Linda Phillips~A Beautiful Here

 

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We want to welcome Linda Phillips today. She is the author of  A Beautiful Here: Emerging From The Overwhelming Darkness of My Son’s Suicide.

Linda, thank you so much for coming today and sharing with us your story. Tell us about your book and the story behind it. 

Actually, A Beautiful Here is my first book. I’ve always loved to write essays, poetry and a sundry of other things. But in 1996, my life changed in such a way that led me all these years later to write this book.beautiful here

In 1996, my 22-year-old son, Nuçi, killed himself. He had suffered from major depression manifesting in his early teens. Now it’s true that in this country, someone takes his/her life about every 12.3 minutes. But this one is different.  It was my son. My family’s tragedy. It was up too close and too personal. I had to do something.

So you wrote your book, A Beautiful Here. Tell us about your son. 

Nuçi was one of the finest people I’ve had the privilege to know. He was kind, caring, smart, talented, sincere and though he couldn’t see it very handsome. Until the age of 16 years, he was, as far as one could see, happy and easy-going. But when major depression assaulted his brain, this happy young man morphed into a sullen, withdrawn doppelgänger of my son. With treatment, he struggled to feel good and as was his practice, he threw his whole self into getting healthy. Sadly, Nuçi was one of the minority of depressed people who don’t respond sufficiently to treatment. On Thanksgiving Day 1996, he ended his life. I’m sure he was tired. He had tried so hard but was not able to sustain a bearable life and as he told his psychiatrist, he didn’t want to spend his life in and out of hospitals.

As soon as I was at a point in the grief process (years later) that I could think clearly, I decided to create a foundation in Nuçi’s memory, one that would be fitting for an aspiring rock star. We opened for business in 2000. Now in 2017 Nuçi’s Space in Athens, Georgia is flourishing. We bought an old warehouse, restored it and turned it into practice rooms for musicians. With the money we make, we provide low-cost mental health counseling for those suffering from brain illnesses. We also depend on private donations, grants and benefits for support. Not only do we have practice rooms, we have a stage, a coffee bar, a library and a meeting place for support groups. Camp Amped is one of the programs I am most proud. Every summer, budding musicians ages 11 – 17 come and are mentored by some of the most talented musicians in Athens, including members of the Drive by Truckers, Widespread Panic and many others. And, most important, they learn life skills including how to get along with and respect others.

In 2016, after thousands of musicians, artists and music lovers have passed through our doors, many having received professional counseling through us, I’m privileged to say we have been instrumental in saving lives. In my work with a Survivors of Suicide Support Group, I have talked and grieved with a wide range of people who have lost loved ones to suicide. It finally became clear to me that I needed to write about my experience not because it is unique to me but because my experience is shared by so many like me who have lost someone they love to suicide. 44,193 Americans die each year by suicide. That’s a lot of people.

As a survivor, I have a story and I feel it is incumbent upon me to share my story. Hopefully, it will help another survivor or someone suffering from major depression. And perhaps, it will enlighten and educate the ignorant who contend that mental (brain) illnesses aren’t real. You know the ones! “What have you got to be unhappy about?”  My favorite: “He took the easy way out by killing himself! What a coward!.” And the list goes on and the stigma persists.

Your research must have been intensive

I am a Registered Nurse and my husband is a Radiologist. We’ve both had mental health experience. When we identified Nuçi’s depression, I read and researched everything I could find on the subject. But the bulk of my knowledge, Nuçi taught me.  The one positive fact is that 99% of people who get appropriate treatment do well.

So tell us what took place in order for this book to be written and published.

My husband and I moved to NYC about six years ago. Having never been published before, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. After speaking to an editor and discovering that she would charge what I thought was an astronomical fee, I was very disappointed. A few days later, I met my neighbor, an old newspaper man, in the elevator. I was bemoaning my experience with the editor. He emphatically said that I didn’t need an editor, I needed his wife, a literary agent! The next night, I met with her. She was great, had a particular interest in mental illness and held my hand through the whole writing process. Thanks to her and that old newspaper man, I found my voice and my confidence. Only in New York!

What do you like most about writing? What do you like least?

I happen to love the solitude of writing. Me, my thoughts and my desktop! Although I flooded my keyboard many times while writing this book, I learned a lot about myself. Finding just the right words to express my thoughts and my feelings clarified so much for me. Also, this writing reminded me and confirmed that there were many more good times than bad ones in our life with Nuçi. He was so much more than his illness!

Are you working on the next book?

