What are your ties to Maine or the Boothbay Peninsula?
I have lived in Maine for 34 years. Soon after moving here I discovered that Farmington's most famous historical figure was an opera singer, Lillian Nordica (nee Norton). I was fascinated by the unique museum collection of her gowns, jewels, furnishings, art works, etc., housed in a humble white cape where she was born. Her birthplace is now called The Nordica Homestead Museum. It’s fun to think that my daughters grew up playing in the same fields, woods and stream that little Lily played in.
What is your favorite thing about writing in Maine?
Farmington, Maine, has had a rich musical heritage beginning with one of its founders, Captain Supply Belcher. He was a composer in the tradition of William Billings and earned the title, “The Handel of Maine.” This music tradition has carried through the years to the present with our local school system’s strong support for music in the schools. And of course the University of Maine at Farmington has had a rich choral tradition through the years with one of the most beautiful concert halls in the state. It was named Nordica Auditorium after its famous citizen soon after she performed there in 1911. To have such a rich music tradition in an area where people had to struggle under harsh living conditions makes this history especially sweet.
What are the most important themes in your work?
I think THE most important theme of the book is the determination instilled in young Lillian by her mother, Amanda. Amanda sacrificed and persevered to create opportunities for success, first, for Lillian’s older sister Wilhelmina. When Wilhelmina died, tragically, at age 18, Amanda then turned her attention to Lillian. The Norton family was poor, but Amanda was very smart and had what her daughter called “Yankee determination.”
Tell us about the book you will be signing at Books In Boothbay this year?
Lily of the North basically tells the story of young Lillian Norton’s beginnings in the Foothills of Western Maine and beyond. The family struggles to give their daughters the tools to become successful. What emerges, despite tragedy and hardship, is the ultimate superstardom of operatic diva, Lillian Nordica. Current opera star Renée Fleming, in her autobiography, The Inner Voice, refers to Lillian Nordica as “the first true American superstar on the international scene.”
What do you hope readers will discover in your latest book?
I hope children (and adults) will see that someone of humble beginnings and means can realize her/his dreams. And yes, she was blessed with great talent, but that alone would not have mattered without hard work and indefatigable will.
What do you feel about the future of our local libraries?
Good question. I see libraries striving to evolve and adapt to the changing nature of literary media. I think the libraries have been successful at maintaining an outreach to young people with continued efforts at “story hours" and introducing children to a variety of read-aloud books. I’m hoping to contact the various libraries of Franklin County in efforts to create more exposure for Lily of the North.
Come meet Jane Parker and dozens of other Maine authors and artists at Books in Boothbay on July 11!