Interview of Author Nancy Geise, by Andrea Costantine
[AC] How did you get started writing your book? Or what inspired your book?
[NG] In 1979, I was a senior in high school and my English teacher, Grace Bauske (Ames High, Ames, Iowa) made an off-handed remark that I “should be writing.” That comment stayed with me. I had always been interested in writing historical fiction. One day, I decided to make it happen. I thought about all the things I love in a story—seeking and finding…perseverance against all odds…and the idea that people can be bound together forever. As soon as I made the decision to begin, the story just came to me…in total. Many years later, that story, The Eighth Sea, may be in be in the running for taking the longest time ever to be written! I actually wrote the first draft 25 years ago. I then spent nearly three years doing extensive research—set in the 1700s, this historical fiction unfolds in three different parts of the world (St. Christopher, West Indies, Bath and Bristol, England and finally Charleston, SC). My life then got busy with raising three daughters, careers, etc. I always knew I would finish the book, but I could never see fit to muster the creative energy to do so. Every few years, though, I would dust it off and rewrite it but then would set it aside. The nagging sense of it not being done haunted me. I began dreaming about the characters…as if they were saying, “Finish us!” The characters were/are so real to me; they feel like family. When I was in Charleston doing research, I went to an old cemetery and found myself half expecting to see their markers!
A year ago, my husband’s job took us to Topeka, Kansas. Not having any connections there turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise, because I was able to completely focus. I basically lived in hibernation for the past last year, spending about 10-12 hours a day rewriting and rewriting. The end result was a novel ready for publication.
[AC] What was the hardest part about completing your book?
[NG] The hardest part was letting go. After keeping this story so close to my heart for so long, it was difficult to release…and to be content (and secure) enough to let it have its wings…faults and all. I have had to force myself to remember that as parents, when the kids “leave the nest,” they do so with imperfections and all. Launching a novel is very much like nudging a child from the nest. The ability to let go of something intimate and as private as a novel, and have it go public, is very exciting but also very difficult emotionally.
[AC] Did you learn any lessons in the book creation process, if so what where they?
[NG] I guess my greatest lesson is that I never considered myself a perfectionist…until it came to this book, and I’ve since learned how damaging that desire to be “perfect” can be. Fairly recently, I realized what was holding me back from finishing it was that I did not want it to be read until it was “perfect,” which of course was not realistic. Once I realized that fear was holding me back, I knew I could not let that stop me. Until I wrote this book, I always thought I was fairly brave. I know now this is not entirely true, so I’ve found the process very humbling. And while I still struggle with the desire to “improve it,” I have been blessed by feedback from people who have read it and have shared the profound impact this story has had on them. So this process has been such a great reminder that each of us can make a difference in the lives of others…regardless of our “imperfections.”
It’s odd too, that in a sense, I’ve learned a lot from my characters. Sometimes when I’m down about something, I find myself wondering how Brenna (the heroine in my book) would respond. And I realize that she would not give in to defeat, nor should I.
Brenna never gave up on her dream of finding her place in the world…her eighth sea, so to speak…her way home. Writing this book has taught me the power of never giving up on my own dreams.
[AC] What tips or advice do you have for aspiring authors?
[NG]Write about what you love, don’t give up and don’t let your desire for something to be “perfect” stop you from moving your book forward. And whatever you do, don’t give up on your dream.
[AC] What else would you like to share about you or your book?
[NG] Something unexpected happened in the process…and that was the creation of a theme song. It’s an odd but true story. Whenever I worked on my book, I found find myself humming this little melody. It was driving me crazy, so one day—several years ago—I decided to see if I could play it on the piano. (I barely play the piano, so this was a task!) When my husband came home that night, I played it for him. He said, “That sounds like your book. You should put words to it.” A light bulb went off….so I got a poem I had written for my character Emily. I had never been able to find a place for the poem in the book. The poem basically dropped into the music. I then gathered a group of musicians and we went into a recording studio and made the CD.
The book is about a family journeying by ship from England to America in 1769. There is a terrible ship wreck and they think they’ve lost their infant daughter Brenna at sea (when in fact, she was rescued and raised on the island of St. Christopher—now called St. Kitts). The book then skips 19 years later to Brenna’s life. The song is written from Emily’s perspective (Brenna’s mother). Emily is never able to come to terms with the loss of her daughter, always sensing that something was not right. The song is about her willing her thoughts, through the wind and over the sea, to her lost daughter. The painting on the cover is of Brenna, standing on a faraway shore, listening.
How can people find out more about your book?
The Eighth Sea on Amazon
Song link and the Painting Demonstration