At the moment, I’m not working on another book but I’m getting that itch which can only be scratched by my typing.

I understand your book, A Beautiful Here, is being translated into Albanian. How did that come about?

This is quite significant for my family. And here comes a coincidence. My husband and I have our ritual cappuccino almost every day. On one of these occasions my husband is standing in line to order. A woman in front of him is asked by another customer, “Are you Italian?” “No,” she responds, “I’m Albanian.” My husband’s ears perk up and he interjects, “I’m Albanian too.” It happens that her parents and husband are from the same towns as my husband’s parents. She then asks my husband what he does for a living. “I’m a radiologists.” With a look of surprise, she responds, “I am too!” She has a son named Pier and my husband’s name is Pierre. It goes on and on from there. Her husband’s father knew Pierre’s grandfather! We have all become good friends. Our friends mother is translating my book! Only in New York.

Tell us how long it took you to write your book.

Once I started to write, my story poured out in torrents. It took about six months to finish.

Tell us something fun you like to do.

I love to read and consider myself a chain reader. I must have a book waiting to pick up as soon as I finish one. Yoga is what keeps me grounded and healthy. And I love walks in Central Park with my husband.

What’s next for you in writing?

Not sure yet. Recently, I had a most interesting day at Nuçi’s Space. I think I’d like to write about some of those days, of which there have been many. I’d also like to delve into the stigma which continues to weigh heavily on mental illness.

Well I hope you do, and we want you to let us know when it releases.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I know it will help many families who have experienced a loss like yours.

Come back and see us soon.

Linda’s website is: https://www.lindaphillips.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Chandler~Southern Fiction Author

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Welcome to Authors Visits Kay, we are excited about your latest book, The Keeper.

Tell us this book.

The Keeper is about a young woman, an abusive man, and the lies that bind. Mandy drifts from one homeless shelter to another, sometimes sleeping under bridges or staying in shady motels with the man she calls “Daddy,” although the affectionate term begins to stick in her throat. Wylie Gafford is obnoxious, cold-hearted and mean. Some folks have book sense and some have common sense, but Wylie appears to have neither. He forbids her to have friends.

When Mandy falls in love at seventeen, Wylie’s furious and takes her away. He compares her to a trash-fish and says a trash-fish is as much fun to pull into the boat as a nice bream, but at the end of the day the trash goes back into the cold waters, while the bream—a keeper—goes home with the fisherman. “When that ol’ boy gets ready to pick a wife, he won’t be picking the likes of you. You ain’t no keeper, girlie.”

Mandy’s goal is to become a Keeper and return to Alabama to the love she left behind. But fear, guilt, and a false sense of loyalty are the invisible chains that bind her to her domineering father. IMG_3541

How did it come about?

My husband and I had the privilege of getting to know a unique homeless couple who drifted into our lives several years ago. We listened to their stories of being without a home, and rejoiced when they moved into an old rental house, even though the only furniture was a mattress they found at the dump for their children to sleep on. He had a fourth grade education, had been in prison, but eventually joined our Sunday School Class. I learned through that experience that there is indeed a little bad in the best of us and a little good in the worst of us.

What is the story behind the creation?

The couple we befriended had three children, but one little girl looked very different from the parents and the other two children. When we first met them, the thought ran through my mind, “What if this child isn’t theirs?” After I came to know them, I knew it was a foolish notion, but the idea for a book lurked in the back of my mind. Mandy desperately wants to believe Wylie can’t be her father. After all, how could a daddy be so cruel to his own flesh and blood?

Was your book research intensive?

A great deal of information was gleaned from previous experiences. Years ago, I visited a single mother with a newborn who was staying at the Rescue Mission in Mobile, Alabama. When I wrote a scene that takes place at a shelter, I drew from that experience.

Did you find some fun facts?

Yes, I did. A character in the book wants to convince Mandy that her father is wrong, and she is indeed a Keeper. He takes her to a seafood restaurant and tells her the chef attends a Trash Fish Festival each year, because they’ve discovered previously labeled “trash fish,” are actually delectable dishes—real keepers. I had never heard of a Trash Fish Festival, but out of curiosity, Googled. Guess what? There really is a Trash Fish Festival, and I found some wonderful information that I was able to use in my book.

Did you find not so fun facts while researching your book?

I did. But to share it would give away a portion of the book that I’d prefer to let the readers discover for themselves. My books are called Southern Secrets, so some things must remain hidden. J

Does coincidence play a role in your book? If so, what was the strangest coincidence you experienced and did you use it in your book?

