"I can remember as a child in Idaho having to crawl under the quilting frames tied to four chairs in the living room to get to the kitchen," laughed Thelma Hatch Wyss. "It was just a way of life . . . "
The Salt Lake writer and I talked about her new novel, "Here at the Scenic-Vu Motel" and agreed that quilting was something that monopolized a lot of space in homes (in many, it still does!) and the portrayal of Mrs. Matz, the motel proprietor, over a quilt of Lone Star, Flying Geese or Log Cabin designs is a realistic touch to a contemporary story.Wyss' newest book follows the publication of two others: "Star Girl" (Viking, 1967) an Indian legend, and "Show Me Your Rocky Mountains" (Deseret Book, 1982) historical fiction of two boys in the fifth handcart company coming to Salt Lake Valley.
The idea for "Here at the Scenic-Vu Motel" came from a newspaper article about a board of education that paid for out-of-town students to stay in a motel. "The article stated specific problems that students had: low achievement, parents that couldn't attend parent teachers conferences, being `outsiders' from the `town kids' and food. Food seemed to be a problem; they lived on spaghetti and hamburgers.
When Wyss' editors asked for a contemporary novel she thought about these students and realized there was a story in that incident.
She relates the plot to her own background; growing up in a small Idaho town, Bancroft, and knowing how difficult it was for the student who had to come in from outlying ranches and farms.
From this town Wyss, a daughter of a rancher and school teacher, attended and graduated with an English degree from Brigham Young University. She later took a teaching and librarian certificate and taught at East High School in Salt Lake City.
An interlude in New York City working for "Glamour" magazine as an assistant production editor was a step away from Bancroft. "I wanted to work in publishing, marketing or the fashion industry. There certainly wasn't anything available in Idaho. So I just walked the streets of New York City until I found a company that had a job for me. My work in New York City was an exciting time!"
Wyss (those husband Lawrence is an interior designer for LDS temples and whose son, David is serving in the Canadian Halifax mission) is content writing contemporary fiction for young adults. She is working on another novel in that genre. "I enjoy history and particularly liked doing the research on "Show Me Your Rocky Mountains" because I traveled to England and found the history I needed there. I based the story on real names and locales. I was secure having that established."
But in writing contemporary fiction she found she had to `build' her characters, often without a basis or background. "What really helped - and is helping on the book in progress - is my notebook of character sketches. As I study people, I record what they look like, how they talk." - Marilou Sorensen