A: Lumby is the perfect escape. It's the backdrop of my series - a town with relentlessly quirky residents who remind us just how crazy normal life usually is. It's where a store mannequin signs the town's tax returns, where there are more riding mowers than cars parked in front of the library, and where there's a one-room movie theater above the local feed store. There's one very industrious resident who just renovated the bus stop on the corner of Hunts Mill Road and Main Street with a new skylight and wall-to-wall carpet, and before Thanksgiving, the townsfolk scattered Perdue oven roaster stuffers throughout the fairgrounds in hopes of attracting wild turkeys - I know, it made no sense to me either. And just south of town sits a hundred-year old monastery that, in the first book, is purchased by a couple and converted into a country inn. Thus begins the series.
Q: Do you have to read the books in order?
A: The books can be read in any order. In fact, we suggest reading the various synopses and picking one that really piques your interest and 'speaks to you'. If you love animals of all kinds, then The Promise of Lumby is a great choice. If you relish town dynamics and love the power of a community, than Lumby's Bounty is it. Or, for artists and art lovers alike, Stealing Lumby would be a great place to start.
Q: So Lumby is a slice of America?
A: In so many ways. My novels include clippings from the town's weekly newspaper, The Lumby Lines, which never fails to expose the benign mayhem of everyday life...consider it small town journalism at its most humorous. The Sheriff's report covers a local moose who combats a lawn chair that becomes hooked on his antler, and there's a feature article on the Summer Solstice Moo Doo Iditarod - Lumby's annual bovine race down Main Street - that's waiting to win its own type of Pulitzer.
Q: Your series is frequently reviewed as being half way between Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon and Jan Karon's Mitford.
A: Oh, I think Lumby would certainly need to fix their one stop light before going toe to toe, or lamppost to lamppost, with those other towns. But the residents are wonderfully imperfect and vulnerable and have this enviable ability to simply ignore the harsher realities of life and use humor to get through each day. The town, as a whole, has a very strong moral compass that always points due north unless, of course, someone drops it in the Porto Potti at the fairgrounds. And then it's a total crap shoot.
Q: Your farm in upstate New York looks a lot like the scenes you describe in your novels.
A: There's a strong similarity, I suppose. Lazy Goose is our corner of the universe that we've built over the last four years. Aside from a confused skunk who thinks he's one of the barn cats, and a sexually frustrated porcupine who's way too attracted to our bristled boot cleaner, it's as close to paradise as Art and I will ever see this side of the grave. It's breathtakingly beautiful and we feel tremendously fortunate to live and work there.
Q: Your husband's [folk artist, Art Poulin] paintings reflect the same passion for simplicity and genuineness that's in your novels. Was that a coincidence?
A: His work is amazing...is he still standing behind me? Seriously, though, I think our core values are very similar - be gentle and not harsh, be empathetic and not judgmental, when in doubt, laugh. Although we're quite different, we have the same threads in each of our tapestries, and we have a common vision of how we want to live our lives and what we want to give back to others.
Q: Which is?
A: The hope of Lumby...the peacefulness of Art's landscapes.
Q: Do you interact a lot with your readers?
A: Absolutely! My fans are as much a part of Lumby as Hank and my other main characters. I'm on Facebook everyday, Twitter (not every day) and my Blog regularly. Also, fans can email me at any time with their questions and thoughts, or if they just want to touch base and say hello.
A: Hank is a plastic pink flamingo, four feet high with long, skinny legs and black beak. In the series, he came to Lumby by way of a mislabeled box from Amazon.com and quickly became the town mascot, amassing a full wardrobe from an unknown benefactor. He was listed as an altar boy in the Presbyterian Church bulletin and just last week, he applied for a shift manager position at Lumby's Sporting Goods (no doubt to be closer the mannequin). Hank is always seen about town: at the voting booths being as politically involved as a plastic bird can, taking the eleventh-grade final English exam, on the picket line in front of the lumber mill demanding better health insurance, or in a canoe paddling around Woodrow Lake...he so hates to get his feet wet.
Q: And he has a large following now?
A: An understatement. He's become quite a cult figure and a world traveler, which began a few years ago when some of his fans invited him to Rochester for a long weekend. Once he left Lazy Goose in a first class Fed Ex box (why fly when there are other means of transport?) he never looked back, but we get photographs regularly: Hank at the Olive Garden restaurant, Hank at the movie theater watching WALL-E, Hank lending a wing in New Orleans. After seeing the sights in a dozen cities, last month he crossed the border and is now up in Canada visiting some libraries in Manitoba. He now ends each sentence with "Eh?"
Q: So, what's next for Lumby and for Hank?
A: I hope there will be many, many more Lumby books to come. I'm currently working on Lost in Lumby (book 6), scheduled for 2017. And I really don't know how many Lumby books will ultimately be published, but I certainly plan to continue writing as long as folks want to return to Lumby again and again. Friends bringing other friends up Farm to Market Road will keep the town growing strong.