Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Bonnar Spring

Bonnar Spring writes eclectic and stylish mystery-suspense novels with an international flavor. A nomad at heart, she hitchhiked across Europe at sixteen and joined the Peace Corps after college. Bonnar taught ESL—English as a Second Language—at a community college for many years. She currently divides her time between tiny houses on a New Hampshire salt marsh and by the Sea of Abaco.

Spring's new novel is Disappeared.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Fay disappears on page one, so the title leads directly into the story. The mystery of Disappeared is learning where Fay went and why she left without giving any hint to her sister, Julie, what she was doing.

Without giving away too much of the plot, ‘disappeared’ also refers to other characters in the novel. And it hints at the loss of trust between the sisters caused by Fay’s disappearance.

Julie’s search for her sister prompted the original title, The Black Desert, because most of the cat-and-mouse intrigue and the dangers the women encounter take place in that stony wasteland adjacent to the Sahara.

But the novel is an on-the-road adventure, and The Black Desert started (after numerous re-writes and editor complaints) sounding too static. I came up with Disappeared, which ties into the themes I write about and spotlights the story’s action and emotion of the two sisters.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self would not recognize me. I write stories that focus on themes of betrayal, revenge, and redemption. There are a lot of messed up, conflicted characters acting out in ways that may or may not be productive.

Okay, I was a lonely and hormonal teen, bookish, a bit of a nerd. But I had no inkling then, of the lies and the losses that would upend me as an adult. In fact, many of my characters experience that same loss of center, for lack of a catchy diagnostic term, when they come into adulthood and other people begin carving off pieces of their psyche. They’ve become wounded and raw—unlike their oblivious teenage selves.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

So far my female characters have all shared one aspect or another of my personality. Most are quiet and serious. They feel inadequate to the tasks demanded of them, but somehow they manage to hold it all together and win through. Of course, they are smarter, prettier, and more decisive and creative than I am.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I lie to myself about why I travel. I say I want to (as the cliché would have it) “get away from it all.” There’s a kernel of truth—I like taking a break from daily workouts, escaping long New England winters. Still, I plan involved vacations, not two weeks at the beach with a stack of novels. That always sounds scrumptious, but somehow it never happens.

Trekking to Machu Picchu, biking in Cuba, on camelback into the Sahara ... that’s what I end up doing because, for me, getting away is only the means to an end. And the end is learning more about who I am when I’m not supported by the norms and expectations of my home culture.

We’ve all had the disorienting experience of driving home from work, only to find ourselves pulling into the driveway with no memory of the trip. Our internal maps keep us from needing to pay attention to most road signs throughout our daily lives.

Now that I’ve got a few novels under my belt, I realize I’m doing the same thing with my characters that I do on vacation. Because I write international thrillers, they often turn up in places they’ve never been before. In addition to not knowing friend from foe, my characters literally don’t know their way around. To meet the challenge of unfamiliar territory, their senses must remain on high alert.

I want my readers to experience my characters’ heightened awareness along with them.
Visit Bonnar Spring's website.

--Marshal Zeringue