Category Archives: Introductions

Moving Up and Moving Over

U-HAUL In 1993, when I moved from Texas to Wisconsin, I packed everything I owned (which wasn’t much) into a fourteen foot U-Haul truck and coaxed my sister into riding along with me. She was very kind. And, brave. She had three young kids who claimed her full attention at the time; plus, when she climbed up into that U-Haul, she sat down next to a manic twenty-two year old me, who knew nothing about long road trips or intense emotion that would come soon after leaving home 1000 miles behind.

That year, the Mississippi River flooded like crazy, so we drove more East than we might have otherwise and stayed over in Memphis, Tennessee. All night in my hotel bed, I worried that someone might cut the giant padlock I put on the truck and take my futon or my boxes full of thrift store jeans and worn t-shirts.

While I was anxious in Memphis, I didn’t think twice about driving that same U-Haul truck through the streets of downtown Chicago later on, paying a parking attendant $20 to squeeze the truck between sports cars and sedans, and handing him my whole set of keys — including the key to the giant padlock.

Silly me. I was all nervous and excited and so out of my element. It’s a good thing my sister did ride along, or who knows where I would have ended up.


There are so many unknowns. But, at certain times in life, we take the plunge anyway.

That’s what I’m doing now: taking the plunge, moving again. Not from Wisconsin, but from the comforts of this blog. I’ve been at this address long enough to get my feet wet and learn what works (or doesn’t work) when it comes to running a site. It would be easy to stay here for who knows how long, but I’ve got an itch to make my own way into cyberspace.

So, I’ve rented a new place — my own domain:

I hope you’ll come with me. Because, see…while I can pack up all my old content from here and bring it along to my new home, I can’t carry over any subscribers.

So click over, take a look around, and if you like what you’ve been reading here – the essays, the author interviews, the flash fiction – I hope you’ll subscribe there.

The new place won’t be half as much fun without you.

* Photo courtesy of ashmann 88 on

Curiosity, Minus the Cat

Writers, by nature, are curious people.

We are always searching for the who and the where and the what, digging up answers from our psyche – or the psyche of an imagined character – to create story after story.

We question other writers, too, asking How do you do it? How do you survive the absence of your muse? What do you say to someone who doesn’t write, who rolls their eyes to find you hiding in the basement – again – huddled over your laptop?

How do you spend your days? We want to know. To answer this very question, Cynthia Newberry Martin hosts a guest author once a month. Every bit of detail I read in those posts either inspires me or connects with me in such a way that I find the confidence I need (yet again) to call myself a Writer.

So, it should be no surprise that writers get tagged now and then with three questions or twenty-five or (this time) eight. Suzanne Conboy-Hill and Ann M. Lynn both tagged me, and it’s taken me way too long to respond. I can whip out a flash fiction story in half a day. But, ask me something about myself, something I should be able to answer easy enough, and the first response you’ll hear are crickets.

“Me?” *nervous laughter*

SO, here are eight tidbits of information about me, along with links to three other writers whom you might want to check out for yourself. No formal tagging here – I took too long, game’s over I’m sure – just simple recognition.

And, thanks Suzanne and Ann, for the questions!

1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have?

Telepathy. There, I said it.

I won’t lie. I obsess about every submission I send out. Wouldn’t it be lovely to know the second an agent or an editor picks up my submission with their very own hands?

Yes or No. Yes or No. One flash of a thought in their minds, and I’m on my way – to strangle my muse or to celebrate. No wait times, no checking and re-checking the inbox, no more stalking the postman.

2. Who is your style icon?

If we’re talking wardrobes, then I’m in trouble.

For fashion guidance, I depend on the goodness of my friends. Friends with money and with taste. I accept hand-me-downs without hesitation, because – left to my own devices – I am a fashion disaster. So, if you see me wearing something sassy and in style, you can assume I got it from a friend.

3. What is your favorite quote?

It’s difficult for me to choose a favorite quote. There are so many great ones that I love about life and about writing. I latch on to one quote that strikes me on a particular day, but the same quote might not mean as much to me the next day. So, here’s one I’m holding onto this week from Mary McNamara’s recent article in the Los Angeles Times:

…[I]f you’re a writer, you don’t write for money or fame or a chance to dish with Oprah Winfrey. Basically, you write because when you’re not writing, you’re even more cranky than when you are writing.


