What books did you love growing up?
I loved the Anne of Green Gables stories and ultimately read every one several times. I liked J. M. Barrie’s Little Minister, and Maggie Muggins. There were others of this nature. I also liked the Cherry Ames series (nurse) and the Nancy Drew series. My father encouraged reading and education and he always read to me when I was tiny and read poetry to me when I was older.
Who is your favourite author?
I don’t know if I have a favourite author. I like stories that have a happy ending with all problems resolved satisfactorily. An author who provides this is one I will likely read again. I am rather taken with the Mitford novels by Jan Karon just now and have read about half of those so far. I don’t like stories that are dark and brooding. I like interpersonal relationship stories.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
That I was joyful. I don’t know what else to say. Of course, I am many other things like warm and kind but those traits are kind of cliche to say out loud. I’m gentle and mostly non-judgemental although if you look at judgement as discernment that opens up a whole other discussion. I am discerning. I’ve thought off and on that I should write my obituary just for the exercise of it. It seems a little extreme but it could be very revealing. The other side is that what I would write now and what I would write in ten years time could very well be something entirely different.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and was educated in the Halifax school system. I took my nursing diploma at the Victoria General Hospital School of nursing, worked in ER there, then on to Dalhousie University in Halifax. After my nursing degree I lived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia doing Public Health, then on Prince Edward Island doing several nursing jobs. I then lived in Calgary, Alberta, doing in-service education, then on to Waterville, Maine, as a nursing supervisor and night charge nurse. I met my husband in Waterville and we lived there for a year until he took a job in Liberty, Missouri, and we moved to the Kansas City area. I worked for awhile as a night charge nurse at the hospital and then retired in 1988. I started studying music at the college where John was professor because I always wanted to study music. My writing education began there.
How did you develop your writing?
I picked up the English courses I needed at the college where my husband was teaching to convert my nursing degree to an English major, then went to University of Missouri at Kansas City for a Masters’ degree in English with a professional writing emphasis. Since then I have taken various workshops in poetry and now have over two hundred poems. I have also been writing and writing, and reading about writing and practising writing. You rarely see me without a pen in hand and my listening ears on.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes to me through stories I hear. My uncle, now deceased, was a great story teller. The germ of Anna’s Secret came from the story of Anne Beaton’s Hollow. The murder occurred in Lyndale and the hollow is still called by that name. My grandmother was another source of good stories. She lived to be 106 and died in 1990, just before I started writing. She was bright to the end and people came from far away to learn about their ancestors. They’d ask her about a certain person and she’d think for a moment and then say: “yes, he/she was so -and-so’s child but he/she always went by this nickname.” A lot of stories went with both her and her son.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
No. Once it’s written it is no longer really mine, and it is what it is. It doesn’t matter what people think it says about me, I am who I am. People may disagree with what I’ve said for their own reasons that have nothing to do with what I’ve said. Also, I am no longer shy about saying that I’m a writer because that’s what I am, published or not. That insight came to me a few years ago when I was thinking about what makes a writer.
Anna Gillis, the midwife and neighbour in Mattie’s Story, has been found killed. The close-knit community is deeply shaken by this eruption of violence, and neighbours come together to help one another and to discover the perpetrator. But the answer lies Anna’s secret, long guarded by Old Annie, the last of the original Selkirk Settlers, and the protagonist of An Irregular Marriage. Join the community! Read Anna’s Secret and other novels by Margaret A. Westlie.
Genre – Fiction, mystery, historical
Rating – G
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