In this edition of our Author Spotlight, debut novelist Maisy Card shares where she got the inspiration for her novel These Ghosts Are Family and how many people actually work on a book before it's published.
Name (byline): Maisy Card
Literary agent (if one): Monica Odom of Odom Media Management
Book title: These Ghosts Are Family
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Expected release date: March 3, 2020
Genre/category: Literary Fiction/ Family Saga
Elevator pitch for the book (1-2 sentence pitch): Stanford Solomon has a shocking, thirty-year-old secret. And it’s about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley, a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend. These Ghosts Are Family revolves around the consequences of Abel’s decision and tells the story of the Paisley family from colonial Jamaica to present day Harlem.
Previous titles (if any) by the author: debut author
What prompted you to write this book?
I was reflecting on the state of my family when I began the book, thinking about how close I was with my extended family when we first came to America and how we’d drifted apart both geographically and emotionally over the years. My grandfather was also beginning to show signs of dementia around that time. There were so many stories about him and his past that I’d heard from others but had hardly heard anything about him out of his own mouth. I was thinking about how much of the truth would be lost when he was gone, and how as a member of the black diaspora whose ancestry has been effected by both slavery, colonialism, and immigration, I have to find a way to accept those mysteries, questions, and silences. I had the idea to create a fictional family that would mirror some of the questions I struggle with.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process? (Explain.)
The idea for this book evolved over time. So many different iterations of it have existed, but I would say that the first real kernel began in 2006. Initially, I was writing unrelated short stories centered on Jamaican characters. Eventually I began to connect them and started to ask myself how the stories would change if they were all part of the same family. And later I decided the story should center around the actions of one member in particular, the family patriarch. We sold the book in 2018, but I also made more edits after it sold while working with my editor, including adding an additional 30,000 words.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? (Explain.)
I think what surprised me was how many people work on a single book. During most of the writing process, I wasn’t sure if anything that I was doing even mattered. Later, I got input from my agent, then my editor, and soon I was interacting with the art department, editorial, marketing, publicity, sales etc. So much labor, other than your own, goes into publishing a book.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? (Explain.)
I think my style or voice shifted over time. I began writing this book it in my early twenties and finished in my mid-thirties. The way I write stories and my voice as a writer has really changed. I think the structure of this particular book—a novel in stories—absorbs that shift in my style and uses it to the different characters’ advantages, without it becoming jarring.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope they start to reflect on the questions they have about their own familes and the stories that were never told. I hope it leads them to ask questions to their parents, their grandparents, etc. And to begin to document those family stories while they still can.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Find a writing buddy or join a writing group. Writing can be very lonely, and it can be hard to stay motivated on a long project. It’s great to have people to hold you accountable.
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Maisy Card holds an MFA in Fiction from Brooklyn College and is a public librarian. Her writing has appeared in Lenny Letter, School Library Journal, Agni, Sycamore Review, Liars’ League NYC, and Ampersand Review. Maisy was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, but was raised in Queens, New York. Maisy earned an MLIS from Rutgers University and a BA in English and American Studies from Wesleyan University. She is the author of These Ghosts Are Family.