Midnight Sun, Arctic Moon

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Interview with  Mary Albanese
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Author of:  MIDNIGHT SUN, ARCTIC MOON: Mapping the Wild Heart of Alaska
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When did you start reading as a child?
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From age five, my grandfather gave me a new book every week. At first they were picture books, then comic book formats of the classics. I devoured them all , from the fairy tales to the illustrated classics. Through those books I could go anywhere and be anyone. It was so liberating.
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Favorite childhood book?
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I loved THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES illustrated by Sheila Beckett, copyrighted in 1954. I recently looked up the artist and to my delight, I found she was in New York (in her 90's) and still painting and available for commissions. I commissioned her to do an original drawing for me from the story. What a treasure!
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What have you been reading?
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The last book I read was THE LADY OF THE RIVERS by Philippa Gregory. I love how she makes history feel fresh and alive.
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What types of books do you enjoy reading, or what makes you love a book?
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I like books with characters facing extreme conditions. As humans we have a limited range of emotions and every emotion we could possibly face has already been felt by billions of others. However, there is a limitless number of unique situations we can confront. How we face a new challenge (and how the characters deal with it) can provide brand new and novel experiences. l guess that is why they call them 'novels'.
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What are your five must-have books for a desert island?
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1. THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexander Dumas. This is Swash-buckling adventure with a deep moral twist and characters you love to hate.
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2. THE EARTH ABIDES by Thomas Stewart is classic end-of-the-universe sci-fi that is quietly profound without being chirpy or preachy.
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3. AND THE LADIES OF THE CLUB by Margaret Santmyer is a meaty multi-generational story of two intertwining families in rural America and the love (and lust) that binds them.
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4. The RED MARS, GREEN MARS, BLUE MARS trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. This is a rich and sweeping space opera on the colonization of Mars with characters so real that they have come to feel like old friends.
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5. RAPTOR by Gary Jennings. This is an in-your-face tale of a promiscuous hermaphrodite assassin during the fall of Rome. I read it all the way through with my mouth dropped open in absolute shock -- three times!
 
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What book(s) changed your life?
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The James Blish STAR TREK books had the biggest impact on me. These were paperbacks that serialized the tv episodes into short-story chapters. I read them so many times that I started dreaming about them. Then I realized I could  write my own episodes. After that, as a youngster I made my own Star Trek books just for myself with my type-written pages stapled to cardboard covers. I must admit that my adolescent plots were a little repetitive, usually ending with both Sulu and Spock fighting over me. Such a hard choice but I was always so gracious about letting one of them down gently.
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Did anyone inspire you to write?
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My grandfather was also a writer. Sadly, he never saw any of his work published. About ten years ago I had his short stories and poems bound into a book for the family called PENUMBRA. I haven't thought about that book in a while but maybe I can put it on Amazon. I think he would have liked that.
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How do you write? Do you have a daily routine?
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I go for a walk/run in the morning with a tape recorder and talk out my next chapter. Then I go home and type it up. A 45-minute section of tape will take me somewhere between 3 - 6 hours to type up, with editing. This way my first draft on paper has already been through at least one self-editing process.What's bad about the process?I hate submitting. It can be so soul-crushing when you can't find someone who gets it. Even worse, I often find an agent who loves the work but since my writing doesn't fit into a standard genre like crime or romance, they can't figure out where to place it. I had one agent tell me, "I loved it, my mother cried, and my grandmother inhaled it in two days. But I can't take it on because I don't know where I would sell it."  If you write original material that doesn't mimic a famous author's style, it can be very hard to break into this business.
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What did you have to unlearn or un-believe about yourself to find your truth as a writer? What had to go?
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I wouldn't unlearn anything, but sometimes it is good to let go of being in control. When I wrote MIDNIGHT SUN, ARCTIC MOON it was difficult to discuss my daughter's death so on the first draft, I glossed over it. Then a writer friend (Irish novelist Adrienne Dines) read it and said, "You HAVE to go there." So I did. When I showed her the revised draft, we both cried buckets.  She was right; it had to be done. You can't shy away from the pain.
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Is finishing harder than starting?
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Starting a story can be slow because it requires contemplation and gestation. For me this is a dangerous time in the process because the still-forming story is fragile and even a single wayward comment can kill it. But I LOVE the finish line. When I get to that stage I am going all out, scribbling madly away on the bus or in the check-out line at the store. When I see the end of the story, it often comes to me like a freight train, clear and insistent, and I  have to write at a break-neck speed to catch it on paper.Sometimes the ending comes to me very early in the project. Then I go back and write the middle, which is easier once I have written the end and know where it's going.
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For me it is the middle of the book that is always the hardest part to write. The end is flashy, the start can be intriguing, but the middle is a big long slog.
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Do you have any particular story to tell concerning the writing of this book?
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MIDNIGHT SUN, ARCTIC MOON is the story of not giving up on your dreams no matter what life throws at you. It is my story as I stood on the threshold of adulthood, and I think it could be helpful and inspirational to young people immersed in that scary struggle to find themselves.
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What advice have you received concerning writing? What advice would you offer young writers?
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Writing takes talent, persistence, and luck. The good news is that you can take steps to enhance all three. Be open to expanding your talent by putting in the hard work, whether it is specialized classes or networking with other writers. Push through the set-backs and keep writing. In doing so, you will be creating more opportunities for others to appreciate your work, and for that lucky break to find you.
 
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How did you find the publisher for this book?
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Epicenter Press is a regional publisher of books on Alaska. If your story centers on a particular place, a regional press might be worth exploring.  
 
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What are you working on at the moment?
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I am finishing up SEVEN HORSES AND A COW, a fictional story about a group of runaway girls back in the early 1900s who fail to get into Buffalo Bill's show and form their own travelling rodeo show. It is not what you would consider a traditional western. I think it would better suit the reading group market --  women's fiction with a dash of adventure and an emot