Friday, January 14, 2011
Q and A with Guest Writer Jackie Miles, author of ALL THAT'S TRUE
I was contemplating what I was going to write next and nothing came to mind. Since I tend to write from the perspective of young protagonists, I thought back to my early teenage years for inspiration. That’s when I realized nothing very significant had happened to me during those years. My parents got along; there was no divorce pending. We had no deaths in the family and no major illnesses to struggle with. We had no brothers, so nobody was going off to war. My prospects of writing from that segment of my life seemed fruitless. Then I realized, what if a teenager such as myself, had a life, like mine, that was going really well and then the entire bottom fell out of it?
Thirteen-year-old Andi St.James was born. I had her struggling with a mother who turns to alcohol after her brother is killed in a freak hazing accident and a father who starts having sex with her best friend’s sexy new step-mother.
Sourcebooks, my publisher, calls it “an authentic coming-of-age novel with a terrific takeaway.”
I grew very fond of Andi and the novel was a pleasure to write. I hope my readers love it I made every effort to write it with the mindset to keep the pages turning. Joshilyn Jackson, author of Backseat Saints, wrote, “All That’s True is a genuine Southern-style page-turner. What makes this book shine is the authentic voice of its narrator, a winning and warm-hearted girl on the verge of womanhood, learning what it means to be human.”
Who are some of your literary influences?
It started with John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath, a book that triggered a lifelong passion for reading at a young age. I tend to devour anything written by southern writers, which is strange as I’m originally from the north. I love Connie May Fowler, Eudora Welty and Earnest Gaines. But I also enjoy books by Elizabeth Berg. Her novel True to Form provided much inspiration for All That’s True.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. Author Karin Gillespie recommended it to me and said the writing reminded her of my work, so I’m anxious to read! Tess Gerritsen wrote, “Beautifully written, compassionately told, and relentlessly suspenseful.” It’s the story of the disappearance of two young girls. I also have Connie May Fowler’s latest resting on my night stand, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly. It came out in April of 2010 and sadly I’m just getting to it. I have plans to re-read Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina for the umpteenth time. It always inspires me to write about great young protagonists, which is the age group I seem to do well in. Also in my stack it the non-fiction piece Save the Cat! by the late, great Blake Snyder. It’s called “The Last Book On Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need”, but works well for fiction, too. The title intrigues me and is in reference to the fact that all protagonists need to do something to endear themselves to the reader very quickly in the narrative, like save the cat! Works for me!
How do you feel about ebooks?
It’s certainly the wave of the future and I’m intrigued with the idea you can load one of 775,000 books in your reader in under thirty seconds. I have yet to buy the device, not that I’m against it per se, I just love the feel of a book in my hands and find it no problem to carry one with me in my satchel wherever I go. Maybe down the road. . .
What are you working on now?
I’m glad you asked. I just finished SUMMER RIDGE, which follows twelve-year-old Mary Alice Munford who struggles with the knowledge that her mother plans to marry her father, a man who abandoned them before she was born. Here’s the opening:
When I was very little my mother told me stories about why my father wasn’t with us. First she said he was away in the war going on in Asia, Vietnam. Then she said he was healing from the wounds in his head that made him forget us. Later she said he was on assignment for the secret service.”
“Hogwash,” Granny Ruth said. “She’s filled your head with garbage.”
Ours is not a happy household. There’s me, my mother, Granny Ruth and Aunt Josie, whose husband, my Uncle Earnest, fell under a combine when I was five so I never got to know him good. The day he died, I climbed on Aunt Josie’s lap and wouldn’t leave even when it was time to go to bed. Mama tried to pick me up.
“You been sitting there all day, sweet thing.”
“Leave me lone, Mama,” I said. “I’m helping Aunt Josie cry.”
The book is reminiscent of "Paper Moon", initially known as Adie Prey, which was an outstanding movie as well. Like Adie’s father, Mary Alice reluctantly follows her father around the rural south as he swindles people out of their money. Eventually he gets his comeuppance with Mary Alice learning some valuable lessons in the process.
Jackie Lee Miles, a resident of Georgia for thirty-five years, hails from Wisconsin via South Dakota. She considers herself “a northern girl with a southern heart” Her other novels include Roseflower Creek, Cold Rock River, and Divorcing Dwayne. Visit her at http://jlmiles.brinkster.net/index.html
Good News! Tomorrow our regular Saturday round-up feature resumes. We'll be talking about our writing routines.