Actually, it happened after I wrote the book. There was an article in the newspaper, where a young woman gave her story, and it was as if my character had come to life and had written the article. It was eerie how much it sounded like Mandy speaking—same experiences, same thoughts and actions. It was confirmation to me that I got it right.

What do you like most about writing?

I love hearing from readers. I’m in constant awe at how God uses fiction to touch lives.

What do you like least?

I’ll have to come back to that one. At the moment, I can’t think of anything about writing that I don’t enjoy.

Are you working on the next book?

Yes. Book 4 in the Switched Series.

Tell us how long it took you to write your book.

I wrote The Keeper in three or four months several years ago, but put it away to write Lunacy, when the Publishers were asking for Historicals. I pulled it back out recently, tweaked it, and now I’m glad I did.lunancy

Tell us something fun you like to do.

I enjoy taking spontaneous road trips with my husband, stopping along the way to explore Mom and Pop shops, while getting to know the locals.

What’s next for you in writing?

I’ve had readers wanting to know what happened to Ludie, a character in Mercy, so I’m working on Kinfolk, Book 4 in the Switched Series.mercy

rick barry  If you haven’t met Rick Barry, then you definitely need to. He’s authored three novels: Gunner’s Run, Kiriath’s Quest, and most recently The Methuselah Project. In addition, he has hundreds of published articles and short stories to his credit.

But that’s not all, Rick speaks Russian, and served in the home offices of two ministries aimed at the former USSR. preaching

By God’s grace, I have visited Eastern Europe over 50 times and worked in Christian camps for children and teens.

His experiences have included skydiving, mountain climbing, rappelling, camping in Russia, kayaking, wilderness hiking, white-water rafting, visiting World War II battlegrounds, even prowling deserted apartments in the evacuated Chernobyl district of Ukraine. He believes that all experiences in life provide fuel for a writer’s imagination. And, he has also served multi-terms as president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) – Indiana Chapter.

In your newest book, The Methuselah Project, was your book research intensive? Did you find some fun facts?

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Definitely. In my experience, writing a novel set at any point in past history requires research, especially if the time period is World War II, which continues to interest the public widely. If your details are inaccurate, there are amateur historians who will shoot you down. As bad as that feels for the author, I believe it hurts worse for the reader, who can no longer enjoy the story knowing that the author hasn’t done the homework and doesn’t really know what he or she is talking about. Fun facts that I learned might bore others, but they include flight characteristics of a P-47 fighter plane and historical details concerning Plainfield, Indiana, the childhood home of my hero.

Did you find not so fun facts while researching your book?

The premise for The Methuselah Project involves a hush-hush German experiment that used Allied prisoners as guinea pigs. Although the actual experiment in my novel is fictitious, Nazi scientists truly did experiment on captives, particularly Jews in the concentration camps. Reading accounts of those experiments qualifies as “not so fun.” The experiment in my own story is much less gruesome.

Does coincidence play a role in your book? If so, what was strangest coincidence you experienced and did you use it in your book?

I’m not a big fan of coincidences in fiction, although some authors and scriptwriters lean heavily on coincidence. (For example, the first Star Wars movie. I mean, really? Princess Leia hides blueprints of the Death Star in an android, which “just happens” to end up in the possession of–of all people in the galaxy–her biological brother, whom she has never met or heard of? That’s a biggie. But fans swallowed it.) The closest thing to a coincidence in my book is the fact that Captain Roger Greene ends up in Atlanta, Georgia, where he meets the main female character, Katherine. But because they are not related in any way, and because the shadowy “organization” manipulates Katherine into keeping tabs on Roger, I don’t see this as coincidence. The organization simply used her proximity to give her a mission. If Captain Greene had been in New York, they might have put another member on his tail.

What is the story behind the creation of your book?

Since I grew up in the home of a pilot, I’ve had a lifelong interest in aviation. Also, WW II has interested me since 7th grade. A third spark for this tale is my interest in a well-told story about time travel. These three elements combined in my imagination. Even though Captain Greene doesn’t literally travel in time, he does end up looking young and still athletic many decades after the war, but with a biologically reasonable explanation that satisfies readers who don’t like sci-fi.

What do you like most about writing? What do you like least?

There’s a special literary adrenaline that feels great when the words and inspiration fuse to produce a hot stream of words flowing from my imagination to my fingers and then onto the computer screen. It’s a wonderfully satisfying experience. The least enjoyable? When I’m stuck in the Sahara Desert of imagination. My trail has led me thus far, and I know of another point in the journey I must reach, but am not sure how to get from this dry valley to that point in a way that will intrigue the reader to stick with me.

