Skip to content

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Maureen Joyce Connolly and ‘Little Lovely Things’, a novel

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan

Maureen Joyce Connolly is a former owner of a consulting firm that helped specialty drug companies to develop medications for ultra-rare diseases. She received her Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and my Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University. Her background in science and love of the natural world often informs and inspires her writing. LITTLE LOVELY THINGS is her debut as a novelist.

About Little Lovely Things

Highlighting the potential catastrophe in the small decisions of everyday life, LITTLE LOVELY THINGS, asks the question–how does one reshape themselves after tragedy strikes? It’s 1993, the first Saturday in September—impossibly hot—and Claire Rawlings is driving her two girls to the daycare at the hospital where, as a resident, she is scheduled for rounds. Ignoring the troublesome signs of a sudden allergic reaction, Claire exits to safety, only to pass out cold. When she wakes, her daughters are gone. With lyrical prose and page-turning momentum, the story unfolds through the viewpoint of four characters: Claire, the devastated yet strong-willed mother; Moira, the transient who finds herself thrust into instant motherhood; soulful Jay, whose grisly discovery brings him to the center of the tragedy; and Andrea, the scrappy and wildly talented tomboy. Traversing the landscape of loss, LITTLE LOVELY THINGS ties together the threads of lives shattered, hope lost, and—finally—joy restored.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?

MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY: This question is unfair! There are far too many books I read as a child that would fit this bill in spades. BUT, if I had to pick a seminal work it would for sure be Jack London’s Call of the Wild and/or White Fang. I still think he is an absolute treasure of a writer and his ability to create atmosphere and a sense of longing is unmatched. London’s writing had me forging lifelong relationships with characters that were not human and that, folks, is an amazing thing.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Does vodka count? With olives or maybe a twist of lemon and extra cold. After that it’s wine and homemade lemonade (often with a splash of vodka – happy to send the recipe to anyone who is interested!)

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?

I truly think that all forms of literature should be mandatory reading at some point in our lives. Each one brings something different to bear. A novel is a well-developed long piece of fiction that requires a deeper attention span as opposed to short story which must be rich thematically due to its relative brevity. Poetry is the reigning monarch because it is a distilled spirit (sort of like vodka), drawing literature down to its very essence. Essay, mired in viewpoint – I would also include personal essay here – is important for critical thinking. So, all of the different formats, done well, challenge and develop different parts of our brain.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Jane Eyre. I don’t like gothic. At all. Sorry. But I’m absolutely certain I’ve missed out on something important.

Favorite quote from your book 

In order to heal we must learn different ways of doing things. In my book, I have a therapist instructing my main character to

“Learn to adapt, to walk sideways. Like a spider on the wall.”

I get a lot of feedback on that one!

Favorite book to film? And why?

The English Patient.  Watch Trailer Here. Because I think that it is a rare instance of the film not only capturing but actually enhancing the terrific novel by Michael Ondaatje.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

The iconic Strand bookstore in New York City – they hosted the launch of my debut novel! My personal locals – Newtown Book Shop in Newtown PA & Doylestown Bookstore in Doylestown PA. I also have to give a warm shout out to Bethany Beach Books in Delaware for their incredible support, Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord Michigan for being amazing and Cottage Books in Glen Arbor Michigan for being so damn cute. I could go on.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

Ooohh. I wish I had known how lonely it can be. I have always been on teams in my career where I could bounce ideas off of others and feed on group energy. While I understand how much I need my space, it can be difficult to work in isolation so much. Ideally, I’d have another author working several rooms away. We would meet up for coffee and vodka-based cocktails and discuss our work-in-progress several times per week. That would be a dream.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

I have only published one! However, I am much further along on book number two than I ever imagined so I am going to say yes at this point with the caveat that my answer is subject to change.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I’m a bit pet obsessed. I currently have Pumpkin, an aging orange tabby cat, Huckleberry, a rambunctious Jack Russel terrier and our new puppy, Rhubarb aka Ruby, a delightful and very curious Norwich terrier. I had to include a medley of separate pictures because it’s impossible to get them together for one.

Ideal vacation?

Glen Arbor Michigan with all of my family. It is on Lake Michigan and is the most beautiful place in the world to me.

Favorite book cover?

Oooohhh…interesting question. I actually am loving Deborah Goodrich Royce’s new cover for her new book, Ruby Falls, but is has not been released yet. Therefore, I will state that I love Tishani Doshi’s Small Days and Nights.

Favorite song?

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – okay, anything Motown.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Monet’s The Studio Boat. It’s at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the greenish-white of the door practically glows in real life. The artist at work in a floating studio is both a study in serenity and a nod to the ephemeral quality of the creative life.

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

At the Doylestown book festival September 2019, I started to cry the moment I met author Kate Moore. It was embarrassing. She wrote this incredibly lovely book called Radium Girls about women who worked freely with radium before they understood the health consequences. The story of how their lives were ruined – which ultimately led to the beginning of OSHA – is heartbreaking and Moore conveys it with great tenderness for these women. I love it and was overcome when I saw her in real life.

A trailer for the film Radium Girls

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?

I love Pride and Prejudice – doesn’t everyone? However, my favorite film adaptation is Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. I think it can be easy to make Jane Austen’s work a bit too ‘precious’ on the screen, but this one just struck the right balance.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Lit Journal – I have so many! But I will choose Juxtaprose since I think they do it just right.

For small presses it has to be Coffee House Press and Milkweed because of their continued support of new talent and diverse range of voices.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Oh – I cannot resist non-fiction books about the natural word and have to say anything by Sy Montgomery or Helen MacDonald is a winner for me. I just grabbed Vesper Flights by MacDonald and cannot wait to read it since her H is for Hawk was one of my top ten favorite books of all time. Waiting with bated breath for the next book by Elisabeth Tova Bailey who wrote The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating – a must read!

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addresses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS