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)
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.
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.
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!