Are you working on the next book?

Yes, although with frequent delays as I (too often!) must set aside that project in order to freelance edit, or write an article, or translate something from Russian to English to keep money coming in to pay the bills.

Tell us how long it took you to write your book.

About a year. I wrote it in spurts–a half hour or so in the early morning. Fifteen or twenty minutes during my lunch break. Sometimes an hour in the evening. It’s frustrating to close the Microsoft program when you know exactly what the next line will be, but that’s the life of a part-time writer. Anyone who assumes authors are specially entitled people with huge blocks of spare time for writing is kidding himself. To get started as a writer, you must carve writing time out of your day, protecting and using minutes other people will fritter away with Facebook or Solitaire or TV.

What’s next for you in writing?

Many readers have wished for a sequel to The Methuselah Project. I plan to answer that wish.

Well, please keep us updated and let us know the release date. Thank you for visiting with us today. We have enjoyed learning more about Rick Barry.

Please be sure and check out Rick’s website and social medias.

http://rickcbarry.com/

facebook.com/AuthorRickBarry, or on Twitter (@WriterRickBarry)

MaryAnn Diorio ~ Lady of Grace!

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We are delighted to have Dr. MaryAnn Diorio, a widely published, award-winning author of compelling fiction dealing with the deepest issues of the human heart visit us today. She also writes picture books for children. She just released Dandelion Patch.dandilion patch

The topic of the book is Eminent Domain and is written for children primarily between the ages of 3 and 8. Parents can read it to their younger children. Older children can read it themselves.

Can you give us a description?

When Yolanda Riggins discovers that the government plans to build a new highway through her beloved dandelion patch, she rises up in protest and asserts her God-given right to private ownership of property. Will she succeed against all odds to save her dandelion patch? Will tact, truth, and tough love win the day for Yolanda and the children who love her? Read this delightful book to find out.

Her latest fiction release is A Sicilian Farewell, Book 2 in The Italian Chronicles TrilogySicilian

Book 1, The Madonna of Pisano,

madonnawas published in 2015.

When is Book 3 due out?

Book 3, Return to Bella Terra, is scheduled for release in December 2017.

Your non-fiction has appeared in over 100 national magazines, newspapers, and journals, including The Saturday Evening Post, Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine, The Press of Atlantic City, and Human Events. She strives to base her writing on Scriptural truth and Biblical principles.

MaryAnn, I understand you love to help people.

Yes,  I  love to help people discover their God-given purpose in life so I maintain a life coaching practice with a special emphasis on coaching writers.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

When not writing, I love to spend time with my family. I enjoy reading, painting, playing the piano and cello, and especially making up silly songs with my five rambunctious grandchildren.  My husband Dom and I have been married for 47 years. We reside in New Jersey and enjoy spending time together at the beach.

Tell us about your newest book.

A Sicilian Farewell
A young man, a new land, and a dream that threatens to destroy him, his marriage, and his family . . .

It was released in 2016 as Book 2 of The Italian Chronicles Trilogy. In this story, we continue to follow the adventures of Maria Landro Tonetta and her husband Luca as they embark from Sicily to America. The story takes place at the end of the 19th century.

Where did the idea come from?

The idea for this story came from my family history, particularly from the life of my paternal great-great-grandmother.  This book is a sequel to Book 1, The Madonna of Pisano, in which I lay the groundwork for the two subsequent books of the trilogy.

How long did it take to write?

The story took approximately 10 months to write.

What is the most fun for you in writing?

Without question, the most fun for me is the creative aspect of writing. When I write, I feel most like the Creator in Whose image I have been made. Also, because I know that God has called me to write for Him, I feel as though I please Him when I write.

I begin every writing project and every writing session by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide me. I proclaim His promise in Proverbs 16: 3 AMP: Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. When I get to a point in my writing where I don’t know which direction to take, I pray again, and the Holy Spirit always comes through for me.

What is not the fun part for you?

Without question the business and marketing part of writing. I would much rather be writing than marketing my books or doing the necessary bookkeeping involved with a writing business.

What is a regular day like for you when you are writing?

