Title: Q and A with 'Catonsville' author Martha Wight Wise
Author: Brian Conlin
Publisher: Catonsville Times
Martha Wight Wise became enamored with Catonsville about 30 years ago when she toured the town in a convertible as a 14-year-old beauty queen in a Fourth of July parade.
Catonsville looked like Mayberry compared to the city row house she lived in, she said.
The lifelong Baltimore resident said she found it interesting that an area so quaint could be so close to the city.
A few years later, she found herself taking different routes to Catonsville Community College, where she got her associate's degree in business administration, just so she could explore the town.
After "Catonsville," a book which uses photographs and captions to show how Catonsville has changed in its 200 years, Wise wrote another book about Catonsville in 2005, "Images of America: Catonsville."
This is her fourth book in all.
Below Wise answers questions about her love of history, the writing process and the book's appeal:
When did your fascination with history start?
"I blame it on my parents. They took me to Newport, R.I., when I was 8 years old.
"I saw what are quaintly called 'The Cottages,' but these are big, opulent, pre-income tax mansions.
"There were these big, old, huge houses. I grew up in Federal Hill in a 900-square-foot rowhouse, so the juxtaposition was 'wow.'
"It all starts with old houses, and, of course, everything has a story."
How will this book appeal to Catonsville residents?
"'Catonsville' came up because people wanted to see Catonsville in the context of today.
"In some cases, Catonsville looks like it did in the original photos. Sometimes, you see a house in one photo and a gas station in the other. But Catonsville residents are very loyal to their neighborhood, and they like anything that helps put a fine point on that."
How did you get your start in this genre?
"I always thought I would write fiction.
"There was an article in the Catonsville Times that said publisher seeks author. I responded to it a week later and thought that it had already been snagged. I sent an e-mail to the editor and five minutes later, this e-mail comes back and says we'd love to see a proposal from you.
"I'm in the unique situation of never having written a book without a contract.
"Maybe there will be a fiction book one day. That may be the one that's written but not published. Maybe I'll understand my brethren's pain."
What goes into the book-writing process?
"All four of my books are through Arcadia Publishing. They specialize in local history and probably have 5,000 titles out there, maybe more. Each book must have 128 pages, between 180 and 200 images and be 80 percent vintage.
"Some pooh-pooh the book and say, 'Oh, you wrote one of those picture books.'
"Them's fightin' words to me.
"The biggest part was putting the narrative to each image. The publisher (wants) 70 words per image. For some of them, 70 words was hard to come by. On some of them, I could have written 70 pages. I use every one of those words. There's no skimping. It's going to be a history lesson..."