Joining us today is author Rosemary Chaulk. Her debut novel, Nissitissit Witch was recently released from AuthorHouse. We’ll talk to Rosemary about the book, the history behind it, and current social tie-ins.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Rosemary. It’s great to have you with us!
Let’s get started by finding out a bit more about you. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Littleton, Mass which used to be a small farm town. We moved there from Waltham when I was in the third grade. At that time there was more cows than people.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I used to write when I was a teenager, later after college I was married with a family and had no free time or even the desire to write. Three years ago I began to write again. Now I seem to be totally obsessed with writing.
Who is your greatest source of inspiration?
My greatest source of inspiration was my mother. Her life in some ways was a mess. She was a manic depressant alcoholic but never gave up and always got back up and tried again. When life knocks me down and I wonder if it is worth getting back up I look to her example of never giving up no matter how dark it gets.
Tell us a little about Nissitissit Witch. Where did you find the inspiration for this story?
I was born under the sign of the bull, forever connected to the earth. I have spent my entire life working outside year round doing land survey. I have a deep respect and love for the land and at times in my career I was sickened and even despondent about the massive pollution that I saw. In the early seventies I worked in a survey crew doing topographic surveys along the banks of the Merrimack River in Lowell, Mass. The branches of the trees, which hung in the river, were covered with toilet papers and condoms; tampons swam by like perverted sperm on their way to the ocean to infect the source of life. I have carried these images my whole life.
In the town I live in was a village, North Village, and people to this day believe the village was cursed by a witch and died. A cursed piece of land right in the town I live in. But then I thought, “Can land be cursed or is it just the tortured souls who roam it who are cursed?
In this book I found a way to express my love for the land and make people aware of just how much we polluted North America once we took it from the Indians.
When the settlers took the valley from the Indians they killed a tribe that had lived there for six thousand years. The settlers lust for the land was strong. It proved to be ironic that their lack of respect for this land was the very thing which killed them.
Tell us about your main characters.
I based my fictional characters on actual newspaper articles. In doing the research I noticed that there were many mentions of people dying in an unusual way. Reading some of the research I found North Village to have a cobbler who made his own felt. In researching felt I found it to be made using mercurous oxide. The cobbler traveled the farms in the area selling his boots. There was also a velvet shop and in researching velvet I found that it has to be steamed and not ironed. Further research showed that all of the royal colors back then contained poisons and sometimes heavy metals; even the wallpaper back then was toxic and many infants died in their cribs. It is even rumored that Napolian’s insanity was caused by his love of green wallpaper, which was the most toxic. When I researched heavy metal poisoning it showed that people died raving lunatics, certainly that would be an unusual way.
Why will readers relate to them?
The story is very contemporary in the fact that we are still polluting our word, we still have bigotry and small mindedness and people are given derogatory labels because we do not understand them.
What will they like about them?
My characters come alive and the reader will enjoy being with my characters as much as I enjoyed being with them when I wrote the book.
Is there anything they will dislike?
Everyone has detested the Norwegian and several people urged me to take him out of the book but he was a real character in the village.
The 1800’s was a time of great growth for America. The West was settled; railroad towns popped up across the land as the U.S. Government sought to connect the east and west coasts; and inventions like gas lighting, the telegraph, and the grain elevator made life better and easier for people living in the 19th century. How did progress affect the characters of your novel?
The industrial revolution was one of the causes of the death of North Village. None of the small mill villages in this area survived the industrial revolution. All the large businesses moved to the large cities abandoning waterpower for steam.
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was a popular CBS TV show in the 1990’s. Set in the mid-1800’s it might have been the first show to showcase the mistreatment of the Indians and the crimes against the land that took place in favor of progress. Have you ever seen the show? And if so, do you feel there are parallels between Dr. Quinn and Nissitissit Witch?
Yes. I used to watch the show all the time.
Dr. Quinn had trouble being accepted as a doctor because she was a woman. My main character is very intelligent like Dr. Quinn but she is a Quaker in a town that was Puritan in a backwoods village. Worse than Dr. Quinn, my main character is persecuted and murdered because she is different.
Are there contemporary themes or struggles running through your novel?
When the settlers took the valley from the Indians they killed a tribe that had lived there for six thousand years. The settler’s lust for the land was strong; it proved to be ironic that their lack of respect for this land was the very thing, that killed them. This type of blind lust still exits today.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and Nissitissit Witch?