Monday, September 10, 2007

Writers in their own words and GCC

Last Thursday I had one of the best experiences I've ever had as a writer: I was the guest speaker at Ursuline Academy because they'd selected my novel as their whole school summer read. As a former English teacher, this was an honor and a thrill. I talked to the 600 students about writing and dreams and then visited several classrooms. I apologized to them that they'd had to take a test over my book on their second day back, but they didn't seem to be holding it against me. Their questions were thoughtful and smart and made me look at the story I'd written through their younger eyes. Perhaps one of the best comments came from a girl who said she hoped I wouldn't write a sequel (I assured her I have no intention of doing so) because she said the story was perfect just as it was. I wanted to kiss her. I still think that there's nothing cooler as a writer than to meet readers with whom my words have made a powerful connection. It was a day I'll cherish.

And now, here's a writer you might want to connect with-- Toni McGee Causey author of Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day.

Here's a short description: Bobbie Faye Sumrall is a dead-broke Cajun living in a broken-down trailer in Lake Charles, Louisiana. When criminals demand Bobbie Faye's Contraband Queen tiara-- the only thing of her mama's she inherited-- in exchange for her good-for-nothing brother, Bobbie Faye has to outwit the police, organized crime, former boyfriends, and a hostage she never intended to take (but who turns out to be damn sexy), in order to rescue her brother, keep custody of her niece, and get back in time to take her place as Queen in the Lake Charles Contraband Festival (think Mardi Gras, with more drinking and pirates). Luckily, she knows how to handle guns, outwit angry mama bears, drive a speedboat, and get herself out of (and into) almost every kind of trouble. If only that pesky state police detective (who also happens to be a pissed off ex-boyfriend) would stay out of her way . . .

And, now in her own words,

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?

The inspiration was wanting to write a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners heroine... a woman who has bad luck, but who rises to the occasion when her brother's life is in jeopardy.

I think character drives plot. Story = a character's choices when under pressure. If you don't have stakes and obstacles, you just end up with a slice of life, which isn't really story. So both.

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

Bobbie Faye. She's tenacious, bold, independent, irrascible, ascerbic and funny. And she loves her family, in spite of what major screw ups they are, so much so that she'll put her life on the line to save her brother.

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?

I have an office (which used to be the formal dining room), and there are wrap-around bookshelves (filled to overflowing). I tend to write in the evenings until very late because there are fewer distractions and interruptions and it's easier to ignore the housework (have to be quiet! people are sleeping! can't clean now! oh, darn!)

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?

The actual, daily exerience of writing. I love the words stringing along, creating a world. I love that I can go back and edit. I've been writing so long, I cannot fathom my life without it.

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?

Read everything you can; read widely across genres.


Larramie said...

It sounds as though Toni has written a fun read for her debut novel. May she experience half the heartwarming moments that you've had with All the Numbers, Judy. 600 new readers, WOW!

Lisa said...

I second the sentiments on Toni's book!

And what a wild, surreal, wonderful experience to be a former English teacher speaking with students who are reading your words! I can't even begin to imagine -- I am so happy for you.

kristen said...

I love that these kids chose your book and that they had an opportunity to meet with you. An experience like this at that age--any age for that matter!--would make me a fan for life. (Well, clearly it sort of already has...)

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Larramie--yes, it just keeps getting better and better. These students were wonderful, I just wanted to hug all of them.

Lisa, Thanks for sharing this with me, even though it's vicarious. I'm still smiling about it all.

Kristen--right back at you in the fandom!

The Writers' Group said...

Judy, as amazing as this was for you, do you realize what a gift it was to the kids? What brilliant educators to have had the student body read a book (yours no less!)and then bring in the author in to speak to the kids. Imagine how exciting it must have been for them? Did you sort of feel like a rock star? What a great story.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Amy, thanks. And I did feel a little rock starish--but without the drugs and shattered guitars. I'm still smiling about it all.