QPQ: Normandie, it’s so great to have you back with us to celebrate the release of your third novel, Heavy Weather. I loved your first two books, Sailing out of Darkness and Becalmed. Tell us a little about this novel. What sparked the idea for the story?
Normandie: I loved the characters in Becalmed and wanted to investigate more of their world. I knew Hannah as Tadie’s best friend, the sidekick, but how was she doing now that Tadie’s world had changed so much? How would Hannah, who had lost two full-term babies, feel when her two close friends were about to give birth? I remembered my own miscarriage, but I’d lost barely-there babies. If I’d mourned from that loss, how much more would a woman who carried to term—or near-term?
As I thought of the what-if for Heavy Weather, I remembered my feelings when life seemed so perfect for other people while I was coping with hard times. I remembered the envy I’d felt—and had to get rid of—and the longing for more. If and when we compare ourselves to others, we’re bound to feel inadequate in some area, don’t you think? Part of our growth as individuals happens when we learn to find contentment in the life we have, in the level of success we achieve, in the fortune or lack we experience—and we stop making comparisons to the gifts or successes of others. We’re each given certain challenges, and our growth is determined by how we cope with them and by the choices we make. I love the fact that God allows us certain do-overs. We may make a wrong choice, take a wrong path, but He can turn it to blessings if we allow Him access. Hannah’s circumstances—the loss of her two baby boys—propel her emotions, but they don’t have to dictate her outcome.
Nor do Annie Mac’s circumstances or the choices she makes have to be the last word in her life, although her choices do put her, her children, and her new community of friends at risk. So she has her own guilt to overcome. And while Rita’s pain comes from living in a world where bad people do horrid things, she too has a choice to make in terms of her response and whether her pain will rule her forever.
I enjoyed meeting Annie Mac and her two children, ten-year-old Ty and four-year-old Katie. I’ve known women who were battered and wondered what might induce a woman to put up with a man past the first time he raised his fist. What might be the tipping point that made her say enough is enough?
And the bad guy, Roy? Frankly, he was a wonderful character to hate. What might drive a man to be an abuser? How would he justify his behavior to himself? My challenge was to find something likeable in him to round out his character and to reveal the lies he told himself.
Donald Maass helped me so much as he prodded me to think of the lies our characters tell themselves. Because you know what? That’s a hard thing for us to do, isn’t it—not only in terms of our characters but in terms of our life? What lies do we tell ourselves about our world—and how do those lies affect our responses? Part of my own growth has been to acknowledge the lies I believed as a child (and grew into as a woman) and then to put them aside, where they belong, so that I could figure out the woman I wanted to be and learn to live as that woman to my fullest potential—instead of allowing the past or my circumstances to dictate my emotional state.
Lieutenant Detective Clay Dougherty showed up at the end of Becalmed. Now he comes into a starring role as he works with Hannah and the other Beaufort do-gooders to rescue this family and stop Roy. I loved trying to figure out Clay’s world—and his lies. Would he recognize them as untruths or would he remain stagnant in his comfortable life?
QPQ: You have some interesting characters in Heavy Weather. Which point-of-view character did you most enjoy writing?
Normandie: Roy. I mean, he’s so deliciously horrible, and yet he thinks all of his actions are justifiable. I loved imagining him in the land of gators, snakes, and cougars, trying to frame his world to get what he wanted. To what lengths would he go? And then, what could there possibly have been in him that might have attracted Annie Mac in the beginning and how would she have become vulnerable enough to accept his behavior?
I also enjoyed writing from her perspective, because, honey, there is no way on earth I’d have stayed with a man who hit. And yet there are so many kinds of abuse, aren’t there, and so many things that make us feel unworthy of better. That make us willing to settle for less than the best instead of holding out until we’re ready for that best to come our way—or able to recognize it when it does come.
Aren’t you glad that life isn’t all about what we deserve? If it were, most of us would be in terrible shape, wouldn’t we?
QPQ: There’s less sailing in this story than in your others, but the coastal setting still draws the characters in. Now that you’re grounded in North Carolina, taking care of your elderly Mama, do you long to return to your sailboat? Will we see more sailing stories in the future?
I’m hoping to write more books that deal with issues in the cruising life. I have several chapters written from the point of view of a non-sailing woman who finds herself alone in Mexico on a cruising boat. I began that after my first storm alone on Sea Venture—at night, when I wasn’t sure if the lines would hold or if those loud waves would break through the hull. What if Michael didn’t make it back that night? And I was a sailor. What if all of that world were unknown to me? Oh, and then there’s Tadie’s story on board the Nancy Grace begging to be written.
Stories show up in my head, claiming immediate attention. I’ve already begun my next Beaufort book, which deals with caregiving and dementia. When we took my mama out to lunch recently, her responses to things made me wonder about her thought processes. I decided it might be interesting to have a point-of-view character who knows she’s losing control and decides to use what abilities remain to take control of her life while she still can. Her granddaughter will be the one who comes home to be a caregiver, while her daughter is the antagonist. At least that’s the way it works in this early planning stage. I love the three voices, so we’ll see how it all works out.
The world is full of stories. I just need to find the time to write them all!
A life-long sailor, Normandie Fischer has been writing and editing professionally since the seventies. She and her husband retired from cruising Pacific Mexico in their ketch, Sea Venture, to care for her aging mother who accompanied them in 2013 when they sailed from Beaufort, NC, to NYC to publicize Becalmed and to welcome Normandie’s first grandchild into the world. Heavy Weather is Normandie’s third book.
Heavy Weather will release this month from Amazon and other retailers.