Mary Pat Hyland has written six novels set in one of my favorite places: upstate New York.
Her newest book is IN THE SHADOWS OF THE ONION DOMES. This collection of stories features characters who live in in a part of the country not commonly written about: New York’s Southern Tier in a valley called the Triple Cities.
In Mary Pat Hyland’s words:
The shoe factories that originally drew thousands of immigrants from across Europe have long since moved on. What remains are the distinct ethnic flavors of a gritty community determined to overcome economic woes, adapt to the rapid changes in society and find true meaning in life.
Q & A with Mary Pat Hyland
Tell about where you live in New York.
I live in a picturesque river valley along the Southern Tier of Upstate New York that is fed by the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers. After the initial settlement in the 1700s, the valley developed a strong manufacturing economy in the early twentieth century. There were two giants. First was Endicott-Johnson Shoes, a company that sewed the boots for all of the U.S. troops in World War I. Its founder was the inspirationally benevolent George F. Johnson who gave his employees not only jobs, but the 40-hour work week (radical at the time), benefits that included free healthcare and company-built homes sold at an affordable price. He also built countless parks and many include their own carousels. (There are six within the county.) Johnson’s company drew thousands of immigrants from Europe, notably Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia. The second was IBM, founded here by Thomas J. Watson. That drew brilliant minds from around the world for its research and provided countless manufacturing jobs. There was a lot of innovation in this valley, from Edwin A. Link who developed the flight simulator among other things, to IBM’s partnership with NASA that helped put man on the moon.
The area has had a lot of hard economic luck. Many of the best manufacturing jobs went overseas or across the country. At times that has tinged the area with the bleak mood/mean streets feel of an Edward Hopper painting. Perhaps that’s what inspired one of our most famous residents, Rod Serling, to create The Twilight Zone.
What inspires you?
Pretty much anything in life can inspire me. I find the obsession with celebrities boring. What are more fascinating are the everyday lives of people around me. That includes subtle choices made by them early on that have colored every decision afterward; the overcoming of financial or emotional/physical difficulties; the casual perceptions made (based on their life experiences) toward others.
I enjoy meeting new people from abroad or different parts of this country and love experiencing their world vicariously through conversation. If I had plenty of money to spare and free time, I’d be travelling more. Long distance car trips are great because you witness so much by chance, such as hearing the meadowlark sing at dawn on a prairie fence, watching pronghorn antelope race across the sagebrush, or stopping at any crazy roadside huckster joint that catches your fancy. I have a deep fondness for Louisiana, with its Spanish moss-draped bayous and rich cultural history. Also, the Canadian Rockies and America’s Grand Tetons I find to be some of the most beautiful mountains on earth.
My ancestors came to America from Ireland around the time of the Great Famine. Up until my generation, almost everyone married other Irish-Americans. So the Irish culture and way of looking at life are deeply engrained in my genetics. It was always a dream to visit Ireland. I also had another dream to learn and master the Irish language. Who would have thought I’d be able to do both, spending a week one July in Connemara learning the language of my ancestors?
I love music, all genres. My strongest connections are to jazz, 70s-style funk, bossa nova and traditional Irish. It’s funny, but I prefer to just have the sounds of my environment in the background during writing sessions. If music is playing, I get drawn into it.
One of my former jobs was a cook, and I find preparing food for others a creative and inspiring challenge. You’ll often see food preparation and meals described in detail in my stories.
There have been several authors who have inspired my writing. Foremost is Eudora Welty, who inspired another favorite, Anne Tyler. I find Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote’s short stories to be delightful, as are the characters in John Irving and Maeve Binchy’s books.
Do you have a favorite story in IN THE SHADOWS OF THE ONION DOMES? And what does the title refer to?
The connecting thread of these stories is the location—the river valley where I live. As I mentioned before, there were many immigrant settlers here. Many were members of the Orthodox faith. Throughout the valley you can see the gilded or blue domes of the churches they built. One church was even handmade by wood brought directly from Ukraine.
As for my favorite story, that’s hard. I truly enjoyed writing each one. Perhaps I’d choose “The Reluctant Magnolia,” because it was a very emotional experience writing it. I’ve known several elderly people who have died in the past few years, and in a recent job I ran a café for senior citizens. That has made me acutely aware of the enormous challenges this part of the population faces as the days left in their lives dwindle.
Are you working on a new book?
Yes. It’s a humorous suspense novel that skewers perceptions of social classes. I’m writing it as part of National Novel Writing Month. I plan to have it published by next March. Guess where it’s set? Here!
How do you want your books to affect readers?
I’m always grateful when a reader trusts me with their imagination. I aim to entertain, to transport them from life’s problems and create a memorable story they’ll think about after they’ve finished it and want to read again.
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway contest to win an autographed copy of IN THE SHADOWS OF THE ONION DOMES, copies of her ebooks, or a piece of original art created by the author.
LINKS LINKS LINKS
Amazon purchase links
Barnes & Noble
May Pat Hyland’s eStore
Mary Pat Hyland is an Amazon Top 100 bestselling author and has published six novels and a collection of short stories. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Seasons Readings and Lost Love Letters: An Indie Chicks Anthology. In 2013 the Arts Council of Yates County selected her as an Artist in Residence. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and has worked in the commercial/fine art, journalism, education, and culinary fields. Mary Pat resides in upstate New York, the setting for her novels, and enjoys organic gardening, gourmet cooking, visiting the Finger Lakes, and teaching the Irish language.