Mary Pat Hyland is an award-winning, former newspaper journalist who writes novels and short stories set in upstate New York. In July 2013 she published her latest novel, a family saga called "The House With the Wraparound Porch." Her other works include the chicklit Maeve Kenny series: “The Cyber Miracles”; “A Sudden Gift of Fate”; and "A Wisdom of Owls". She has also written “3/17”, a St. Patrick’s Day riff on Dante’s “Inferno” and a Sept. 11-inspired suspense novel, "The Terminal Diner". Her work is inspired by authors such as Eudora Welty, Anne Tyler, John Irving, Maeve Binchy, Frank McCourt and Flannery O’Connor and influenced by her Irish-American heritage. Hyland’s interests include Finger Lakes wines, the Irish language, gardening and cooking.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in upstate New York. It's where my ancestors settled—particularly around the Finger Lakes region—when they arrived in America from Ireland. Every summer of my life I have visited Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes and the birthplace of the local wine industry. Keuka is to my family as Innisfree was to the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. Three of my novels are set on Keuka's sparkling shores, including my latest, The House With the Wraparound Porch. I began writing that book during a stay there in 2011. The Southern Tier where I have resided most of my life was once a bustling industrial area. IBM began here. Endicott-Johnson Shoes manufactured every pair of boots worn by our troops in World War I here. The shoe factories drew immigrants from Europe, particularly Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia. Irish coal miners moved up to the area from Pennsylvania. They all came here looking for George F. Johnson's promise of a "square deal" in the mini utopia he created. He built parks for his employees, homes that he sold them for low cost, gave them free medical care, built theaters and donated much to the local churches. One of his lasting gifts was six carousels. When he was a child in Massachusetts, he was denied access to a carousel ride because he had no money. He built the carousels here under the mandate that they always be free of charge (which they are to this day). The carousel in Binghamton's Recreation Park was inspiration for a writer whose work influenced me: Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone. With the economic downturn of the Seventies, most of IBM's offices left. E-J Shoes was sold to a foreign company. There are a lot of abandoned factories and down on luck personal stories remaining. Parts of the economy flourish, but the industrial base was ravaged by corporate greed and economic calamity, leaving a sort of Edward Hopper-like landscape. Both places in upstate are fertile ground for a curious mind prone to storytelling—a dimension of the imagination. Yes, you could say that I indeed live in the Twilight Zone.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote parodies in high school, influenced strongly by MAD magazine. I also wrote a lot of angst-filled whiny teenager songs. Call it my Blue Period. My first job was paste-up artist at an offset press company. Our work included carburetor manuals, pesticide guides and monthly magazines about Holstein cows. (John Lennon & Yoko Ono were reportedly subscribers, so that was cool.) I was bored out of my gourd. That was when my imagination began framing my first novel—still unfinished—about an artist who works at an offset printing company and is bored out of her gourd. Hey, ya write what you know, you know?
When an aging rock star is found dead in a New York vineyard, the Caviston sisters are drawn unwittingly into solving the murder of a member of a band they once idolized. Named after a Seneca Indian fable that haunts the story, The Curse of the Strawberry Moon blends eccentric characters with a riveting plot that delves intimately into the Finger Lakes wine industry.
These eighteen stories take place in an ethnically diverse river valley along the Southern Tier of New York State. They are tales of modern love, nosy neighbors, meddling friends, and the challenges of aging all set against within Edward Hopper-like landscapes where hope and dreams linger in the shadows of Orthodox Church domes.
When Mame McGrath's family moves in across the street from a magnificent Queen Anne-style house, she notices a catatonic young man rocking on its wraparound porch. Mame proclaims boldly that she will restore his psyche—devastated by a drowning in Keuka Lake. What she doesn't anticipate is that he and this house will become the heart of her existence.
Fergal & Brídgeen Griffin face a tough deadline for making the Finger Lakes winery they manage for their cousin profitable. The date collides with the onsite wedding of their best friends, Maeve & Andy. In honor of the Griffin's successes though, they give them a barn owl box with a webcam. It draws in the world as the winery fails & all realize there's much to be learned from the wisdom of owls.
Irish newlyweds Fergal and Brídgeen Griffin receive an interesting proposal to manage a Finger Lakes winery his cousin bought as an investment. They accept the gift of fate, but when they see the run-down Keuka Lake property and meet its surly winemaker, they realize it will be a challenge getting from grapes to glass. Can they keep hope alive?
Maeve Kenny loses her bright Manhattan career and soap star boyfriend suddenly through a run of bad luck. She's forced to move back to her parents' upstate N.Y. home where she befriends their quirky, computer-hacking neighbor, Andy. When he creates a website to help her get re-employed, Maeve tells him she needs a miracle. Who would have thought the whole world would be watching when it arrived?
In this loose parody of Dante's "Inferno," four Irish traditional musicians get lost in the backwoods of upstate New York the week before St. Patrick's Day. On the journey, the band descends through nine hellish circles of American-style March 17th revelry: Step-dancing princesses. Bobbing shamrock headbangers. Green beer bacchanals. Shillelagh-wavin' geezers. O'Fun, not!
"Men like pie." Elaina Brady's mother shared that bit of wisdom with her shortly before hitching a ride West with a trucker from Missoula. Elaina takes on her mother's job making pies at the family diner—a dull existence. Then on the eve of Sept. 11, people she meets expand her horizons, inspiring her to be impulsive like her mother. Will she survive the consequences of her actions?