Debut Author Interview: Martine Fournier Watson

Meet Martine Fournier Watson, author of the literary historical novel The Dream Peddler, which releases today from Penguin Books

Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

Welcome, Martine!

Tell us about your book.

Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.

Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.

Where did you get the idea?
I was a huge fan of L. M. Montgomery growing up, and my favorite heroine was Emily of New Moon. Emily wants to be a writer, and in the final book of the trilogy she writes her first novel but is unable to sell it, so she burns it. All the reader ever knows about this book is that it was a modern-day fairy tale called A Seller of Dreams. Since I could never know any more than this, my curiosity about the burned book eventually led me to write my own version.

Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
It’s a bit of a mixture. Characters come to me already formed, and I get to know them better as I write, so they’re not based on anyone I know. But I often throw in little bits and pieces from real people when I’m rounding them out, either as personality traits or backstory. For instance, Evie Dawson, my protagonist in The Dream Peddler, hates to be laughed at, and that’s modeled on my own mother’s feelings.

How long did you take to write this book?
The first draft took about six months, and then I spent maybe another eight months or so getting feedback from beta readers and revising. Finding an agent took a long time! Over eighteen months and a grand total of one hundred and nine queries. Once on submission, it didn’t take dreadfully long to sell—maybe about five months.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
My research was in two parts. I wanted to know as much as I could about the dreaming process and what kinds of things are possible in terms of influencing our dreams and remembering them. This was fascinating, because I discovered all the things I’d written that felt far-fetched to me are actually quite plausible!

The other branch of the research was understanding farming communities and how they operated during the early part of the twentieth century. Not quite as scintillating, but in order to make the characters and their way of life tangible, I really needed to have all the details, even down to what crops would have been planted or harvested at which time.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am a pantser all the way. The process of discovery is what makes writing so joyous for me. I think if I always knew exactly where my plot was going, I would grow bored.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
Definitely the drafting, although it wasn’t always that way. I was in my thirties before someone enlightened me about how first drafts are supposed to stink. Once I started drafting more quickly instead of stewing over every word, it became my favorite part of the process. I love the feeling of a great idea for a scene popping into my head and rushing to get it all down.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
It depends on the book, but editing is always hard for me. Once I’ve written the book, I’m afraid to look at it again, to be overwhelmed by the mess, and I really have to talk myself into it. With my current project, I also did myself the great disservice of writing it out of order as scene ideas popped into my head, having only a vague idea of how they’d fit into the storyline. Organizing that jumble of scenes into a coherent narrative, linking them up with new writing, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a writer.

Can you share your writing routine?
I don’t have a routine, and I write anywhere and everywhere. I have to keep paper and pen handy everywhere I go! I love best to write outside, usually sitting on our back porch, but if it’s too cold you’ll usually find me on the living room sofa.

Do you have any writing quirks?
I don’t know if this counts as a quirk, but I detest typing. I draft everything longhand in notebooks and then transcribe. There’s something about typing that deadens the writing for me—I don’t know how else to describe it. Everything feels more vivid when I’m putting pen to paper and scribbling furiously to try and keep up with my mind.

Which book influenced you the most?
I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one, but certainly one of my all-time favorite books is one that I happened to be reading around the time I was writing The Dream Peddler: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. His writing is everything I could hope mine to be, and his agent was one of the first I queried. I also read everything by Donna Tartt—she is brilliant.

What are you working on right now?
I recently finished a readable draft of my second book, so I’m waiting to get feedback from a few kind writers who have agreed to critique for me. It’s another adult literary effort, this time about two eighth-graders who become friends without realizing that one of them has found something precious the other recently lost.

What’s your favorite writing advice?
Ignore all the advice and trust your instincts.

What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker and loving it! I wanted to read it because it’s about a small town overtaken by a mysterious sleeping sickness that seems to cause powerful dreams, and I was curious about what it might have in common with my own book. I’m so glad I discovered it, because the writing is beautiful and the story completely absorbing.

Where can we find your book?

Where can we find you?

Thanks for chatting, Martine! We wish you success with your debut!