4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

“Ever?” I have a terrible memory. That’s one reason why I write — because I forget the things I insist on remembering. Recently, though, my favorite compliment came from my daughter who’s almost four.

“You look beautiful,” she said. Her eyes traced my outfit from head to toe.

She ignored the three blemishes on my face that might suggest I’m fifteen and not forty. Then, she stopped at my feet and gave me the eye.

“Except for your shoes,” she said.

She’s anti-Birkenstocks, and her comment reinforces my answer to number two above. Left to my own devices….

5. What playlist/cd is in your CD player/iPod right now?

Every year, Fall throws me into a melancholy mood. One of the ways I survive that mood is to play lilting music that rises and falls and lifts and carries. Ingrid Michaelson has been on my mind a lot. But the other day, this song struck my fancy:

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

A night owl. Late night hours are the most quiet times at my house. Plus, I’m just lazy before the sun comes up.

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

To this I say Achoo!” and “Pass the Claritin.” I love them both — from a distance.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?

I am forever running out of time. When I decided I wanted to pursue my writing for real, I knew I would have to do it during those moments in between — moments that are fleeting as soon as they start some days. And, I like hard and fast deadlines.

There you have it, more than you wanted to know. Now, along with Suzanne and Ann, here are three more writers whose blogs I read and tweets I follow — for inspiration, for lessons in the craft, and/or for a good laugh:

I’m off now, to practice my telepathy.

I’m sending you messages right now to leave a comment and retweet this post (stack those stats).

Just kidding.

(Sort of.)

Welcome Author Kelly O’Connor McNees

“Don’t laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragical romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under their sober gowns.” — Little Women


Kelly O’Connor McNees opens up her debut novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, with this epigraph. Then, she takes the reader’s hand and leads them deep within those words and along the path of an imaginative and believable tale about the life of Louisa May Alcott.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is McNees’s first novel, but the narrative reads like one composed by a seasoned writer. Historical fiction requires hours of research and a strong passion, and McNees brings both to this story. In her “Author’s Note,” McNees talks about how she re-read Alcott’s letters and journals several times over, so that the character in her novel would sound like Alcott herself.

What results is a beautiful, heart wrenching, and genuine story about the sacrifices women must make for love, or against it.

I’m honored to host an interview with Kelly O’Connor McNees today, where she talks about the novel and her writing process. At the end of her interview, be sure to leave a comment (even your name will do), and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of her novel. The winner will be announced next Tuesday, August 10th.


CC: In your novel, under “Author’s Note,” you write on the journey that guided you to your story, an imagined tale of Louisa May Alcott’s summer in Walpole, in 1855. Much of that journey stemmed from biographies you read on Alcott even before you wrote your first draft. Once you decided on the story you wanted to create, how much time did you devote to research? And, how did you decide which elements to weave into your novel?

KOM: Well, first, let me thank you for inviting me to have this conversation. My favorite thing about this work, besides the actual writing, of course, is talking to other writers and readers about how these stories come to be. With The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, the research and writing were a reciprocal process. It’s true that I did read a couple biographies before I started writing, but even then, I had certain scenes in my mind that I knew I would put in the novel. After I started writing, the research continued. I was always trying to learn more about Louisa’s life and work and trying to understand how she felt about her place in the world. I also went back to the library many times looking for obscure historical details–the color of the fabric in carriage’s interior, for example. When I was hunting for that one piece of information, I’d often uncover other interesting facts about day-to-day life that I added the story.

As for decisions about what to put in and what to leave out, those were constantly under revision as well. I wrote many scenes that I ultimately left out because, while interesting, they did not move the story forward. You can sense sometimes when you’re trying to shoehorn something in that doesn’t really fit, and you know you have to let it go. Those are difficult moments, but, ultimately, a compelling, tightly constructed story is what I wanted, so everything had to be subordinate to that goal.

CC: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is your first novel. Have you always wanted to write historical fiction? And, did you find it easier or more difficult to write on a real person versus a character you make up from scratch?