I write five days a week—often six—from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm—or until I finish my daily word count goal of 1000 words. I begin my day quite early—usually around 5:00 am—in order to spend time with the Lord. I find this absolutely essential and won’t write or do anything else (except have a cup of coffee J) until I have spent time with God.  I begin by worshiping Him. I usually put on peaceful praise and worship music and begin praising God. I receive His wisdom and guidance for the day. After about 30-45 minutes of worshiping God and praying in the spirit, I then read and study the Bible. I like to do this verse by verse, asking the Holy Spirit to teach me what I need to learn from that particular passage. After about an hour of Bible study, I pray for the needs of my family, my friends, and for others. I also pray for myself.

After studying my Bible, I read a portion of a book on growing in Christ. I love to read the classics of Christian literature, such as the works of Jeanne Guyon. At this point, it is usually about 8:00 am. I get dressed, have breakfast, and am then ready to begin writing at 9:00 am.

Where do you write?

Since I work on a MacPro laptop, I write in different places, depending on my mood. My usual place is my writing studio, a spare bedroom on the second floor of our home. I am greatly blessed to have this room and am so thankful for it. My desk faces the window which offers a lovely view. I also write in a spare bedroom in our home that we use as a library. Sometimes I write at the local library, and sometimes I write at a coffee shop, such as Panera’s.  Mostly, however, I write at home where it is quiet and comfortable.

What’s next for you?

Whatever God says.  I am His servant first and foremost. While I have plans for several new projects, I submit myself to God’s leading. My heart’s desire is to make His plans for me my plans for me.

That said, my plans include completing Book 3 of The Italian Chronicles. The book is almost finished and will be released in December of this year, Lord willing.  I also am in the process of compiling two books of my poetry—one for children and one for adults. I am especially excited about the poetry book for children titled Poems for Wee Ones.

In January of 2018, I plan to resume work on another novel I started a few years back titled In Black & White. I feel that the timing is now right for this story that deals with racism and its effect on the human heart.

We enjoyed your visiting us today MaryAnn. You have been such a blessing to us. I know you have been in Southern Writers Magazine a few times and we appreciate your supporting us.

Thank you again for offering me this wonderful opportunity. I deeply appreciate your kindness and generosity.

Be sure and visit MaryAnn Diorio at: http://maryanndiorio.com/

twitter.com/drmaryanndiorio

www.facebook.com/drmaryanndiorio

 

Idabel Allen~Southern Storytelling

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If you love “home cooked Southern Literature in the tradition of Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner, you will fall in love with Idabel Allen. 

Thank you for visiting with us today. I am excited to hear about your new book and learn more about you.

Your book Rooted, tell me the story behind it, why did you write this story?

There were several reasons I wrote Rooted. One was the setting. I liked the idea of telling a story from a rural Southern perspective not tied to Memphis or Nashville or the outside world for that matter. It is very much a regional story in this way, complete with the customs and values specific to its place and time. Adding a New York punk rock character, Slade Mortimer, to the mix illuminated the Southern rural experience. Another reason I wanted to write Rooted was to allow the burdens of the fractured McQuiston family to fall on the patriarch’s shoulders. During the 1970’, the man was the head of the household – he made a living and set the rules for the family to abide by. And yet, it was the wife who managed the family and home life. I wanted explore what happened when outcomes of the patriarchs’ rules fall back on his shoulders, and not on the wife’s. Rooted is very much a story about taking responsibility for one’s actions – not just the patriarch’s character, but his descendants, as well.

Where did you get the idea for the cover?

rootedRooted is a Southern book with an edge perhaps not often found in the genre – something I wanted to capture on the book-cover. Bits of cotton grace the front and back of the book, a nod to the South’s agrarian heritage. The cow on the cover is Lucy, the last of Grover McQuiston’s grandfather’s herd. Lucy represents a connection to the past, something Grover and the South are quite keen to hold onto. On the book cover, the cow has blue hair and a nose ring, letting readers know there’s a bit more going on with this story than meets the eye. Rooted has been described as Southern grit-lit and I believe the cover conveys this message. 

Did you do research? What was the most memorable information found?

Most of my research for Rooted centered on music. With a New York punk rocker in the mix, I needed to understand the origins of the punk movement, its key players and their motivations for breaking away from traditional rock music standards during the 1970s. Turns out, punk as we know it today with the piercings and mohawks and shocking behavior bears little resemblance to punk’s origins. Fed up with mellow hippie folk rock and bloated stadium rock, a core group of poets and musicians in New York rejected music industry rules and with a do it yourself attitude created music and art that changed popular culture forever.

Does coincidence sometimes play a role in your books? If so, what is the strangest coincidence you’ve experienced and did you use it in this book?

