How did you get the idea for the novel?
Dark Passages is, for me, a very personal book. It’s a novel . . . certainly not a memoir! None of the events in Dark Passages actually happened in my own life, but I wanted to capture that period of great change and discovery that I did experience when I left my hometown, and went to the big city. The early 1960s was a time of great change for me but also for the country, which is why I chose to bookend my story with two significant events: the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, just a year and a month later. I’d written a number of nonfiction books about the TV series Dark Shadows, my first acting job, but this gave me an opportunity to write about something that was familiar and do so from a fresh, fictional perspective.
If Oprah invited you onto her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?
With Oprah’s history of debunking memoir, it would be fascinating to discuss mirroring one’s own life in fiction and persuading the reader it wasn’t memoir!
This would make a great film. Any talks of turning your book into a movie?
In fact, I am in discussions with a prominent filmmaker about writing a screenplay based on Dark Passages. So far, three of the nonfiction titles I’ve published have been optioned and/or produced as documentaries or television films.
Thinking back to the way beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
The most important lesson, especially for a nonfiction-turned-fiction author, is to not “tell” the story, but rather let it unfold. I’m also an actress and I’ve found some of the lessons I’ve learned in that profession have been so beneficial to me as a writer: setting the scene, incorporating all the senses, living the moment, “doing” not “showing” and finding those specific actions that reveal character. I’ve also learned that a bit of levity, a flicker of humor arising out of the most dire, tragic circumstances, provide poignancy and humanity and can have a profound effect on an audience – or the reader.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs along the way?
When I was about seven years old, my mother showed me how to feed a sheet of paper in her old Smith-Corona and I wrote a story about a little girl on a farm, who came across a witch living in a cottage in the woods. I also wrote a play about George and Martha Washington for my Third Grade class, casting myself in the lead role of Martha Washington! I have always wanted to be a writer, but acting always seems to make it possible!
What's up next for you?
My next book, of course! I’m writing a sequel to Dark Passages, and a nonfiction book about the new Dark Shadows film starring Johnny Depp, in which I have a cameo as Maggie Evans.