Next Chapters is a biweekly feature spotlighting graduates of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, which has been running since 2010.
Novel Incubator Year: 1
Current Project: Loose in the Bright Fantastic, a forthcoming novel (Frayed Edge Press May 16, 2023)
What writers have most influenced your writing?
In high school the darkness of Wuthering Heights consumed me, sticking with me along with Grapes of Wrath. But 10 years ago, I turned to Michelle Hoover and her book The Quickening. She has a way of pulling me instantly in-scene, feeling every detail of the setting along with the emotional undercurrents driving the action. Her writing will lift me from any creative slough I’ve stepped in.
What’s the origin story of your Incubator novel?
When I started writing, it came out as poetry, always narrative and always short, based on dark stories of my mother’s Amish roots. With the publication of a chapbook, readers wanted to know details of what really happened. I was terrified I’d get lost writing a novel, but my poetry group encouraged me to try. This led to the birth of An Unseemly Wife, a story that budded in Jenna Blum’s novel class, then blossomed with invaluable help from original Novel Incubator instructors Michelle Hoover and Lisa Borders, and our whole first year class.
Are you currently part of a writers’ group?
For me, being part of a writing group is essential, a group with people who nail the hard truth, pointing out the good, the bad, and worse, the ridiculous. In my first novel I had trouble with one of my two protagonists. She wouldn’t take the shape I was pushing. Fortunately, the Incubees said, “Cut her.” I chopped the book in half, and what a relief.
It turned out my cut protagonist just wanted her own book, which she finally achieved: my new novel Loose in the Bright Fantastic. This taught me to listen to my characters.
I’ve been part of several writing groups that worked chapter by chapter, and one working only with whole novels. This group survived Covid, mostly by Zoom, and thankfully kept me on despite my move from Cambridge to Maine. I can’t imagine where I’d be without them. They make it possible to swallow the hard stuff, and I don’t mean gin.
What do you do for fun?
Writing is work some days, and fun on others. It’s the way I travel, no crowds, no cramped seats, no canceled flights, no Covid exposure. I can forget sunblock at the beach, survive treacherous mountain crevasses, explore the past, invent the future, and be home in time for dinner. Writing is an addiction I happily embrace.
What surprised you most about the publishing process?
These days it seems the big publishers look at an author’s sales record before they look at the first page of a new manuscript. For my second book, Stones in the Road, the publisher fired the marketer without telling me. It didn’t even get on Goodreads, and by the time it received a starred review from Kirkus and was named one of their Best Books of 2015, it was too late. The sales were poor. When my agent went out with the third book, the few responses all said the same thing: they didn’t know how to sell it despite the subject being dementia, a hot topic of the day. For the fourth book, Silent Cauldron, I used another name and ended up with a contract from a small press. I admitted to my real name, and they still wanted the book. Fortunately, I found another small press to take Loose in the Bright Fantastic.
What was the last darling you killed?
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I don’t kill Darlings. I anesthetize them, stack their bodies in a box, and see if they’ll resurrect in another setting. In writing, there’s always a second chance.
E. B. Moore is a metal sculptor turned poet turned novelist living in Scarborough, Maine. She has been a resident at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and The Vermont Studio Center. Her publications include three novels, Loose in the Bright Fantastic (forthcoming May 16, 2023, from Frayed Edge Press); Stones in the Road (NAL/Penguin/Random House 2015); An Unseemly Wife (NAL/Penguin 2014); and a poetry chapbook, New Eden, A Legacy, (Finishing Line Press 2009). Find out more at ebmoore.net.