Asheville writer releases first novel

By Jessi Stone Guide editor | Jan 08, 2014

Marie Bartlett will be reading from her new novel, "Pearl, MD" at 3 p.m. March 15 at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville.

Bartlett, who has dedicated more than 25 years of her life, as a creative non-fiction writer and public relations consultant, will be discussing her recently released first novel “Pearl, MD.”

Bartlett’s historical novel explores the conflict women faced within the rigid roles set for them by nineteenth century society. The book’s themes are tolerance, forgiveness and the ability to face some of life’s toughest choices.

The novel evolved from many years as a nonfiction researcher and a love of history, especially the late 19th century. A sequel is planned in which her main character travels west to the Arizona Territory in 1884. After making a medical mistake that cost a mother and her infant their lives, can a young independent woman find redemption at a time when society doesn’t trust female physicians?

“When I would read fiction, I gravitated toward something that had an element of truth to it. Plus, I love research,” she said. “So when I decided after all those years of nonfiction writing that I wanted to do something new and different, historical fiction seemed a logical choice.”

But transitioning to fiction was more challenging than she expected. She took two fiction-writing classes through the Great Smokies Writing Program at University of North Carolina and learned a lot from the director Tommy Hays as well as the other students.

“I was always an avid reader, which I think is a prerequisite to becoming a writer,” Bartlett said. “A ‘closet writer’ (write something but hide it away) even in my teens, I wrote mostly bad poetry and outlines for bad stories, but it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I decided to try writing for an actual publication.”

Long days as a stay-at-home mom in Candler led her back to writing. Her first feature for the local paper was about her 94-year-old great-grandfather who was quite the character. After writing for a couple of years for the small paper, she took her talent to the Asheville Citizen Times and wrote a feature once a month for $25.

“That led to a long, freelance relationship with the daily paper that lasted for more than a decade,” she said.

But eventually she knew she had to set some higher goals for herself and her writing — with the ultimate goal to write books.

“It took me 12 long years, with little income in between, but I finally achieved all the goals I set for myself as a writer,” she said.

Bartlett is now working on a sequel to “Pearl, MD” in which the character has to decide whether to stay in Asheville or head West to Tombstone, Arizona, where her friend and a former flame are located.

“The ending in ‘Pearl’ is left a bit open so the reader is not really sure what she will do next,” she said.

While her novel does give a female perspective that will resonate with women readers, Bartlett thinks there is enough action in the book to appeal to a larger audience, especially those who appreciate historical fiction.

From her experience in the writing world, she has learned that what they say is true — Writing is 1 percent talent and 99 percent perseverance.

“If you believe in your project and you believe in yourself, keep writing. Yes, you'll face rejection many, many times. I still get story ideas rejected even after all these years,” she said. “But if you know in your heart and soul that what you are writing has meaning and depth and keeps your interest — there's a good chance it will do the same for others.”

Taylor and Seale Publishing, of Daytona Beach, Florida, published the book. “Pearl, MD” can be purchased for $14.95 through the publisher, Barnes&, or download the e-book on the Kindle. A percentage of all her book proceeds will be donated to the Eblen Foundation to help support their many charitable programs.