Lynne Sturtevant is primarily a nonfiction author of how-to guides. But in her most recent release, The Good Neighbors (September 2020), she takes readers into the fantasy genre with a different look at fairies and their folklore. Find all of Lynne’s books on her website LynneSturtevant.com and Amazon author page, and connect with her on her blog HiddenNewMexico.com and on Facebook. Read more about her work in SWW’s 2020 interview.
What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in The Good Neighbors?
The Good Neighbors is a different kind of contemporary fantasy. It’s a story about what happens when magic bubbles up in a normal place and disrupts the lives of ordinary people. No witches, wizards, vampires or misunderstood teenagers with magical powers. Just an overweight middle-aged woman and some feisty elderly residents in double-wide trailers trying to tamp down an outbreak of dangerous magical beings.
What sparked the idea for the book?
I was reading a lot of Celtic fairy folklore, not fairy tales, but 19th century rural folks’ descriptions of fairy encounters. My tag line for the book — “People used to know the truth about fairies and they were afraid of them.” — grew out of that research. I wondered what kind of situations would arise if a group of these self-absorbed, capricious, obnoxious creatures appeared in our world and refused to leave. Once I started imaging them roaming around the hills of West Virginia, I was off and running.
Who are your main characters, and what will readers like most about them?
My main characters are strong, smart older women. The narrator is Ginger. She’s blue collar, snarky, smokes and drinks too much and has financial problems. She is a home health aide traveling the countryside calling on elderly clients. And that brings us to Violet, a wealthy, erudite lady in her late 70s. Fairies have taken up residence on Violet’s property, but she doesn’t want anyone to know. Ginger discovers her secret when the fairies vandalize her car. There’s Henry, a retired banker who is romantically interested in Violet, as well as an assortment of other eccentric clients scattered through the hills. And, of course, there are the fairies themselves. They are not tiny, glamorous, sparkly creatures with gossamer wings that flit from flower to flower. They’re scrawny, about four-feet-tall, and they have personal hygiene issues. Plus, they really like artificial sweetener.
People love Ginger for her voice, her attitude, and the fact that she tries to apply a normal world problem-solving approach to an otherworldly dilemma: How to neutralize the increasingly violent and aggressive fairies before they create even more mayhem than they already have.
What is the main setting, and how does it impact the story?
The story is set in and around Parkersburg, West Virginia. I needed a place that was decidedly unmagical but within striking distance of an area that was remote, hidden, and possibly enchanted. Those are the sparsely populated hills and the village of Oberon, which is completely imaginary, about an hour south of Parkersburg. The setting reinforces the contrast between the regular world and the magical one, which is the theme underlying the entire story.
Tell us how the book came together.
I wrote the first version of this book about 20 years ago. I had a literary agent at the time who tried to sell it for two years. No takers. My favorite complaints from publishers were the fairies were too folklorish and Ginger was too old. I was disappointed, but I put it away. I never forgot about it, though.
The years went by, as they say, and I ended up in Albuquerque. I had several short nonfiction titles I wanted to self-publish. I took the SWW workshop on publishing last year and learned how to do just that, as we discussed in an earlier interview. I highly recommend that workshop, by the way.
When the nonfiction titles were finished, I took a deep breath and read my fairy novel for the first time in ages. I was surprised how much I still liked it. The good news was I saw flaws that I couldn’t see before. The even better news was I knew how to fix them. So, I did a rewrite, added two subplots and intensified and expanded several scenes. It only took a few weeks. Then I published it.
Is there a scene in The Good Neighbors that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
The fairies live in a mound. Even though the entrances are concealed, and no one is supposed to come inside, Ginger figures out a way to get in. The Fairyland she manages to get herself trapped in is not the magical realm described in classic fairy tales. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll mention a few elements: A dented Walmart shopping cart. Filthy shag carpeting. An amateurish sunset painted on black velvet. Lots of mud.
What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
The bottom line is this story is fun. The characters are funny. The fairies are despicable. Crazy things happen. I loved writing it. I loved rewriting it. Taking the flawed original version, turning it into something better and helping it finally find the light of day was a very satisfying experience.
What writing projects are you working on now?
Several women told me they wanted to hear more from Ginger. They hoped she would have further adventures in the world of the paranormal, the supernatural, and the just plain weird. So, I’m writing a sequel! It will be book two in a series. I started it in November 2020 during NaNoWriMo. Ginger has a new territory. She’s been assigned to a small college town, which just happens to be the most haunted place in West Virginia. Rather than Celtic fairy lore, this time she’s steeped in the food, legends, folkways and magic of Appalachia. She’s also dealing with an increasingly frantic ghost. I plan to publish by the end of September. After that? I have one or two more ideas . . .
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I love helping other writers develop web content and copy, a totally different writing style for many of us. I also design beautiful websites. You can find out more at www.magicwordscreative.com or visit my author’s site at www.lynnesturtevant.com.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.