KOM: I hadn’t ever really thought of writing historical fiction, although I always loved reading it. It was my specific interest in Louisa May Alcott that brought me to this novel. In fact, originally, it was a contemporary novel with historical flashbacks. Louisa’s story made up only a small portion of the novel. But somewhere along the way I realized that this was her book, and these contemporary characters piecing together her story from a distance of 150 years were just gumming up the works and diminishing the impact of Louisa’s struggle. So I cut them all–120 pages–and reworked the whole thing to be a historical novel with Louisa at the center. (Yes, that was a hard day too!)

As for writing about a real person versus a fictional character, I don’t think one is easier than the other. But they are different. With a completely fictional creation, you can do anything. But that can sometimes be the burden: limitless possibilities make it hard to choose one path. Writing about a real person, on the other hand, gives you some definite parameters right from the beginning, but the challenge there is staying true to who Louisa really was while still creating a story that works as a fiction. I always remind people that while this is Louisa, she is the Louisa of my imagination. When you are writing fiction, even fiction about real people, at a certain point you depart from the record, period. And I certainly did in my story. But that’s what makes fiction fun.

CC: On your website, you offer to speak with book clubs about your novel (via technology or in person). How does that intimate connection with your readers enrich your life as a writer, as compared to meeting your fans at a book reading?

KOM: I love going to book clubs. It is such a privilege to get to talk with readers about their experience reading my book, to share about other books we’ve loved, to answer questions when I can and ask them questions I’ve wondered about. Book club members are so gracious and excited about books–what’s not to love? It’s a good reminder that I am writing for an audience who is incredibly intelligent and insightful. I think it makes me work harder on my current project. I so want to earn those readers’ time and attention again. Bookstore events are great too, but book clubs allow for an extended conversation, and that for me is the best part.

CC: What are you reading these days?

KOM: My Name is Mary Sutter, by Robin Oliveira, about a woman in the Civil War who wants to become a surgeon. It is such a lovely book. I also just finished Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, which I loved. I am writing right now about a woman who is interested in botany, so I really loved Elizabeth and Mary, the fossil hunters of this novel. Next up is (the goddess) Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, then Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden because a bookseller in Pawleys Island, South Carolina told me it is one of the five best books she has ever read.

CC: Do you have any final thoughts or advice for writers on the rise?

KOM: I feel too new at this to give any advice, but I will say that if you think you’d like to be a writer, write. Don’t wait. I waited a long time to get up the courage to start trying because I was so afraid of failing. Now I look back on the last ten years and think about how much joy of process I missed out on. Don’t worry about the end product or publication, though obviously that was one of my goals. The deep satisfaction comes from the practice of writing. That’s what I wish someone had told me. Come to think of it, someone probably did tell me that. I just didn’t listen!

CC: Thank you, Kelly! Remember, readers, to leave a comment below (even just your name if you’re feeling shy) to be entered into the drawing for a copy of Kelly’s novel. It’s a great read!


Kelly O’Connor McNees is a former editorial assistant and English teacher. Born and raised in Michigan, she has lived in New York, Rhode Island, and Ontario and now resides with her husband in Chicago. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is her first novel. You can read more about Kelly on her website, and find her on Twitter here.


Welcome Author, Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh published her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, in October 2009. Her novel was named a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s 2010 RITA Award under the category of Best First Book.

Walsh’s novel does include romantic elements. But, what hooked me is Walsh’s focus on strong human bonds, which may be broken but are never severed.

For reasons I won’t mention here (you’ll have to read the story to find out), twin sisters – Moira and Maeve Leahy – are torn apart. The loss of that relationship haunts Maeve and paralyzes her so that healing can only take place through a mysterious object. An antique keris lands in Maeve’s hands and pulls her on a journey back to her sister and to herself.

The story takes place in Castine, Maine and in Italy. I love how Walsh brings the setting to life through the use of subtle yet powerful language. One of my favorite lines (of many) in the book comes after Maeve returns to Castine and peers out into the ocean. Walsh’s brief detail about that moment reveals the powerful connection of memory to place:

I sat on a boulder the color of elephant skin and looked out at the great blue-gray and beyond.

