Pam Stucky lives in nearby Shoreline, but she had an interesting way of making an Edmonds connection when she told My Edmonds News about her first novel, “Letters from Wishing Rock: A Novel with Recipes.” She got the idea for her book while working at a job in Edmonds; she did much of her writing here, and the rocks gracing the book’s cover are from the Edmonds beach. We had a chance to interview Stucky about the novel and she even shared a recipe with us!
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: My background is vast and varied, with jobs from web design to marketing to fundraising to newsletters, writing and editing, to dealing with contracts. The jobs all seemed unrelated at the time, but now that I’m an independent author I’m using absolutely everything I learned throughout all the years and all the jobs. From editing to design and layout of my book, creating and managing my website, marketing myself and my book, all of it has converged in this one point of time where I’m writing books and following my dreams. Even the fundraising — from that, I learned a lot about perseverance and not taking rejection personally, and those skills come in very handy!
Q: This is your first novel. What motivated you to write it?
A: Interestingly, the seed of an idea for this novel was planted in my head right in Edmonds, at a job I once worked on Third Avenue! I worked at an environmental consulting firm from which scientists would go out into the field on assignments and come back with stories. One day a wetlands biologist (who already knew I liked to write) came back from Alaska and told me about a town there where almost everyone lives in the same building. “You should write a short story about that,” he said. That was in 2002. The idea percolated in my mind for a lot of years — what would happen if everyone lived in the same building? – but I never did anything with it. Then in 2009 a series of deaths amongst people I knew had me looking at mortality and life. I’d always wanted to write a book. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life thinking “What if?” Could I have done it, if only I’d tried? So I quit my job and started writing.
I’ve read a lot of advice from other authors, and many of them say “write the book you want to read.” So that’s what I did. This book, with its insights into community and relationships, a smart book with humor and wisdom and likable characters, was the book I wanted to read. I love my characters and I love Wishing Rock; it’s so real inside my head that it’s like a memory, not just something I made up. People who read my book have told me it has a “Northern Exposure” flavor to it. I didn’t have “Northern Exposure” in my mind when I wrote it, but that community feel is exactly what I’d hoped for. Another person, not knowing anything about the origins of my book, said it was “like the Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society book, only sexier.” I love that! Many people have told me they wish they could move to Wishing Rock. That’s what I wanted, to create a world readers would want to visit again and again.
Q: How did you decide on the format of your book, which is based on emails between the characters?
A: When I began the book I was writing it in a traditional format. I got about 20,000 or 25,000 words written that way (for a gauge, my final book is a little over 80,000 words), but it was just a struggle; something wasn’t right for me. Then one day I was on a six-hour flight for a long weekend vacation and I was reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” which is written in the format of letters. I loved it! I loved how accessible and readable it was. I’m a big e-mailer myself and I knew that this was the right format for my book. When I got home I completely re-worked everything I’d written to fit the format, and the story flowed so much more easily for me. The biggest challenge is that I have to keep my characters somewhat apart; if they all live in the same building, then really shouldn’t they just be walking down the hall to chat? So I had to have people traveling, or waking up in the middle of the night with some thoughts, or out on errands and such. It’s a big juggling act!
Q: You mentioned that the rocks on the cover of your novel are from the Edmonds beach. Any other Edmonds connections to the book?
A: The book takes place on a fictional island “near Seattle,” and I often had our islands and ferries and beaches in mind while I was imagining the book. Also, I did a lot of writing from Edmonds – either at the library gazing out at the water, or at the beach on nice days.
Q: This is the first novel I’ve seen with recipes. What’s that about? Also, could you share a few of your favorite recipes with us?
A: I guess it’s from my love of recipes, though I wish I could say I’m a good cook! After the book was published I realized almost all the recipes in it are snacky sort of desserts. I’d intended to have a wider variety but it’s not surprising that’s what ended up in there, as I’m a far better baker than chef! I have seen a couple other books with recipes and it always seemed fun, so I decided to add some to mine. Plus in the town of Wishing Rock, the characters have potlucks at the drop of a hat. Food is a huge part of a tight community, it seems. So having recipes that they shared seemed natural.
I’m including my recipe (not from the book) for PAM salad. I took a couple different recipes for almond mandarin (orange) salad, combined them, and made the “Perfect Almond Mandarin salad” or PAM salad. It amuses me that family and friends know it by that name. It’s really good! It may or may not make it into book two, but it’s mentioned in book one, if you know what you’re looking for.
Q: Do you plan on writing another book soon?
A: I do! It’s in the works. Letters from Wishing Rock was always intended to be the first in a series. I want to know what happens with these characters, so that means I need to write it. People who have read this book are demanding a sequel, because they grew to care about the characters and want to know more, too. When I started writing book two I had a giddy sense of being reunited with old friends. Now the main challenge is finding the time to write. But yes, the next book is definitely on the way!
Perfect Almond Mandarin (PAM) Salad
1 head romaine and/or red leaf lettuce, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges, well drained
6 green onions, thinly sliced
2-3 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 to 1 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp dry hot mustard
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/4 cup olive oil
Heat sugar with almonds in saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir while sugar starts to melt and coat almonds. Stir constantly until almonds are light brown (this will take about 10 minutes total; the action will start to happen around 7 minutes). Turn onto a plate, and cool for 10 minutes.
To make the dressing, thoroughly blend the vinegar, honey, dry mustard, celery salt, paprika, and olive oil.
In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, oranges, and green onions.
Before serving, toss salad with salad dressing until coated. Transfer to a decorative serving bowl, and sprinkle with sugared almonds. (Or, toss the almonds in with everything else.)