M.L. Gardner - Frugal Author Fascinated by the Great Depression
M.L Gardner is back with Drifter, book four in her popular 1929 series, which follows a certain group of characters through the Great Depression. When she is not working feverishly on one of her latest historical novels, she is woodworking, cooking food from scratch, canning fruit or taking care of her three kids and three cats. Today she tells us about her fascination with the Great Depression, how 1929 became a series and why she wrote Drifter.
Tell us about your 1929 series. What is the main theme?
The main theme is survival. While it starts out with the financial destruction of three couples as they are dealing with the literal side of physical survival, the overall theme is really emotional survival with all that life throws at them.
Did you plan right from the start for 1929 to become a series?
No. I had no idea that there would be a second (much less an entire series) until about three quarters through the book. It became clear that there were things to deal with that would require another book. As it turns out, many books.
How is Drifter different from the other books in the series?
Drifter, like Elizabeth’s Heart, shows what happens to a certain character while he is out of the picture in the numbered books. I really like it because his story plays out while I’m also telling the story of a Boston missing persons’ detective. It’s told in duel flashbacks and out of sequence and then comes together at the end.
You admit to being frugal to a fault - were you always this frugal? What is your number one tip for people who are interested in leading a more frugal lifestyle?
Looking back, I have always been frugal. I grew up in a very large family so there wasn’t much choice but to be frugal. My number one tip would be to get out of debt. So many people are proud of what they own (nice house, nice car) but in reality, they don’t really own it. My second tip is to downsize before you have to. Embrace tiny living. Not to say everyone should move into a converted shed. In the age of McMansions, that might mean considering a 1400 sq. foot house. I have lived in both 3000 sq feet and 280 sq feet and was actually happy in the micro house. (With a husband, two kids and four cats!);
How hard do you think would it be for wealthy people today to make it through the Great Depression? Do you think it would be harder on them than the on the rich back then?
Emotionally? I think the idea of significant loss of wealth would make most people crumble.Our economic model is much different today with global trade, oversight, regulation and big(ger) banks. However, like back then, those wealthy in real estate (paid for) physical gold, silver, oil, those types of commodities, would probably survive it well enough. That said, because our dollar is no longer on the gold standard, my official answer to that is, all bets are off. A second mega crash and Great Depression, I feel, would reshape the entire face of this country, eclipsing even what we saw then. I could write for days on that so I’ll just leave it there.
Above: My best friend/co-plotter and I having coffee, dreaming up more plots than I could ever write!
Which authors inspire you?
Several. Anita Shreve, John Jakes, Diana Gabaldon and Nora Roberts, just to name a few.
If your books were ever made into a TV series - which actor would you like to see as Aryl?
Ooooh, That’s a hard one. Really hard. He has shifted and evolved so much in my own mind’s eye, I’m not sure who could best represent him.
Why Aryl? Why did this character deserve a separate book to explore his back story more?
Well, I had to explain where he was, for one. It couldn’t remain the great secret. And, like Elizabeth’s Heart, I had to go into a different space to tell that story. He needed someone safe to confide in. Someone neutral. Detective Sloan was in no position to judge because his life was falling apart as well. They made great mutual sounding boards.
Drifter is told by different narrators. Why did you pick this approach?
Because it’s really two stories in one. Detective Sloan’s salvation hinged on Aryl’s and the two intertwined nicely but didn’t have the same tone. It was two different shades of gritty. And, it was the end of an age for Sloan and only the beginning for poor Aryl.
Tell us a bit more about your writing habits - do you prefer computer or pen; do you aim for a set amount of words every day?
I work on the computer only, unless I’m out, get an idea and need to jot it down. I don’t have a set daily word count. I am compulsive in writing and will get ‘stuck’ or ‘blocked’ for a few weeks at a time and then write compulsively for weeks on end. It’s a cycle that averages out to 2500 a day but it’s sporadic.
Above: I like to look at the amazing covers The Thatchery designed for me while I work.
Your series starts off in the roaring twenties - what drew you to this period?
I was drawn to the very climactic end of this period. I wasn’t drawn to fashion or grandeur, but the slap in the face that was October 1929. During the roaring twenties, it was more about acclimating to wealth, a lot of emotional adjustments, relationships forming and Arianna getting arrested at every turn for indecent exposure.
Which part of researching the time period was the most personally interesting to you?
The social shift from excess to poverty. How people navigated around the lack to find happiness in what they could, which was usually friends, family and memory based experiences over material things. It’s also fascinating how some escaped the pain all together. There were a lucky few middle class whose life, for the most part, continued on as normal and they experienced it from the outside looking in.
Above:Red and White enamel cookware keeps me connected to the past.
What are you working on now? How soon can we expect to see the next book in the series?
I’m working on three projects right now. Purling Road: Season Three – which is the continuation of The 1929 Series in serial format. I’m working on the first book in a next generation series and a romance. I’m not sure which one will be out next.
Where can readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can visit my website at mlgardnerbooks.com, see my books on amazon.com, or email me at [email protected]. I’m also active on social media. They can find me at: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.