Monday, January 23, 2012

Michigander Monday: Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

I'm pleased to welcome Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Elizabeth, please tell us a little about yourself.

Elizabeth:  I’m a writer, probably always have been.  Story is a big part of my life—what I see in the lives of others; in my own life.  Plotlines.  Reasons for doing what we do.  Writing fiction, making stories from the world around me, is a way to find some sense, partial reason, for the things I see but don’t understand.  Probably, at the heart of this need to know, is ego—a will to tame this world: I will redo it and make it to my own liking.  I guess this is who I am, in the deepest part of me.

If—by ‘a little about myself’—is meant a list of accomplishments—degrees—friends, family—there are those:  Macomb County College after having five kids.  Oakland University—a degree in education.  My first novel published by Bantam: Gift of Evil.  Then on to grad school at the University of Michigan.

And then life interfered with writing.  My husband, Tony, was in a terrible car accident that took years of his life and many operations to recover from. All the time writing in my head, even when I wasn’t writing in fact.

The thing about being ‘a writer’ is that dealing with thoughts and words isn’t a thing you do outside yourself—like being a ditch digger or a doctor.  It is a part of every corner of your brain.  A part of every day: observing, understanding, asking questions.  A part of everything we see, hear, smell, feel.  So—not a job.  More, as Flannery O’Connor observed, “A Habit of Being.”

And then a job change and a move to northern Michigan—time to write again.  I wrote five books in five years—as if something stoppered had been freed.  All the novels sold and I am now on to the fifth in a series with a new series beginning.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your books.

Elizabeth:  I write mysteries because, again, I have the most control over my people, my places, my stories.  Evil is nothing to fear when you create it and then punish it.  Character is of the highest importance to me—after all, it is people who live the lives we write about, the events, who figure (or don’t figure) out how to deal with life.  Place is their setting—my people.  The world around them, seen through their eyes, reflects who they are, what they know of the natural world.

My latest books are:  Dead Dancing Women, Dead Floating Lovers, Dead Sleeping Shaman, and Dead Dogs and EnglishmenDead Dogs and Englishmen received a starred review from Kirkus, then was chosen as one of the best mysteries of 2011.  Then the Christian Science Review chose it as one of the best mysteries of 2011.  The next in this series is Dead Little Dolly.  In a new, psychological thriller, series, I’ve written The Philosopher’s Wife, which takes on philosophy and physics, God, the devil, and a few other things—such as monumental evil and what it is to be a human being.  This one’s with my agent now.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jan. 30—Kiwanis Club in Traverse City
Feb. 4—Writers conference in Chicago—panel leader
April: MLA National Conference; appearance at Kent Library.

Many appearances planned on into the new year.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Elizabeth:  Almost any bookstore where the owners or managers love books and writers and readers.  Any bookstore where books aren’t only saleable objects, but revered treasures—for the thought, the talent, the art forms it takes to create them.  Brilliant Books in Traverse City is such a bookstore.  Horizon Books in Traverse City.  The Cottage Book Store in Leland.  Saturn Books in Gaylord.  These people, these owners, have feelings for books even I can’t quite fathom—it is so deep and so real.  It is reverence for inanimate objects offering what is best about the rest of us., that share ideas, that teach, that entertain, that connect mind to mind.

Debbie:  How about your favorite places in Michigan?

Elizabeth:  Oh my God—let’s start with Rugg Pond, near me.  A pool of absolutely still water on one side, a torrent of disgorged water on the other.  Swans.  Broken trees.  In winter the bottom branches of pine trees ice up and create dams in the whirlpools.  Walks in very hot sun, watching not to step on grasshoppers.  Shorter walks around circles of bloodied trees.  Even shorter walks over ice—to see if the water is still falling.

Deward—the site that used to be a logging town.  Now there’s nothing left of Man but a few things He built to herd the logs down the Manistee River.   A kind of sad reminder of how all we touch will change.  A happy reminder that no matter how Man destroys everything around him, Nature will heal it and the birds and trees will come back and the river will still run in heavy rains and run dry in drought times.

So much to love about Michigan.  Backwoods people—with their own patois and their own kind of honesty.  City people—black and white, with differing cultures and differing religions.  Women in high heels and short skirts flagging down strange lovers.  Women in veils.  Women in jeans and midriff shirts picking their kids up at school.  Office women dressed in suits—like little men . . .  All kinds of people: golden shores to trailer parks.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Elizabeth:  All my kids.  All my grandkids.  All my friends.  Writer friends who don’t take themselves seriously (I’ve found the best writers don’t wear airs of destiny draped around them).  Writer friends like Doug Stanton and Mardi Link and Aaron Stander, Rainelle Burton, Carolyn Hall, Annick Hivert Carthew.  Michigan people I can laugh with . . . and on and on and on.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Elizabeth:  Michigan isn’t just a big chunk of real estate surrounded by a lot of water.   It’s a state of being—sports: winter and summer.  Sailing.  Skiing.  And studying.  Learning about the natural world—forests, birds, animals—things to be watched closely in case we’re wrong and they know more about existence than we do.   Miles of swamps where dangerous men live alone with voices in their head—and you don’t want to stumble on them.  Universities where the true salvation of all of us is being worked out—in medical research, in physics, in Cosmology.  In these places, new worlds will be announced.  And miles and miles of water where you look out and see nothing on the horizon and you take in deep breaths and feel what being alive is all about.

Debbie:  Finally -- Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Elizabeth:  I pick Michiganian.  The other sounds as if I’m horning in on all those intelligent geese, with their free-form Vees, who know enough to get the heck out when winter’s coming.

Debbie:  Michiganian it is!  Elizabeth, thank you for being here today!

To learn more about Elizabeth and her books, be sure to stop by her web site and blog.


Linda Glaz said...

Normally beautifully coated in snow by now as well, right, Elizabeth? But not this year.At least not "down under" because around Detroit we're lucky to have a dusting this year. What a strange winter, but hey, twisted and tormented that might make for a great story!!! Congrats, Elizabeth, and we're all glad you're from Michigan!

Ruth McNally Barshaw said...

This was intriguing and satisfying. Thank you!