Interview: Wendy Webb

I’ll admit, that when my book club decided to read The Tale of Halcyon Crane I didn’t expect to like it. I usually read a different type of book, but then, getting out of your comfort zone is part of why you join a book club, isn’t it?

The great news is that I read the book and loved it. That’s when you know you’ve read something from a really good author, and Wendy Webb certainly fits that definition! I know you’ll enjoy learning more about her in this interview.

You recently came to our book group in Milwaukee to talk about The Tale of Halcyon Crane. Have you done a lot of promotion through book groups? What kind of feedback have you received?

I’ve met with many, many book groups and they’ve been an invaluable part of Halcyon’s success. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to bookstores for recommending me to reading groups. It’s a big part of what has helped Halcyon catch fire. I love meeting with book groups, because they always have such good questions and observations. They are very engaged readers. Talking with book groups really gets me thinking, and has given me some great ideas as I write my next novel.

M.J. Rose called you “a very gifted storyteller.” You can’t ask for any better endorsement than that. Rose is someone a lot of authors, including me, look up to. Who are some authors that have influenced you?

I was thrilled that M.J. liked the book enough to give me such a wonderful recommendation. She has been a big supporter of mine, and I couldn’t be more grateful to her. In addition to being a fabulous novelist, she’s also a savvy businesswoman who helps authors market themselves through her company Authorbuzz. I admire and respect her very much. Other authors whose writing has influenced me include Madeline L’Engle, Alice Hoffman, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, among many others. I’ve also found that authors in general are a supportive bunch. I’ve met many authors over the course of this year at book festivals and even online, and they’re all about supporting each other. I like being part of that group.

Who knew that your hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, was also home to Joel and Ethan Coen and Al Franken! Has growing up in the Midwest influenced your approach or attitude toward writing?

And hey, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is also from St. Louis Park! Must be something in the water. Seriously, though, growing up and living in the Midwest has definitely shaped my writing because it made me who I am. I set Halcyon on the Great Lakes, and I think there’s nothing quite like the lore and mystery of this region, especially for someone like me who enjoys writing in the “magical realism” genre. There aren’t a whole lot of writers who are setting their novels in the Midwest, and I’m happy to bring the magic and mystery of this region to life for people who may not have ever been here.

Several writers, such as Jennifer Weiner, suggest that aspiring novelists get work where they are required to write on a daily basis so they get in the habit of treating writing as a job. Did your experience as a freelance writer influence the way you went about crafting The Tale of Halycon Crane?

Oh, absolutely. I’ve been a journalist for 20-plus years and I’m currently editor-in-chief of Duluth~Superior Magazine (a lifestyle monthly), so I’ve been writing all day long for a good long time. One of the questions I always get at readings and speaking engagements is: “How long did it take you to write this novel?” And I always say “Not very long.” That’s because I’m so used to sitting down to write for hours on end that it’s nothing for me to bang out a few thousand words per day. But even though writing is my job, I don’t think of it as such. That makes it sound like a chore. For me, writing is one of the greatest joys in my life. I’ve been lucky to make my living doing something I love to do.

As a Packer fan I have to ask, did you name your dog after the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field?

Ha! As a Vikings fan, I have to say: No! Actually, my husband was thinking of the name even before we got the dog, and it just seemed to fit her. Before Tundra, we had Tika, both of whom appear in Halcyon. I’m sad to report that both dogs have now passed away. We lost Tundra in August to bone cancer, which is common in the giant breeds. But we’ve just added another Alaskan Malamute to our family. We adopted Molly, a rescued dog. Even though we’re still grieving for our giant girl, Molly has brought such a joyful energy into the house and is helping our hearts to heal.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

My goal is to keep writing novels for the rest of my life.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

That’s a good question. I think I’ll say The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Everything I ever needed to know about intrigue, romance, adventure, betrayal, humor — it’s all in there.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

Someone who doesn’t give up. It’s hard to make it in this field. It takes a lot of persistence and a very thick skin. You can’t give up on yourself or your dreams just because some editor or agent rejects your work.

Where can we learn more about you?

I’ve got a website and I’ve also got a Facebook page under the name Halcyon Crane. Check there for updates, appearances and anything else you’d like to know. Also, my email is on my website, and I love hearing from readers.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to say that I’m really grateful to the book bloggers, critics, and reviewers and the independent bookstore owners and booksellers for supporting Halcyon in such a big way. It was chosen as a Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Booksellers Association, an IndieNext Pick by the Independent Booksellers Association, and a Great Lakes Great Reads pick by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. That kind of support and promotion is absolutely invaluable to any author, but especially to a new author like me.

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