On Southport Island off the coast of Maine, legends still live. Over 125 years ago, a baby was put in a small wooden enclosure and cast off to sea with an attached farewell note. Legend has it, the baby was rescued and taken into the lighthouse keeper's family, who named her Seaborn. Sound crazy? The main character in Cris Mazza's latest book, Waterbaby
, sets out to rural Maine to see if she's related to the legendary baby, but ends up discovering more than she could have imagined.
Tell me about your latest book, Waterbaby.
It's a psychological novel about a character who comes to terms with her debilitating past by inventing a fantasy past of a distant relative and living it vicariously. Through her journey, she travels to Maine to try and find out if one of her distant relatives was a shipwrecked baby from a 19th century legend.
Tell me about the creative process.
I did all the research in Maine and basically lived where the character lived. Because every part of this book comes from this character's point of view, I kind of had to do method acting and become the character. That she was using the same research that I was helped, but I had to see it and use it in the same way she did. This is the kind of book that developed as I wrote it. I didn't know many of the things that would happen in this book. When the first quarter or third were written, I still didn’t know anything that would happen.
What do you do when you're not writing?
When I'm not writing, I'm training and showing my dogs. I have an acre and a half in the ex-burbs, west of the suburbs, 50 miles west of downtown Chicago. I also have half an acre of gardens and trees that I tend, so that keeps me very busy. I'm also the director for the program of writers at UIC, a creative writing Masters and a PhD program.
What's your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?
I like the gardens in Grant Park because I love gardens.
Who should we be reading right now?
That's always the hardest question because it changes. Susan Minot is one of my favorite authors. She wrote a book several years ago, and the title of the book is Evening. A movie came out just this year and then disappeared, so it must not have been successful, but it took place in Maine. Although it has nothing to do with this book—it's totally different from this book other than it involves someone's past and long and memories of the past—I thought it was beautifully written. It would be a good book to read with Waterbaby.