'Feather White:' An Interview with Author Mickey Maguire
Mickey Maguire, known as a Jack of All Trades, shares his fascinating and diverse life experiences with readers in Feather White. The memoir, set in the 1970s, follows a young man's self-discovery journey from the decks of off-shore scallop boats in the North Atlantic to the backwoods of the Maritime Provinces. Read the author's interview with A Good Book To End The Day below, where he discusses the story behind the stories and what's next.
What motivated you to write Feather White?
Feather White was a book I believed I would write in my youth. It’s actually my second book. The first, titled Whirlwind after a poem I wrote of the same name, was written at age twenty-two. It was dreadful, but I showed myself that I could sustain the drive to write a book, edit, revise, draw illustrations, take photos, develop and print them in a makeshift dark room, and organize a submission campaign to ten publishing houses. (Ten rejections). It’s just that it took me a remarkably long time to grow up (some might dispute its occurrence ever), and the writing naturally reflected that. Feather White is the book I tried to write at twenty-two. How life unfolded before me in those years felt like I was treading across the pages of a novel. Keeping copious journal notes during those years, I recorded my adventures at sea on an off-shore scalloper out of Provincetown, Cape Cod, and my deep dive into the log cabin counterculture in Nova Scotia in the early 1970s. Then, finally, sitting down with those journals forty-plus years later, I began writing the memoir. Incidentally, feather white is a term sometimes used by fishermen to describe stormy conditions at sea: the frothy white seas are indistinguishable from the white-feathered breasts of sea birds often on the wing during a storm.
How long did it take you to write the book? And how did you celebrate once it was finished?
It was an eight-year project, including the writing, many rewrites, and preproduction work (editing, book design, etc.) with Sunbury Press. I worked in New York City and wrote about ninety percent of the manuscript on the train, which I thought was a good usage of the time. The book was finished during the pandemic, so to celebrate, I think I went into the dining room for about ten minutes.
Is there anything in Feather White you were hesitant to share with readers?
I was a product of an alcoholic family, immersed in all the codependent pathology. So, going into that part of my life was a bit tough. The young self hadn’t been in any treatment/therapy for that yet, so, to be honest with the memoir, I had to expose my jackassery at times. It made me nervous sharing this, but apparently, I was the last to know what a jackass I was, so the cat was out of the bag anyway.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself while writing the book?
I discovered the deeper reasons why, at age eleven, I decided I would build my own log cabin and why I bought land in Nova Scotia eight years later and built it. The eleven-year-old me went on a winter boy scout trip to a log cabin where I discovered brotherhood, respect, laughter, and natural beauty, which stood in direct contrast to the argumentative disquiet of a marriage disrupted by addiction. I thought I wanted this because of the beauty of nature and the exciting things I learned about living in the wild. But my higher self, the one presiding over that bit of history tapping away at the keyboard writing a memoir, realized it was peace I desperately wanted and needed. And that this whole adventure in the north woods was my strong reaction to watching my dad destroy himself with alcohol. Perhaps I felt this truth deep down, but it’s another thing to write about it. Then I could own it, rather than the other way around.
You’ve written everything from poetry to trade magazine articles to a memoir. Has the way you identify as a writer evolved since you first began writing?
Though I wrote vociferously in my youth, my creative outlet morphed into playing/traveling in bands and acting in New York City. I got back into writing at sixty, evolving by necessity, doing the twenty-some rewrites I did on Feather White during the years before I decided it was finished and began shopping the manuscript. Each rewrite produced slightly better writing, learning on an accelerated curve. Though it has been a lifelong dream, I am still getting used to the idea of identifying as a writer.
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
I am writing part two of the memoir. I am sixty-eight now, and Feather White ends at age twenty-six. So, I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. This book chronicles my improbable segue from commercial fisherman to a social worker working with homeless people suffering from mental illness. There are side trips traveling with bluegrass bands and on stage as an actor in New York, but what I hope to do is capture the magic dust of a life of service. I want to show how getting regularly schooled by my clients made me a better citizen of the earth and finally brought me to the work I believe God thought me capable of.
What does literary success look like to you?
So many of my friends who have read the memoir have said that reading it feels like I am in the room telling them the story. They hear my voice. Dennis Minsky, a writer who reviewed the book in this year’s Provincetown Arts Magazine, said reading the book was like sitting down in the Fo’c’sle, a Provincetown bar that no longer exists, and having a shot and a beer with me. That’s literary success.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
They can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org And visit my website at:
Thanks so much for being part of the A Good Book To End The Day family! Is there
anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you, Tori, for this opportunity. I love what you are doing and appreciate the opportunity to talk about Feather White. I am also grateful to Lawrence Knorr of Sunbury Press for believing in this first-time author. Sunbury Press is an independent publishing house that produces about one hundred excellent books annually. Support independent publishers! Thank you.