Of course, for this author, the unexpected is a very good thing as Ann confesses: “Writers are observers and I’m the noisiest observer there ever was.”
Noisy? Actually it’s being curious and having the zest for life to explore all types of interests. For example: Ann’s background is in science with a masters in exercise physiology and a PhD in exercise psychology but in between the academics she did theater, backpacked through Europe (twice), swam in Jamaica, Greece, Hawaii, Kuai, and ate her way through Egypt. And being a full professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater — where she teaches courses on nutrition and stress management — did not stop her from writing fiction, let alone successfully managing the journey to publication.
Ann is uniquely charming and disarming. Please meet her through this video introduction:
(If the video isn’t visible on your monitor, please view the video here.)
The inspiration for the novel came from the author’s chilling experience of watching a SWAT team arrest a world-class sex offender living in her neighborhood. That’s when she began thinking what if he had lived next door to her? What would she have done and what of the aftermath:
“I would have been so disappointed at my inability to sense or ferret out baddies and would have struggled with the knowledge that this kind of evil walks amongst us. What would/should I do with my fears?
But there are these websites that exist essentially to say…’here are the bad guys in your town. Keep away from these houses and you’ll be fine.’ So now we have this false sense of control and security. Although the websites help…it’s the dangers that can’t be seen that tend to do us in. Often on these websites they “‘offenders'” exist on a continuum. Some are sex offenders in the most terrible of senses and then there is the guy who just slapped the wrong woman’s ass. I wanted to explore the craziness in all of us when we don’t have all the information we need.”
Add Maggie — an 8 1/2 month pregnant woman on high alert for safety — and the storyline evolved into On Maggie’s Watch and this synopsis:
Set up Crib
Carve Zucchini Boats
Maggie Finley has just returned to her beloved Wisconsin hometown, quirky best friend, and eccentric mother. Life should be good, but her marriage to Martin is suffering under the strain of a recent family tragedy and Maggie’s feeling pressed for time. Before the birth of her baby she has to figure out how to fit her high-anxiety-self into a low-anxiety-life.
True to her can do attitude, Maggie hires a compelling handy-man, resurrects a defunct Neighborhood Watch and inadvertently discovers a potential threat to her house and home living just around the corner. Choosing to investigate, despite her best friend’s advice to keep her nose out of it…and despite the risk, Maggie sets her sites on discovering the stranger’s secret. As the mystery of the neighbor’s identity draws Maggie irresistibly in, her ordered life starts to unravel in surprising and hilarious ways.
Unexpectedly compelling and sparkling with wit and intelligence, this debut novel chronicles one woman’s quest for control over her surroundings, and the secrets and surprises that lie hidden in an ordinary suburban landscape.
Having read a bit about the book, let Ann tell you more in this video:
(If the video isn’t visible on your monitor, please view the video here.
Also here’s a preview of the novel with Chapter One.
Indeed there’s much more than presiding over a Neighborhood Watch group for Maggie. With the storyline dealing with the pressure of loss in a marriage, deep affection between friends, and an almost consuming desire to control everything in order to keep those we love safe, the author’s goal was to write about humanity and history then marry them with control and fear. As Ann says;
“People are complex, and happily these themes combine and intertwine until you get judgment. Whenever I judge I know it is about me not “‘them.'” I also know, when I judge something I’m going to get a snoot full of whatever I’m judging so I better just stop it. I’m interested in showing how judgement and fear are partnered.”
Or, in other words, what the consequences can be by jumping to conclusions and critical misconceptions. Maggie appears to be an expert at doing both and one might excuse her antics, dismissing them as an imbalance of hormones due to her pregnancy. Yet the author doesn’t take this easy way out because she created Maggie as “a regular person with regular fears and an over-the-top reaction” just as many would have when confronting their own fears.
Instead Maggie’s pregnancy is cause for another fear — a believable one from her past history. And believability is the true beauty of this book’s writing. The humor, the poignancy, the sweetness and the bittersweet have been measured out in just the right amounts to easily provide readers’ with “Aha” personal moments. For that reason alone On Maggie’s Watch is a novel to savor. Please, don’t take it lightly or gulp it down in one sitting. Because, if you do, Ann Wertz Garvin’s message might be missed:
“Listen to the people who love you. You hired those people as a friend for their unique qualifications to tell you when you are not acting like the people they love (for the reasons they love you). Our friends have a bird’s eye view of us; when we get focused in ways that are not good for us, or humanity, it is our friends’ job to pull our heads from our collective asses and get us off our Sit and Spin.”
The Divining Wand’s message: Get yourself up and out to a bookstore as soon as possible!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Ann Wertz Garvin’s On Maggie’s Watch in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.