The Next Big Thing is a sort of combination of chain letter and a “tag-you’re-it” interview game for writers. Molly Tinsley, author of Entering the Blue Stone, was tagged by Sarah Pleydell (see February 12th blog) to interview herself about her most recent book with the following 9 designated questions, post it somewhere on the internet as soon as possible, and then tag five writers for the next week to do the same. Molly’s answers are below.
What is the title/working title of the book?
The title is Entering the Blue Stone.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
In my parents’ final years, my siblings and I had to move them out of their home into an independent living apartment in a continuing care facility, then to the assisted living wing, and finally to the nursing home on the bottom floor. A pretty common experience nowadays, but it feels extraordinary when it happens to you, a cross between a comedy of errors, a crusade for humane treatment, and, of course, a prolonged funeral. In order to maintain my sanity, I transcribed events almost as they were happening, including conversations verbatim. No matter how overwhelming the chaos and the loss, I would tell myself, in the end I will have something saved, which I can write about. Out of this effort to contain the experience, I wound up with a cautionary tale, a sort of how-not-to. But it also led me to insights that have enriched my life ever since.
What genre does your book fall under?
Entering the Blue Stone is a literary memoir.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
My father, the General, would be played by James Stewart; my mother, by Ava Gardner. If I could bring these actors of an older generation back to life, they would embody perfectly my parents, who were newly-weds during World War II. I wouldn’t mind being played by one of my favorites, Emma Thompson, and Sigourney Weaver could be my sister. My brother Chris is a dead ringer for Tom Selleck, so why not?
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Balancing comedy and heartbreak, Molly Best Tinsley tells the story of her military parents’ final battle and her own attempt to protect the quality of their lives from the harsh practices of a continuing care facility.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It took about a year—which is fast for me—but I was working from notes that I’d taken conscientiously throughout the experience.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to document my parents’ end-of-life challenges in an honest, compassionate account that would recreate them on the page and also allow readers to avoid some of the mistakes my siblings and I made in caring for them. I particularly hoped to demystify Alzheimer’s disease: it does eventually destroy cognitive function, but it does not strip its sufferers of their humanity.
I’m a story-teller, not a psychologist, or physician, and I believe that a boots-on-the-ground, anecdotal approach communicates information more powerfully than an abstract power point presentation. Stories lodge in the memory; they bring our fellow human beings to life in a nuanced, three-dimensional world. They remind us that we are never in this struggle alone.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Besides exploring end-of-life issues, Entering the Blue Stone is both a love story and a portrait of a military family. Diametrically different in temperament, my parents forged a powerful bond in the process of unmaking then remaking their home every couple years, on air bases across the country and around the world. Neither had strong friendships with other adults, and perpetually on the move, we hardly ever saw members of our extended family. As Entering the Blue Stone shows, the family created its own microcosm. Meanwhile, there was the constant pressure on all of us to present a flawless front. For if an officer can’t control his own family, how is he effectively going to lead his troops? Thus life became a performance—we acted out the drama of the perfect family. When Parkinson’s disease then Alzheimer’s struck my parents, it’s an understatement to say that no one had any idea what to do.
Was your book self-published or represented by an agency?
Entering the Blue Stone was published by a small, independent press located in Ashland, Oregon, Fuze Publishing.