It’s been a busy holiday season for everyone. Those s parties were a hoot. My wishes to all of you for a wonderful, exciting, pleasure-reading and writing new year!
Before we actually start asking Judy questions about her writing, I’d like to share some of the wonderful words from ABNA Publishers Weekly Reviewer and ABNA Expert Reviewer with you about her debut novel which was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakout Novel Contest.
“I want to read the book. I want to read whatever else I can lay my hands on that this author has written . . . ”
— ABNA Expert Reviewer
“Quincy is an engaging protagonist, part young woman, part immature girl, who is at once trying to forge a future for herself while seeking to uncover hidden details about the past. Racial divides and small-town prejudices add depth to this uniquely crafted novel with expert plotting and effortless pacing.”
— ABNA Publishers Weekly Reviewer.
“. . . the characters, the story, the writing, the kinds of mini portraits that can capture a character perfectly in just a few words, like this description by Quincy of her dreadful Aunt Mildred:
“. . . Aunt Mildred preached a lot about Hell. She’d also been gifted with the ability to read between the lines in the Good Book. What God meant to say and didn’t, Daddy’s sister knew, and she was more than glad to share that information.”
“In short, the kind of storytelling that’s so natural and so gifted and so deceptively effortless looking that it grabs you right away and doesn’t let go. “
— ABNA Expert Reviewer.
Wow, those are wonderful comments. I also did a little checking on Amazon. Although only 12 people have reviewed her book, they all gave her 5 stars! It’s just a matter of getting word out to let people hear about Judy’s work. Now just quickly, here is the blurb about The Lady.
South Georgia, 1956.
When sixteen-year-old Quincy Bruce goes to live with her Aunt Addy, she has no idea that what happened thirteen years earlier in wartime London can destroy her future. Her parents have gone to Africa as missionaries, leaving Quincy with her free-spirited and lively aunt, a war widow, and the only person who supports Quincy’s ambition to become a musician. When another aunt accuses Addy of having been the inspiration for the adulterous woman in Nathan Waterstone’s infamous wartime novel, The Lady, Quincy vows to prove her wrong. As Quincy settles into her new life with Addy, she sets about unraveling the secrets of Addy’s life, and of Nathan’s, in an effort to discover the true identity of the Lady. When she makes a discovery of a different type, Quincy’s dreams of becoming a pianist come crashing down.
Please welcome Judy as BOOKTALK WITH EILEEN’s first debut novelist of the year.
A. Thank you Eileen for having me. I’m excited to share my first novel, The Lady, with all of you.
Q. Judy, you’ve taught and been a head librarian abroad, what made you decide to take a hand to writing a novel?
A. I’ve always wanted to write one, but was always too busy. Does that sound familiar to anyone? My entire life, I have made up stories in my head, but never took the time to write any of them down, so writing The Lady was a learning experience for me. I did as much “unwriting” as I did writing before it was completed.
Q. The book setting is in Georgia during 1956. I understand that you were born and grew up there. It is apparent that you understand the difficulty of racial discrimination particularly during that period of our history.
A. Funny thing about growing up in the South: For whatever reason, I had different ideas about race than the people around me. When it was announced that segregation in the schools had to end, and everyone around me was reacting with horror, the following thought went through my mind: “But it seems fair that we all go to school together.” I had sense enough to keep my mouth shut on that point, however. But I’ve always wondered where that thought came from when both friends and family were in near hysterics over integration. It makes me wonder if we are born with preprogrammed ideas in our heads. Visiting southern relatives is always fraught with a bit of stress. Very recently, one made a huge effort to get me to admit that blacks are inferior, even though I kept refusing to admit any such thing. I find that after I know a person, I forget what color they are. Or rather, like Quincy in reference to Earlene: I forget that skin color matters any more than eye color.
In the Deep South, class structure, while hidden to the rest of the country (“Southerners are so friendly.”) is very much there. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to play with certain people because of who their parents or grandparents were. That, of course, made me want to play with them even more. I knew a girl like the Alice Worthington character in my book. She kept her drawings and paintings under her bed in a box just as Alice does.
Q. So lots of the book picks up on your life in Georgia. How about Quincy playing the piano? It was really so believable, I felt I was there listening to it. I loved the way the book started, Quincy in her world of music, pounding out chord after chord performing in ‘Carnegie Hall on her grand piano, just to find that she was in the church on an old rickety piano. That was the hook that took me in.
A. I really had fun with the character of Quincy. She embodied my love of music and perhaps my secret longing to be able to do more with my music than I have. I could hear the music she played as I wrote the book. In fact, I listen to classical piano all the time, especially during the writing of this book. Quincy was so determined to be a concert pianist, practicing two hours every day and not letting anything get in her way.
Q. Is there any particular part of the book that you enjoyed writing most?
A. I enjoyed immensely writing the school room scenes. Another of my favorite passages is the one where Quincy arrives home from school to find Adam Johnston, Nathan’s agent, standing in the living room. I had a very difficult time writing some of the scenes in the book. I’d work at them and get so depressed that it would affect me for the rest of the day. Finally, I had to work at them in small time intervals, going back to more pleasant scenes to counter the sadness. Perhaps the reason they bothered me so much was that I imagined Quincy feeling the same way in Addy’s house that I felt in my grandmother’s. When I was with my grandmother I felt loved and valued and at peace in a way that I felt nowhere else. If something had happened to destroy that, I would have been devastated.
Q. I think a writer who has really experienced certain feelings themselves is able to convince the reader that those feelings are real. And they are. It takes a writer to get those feelings on paper. Will you be writing another book anytime soon?
A.I definitely have another book in mind. Actually three. One will be a murder mystery, although the murder mystery is a framework for examining characters and the concept of forgiveness. The second book I may do has a bit of fantasy in it, some silliness, and sex (I have a hard time writing about that). I’ve given some of my friends a brief glimpse at the plot and they think the idea is hilarious, but whether or not I can pull it off is another question. The third book I have in mind is a novel based on Naomi in the Bible.
Q. You spent considerable time in Qatar as a Head Librarian for The Learning Center School of Qatar Foundation. Would you like to write a book using that experience?
A. I am working on a blog in which I write about my Qatar experiences. I don’t believe I’ll use it for any future book, however.
Q. Make sure to share the blog site address with us. I’m sure that some of our readers would be interested in hearing of those experiences. Is there a place, music, setting that helps inspire you to write?
A. I find that the places that really turn on my creativity, are the northern climes: Scotland, Shetland Islands, the top of a mountain in Nepal (Nepal isn’t northern, but the top of that mountain sure made it seem so). Warm places (the beach, Qatar) induce relaxation, but I never have a creative thought in regard to them.
Q. It’s been a pleasure having you today. Thank you for sharing with us. If someone would like to contact you where should they go?
A. Thank you again Eileen for having me. These are the places you will find me.
Twitter Handle: @JudyHbooks
Judy Higgins will be giving away a copy of her book The Lady to one person who leaves a comment on this post and would like a copy.