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Locally Writ: Eileen Garvin’s debut novel ‘The Music of Bees’ began with a dog and a mohawk

Born and raised in Spokane, author Eileen Garvin was drawn to writing at an early age.

“But I spent a long time afraid to jump in,” Garvin said, explaining how she spent years working “on the periphery” of writing professionally, teaching English to second-language speakers, marketing for small presses and working her way through school.

She finally found a job writing small-business profiles for Albuquerque Business First, then called New Mexico Business Weekly.

“I really loved it,” she said. “And it was great training for novel writing.”

In 2005, she moved to Hood River, Oregon, and turned to freelancing with all of its pros and cons. Her new schedule offered less certainty, but it also gave her more time to “nurture some creative projects,” including beekeeping, a memoir and, most recently, her debut novel.

Garvin will join a virtual gathering of the Northwest Passages Book Club to discuss her book, “The Music of Bees,” with “You and Me and Him” author Kris Dinnison at 7 p.m. Tuesday. To register for the free event, visit spokesman.com/northwest-passages.

“The Music of Bees” follows three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town, each working through grief and life’s curveballs, who are brought together by happenstance on a local honeybee farm where they find surprising friendship, healing – and maybe even a second chance – just when they least expect it.

For Garvin, “The Music of Bees” began with a dog and a mohawk.

“My dog tore her ACL,” she said, explaining how the 12-week recovery time translated to a lot of time at home alone with the puppy, her computer and, of course, her bees. In other words, these were prime conditions for a writing project.

Then one day, on her way out of town to pick up a new package of honeybees for the hive, she passed a man in a wheelchair with a mohawk.

“I live in a small town where there’s a lot of agriculture and outdoor sports and things … I hadn’t seen a mohawked resident, ever,” she said. “So, this first line of the story just came to me, and I pulled over and jotted it down.”

“The Music of Bees” came to her quickly, but the initial switch from shorter-form nonfiction to fiction wasn’t so easy. The rigorous writing schedule from her time working for the newspaper, Garvin remembered, wasn’t exactly right for fiction.

“Reporters don’t miss deadlines, and so I had this idea that fiction was supposed to happen the same way,” she said. “That I could just bang out a few thousand words a day and get the thing done. But, when I tried to push it like that, it was always terrible, so I really had to wait.”

Garvin’s new schedule includes long walks and plenty of time away from her computer. “When sitting isn’t working, I walk the dog,” she said.

Garvin prefers to write in the morning and never begins with an outline. “The characters come first,” she said. “And then I just follow them.”

To aspiring authors, Garvin offered the following advice.

“Begin where you are and just do it.”

Signed copies of “The Music of Bees” are available at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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