Debut Author Interview: Andrea Rothman

Meet Andrea Rothman
Before turning to fiction writing, Andrea Rothman was a research scientist at the Rockefeller University in New York. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and was fiction editor for the literary journal Hunger Mountain. Her short stories can be viewed at

Andrea is the author of The DNA of You and Me, out today!

In The DNA of You and Me, ambitious young scientist Emily Apell joins a renowned research lab in New York to study the sense of smell. There she meets Aeden Doherty, a senior colleague. Their relationship is complicated by external events. Eventually Emily will have to choose between her research and Aeden. Years later, about to receive a prestigious award for the work she carried out in the lab, Emily looks back upon that choice.

Let’s get to know Andrea and her debut novel!

Tell us about yourself, Andrea.
I’m a wife and a mother of two teenagers. We have no pets though I would like to have a dog. I’m thinking about it. My day job is to write. After two o’clock it’s all about the kids and the house and reading a lot. I’d like to apply for a teaching position but worry that it will interfere with everything else I have to do.

How did you get into writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, I kept notebooks and I read all of the classics. I only started writing seriously (with discipline) as an adult, after I left science—I was a research scientist for many years.

Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
Lately I’ve been writing essays about different topics, mainly science and nature.

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I’m scared of heights. I can’t stand at the edge of a building without feeling I’ll fall off.

Which book influenced you the most?
So many, but the most recent book was the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I think it’s a masterpiece, a brilliant exploration about relationships, mortality, and being human.

How about The DNA of You and Me? What’s it about?
Thematically my novel is about choice: the choices we all make in our lives and our pondering them years later. The novel is a retrospect, told from the perspective of a female protagonist, Emily, looking back upon the period she spent in a research lab, and her relationship there with a colleague by the name of Aeden.

What’s the story behind the title?
Interesting that you ask! The original title of my novel is Pathfinder, but my publisher changed it because they thought people would associate the title with the popular car: Nissan Pathfinder. We brainstormed for a while for a new title, until my editor came up with The DNA of You and Me. Everyone liked it, including the marketing team.

Tell us about your favorite character.
Aside from Emily my favorite character is Aeden without a doubt. He can be headstrong and manipulative but he is also a smart guy with a big heart, who understands that love is more important than success.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d go to Coney Island with Aeden in the summer and have milkshakes by the beach.

How long did you take to write this book?
From conception to publication (actual pub date), it took ten years.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of research about Anosmia, defined as a long-term inability to smell. The research in the lab, carried out by the characters in my novel, is about smell.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Both: a pantser at the very beginning of the work and a plotter towards the end.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
The beginning. I love the process of not knowing anything, of discovering things little by little, allowing the words on the page to speak to me and tell me their secrets, the things I haven’t said that need to be written.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
As much as I like not knowing where I’m going (see my answer to previous question) I also sometimes find it a little nerve-racking when things seem to be going nowhere, and it happens all too often in the writing process, especially with fiction.

Can you share your writing routine?
I write creatively only in the morning, from around 8 to 12. I need absolute quiet and I usually write at my desk at home or in a quiet office space. It’s nearly impossible for me to write imaginatively in a Starbucks for instance.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I’ve had writer’s block very often in my life, I think most writers experience this a lot. To overcome it I usually just lower my expectations and write whatever comes to my mind, just try to fill the page with words, trying to keep my ego out of it. I think most blocks are a problem of the ego and having high expectations about the words and the material before the work is even done. Beginning writers rarely have writer’s block.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Follow your heart and trust yourself. It will be okay. If you love the material enough, a book will eventually take shape.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two unpublished (a memoir and a novel) and around six unfinished novels. I also have many completed short stories I have yet to polish and submit for publication.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on my next novel, trying to figure out exactly what it’s about and to nail down the narrative voice. This is usually what sets the tone for me and leads the way. In terms of plot, I think I will be planning ahead with this new novel much more than I did with The DNA of You and Me.

What’s your favorite writing advice?
Have faith in yourself, and don’t discard what comes to mind just because it may seem crazy or depressing or unlikeable. Usually this is the stuff of genius/the stuff that is uniquely yours and no one else’s. That is what will define your voice.

And where can we find you?