Along with setting, Walsh weaves details about the keris throughout the narrative seamlessly: the keris prepares the path for Maeve but never eclipses her character.

Impressed by Walsh’s writing techniques, I asked for an interview and was thrilled when she agreed. I’m honored to post her responses here.

As well, I’m hosting a book giveaway. Please leave a comment below (even just your name). On Tuesday, I will choose a winner to receive a free copy of The Last Will of Moira Leahy.


CC: The settings of Castine, Maine and Italy both come to life in your novel with such strong imagery and characterization. Was it the story of Moira and Maeve that drew you to those two places? Or, did the setting come first and give way to the story?

TW: Thank you. The characters did come first in this case. When I sat down to write Last Will, I didn’t intend to visit Castine or Rome—though I decided early on that Maeve was originally from a coastal town in Maine. Once I realized Maeve’s life as a child would have to be explored, I learned more about Castine; and when I realized an expansion of boundaries would help to open that character up on several levels, I decided on Rome.

CC: Along with setting, other details in your novel must have required extensive research, like the keris, foreign languages, and the dynamics between twins. How much time did you devote to research, and was there ever a point during the writing process when the research overwhelmed you?

TW: I’m a researcher at heart. My post-college career began when I was hired by Prevention Magazine to become a feature’s researcher. So I honestly love research. In fact, I often have to pull back from the research process so as not to let it de-rail me from writing.

Sometimes I’ll spend days on research, and other times I’ll let myself become diverted for mere fifteen minutes to an hour when exploring a new possibility. One thing I’ve learned though is that, for me, research can lead to new discoveries that inform story in intriguing and unexpected ways. Case in point: The keris wasn’t something I originally intended to include in this story. It was only through research that I learned of the rich mythology of that artifact and decided to use it as an unconventional device in Maeve’s rediscovery of herself.

CC: Under Author Bio on your website, you list a link to “The Story of the Story” where you explain your own journey of self-discovery as you followed the signs – one by one, wrote this novel, and became a published author. Has that experience influenced your writing style? Do you outline your stories before hand? Or, do you write more organically and let the story unfold as it may?

TW: I wish I could tell you that I’ve grown much wiser following my protracted experience writing Last Will (a journey that started in 2002 and ended with a sale in 2008), but not so much. I’m still a seat-of-the-pants writer. That said, I do have some necessary points outlined in my work-in-progress, and I usually know what needs to happen several scenes ahead, so maybe I’m evolving. Still, I’m often frustrated by my own near-sightedness when it comes to my wip’s twists and turns. “Trust the muse” is definitely my mantra.

CC: What are you reading these days?

TW: I just finished a wonderful book by Randy Susan Meyers entitled The Murderer’s Daughters. I’ve also just purchased a few new books, including one I can’t wait to dive into— Of Bees and Mist: A Novel by Erick Setiawan.

CC: Do you have any final thoughts or advice for writers on the rise?

TW: I’ve thought about this a lot, and I feel the three keys to taking it to the next level are these:

  • perseverance
  • continuing to hone your craft through books, classes and the like
  • a willingness to truly hear critique, and make bold changes to a manuscript if that critique passes the “gut test”

The common thread here is evolution. Evolve the manuscript, evolve the self. If you do those things, you are on the road to publication.

Thanks again, Christi!


You can read more about the novel and about Therese Walsh on her website, and you can follow her on Twitter.

She is also the cofounder of Writer Unboxed (named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for three years in a row). Writer Unboxed hosts several authors who publish great articles on the craft of writing fiction and the business of publishing. In fact, Therese Walsh’s recent post is one you don’t want to miss: “Be Extraordinary” and reach the “realm of publishability.”

To purchase The Last Will of Moira Leahy, click here.

Welcome Cathryn Grant to Wednesday’s Word

Every Wednesday, on Writing Under Pressure, you’ll find an essay or a flash fiction post based on a word prompt. Today, I am honored to publish a flash fiction piece by Cathryn Grant.

I met Cathryn Grant online.

That means, she lives too far away for me to chase her down for a cup of coffee and some writer-to-writer face time. So, I follow her on Twitter; I read her blog; I email her with writing questions and advice.