The premise of Rooted is based entirely on coincidence. The unexpected death of Slade Mortimer’s estranged father sends him South to the town of Moonsock in search of an inheritance. Slade’s arrival, on the heels of a family scandal, sets in motion a series of unexpected events that resurrect questions regarding the mysterious of his mother’s disappearance twenty-five years before. Rereading Rooted recently, I realized it took a character with punk sensibilities to kick down the protective wall Grover built to guard the terrible secrets that had devastated the McQuiston family for decades.

I know I’ve experienced many coincidences in my life, but I cannot think of what the strangest one might be, nor have I used personal coincidence in any of my stories that I know of. But things have a way of working themselves into my work without conscious effort on my part. Only after the fact, am I able to recognize that something personal has crept into the picture.

What do you like most about writing? What do you like least?

I most like when my characters are developed to the point that they are telling the story, and I’m hustling to get it all down on the paper. When the writing is going well, I hear the characters voices in my head as if a live person were talking. That’s when the story has taken on a life of it’s own.

The opposite of this is what I like least. When the characters are not driving the story, or if I’m trying to force the story in a certain direction, the writing is cumbersome and stiff. It’s like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. When this happens, it’s a good indication to take a few steps back and regroup. Usually, this is what is needed to get things flowing again.

Are you working on the next book?

I am releasing a middle school book this fall entitled, Cursed! My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign To Save The Chigg. It’s about an overly dramatic eighth-grade girl, Ginny Edgars, friendless after one too many trips to the principle’s office, who decides to help class Freakazoid #1, Carrie “Chigger” Larson, uncover the devastating truth behind the Larson family curse – whether Chigger likes it or not!

I am also wrapping up edits on a historical fiction novel entitled, Strange Agonies In Some Lonesome Wilderness. In this story, a group of ex-slaves hoodooed to a Mississippi river island, turn to an anthropologist to help them pass on to the after-life, challenging what she believes about herself, her life and the one that lies beyond.

How long did it take you to write this book?

There’s a million ways to tell a story, finding the right way always takes me a little time on the front end. All told, I believe I have about five years invested in writing Rooted. I spent a bit of time experimenting with narrative and voice. I tried to write the book entirely from Sarah Jane’s point of view, and then Slade’s, and finally Grover’s. The story never really gelled for me until I landed on using all three points of view. The opening line of the book, “It all comes from the root,” was something my son once said to my grandmother. I used this line to anchor the separate narratives to the story and to let the reader know Rooted is a story about belonging to a people and a place.

Where do you think your story telling ability came from?

I’m not sure where it came from as far as my family. There’s an artistic streak on mother’s side, but not so much on either side in the literary vein. More than anything, reading everything I could get my hands on at a young age, and being born in the South where the oral storytelling tradition is still very much alive made me the writer I am today.

Listening to stories gave me a good ear for dialect and for gauging reactions. A good story gives the reader a reason to laugh, be shocked, even outraged. Too, I learned a lot from my favorite writers: passion from Faulkner, compassion from Welty and Steinbeck, possibilities from Woolfe, and fearlessness from O’Connor. Reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved is like studying a blueprint for how to construct a perfect book.

First and foremost a storyteller, Idabel’s books are all grounded in the same character-driven reality that holds the reader’s attention long after the story is finished. When not burrowing in the written word, Idabel says she is generally up to no good with her family, dogs and herd of antagonistic cows.  So visit her website and blogpost.

http://idabelallen.net/

idabelallen.net/blog

 

 

Janie Dempsey Watts Turns Curiosity Into Writing Career

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A Chattanooga native, Janie Dempsey Watts grew up riding horses at her family farm in Woodstation, Georgia. Her curiosity about most everything steered her to journalism and a writing career.

She was just chosen to be “Author of the Month” for June by Barnes and Noble, Chattanooga.

Her novel “Return to Taylor’s Crossing” (2015) earned an Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion and won first place in the Knoxville Writers’ Guild novel excerpt competition. Her first novel, “Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge,” was a Georgia Author of the Year Award nominee for a debut novel and nominated for a S.I.B.A. Her newest book is a collection of her short stories, “Mothers, Sons, Beloveds, and Other Strangers” (Bold Horses Press, 2017)

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Hi Janie, welcome to Authors Visits. Tell us about this new collection fo short stories.

