at all. Throughout we found writing with a partner was, for us, necessary and fulfilling. When one had a ‘mental block’, it was worked out with the other. In conflicts compromises were made.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
We weren’t aware of Amazon, so we started with the traditional route. Aside from rejections, through research and conferences we began to question the integrity of agents and publishers. Also, it appears no one wants, because of the time factor, to bother with a novel. Examples of this are contests, where short stories, children’ books, short novels are welcome. I could not find a contest for a full length novel.
5. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
We couldn’t have been satisfied with our book had it not been for the Minneapolis Writers Workshop. Their solid, steadfast encouragement, and advice and critiques were deep, substantial and valuable for all writing, not just for a book.