Laura Treacy Bentley hasn’t chosen the genre she’s most interested in. She doesn’t have to.
Bentley, who is an editor for WV Living and author of the book of poetry titled “Lake Effect,” has written her first novel, “The Silver Tattoo,” which will be launched at an event from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Empire Books in Huntington.
Had you been strictly a poet before writing “The Silver Tattoo?”
I have always loved poetry but am also drawn to fiction. I've published poetry, book reviews and feature articles in the United States and Ireland. I have a number of unpublished picture books and short stories — only one of those stories was published before I started writing “The Silver Tattoo” in 2002. I also have an old draft of a historical fiction novel based on family history that I wrote a number of years ago, but it’s in a drawer now.
What made you want to write a novel?
I was asked to join a fiction writers group about 11 years ago, so I did, not quite knowing that world very well. I wrote a short story based on a magical photograph of a busker (street performance) that I had taken in Dublin, Ireland, in 2000. That photo turned out to be the opening chapter of my novel. My fabulous writers group, The Rogues, were excited by the story, but when it ended after six or seven pages, they said, “Is that it?!” They wanted more! I was stunned. So, for an intense and electrifying year or more, I typed madly and pounded a few letters off of my keyboard until I had a solid draft.
What is the novel bout and where did the idea come from?
It’s a dark literary thriller set in Ireland. My main character, Leah Howland, has deserted her sometimes-psychic, Houdini-buff husband to try and rebuild her life thousands of miles away by enrolling in Irish Studies at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Her move sets off a chain of events and cold-hearted crimes that are eerie and terrifying. Think stalker, Irish myths, ravens, love triangle, Cuchulainn, the Cliffs of Moher.
Didn’t you find it intimidating, taking on a novel?
I do! Totally intimidating! I love to distill moments and emotions into poetry, and I truly think the art of “distillation” has served me well in writing this novel. At first, it took a little while to transition to the wide-open prairie of fiction, but over the last few years, I have become addicted to the landscape of fiction. It’s hard work, but very exciting. I’ a quiet but driven and passionate, so I love to totally immerse myself in writing whether it be poetry, fiction, or non-fiction.
How long did it take you?
I didn’t have a plan at first. I just kept writing and writing to see where I’ go, see where those headlight beams would lead me down that dark winding road. “Jump off the cliff and find your wings on the way down,” Ray Bradbury always said, and he was so right. If you think things through too much in the beginning, you back yourself into a corner and you lose the joy of discovery.
After a year or so I had a solid draft, and then I began creating a clearer arc to the story, added chapters, spread the whole manuscript out on the floor, rearranged and deleted chapters, read the whole thing aloud a few of times.
I was very lucky to have early interest from agents, so I would revise for one and then another and another. As time passed, I kept polishing and editing, staying up all night on many occasions. I listened and acted on the wise feedback from friends, agents, agents' assistants, my former agent, Kendra Jenkins, and a number of dedicated beta readers at Foundry Literary & Media.
My novel went through a number of detailed edits, and I can’t even remember how many times I rewrote it, but in the end, it was a much stronger story. It wasn’t easy, and I was a bit delirious from all the rewrites, but in the end it was worth it.
What other projects are you involved in?
I was the writer in residence for the Marshall University Writing Project for three years … I'm writing all the time and am currently working on a new poetry collection, revising the draft of a new novel that I wrote last November, and in June I’ll be presenting two workshops at the West Virginia Writers Conference, helping with the second Word and Song Café during Old Central City Days in Huntington and teaching creative writing for three weeks at the West Virginia Governor's School for the Arts at Davis & Elkins College. I'm taking my vitamins every day!
LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.