Hmm, as I re-read that sentence out loud, I sound strangely like a stalker.

My point is, as a writer, Cathryn’s been an inspiration and a great support, even if we’ve never sat in the same room together.

I love Cathryn’s writing style. Every Sunday on her blog, you can read a new flash fiction piece. Click around her site and you’ll find links to some of her published works. On her About page, the first sentence sums up how writing fits into her life. She says:

I make my living in high tech Competitive Intelligence, but I live to write fiction.

She works a hectic day job, and at the end of the day, she writes fiction – Suburban Noir – to shake off the stressors of the day. On a post entitled “Crime at Work,” Cathryn reveals how – like many writers – her mind is always open to a story:

I see crime in ambiguous places – white lies, posturing, extravagance in the face of poverty, stealing company time, back-stabbing, obscene bonuses for cheating the average working man or woman, subtle cruelties and road rage.

Her stories reflect what she sees through her writer’s eye.

I’m thrilled to present you with an original Cathryn Grant piece based on a word prompt. Well, make that three word prompts. I chose three words in succession, thinking the first one too Cathryn-esque (I didn’t want her to think I picked it on purpose). But, after I pulled the second and third words, I realized the Fates had spoken. Cathryn’s prompts were: crimes, cheating, and bars.

Enjoy a taste of her writing here, then read Cathryn’s blog for more.


Non-violent Crime

By Cathryn Grant

Elaine turned the page of the newspaper and looked at the snippets of information printed in the police blotter. In suburbia, the crimes were mild, but something still compelled her to read about them. Perhaps she was looking for something exciting – a violent attack, brutality, even death. Instead, she saw that two cars had been broken into. A bad check was passed at a business on Henderson. A woman’s purse was taken from her shopping cart, a bicycle was stolen and there were three reports of tools removed from construction sites. There was an incident of fraud on Crocker Way. She wondered about the details of that one.

She took a sip of coffee, it was icy and tasted sour. She thought about refilling the mug but a quick sniff revealed the stale odor from a pot left too long on the warming plate.

The crimes in the police blotter weren’t the real crimes. Those happened inside people’s homes – children left alone in front of the television for hours a day, women gossiping about their “best” friends, children plucking dollar bills out of their mothers’ purses, and husbands and wives lying to each other. Most of them were small lies, half-truths, but still the lying went on. She heard about it every day from her friends and co-workers. I didn’t tell him how much I paid for the shoes. He doesn’t know our son cut class, again. She thinks I’m working late, but come on, she gives me too much grief if I want to gripe over a few drinks at the end of the day. None of that was reported in the police blotter.

She turned the page and scanned the comics. They refused to elicit even a smile or a flash of recognition. She turned the last page, gently closing the newspaper as if closing the back cover of a book that offered a melancholy ending. She picked it up along with the other partially-read sections, folded the stack in half, then in half again.

Shade still bathed the side of the house where the recycling bin stood, but the June air was already warm. Bars of light came through the gaps between the boards of the fence and fell across the concrete, making it look cleaner than it was. The lid to the paper receptacle was hot on her fingertips. She lifted it open and smelled newsprint, slightly mildewed. She dropped the papers inside but as she was about to let the lid slip closed, something caught her eye – an envelope, still sealed.

Reaching inside was difficult, the edge cut into her armpit and she knew her shirt would be smudged, not an attractive look for the office. She was late already, she shouldn’t be digging in the recycling bin, but she had to see what was in that envelope. Rick gave her a hard time because she insisted on opening all of their mail, even the advertisements and solicitations.

Finally her fingers touched the edge of the envelope. It was light, almost as if it was empty. She nudged it toward the side of the bin and grabbed it. She turned it over, nothing was written on the front. Then she saw a tiny R in the upper right corner. Rick?

She peeled up the edge and slid her finger along the fold. The tear was rough and the paper crumpled behind her finger. She pulled out the single sheet of lined paper, ripped from a legal pad. A credit card slipped out and fell on her toe. She picked it up – a Visa card with Rick’s name embossed on the front. Why would he throw away a credit card, wouldn’t he shred it? Maybe he didn’t know it was in there. After all, he hadn’t unsealed the envelope.