It’s fifteen short stories set in the South, California, and Europe. One of the stories, “Erice,” was a Faulkner Pirate’s Alley finalist. These stories feature characters facing inner and outer journeys that often do not go as expected. Why did Sadie’s mother run away? And when will she return? Must a teenage girl learn the truth about her daddy the hard way? Why must a bride’s rehearsal dinner feel like a Hatfield-McCoy moment? Can a widow escape loneliness by commiserating? On a train ride in Belgium, can a mother and son trust a postcard salesman they meet? At a laundromat in Rome, Italy, what kind of trouble can a restless wife find? In these tales, some humorous and some edgy, characters discover they do not really know those who are closest, yet a stranger may offer the gift of hope.

Oh this sounds like a must read for sure.

I also wanted to talk to you about your book, Return to Taylor’s Crossing. This book earned an Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion and won first place in the Knoxville Writers’ Guild novel excerpt competition. Tell us a little about this book.

.Return

The summer of 1959 in a small Georgia town, dairy worker Abednego Harris, 19, not only stands out for his skillful handling of bulls, but because of his color. When Lola James, 17, arrives to do day work for a nearby family, Abednego is smitten. As the young couple falls in love, racial tensions heat up, threatening their world. A violent attack tears them apart and spins their lives in different directions. This is their story, and the story of four others whose lives are forever changed by violence. One of them will return to Taylor’s Crossing seeking answers.

What drew you to writing?

My parents gave me a diary when I was eight or nine.  I started writing life events in short, newspaper style. A winter storm, the death of a newborn colt, for example. I also read constantly–-horse books, biographies, any book I could get my hands on.  In 8th grade I read “Catcher in the Rye.”  Our Civics teacher asked us to write a paper on what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I knew I wanted to be a novelist, like J.D. Salinger.

How long was it before you wrote your first novel?

The short answer is 28 years from the time I wrote my first short story in college. The long answer is this. In college, I studied English, then journalism, graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in journalism, and later, an M.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California. I wrote for newspapers, magazines, and TV during my journalism career. When my children were little, I used my time as a stay-at-home mother to study screenplay writing at U.C.L.A. Writing five screenplays (never produced) taught me the craft of long-form fiction writing.  All throughout the 28 years, I wrote short stories and also short non-fiction pieces.  Many were published in anthologies and literary magazines, anthologies. In late 2012, my first novel was published.  I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer––and persistent!

 

What do you think made your book Moon over Taylor’s Ridge stand out above all the others to win  Georgia Author of the Year Award nominee for a debut novel?
Readers of this novel have told me that the Cherokee history, folklore, and Trail of Tears connection is why they were drawn to the story. I spent many hours researching to make sure my fictional story rested upon a solid base of facts.  The legend of the Cherokee silver mine in the area where the novel is set was passed down in my family and recounted in a history book by my late Aunt Mary. 

moon over

In your speaking engagements, do you take your book and do you sell many of your books? 
I always take about a dozen copies of each book, more if a big crowd is anticipated. I usually sell five to six copies, but I have sold as few as one and as many as 52 at an event. It’s very humbling, and you have to check your ego at the door. Many times those attending will buy my novels later in e-book format, or check it out at the library. From a marketing point of view, the best part about speaking at an event is the publicity generated.  If the event is mentioned in the media, it draws more attention to your book, and hopefully brings in more sales from those unable to attend.
Janie, you’ve been in Southern Writers Magazine a few times and we are so pleased you joined us on our Authors Visits. I know your fans will enjoy this new book that released.
Please come back and visit, and let us know the when you are ready to release another new book.

Growing Up in 1956! by Thomas Conner

3. Current Photo

Meet Thomas Conner, known to some as Tom, others as Tommy, and TC by friends and family. Although born in Florida, two miles from the Alabama state line, he spent most of his early years living on the Alabama side and went to college in Florida. 

He graduated from the University of West Florida in Pensacola with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities and since 1980  has resided in Central California’s Big Valley, where he has worked in higher education at a prestigious private university in Student Life.

Tom, welcome to Authos Visits. I am excited to talk to you about this book, Goodby, Saturday Night.

goodnight saturday nightYour book, Goodbye, Saturday Night, is very interesting, and for us who are older brings back a lot of memories.

Tell us a little about the book.

Well it’s early  May 1956 in the small South Alabama town of Farmington, and eleven year old Bobby Crosby’s life is about to change forever. He’s still anguishing over the death of his father even though it’s been five years, and he’s come to despise the life centered around his mother’s cafe, a place that turns into the revelrous hot spot of the community when the sun goes down. Bobby escapes his real world by sitting every night in the local movie theater, third row left down front. There, alone in the dark, he leaves Farmington far behind and melts into the world of the silver screen. Bobby’s best friend is Hucker Nolan, a twenty-two year old drop-out from the swamps across the tracks who drives a taxicab in the daytime and works concession at the movie theater at night. Now, Bobby’s world seems to be collapsing and there’s nothing he can do to stop it; his mother has a boyfriend Bobby desperately resents and his feelings for Hucker are confusing and ever changing, often filled with anger and jealousy Bobby doesn’t understand. Then, the worst thing possible happens to Bobby— he’s betrayed by the person he trusts the most.

