I am excited to introduce you to author, Sarah (S. R.) Mallery who shared with me that she has worn various hats in her life. Sarah also shares that she was, “First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award-winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down in the Dirt.”
Author S. R. Mallery
I actually met Sarah on Twitter. I was immediately intrigued because she was such an engaging personality, something that you don’t always find on Twitter. In no time at all, I was reading her novel, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads.” You can read my review here, and below is the synopsis for this excellent book:
These eleven long short stories range from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a message system to freedom; from an ex-journalist and her Hopi Indian maid solving a cold case together involving Katchina spirits to a couple hiding Christian passports in a comforter in Nazi Germany; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980’s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial ‘star’ and an eclectic fiber artist to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macramé artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.
What was really amazing was that Sarah likes to do interviews! So here you have it. My interview with Sarah (S. R.) Mallery:
Colleen: Sarah, tell me something about yourself. Where do you live? Are you a full-time writer?
I live in Southern California, where the weather is basically so much tamer than the rest of the U.S. and Europe I have survivor guilt! And no, I would say I am only a two-thirds of the time writer. One-third of my time is spent teaching English to people from other countries and I have learned over the years that it is that balance of being inside my head––both creatively and promotion-wise––and helping others is what works best for me.
Colleen: What inspired you to write Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads? Have you written other books?
When my father told me about the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, I had already been a quilt designer/teacher for over twenty years. So, in doing my research on that horrific event, I was particularly drawn to those hapless immigrant seamstresses who, in spite of their overworked hours and low pay, were often the only ones in their families that could find work in the U.S. I also enjoyed thinking about the sewing aspect, surrounded as I was by so many quilts and fabrics in my studio. I therefore decided to continue writing short stories, connected only by one element of sewing/craft. That actually helped focus me on future stories. In other words, no matter what time period I was reading about, that context kept me asking questions like how would sewing/crafting ‘fit’ into a story that takes place in this time frame? Who would be the likely characters?
Yes, I’ve written two other books: TALES TO COUNT ON (http://amzn.to/1x8QqyD) and UNEXPECTED GIFTS (Currently set to be re-released in late June 2015).
Colleen: What message do you want your readers to get from SEWING CAN BE DANGEROUS?
By interweaving a ‘thread’ of sewing/crafts throughout each of my stories, I wanted to emphasize how in life as well as history, the ‘little things’ are what loom large. In other words, these quilts, necklaces, crafts, etc. stay with us no matter what events revolve around them.
That idea extends to when I do research for my writing. I am always fascinated by some small fact that most people might pass over but for me, pops out from the page. Soon, that fact starts to percolate in my brain until it becomes a major plot device and/or character development.
Colleen: Who is your favorite author and explain what really inspires you about their work.
Although there are several authors I admire, I would have to choose Harper Lee, who taught me that being simple yet lyrical, presenting appealing characters and touching subjects, and ‘showing not telling’ is more powerful than the most flowery, magnificent prose which can after a while, for me at least, go in one ear and out the other.
Colleen: What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?
I would say perhaps looking for a ‘sewing element’ in my research process that I could authentically use in a story. Originally, there were a couple more stories, but I decided to scrap them because their sewing component seemed too manufactured.
Colleen: Do you have any works in progress you will tell us about?
Yes. I am currently working on an historical fiction western and enjoying not only that time period, but also the colorful lingo that was used. Here’s the synopsis:
Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery has it all. Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Add to the mix are colorful descriptions of an 1856 land rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and of course, romance. It’s not only a taste of America’s past, it’s also about people overcoming insurmountable odds.
Thank you, Sarah, for spending some time with us and sharing about your book, “Sewing Can be Dangerous & Other Small Threads.” I look forward to reading your other books too!
Here is An Excerpt from Sewing Can Be Dangerous & Other Small Threads
From “A Drunkard’s Path”
“…Are you kidding me?” Deborah exploded. “My life is falling apart! C’mon, curses don’t really happen, do they? I mean, what can I do? You tell me now!” She segued into a screech.