She unfolded the paper. A lone sentence was scrawled across the center, crossing several lines of the paper – I can’t do this anymore.

One of the bars of light fell across the edge of the credit card, making the background sparkle. She stared in fascination. How long would it be until the sun moved enough that the strip of light no longer crossed the card? She couldn’t decide whether she’d known all along he was cheating on her; but she did know that not all the crimes of suburbia were non-violent.

© Copyright 2010 Cathryn Grant


Cathryn Grant’s suburban noir fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Every Day Fiction – twice: “So Lucky” and the story posted tomorrow, June 3rd (you’ll have to click onto Every Day Fiction to discover that tale). 

Questions for Distraction

Today, I am miles away.

Literally. I am deep in the North Woods for the holiday. It’s likely that I’m sitting on a couch with a wild look in my eye, dressed in long sleeves and pants, smothered in deet, and gripping my coffee like a mad woman.

Don’t get me wrong, Up North is beautiful with its tall northern pines, the spring-fed lake, amazing sunsets and the loons. I love the quiet and the silhouette of the treeline against the night sky.

But, there’s a real tick-fest going on up here right now because of something like the warm winter or the dry spring. Whatever. All I know is that ticks are the devil. They are out to get me, I’m sure. So sure that I just might return to my Pentecostal roots and start praying in tongues to keep them away.

But, I didn’t set out to write a post about Dermacentor variabilis phobia (aka. fear of wood ticks. Okay, I made up that word, sort of).

A few weeks ago, Kate McIntire (known as @girlfrenkate on Twitter), tagged me with a list of five questions. I don’t know if I can answer the questions as cleverly as she answered them. But, what better time to try than when I desperately want to forget about you-know-what.

So, here goes.

1. Where were you five years ago?

  • On the cusp of 35 (a painful thought then, and an even worse realization now).
  • A mother of one, praying for two.
  • Without a blog.
  • Twitter-less.
  • Not writing.

2. Where would you like to be five years from now?

  • Not thinking about my age.
  • Signed with an agent.
  • A published Novelist.
  • Meeting face to face with other writers on a regular basis.
  • Dermacentor variabilis phobia free (anyone know a good therapist?).

3. What was on your to-do list today?

Most recently?

  • Get outside in the sun (check, the proof is in the sunburn).
  • Plant tomato seedlings and herbs (check, can’t wait for the pesto).
  • Send off questions for next Guest Author interview: Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy (check, post to be published soon).
  • Soak in the tub after kids go to bed (check, I am fully serene now, except for that little rant at the beginning of this post).
  • Answer five questions readers have been dying to ask, though they didn’t know it (check, aren’t you glad I’m almost finished?).

4. What five snacks do you enjoy?

  • Nothing healthy.
  • Preferably something salty.
  • Often something sweet.
  • On a destructive day, a candy bar and a coke.
  • A bowl of cereal when I stay up too late.

5. What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?

Why do you tease me so? Okay, fine….

  • Still work.
  • Buy myself an antique secretary’s desk for writing.
  • Vacation on the beach any time I darn well please.
  • Pay for my kids’ college.
  • Stare at my bank statement in disbelief, since I was a billionaire before that tuition bill came in and now I’m just a writer.

Now, enough about me. What about you? If you had to answer just one of those questions, how would you respond?

PS. Thanks, Kate, for the distraction!


Welcome Author, Beth Hoffman

As a reader, I am drawn to stories with characters so rich that reading about them is like reading a letter from a good friend. I hang on to every word, every image, and I fall easily into their emotions — good and bad.

Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, is exactly that kind of story for me.

Ms. Hoffman weaves a beautiful tale of CeeCee, a young girl who grapples with her mother’s mental illness, agonizes over her father’s abandonment, and then discovers unconditional love, friendship, and healing — in the arms of Oletta, in the mysterious charm of Miz Goodpepper, and in the saving graces of her Great Aunt Tootie.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt reminds us, no matter what our trials, we are carried along by a spiritual force which manifests itself in those around us.