Was your book research intensive? Did you find some fun facts?

Yes, definitely. The book is set in 1956 and required a lot of research because I give lots of details in my writing. My character paid 5 cents for a soda. The Western Flyer Super Deluxe bicycle he dreamed of cost $75 and was unobtainable. I also used movie and music references throughout the book, so I had to research the release dates to make sure I wasn’t using titles that hadn’t been released in May of 1956. A good example of this is Saturday night television line-up in 1956. I really wanted one of my characters to be watching Gunsmoke on T.V. when he was called away for an emergency. Well, the show didn’t air at the time I needed him to be watching it, so I had him watch “The Jackie Gleason Show” instead.

Did you find not so fun facts while researching your book?

Yes, and some very disturbing. This book is based very loosely on my childhood growing up in the Deep South. My main character has a close friend who is “colored” but they cannot sit together in the movies. My character lives in a racial bubble, just as I did at the time. When researching racial tension in Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s, I was made aware of much more racially related violence than I had previously known. I knew of the Selma marches of 1965 but I had no idea of the violence and brutality involved until I began my research. It was played down in my area and among my family and friends.

Does coincidence play a role in your book? If so, what was the strangest coincidence experienced and did you use it in your book?

Yes, most definitely. In the past, we have had two Sunday services at my church, St. Anne’s Episcopal. I always attended the 10:00am service. Early last spring our services were combined into one at 9:00am. That offered an opportunity to meet folks from the other service I didn’t know. One Sunday, I struck up a conversation at coffee hour with a woman who had just published her second novel with a small publishing house. I told her about my book, that I was planning on self-publishing because I didn’t want to go through all those hundreds of rejections until I found a house that would take my book. She suggested I submit my work to her publisher. After mulling it over for a few weeks I did and they immediately offered me a publishing contract. My friend and I had been attending the same church for many years without knowing each other or that we were both writers. Now, we are authors with the same publishing house because our church services were combined

What is the story behind the creation your book?

When I read Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show in the mid 1970s, I realized I had a book in me about small town life in Alabama in the 1950s. I met Larry McMurtry at his rare and collectible bookstore, Booked Up, in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC. When I discussed my idea for a book with him he said write it, it will tell a good story. I went home and wrote the first draft. That was in the late fall of 1979. I moved to California a month later and brought the hand-written manuscript with me with the intensions of polishing and rewriting. However, it got pushed back for 35 years.

What do you like most about writing? What do you like least?

Hanging on and following where the characters take me. Some people might say I’m not telling the truth, but my books seem to write themselves. I have a beginning and an idea of an ending and I just start writing. The characters take over and the book comes to life. Sometimes, I am totally amazed that we took the turn in the road we did. Recently, in my new book, one character asked the other where they are going as they climb into the car. I had no idea as I wrote those words. The main character made a choice and the direction they took opened up the plot with a major new twist. I was amazed.

And the least?

I like promoting the book the very least. I wish I could just write and the book would sell itself. That’s not the case. I spend at least fifty percent of my writing time promoting.

Are you working on the next book?

Yes. My work is always based very loosely on something I’ve done or I’ve lived. I just make characters and a story out of it. The first book was based  loosely on my childhood. The new book is based on my first quarter in college in 1965. It’s the story of an 18-year-old freshman who is totally smitten with his single 27-year-old English professor. They become fast friends due to mutual interest and need. Soon, the friendship begins to develop into more. I am obsessed with the story and at the present time have over 52,000 words down.

Tell us how long it took you to write your book.

I wrote the first draft of the first book in three months. I wrote it in longhand because my old typewriter had keys that stuck and I could write faster than type. It was put aside as I said for 35 years. I pulled the old manuscript out and began transcription and rewrite last year. I spent nearly a year on the final book. So, the answer is 37 years in total time and a year and three months of actually writing time.

Whats next for you in writing?

To continue with the new book until it’s ready to send to my publisher. I also plan to pull out some old short stories and see what I can do with them. I spend a tremendous amount of time promoting the book and finding readers.

Thank you for visiting with us today. Can’t wait to hear about your next new book.