Jun 13, 2014
10:47 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Governor’s Arts Award for Best-Selling Connecticut Author Luanne Rice

Governor’s Arts Award for Best-Selling Connecticut Author Luanne Rice

Luanne Rice.

As a child Luanne Rice’s nighttime lullaby was the sound of her mother’s typewriter.

Her mother was an English teacher in New Britain who would spend nights composing works of fiction, and it didn’t take Rice long to follow in her footsteps/keystrokes. Rice’s first work was published when she was just 11, and she would go on to become a New York Times best-selling author of 31 novels.  

On Saturday, Rice, who divides her time between New York City and Old Lyme, will receive the Governor’s Arts Award for excellence and lifetime achievement in the arts. Fellow recipients of the award are Tim Prentice, the kinetic sculptor of West Cornwall, and Christopher Plummer, the veteran actor of Weston.

There will be an awards presentation and panel discussion at 3 p.m. at the Yale University Art Gallery on Chapel Street in New Haven. The event will also serve as the opening ceremony for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. 

Rice’s work is deeply influenced by Connecticut; many of her novels are set in the town of Black Hall and Hubbard’s Point—fictional versions of Old Lyme. Several of Rice's books have been adapted for television, including Crazy in Love for TNT, Blue Moon for CBS, Follow the Stars Home and Silver Bells for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and Beach Girls for a mini-series on Lifetime.

She is currently on a book tour for her latest bestselling novel The Lemon Orchard, which was recently released in paperback. We spoke with her earlier this week about receiving the Governor’s Arts Award, her latest work and how for her writing is as natural as breathing.

Congratulations on the Governor’s Award. As a Connecticut native what does it mean to you to receive that award?

I’m so honored. Connecticut has been the greatest inspiration for my writing since I started. All my important influences began in Connecticut. I wish my parents were alive to know about this, they were Connecticut natives too and I just feel like I want to share it with my family.

I understand you published your first work in The Hartford Courant when you were 11. Can you tell me about that?

It was a poem and it was about Constitution Plaza [in Hartford] at Christmas. The Hartford Courant used to have a poetry column called “This Singing World." My mother read my poem and she sent it to The Hartford Courant. So one morning my parents opened the paper and there was my poem. I got the idea that to get published all you had to do was write something and it naturally appeared in print.

Clearly you wanted to be a writer from an early age, why?

My mother was an English teacher, but she was also a writer. After she put the kids to bed she’d sit at the dining room table and write fiction. My lullaby going to sleep every night was the typewriter. So I grew up immersed in the idea of writing as a way of life and as a necessary way of life.

Can you tell me about your latest novel?

It opens up in Black Hall, Connecticut, and Black Hall is my fictional town for Old Lyme. It’s about a woman who’s had this terrible tragedy in her life and she decides to leave everything familiar behind and drive West; her name is Julia and she meets Roberto, who is a Mexican immigrant who is undocumented and he too has had a great loss in his family, and they help each other to survive and make sense of something that’s heartbreaking.

What inspired the plot?

I guess I wanted to say something about human beings and how we feel the same way. Our hearts are the same, it doesn’t matter where we’re from or how long we’ve been here.

You’ve written 31 novels, do you have a personal favorite? Or is that like having a favorite child?

(Laughs) I feel very strongly about the Lemon Orchard, maybe because it’s the most recent, I’m not sure, but I’ve been on book tour for it these last few weeks and I’ve enjoyed talking about it a lot. Also I’ve a written a series of novels that take place in Hubbard’s Point, which is my fictional name for one of the beach areas in Old Lyme. I haven’t written about Hubbard’s Point in a couple of books and my next novel takes place there. The Hubbard’s Point books have a special place.

Any advice for aspiring Connecticut writers?

The most important thing is to write and not think about writing or talk about writing but to actually sit down and write everyday. The other is not to worry what anybody is going to think about it and not censor yourself. Don’t worry what your mother or first grade teacher, your husband, your best friend is going to think or say. Don’t edit yourself until you’ve finished the work. You can stop yourself in your tracks if you’re too worried about what others might think.

You have an impressive and large body of work. What's your secret for staying productive?  

I feel like it’s just what I do. It’s how I make sense of life and the world—to write. I do it everyday I don’t know if I have a regimented schedule, it just happens, I get up in the morning and I do it, and need to do it. There was a Connecticut writer, he was born and raised in Hartford, Brendan Gill, he was my mentor and he was the drama critic of the New Yorker. He was very influential to me in many ways and he gave me a quote for my first novel. It was so generous, it’s something that gives every writer a big shot in the arm, and Brendan gave me a quote that I still remember he said, “Miss Rice writes as naturally as she breathes.” I love that he said that because it is true; writing is like breathing to me, it’s necessary to life. 

For more information about the Governor's Arts awards ceremony visit the International Festival of Arts & Ideas website. For more information on Luanne Rice visit her official site

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

Governor’s Arts Award for Best-Selling Connecticut Author Luanne Rice

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