Marj Casswell’s first published novel, “A Place to Come Home to” was a semifinalist for both the William Faulkner/Wisdom Competition, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition Award. Vancouver’s Casswell is generally known as a non-fiction writer and wrote for non-profit organizations before starting her second career as novelist.
Today Riehlife interviews Marj who writes feelingly of farmlife, place, the land, family, and the high price of settling. Here is our Riehlife interview with her.
Riehlife: How would you summarize the basic plot of your novel?
MC: In a sentence, I can say: A young woman returns to her ancestral Virginia tobacco farm, and discovers her childhood diary, which discloses the causes behind her present-day regrets.
Riehlife: Marj, what’s your favorite part of writing?
MC: Characters. People are the most incredible. I have always been fascinated by what motivates people, and especially what event, person, or thing pushes them to change…or not. And in “A Place to Come Home To” the land is a character, too.
Riehlife: Your novel is in the first person voice. Is this you speaking?
MC: Many who read “A Place to Come Home to” want to know if it is autobiographical, perhaps because the novel is written in a first person voice. It is not. But, like many if not most writers, a piece of my heart, in this case, a wounded piece, is in the story.
Riehlife: Your story tells about loss, yours and others. Tell us a little about your connection to farm life and what you’ve seen.
MC: I grew up on a farm, in a community that once boasted several farms, which one by one disappeared into blocks of housing. I watched people in that community I loved and respected lose much of their identity and purpose, and with it, their self-respect. This is there very personal part of the story, the sadness that comes out in the opening paragraphs of the story. Now, some 4,000 miles from that Maryland farm, I see the same thing happening here in Washington State.
Riehlife: Tell us more about your connection to the land and some of your fears for it as our relationship to the land becomes more distant.
MC: The environmentalist that I am also worries that as a people we are in grave danger of losing our connection to and with the land, our respect for the bounty the land brings us–it feeds us in so many ways. Too many of us ignore our interdependent relationship with the land. We are killing the very delicate balance in nature with our thoughtless overuse, and misuse, often brought about by ignorance, shortsightedness and greed. Most of us have become so far removed from the source of our food it is easy to forget about stewardship and responsibility.