“Come over to my place tomorrow and I’ll try to relate it all to you, I promise…”
….”Do you know anything about the Salem Witchcraft trials?” The older woman leaned in toward her niece, as if casting a spell herself.
“No, not much, why?”
“You remember Martha Stinson from my quilt group? Well after the wedding, she showed me a journal written by a relative of hers and frankly, I am very concerned about you. It seems one of the accused witches from the original Salem trials might have actually had a connection with a real witch, an ancestor of Martha’s…”
* * * *
Inside the packed meetinghouse, dust particles from mud-caked boots floated throughout the air, rendering it dense, murky. That year, April had been an unkind month to Salem Village. Rain-drenched meadows produced a sludge that clung to the edges of women’s dresses, creating odors so foul that in such tight quarters, it became difficult to breathe. But people weren’t concerned with such matters on this day. They had gathered for a higher purpose: the Devil was in Salem, and they wished him thwarted at all costs. Even the constant threat of Indian attacks and surviving harsh winters paled in comparison to what was happening now, in that room, swelling with apprehension.
Crammed into high-walled pews, dark wooden benches, or simply shoved up against walls, spectators filled every conceivable space in the meetinghouse. Donning black hats, cloaks, and breeches, the men angled forward, their eyes boring holes into the five men sitting up front, yet it was the women who carried the greatest burden that day; their hooded coats and muffs covering their recently unkempt hair and unwashed fingernails, couldn’t disguise the uncertainty they felt about their community’s loyalty to them and how it would all end.
Sitting at the head of the counsel table, amongst other magistrates in the newly appointed Court of Oyer and Terminer, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin quietly conferred with each other before beginning their first round of questioning. Arrogant, self-important, the black-robed magistrates assumed their positions on the political totem pole, and having been brought to Salem for such a specific purpose, they dared not disappoint. They were on a mission to deliver souls. Hathorne, displaying the greatest exhibition of self-aggrandizement, seemed the most severe. With no real legal experience, and having only glanced at Sir Mathew Hale’s Trial of Witches, and Joseph Granvill’s Collection of Sundry Trials in England, Ireland the week before, he nonetheless believed he was more than competent to interrogate the accused.
At the front of the room facing the magistrates, sat all the accusers, the “afflicted” girls: Abigail Williams, her cousin Betty Parris, Ann Putnam, Sarah Bibber, Sarah Churchill, Elizabeth Booth, Mercy Lewis, Susanna Sheldon, Jemima Rea, Mary Warren, Mary Walcott and Elizabeth Hubbard. With downcast eyes and folded hands, they appeared demure; inwardly they were experiencing emotions quite different from anything they had ever known. Childhoods stocked with adult repression and fear now served as a springboard to the frenzy of accusations they had created, because on this day, along with their catharsis and even exhilaration, came the most important emotion of all: a sense of empowerment. At last, they were getting adults to listen to them, and it was intoxicating.
John Hathorne commenced with the proceedings. “Bring in the accused, Bridget Bishop….”
Here’s what they’re saying about SEWING CAN BE DANGEROUS And Other Small Threads:
“S. R. Mallery is quite simply a master story-teller.”
“This is a box of bonbons, every story an eye-opening surprise. Eat one and you’ll want to devour the whole box.”
“Women, sewing, history, and storytelling. A quilt of wonderful stories.”
“Rich and beautiful stories that will captivate you.”
“These stories will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book…”
“I was amazed by the variety of stories that took place in various locations, and at different historical times.”
Here’s where you can find Sarah:
Pinterest: (I have some good history boards that are getting a lot of attention—history, vintage clothing, older films) http://www.pinterest.com/sarahmallery1/
Amazon Author page:
Amazon link to SEWING CAN BE DANGEROUS: http://amzn.to/1P8OTyo
Audible.com link for SEWING CAN BE DANGEROUS: http://bit.ly/1uyFUuF