I invited Beth Hoffman here, to answer a few questions about her novel and her writing. She graciously agreed. And, she offered to give away an autographed copy of her novel and a set of audio CD’s. So, after you read Beth’s interview, please leave a comment. If you’re shy, just leave your name.

At the end of Mother’s Day – in honor of the women in Beth Hoffman’s novel who become CeeCee’s surrogate mothers – I will choose two names. Each winner will receive either the book or the set of CD’s, the best part being that Beth Hoffman, herself, will send them — a New York Times bestseller novel, straight from the hands of the novelist to yours. That’s good karma, people.


Beth Hoffman

BH: Thank you for your kindness and support, Christi. I’m delighted that you invited me to be featured on your blog.

CC: Which inspired you first to write this story, plot or character? And, if it was character, was it CeeCee or Aunt Tootie who whispered the tale into your ear?

BH: I’ve always been drawn to character-driven fiction, and from the get-go I knew I wanted to write a story about strong women of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. Aunt Tootie’s kindness and wisdom are qualities that I greatly admired in my great aunt Mildred, and I knew Aunt Tootie would be a key figure in my novel. But it was CeeCee who arrived in my imagination first. I had begun a rough outline for the book I thought I would write, and then late one night CeeCee appeared. She was so fully alive and her voice was so clear that it rocked me back in the chair, and, her story was far better than the one I was outlining! So, I deleted my notes and listened to what CeeCee had to say. It was one of the most fascinating events of my writing life. I’ve heard that it’s called writers alchemy—a magical moment when a character comes to life and the story unfolds in surprising ways.

CC: You live in Kentucky, but you wrote a story mainly set in Georgia. How often did you travel to the setting of your novel, and how did you use those trips to help create such a strong sense of place?

BH: I’ve always adored the South, and my first visit to Savannah left me completely enthralled. Savannah embodies so much of what I’ve admired throughout my life: outstanding historical architecture, a rich multicultural history steeped deep within the very fabric of the city, and the lovely hospitality for which Savannahians are so well known. I’m a bit of sponge in the sense that if I like something, I soak it up until it becomes a part of me. And that’s what happened with Savannah. I’ve walked every street in the historic downtown area, talked with residents and shop owners, and I live fully in that wonderful city whenever I visit—which is quite frequently. I usually rent an apartment in the downtown area so I can immerse myself in daily living as if I were a long-time resident. The sense of place in CeeCee’s story was actually quite easy for me to create because Savannah has become a part of me.

CC: Under “For Writers” on your blog, you say, “Captivating storytelling is a gift – good writing is an art.” Clearly, you are a talented storyteller. How did you nurture that gift into the art of great writing?

BH: What a lovely thing to say, thank you. My father was a wonderful storyteller, and I think much of his gift of spinning a good yarn was passed down to me. But there’s an enormous difference between telling a captivating story and writing one. As with any art, practice is crucial. The more we practice, the more we hone our craft. And the more we hone our craft, the more we stay awake and aware to the world of words. The other thing that’s crucial is cultivating the imagination. From a very early age I had a whole cast of imaginary friends that I kept in a shoebox beneath my bed. We went on all sorts of adventures together, and to me, they were real. When I eventually outgrew playing with them, I began to write stories about their lives, which segued into short story writing when I was a teenager, and finally, to writing my first full-length novel. Even now, as an adult, I still have the vivid imagination of my childhood, and I rely upon it with my writing.

CC: What are you reading these days?

BH: I just began Page from a Tennessee Journal by Francine Thomas Howard, and thus far I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

CC: Do you have any final thoughts for writers on the rise?

BH: I would say practice and editing are two of the most important things an aspiring writer should keep in mind. And when a writer honestly feels her/his work is complete, then there’s the Holy Grail of all—reading the manuscript out loud. It’s amazing how, when reading a work aloud, every single bump will reveal itself. Though it was time consuming, I read every single word of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt to my cats, and that prompted me to do one final edit that really paid off.

Beth Hoffman’s debut novel has appeared on several bestseller lists, including the New York Times, and was selected by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as one of the 2010 Winter/Spring OKRA Picks for great Southern fiction. Read more about Beth Hoffman here and find her on Twitter under @wordrunner.

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