Rarely do I venture from my home away from home at the Bloc11 Café or the Sherman Café in the Union Square section of town, but for Somerville novelist Lisa Borders I made an exception. After all– I heard a lot about this talented writer who resides in the Paris of New England, but I never had a chance to interview her. So I journeyed to the hinterlands of Davis Square to speak to her at the famed literary haunt, the Diesel Café.
Borders told me she moved to the Boston area in 1995. She first lived in Belmont, Mass; a town that has the distinction of being voted the most boring burg in the Commonwealth by The Boston Globe. I agree—I have worked in Belmont at the literary landmark McLean Hospital ( Home to Plath, Lowell and Sexton…oh yes and me) for over 30 years. I would take Somerville over Belmont any day. And indeed, Belmont did not prove to be fertile grounds for Borders. She told me: “It wasn’t my scene. It was a suburban place—family orientated—not a place for a single woman.” So Borders picked up stakes in 1998 and moved to the promised land of the “Ville. She found an apartment in a house owned by two sisters, and has lived there ever since. Borders loves the scene here and mentioned such Somerville writers as Pagan Kennedy, Beck Tuch, and Ethan Gilsdorf as folks she admires and is acquainted with.
Borders is the author of the novel “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” and the soon to be released novel “ The Fifty- First State.” She is an accomplished writer. She received grants from the Mass. Cultural Council, the Somerville Arts Council, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She also has had fellowships at the Millay Colony, the Virginia Center for the Arts, and others. Of her own writing Borders told me “ I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as only writing for women. “My goal is to attract a wide range of readers. I strive to engage the senses and appeal to the intellect. That’s what I feel good writing should do.”
Borders told me that her books have been published by small independent presses. Her first book was published by River City Publishing in Alabama. Her latest “The Fifty- First State” will be released in October 2013 by Engine Books in Indiana. Borders said of Engine Books “It is a boutique press. It publishes about 4 titles a year. The bigger presses seem to concentrate on commercial fiction. These are novels that are driven by plot , not language or voice. For instance page turners or thrillers. Literary fiction–the stuff that I write seems to be accepted more frequently by small presses.”
Now I have always said that I don’t want to go to a writer’s retreat because I have been retreating all my life, but Borders begs to differ. She said she gets a significant amount of writing done in places like the Millay Colony, and retreats of that ilk. She reflected: ” All the other stuff of life–the distractions fall away. The cat isn’t jumping on me and there is not that inopportune knock on the door. You can focus on your work.”
Borders grew up in Central New Jersey but she and her mom later moved to South Jersey. This is where “The Fifty- First State” is set. The novel concerns a character Hallie Corsin. After her father’s death she moves from New York City back to South Jersey to care for her estranged half brother during his last year of high school. During the course of the novel the pair forms a makeshift family with complications, and gets involved in an environmental sleuthing project that involves frog deformities.
Borders works as a cytotechnician for the health insurance and to pay the bills. Basically she screens Pap Smears. Borders has taught at Grub St. in Boston for many years, as well as on the college level. Borders likes the niche she created for herself in Somerville, and looking forward to many productive years to come.