30 May 2007

Author Answer with Victoria Houston

If you want to get "hooked" by a new author, then cast your eyes toward Victoria Houston, author of eight northwoods Wisconsin mystery books. Her latest book featuring dentist-slash-fisherman Doc Osborne and police chief Lew Ferris -- Dead Madonna -- was released this spring from Bleak House Books.

For more on Houston, check out her website.

Dead Madonna is the eighth book in your series… what do you like about your characters that keeps you coming back to tell more stories involving them?

HOUSTON: Each of my main characters is distilled from memories of people I knew growing up: People I found fascinating, people for whom I had great affection. The famous author, Willa Cather, once said “people write from the memories they have from before the age of thirteen” and that is very true for me. Take Doc Osborne for example. My father was a dentist, my grandfather was a dentist, my uncle was a dentist – and I worked in the dental office as a teenager. Doc Osborne is distilled from my memories of those three men – their virtues, their flaws, the good and the difficult times in their lives.

So each book is an opportunity to spend time with dear friends.

WN: Your books involve fishing… do you fish yourself?

HOUSTON: I sure do. I grew up in a household where it was understood you practiced dentistry for only one reason: to be able to afford to fish. I fished almost every day as a kid, which was easy – went with my grandfather or to the kiddie fish pond that the Jaycees had built in the middle of town. Fished for pan fish. And, at age eleven, gave up fishing for boys – but at age fifty I saw the light and gave up boys for fishing! Actually, I took up fly fishing when I moved back here in 1996. I try to get out bait fishing during the summer, too, for bluegills, walleye and I would LOVE to catch a muskie. I’m not an expert by any means – but I love it.

WN: How else does living in northern Wisconsin impact your writing?

HOUSTON: I’m able to observe the people, hear the voices and spend time in a landscape – the water and the woods. It’s a world that never ceases to charm me. I feel the landscape of the northwoods is a character in my books as much as the people are. Don’t know if I could write it as easily as I do if I weren’t able to see, hear and feel it around me every day. This is the culture that I grew up in and it is comforting to live back here.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid… what turned you on to reading/writing books?

HOUSTON: Oh yes! I was the eight-year-old who checked out 20 books a week from the library. Today I am on our library board – my way of “giving back” for all the pleasure I got from reading as a kid. It helped that both my parents were readers. We got the Readers Digest Condensed Books every month and I devoured those. As for writing, I’ve always loved words, enjoyed (believe it or not!) diagramming sentences. Writing is an enjoyment for me and I like to think I’ve always had an aptitude for it. Better than singing that’s for sure – I can’t sing a note but I can write a full paragraph!!

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?

HOUSTON: The best part is the total escape that writing offers me – once I sit down to work, which I do for only an hour or two a day, five days a week – I’m in a zone that I find very satisfying. The hard part is making myself sit down to do it. I worry that I’ll not do a good job and I have to remind myself that I’ve written eight books before and I can – and will -- do it again.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?

HOUSTON: Well, I’m under contract for two more books in the Loon Lake Mystery series. Also, I have a full time job in public relations, which requires good writing. And I’m taking notes for another book, not so much a mystery, that will be fiction and set in the northwoods but that’s likely a few years away from being finished.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?

HOUSTON: I love Willa Cather's work. Two of her books, O Pioneers! and My Antonia, continue to have an enourmous influence on me. I reread them every few years. Her prose is sparse and very contemporary. You can see and hear the people and the land and be instantly caught up in that world. I just hope I can do that for my readers.

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