July 14, 2014

Meet Martha: Interview with Martha Louise Hunter

I'm so thrilled to host Martha Louise Hunter, author of Painting Juliana, today. First, I absolutely loved this book (see my review here). Just as importantly, I've come to adore the author.

Without further ado...

In Painting Juliana, Juliana is a character struggling through the breakdown of her marriage and watching her father decline due to the grips of Alzheimer's. In the book's acknowledgements, you mention your father "lost to the cruel storm of Alzheimer's". How personal was this story for you?

MLH: So incredibly personal. I began the book shortly after he died. It is a tribute to my dad and a way for the two of us to go on a healing journey together. He truly helped me write it; I sincerely believe that.

Your answer speaks volumes as to why this book touched me so much. So, I have to ask another question about Juliana. She discovers a kinship with her father through his old paintings. What made you choose this vehicle as a window into the soul of your characters?

MLH: From a writerly standpoint, Painting Juliana is written in the first person, which means everything that happens/seen/heard must happen through her eyes. Because the flashbacks in the book are her father's, I had to come up with a device so that Juliana could experience them. When her father's paintings come alive (via magical realism), it's not only visual in the sense, but her father goes into a trancelike state when she puts a paintbrush in his hand and he begins "narrating" the paintings. Voila!

It was truly magical, I must say. Clearly your father was a driving influence for Painting Juliana. What else inspires you?

MLH: Photographs. I'll send off for old magazines from the time period of my story. In Painting Juliana, the flashbacks happen from 1955 through the 80's. The Life magazines I got were invaluable! For example, the ads were priceless, because they gave me all sorts of knowledge about products being used at the time. I also found an old photo album at Goodwill one day that was stuffed with old black & white photos from the 60s. Sometimes, I'll even get funny things like cookbooks and child rearing manuals from the time period. Little things like that--who knows what things actually make it into the book or end up on the cutting room floor. I don't guess it especially matters—for me, it's just part of the process. I'll also hang out in coffee shops & listen to people's conversations & watch them move. Lots of things in Painting Juliana came from those types of interactions.
As a writer, I am curious what your writing process is. Do you outline and plot or do your characters lead you on a journey?

MLH: In the beginning, I write, write and write (too much, maybe?) on the character motivations, etc., making sure I know them completely from all angles, which helps story ideas gel in my head. Then, I get a bunch of note cards with plot points, affix them to my big bulletin board, and begin moving them around. I'm a huge "moving-around-er." After that, I jump in—writing scene, scene, scene. I understand there's a "formula" for the amount of scene versus exposition that's supposedly key to the storytelling process. Anyway—I absolutely let the characters lead me on a journey. Maybe this sounds weird, but the characters do things I never imagine they'd do—that happens while staying in the "spiritual mode" while writing. I meditate a lot.

It doesn't sound weird at all! So, I must ask... what writing project are you currently working on?

I was beginning a book entitled The Little Man Inside the Boy—a mystery that revolves around night terrors and the solving of the mystery through a past-life element. I'm a little stalled on that—it hasn't been coming to me, if you understand what I mean, and I'm sure you do!! People have been asking for more from Juliana, and I've come up with all sorts of ideas (watch out Oliver!) and my mind is also cogitating on Painting Juliana, The Screenplay.

I have to admit I’m partial to Juliana, but I’ll be in line to buy whatever you write next. Thanks so much for hanging out with me today—few things are better than loving a book and finding out the author is pretty darn amazing, too.

MLH: Thanks for having me!

Just a bit more...

Martha Louise Hunter has an English degree from the University of Texas. After writing magazine features, working in politics and owning homebuilding and interior design companies, she now has an estate jewelry collection, www.marthasjewelrycase.com. With four children between them, she and her husband, David live in Austin, Texas. This is her first novel.

Painting Juliana was awarded finalist in the Writers League of Texas Mainstream Fiction Contest.

For more information, please visit: www.marthalouisehunter.com.

You can also keep up with her at her blog, www.beingmarthalouisehunter.com.

And is it me, or does she remind you of Kathleen Turner circa Romancing the Stone. Joan Wilder, anyone? I so love that movie!

Happy Monday, all!


Unknown said...

Thank you Tia, for the opportunity! You're the best out there!
:) MLH

ShaunaKelleyWrites said...

Great interview. I'm intrigued by this book and will have to check it out.

Jo Michaels said...

Wonderful interview, Tia and Martha! Love the idea behind the story and how the narrative takes place via the paintings. Sounds like a beautiful tale. WRITE ON!