Today I’m pleased to welcome Laura Treacy Bentley to the blog. Laura is the author of The Silver Tattoo, Night Terrors and Lake Effect. Her latest book, Looking for Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgramage was published by Mountain State Press on 17 February 2017.
Laura kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Looking for Ireland.
Looking For Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage is my first chapbook/artbook, and it’s filled with some of my poems and photographs that I have written or taken since 2000. I invite my readers to walk with me on a poetic journey across the Atlantic Ocean from Appalachia to Ireland. Millions of years ago, the Appalachian Mountains spanned the Atlantic and became part of the Caledonia Mountains in Western Europe. Since so many people of Celtic origin immigrated to Appalachia, I like to think that they might have felt at home among our friendly people and familiar rolling green hills and mountains.
I know that poets are supposed to publish a chapbook first and then advance on to a full-length poetry collection, but I’m happy to say that I never learned the rules. Lake Effect was my first poetry collection, and it made its debut in 2006; Looking For Ireland was published in 2017.
2. What inspired the book?
I’m a point-and-shoot photographer, but I love to take photos and carry my trusty camera with me most of the time. I even started a Facebook page called Poetography where I’ve been posting my photographs for a few years now. So, my pictures helped inspire this chapbook. Sometimes my photos feel like wordless poems to me, and I dreamed that one day I’d have a book of my poems and wordless poems together. The idea simmered for a long time, and finally I started playing around with the idea of creating a small book that would reflect this pipe dream.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I am definitely a writer who likes to be surprised and see where the long and winding road leads me. E. L. Doctorow’s quote resonates with me. “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
I often have a bare bones idea of the beginning, middle, and end for a novel, but never for a poem. I would never outline a poem or a novel because it would take the joy of discovery out of it. The hard work of revision or “reliving” as Ray Bradbury said is the hardest part. It is in reliving the story or poem again and again and again. This is when my work finds its structure and power and soul.
4. Having been through the publishing process a few times is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?
Yes, just how insanely hard and addictive it is and how much time it takes!! I’m currently revising my novel-in-progress, and I’m seeing it with new eyes once again since I hadn’t looked at it for months.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Since Looking For Ireland came out in March, I’ve been invited to many book signings and readings and have conducted several writing workshops. I signed my books with Nora Roberts in September for six hours at her Turn The Page bookshop in Boonsboro, Maryland. It was a thrill to meet Nora and her devoted fans and to sell Looking For Ireland and my psychological thriller, The Silver Tattoo, to primarily romance fans!
To relax, I love to walk and take photos, but my husband and I escape to our mountain cabin in Western Maryland whenever we can. I love to sit by the fire, drink a glass of wine, and stare at the lake and breathtaking sunsets.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
That’s such a tough question. I adore Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder, and so many, many poets. But if I became one of the “book people” in Fahrenheit 451, I would memorize Bradbury’s novel and quote it by heart. And yes, it would take me a lifetime!
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I’ve never been asked what pen name I would like to have, assuming that I would ever need one. My mother’s first name was Laura and my dad’s was James, so I might choose Laura James, but I think it’s already taken. I also love Estelle or Stella since it was my paternal grandmother’s name.
About the book
Take a journey from Appalachia to Ireland in this 48-page collection which is both a chapbook and a work of art.
The poems and photographs in this book were created in West Virginia, western Maryland, and Ireland from 2000–2016. Laura enjoyed many solitary hours walking, reflecting, writing, and saving moments on this path, this journey, this magical pilgrimage.