I’m especially pleased to open the blog up to Jackie as she is a Georgia girl so I’m happy to extend a warm welcome to a “home state” author. As we Southerners say, “She lives just down the road from me” when in reality it’s about a two to three hour drive.
Jackie is the author of ROSEFLOWER CREEK and COLD ROCK RIVER. She stops by today to answer some questions for me about her writing and ROSEFLOWER CREEK. Be sure to check at the end of the post for a giveaway.
First, could you give us a brief summary of ROSEFLOWER CREEK for those not familiar with it?
Roseflower Creek follows the short life and death of ten-year-old Lori Jean, a sensitive dreamer of a child who longs for a normal family life. After a fire she discovers a secret surrounding her step-father and pays the ultimate price.
What lead you to write this ROSEFLOWER CREEK?
It was inspired by an actual death penalty case in Athens, Georgia. A ten-year-old boy lost his life at the hands of his mother and step-father when he stole five dollars in the lunch room. When I read of his sad life my heart went out to him. I remember thinking, you poor little boy. It must have hurt so bad (physically, spiritually, and mentally). A little voice in my head called out to me: Yes, it did, and the morning I died, it rained.
I went to my computer and wrote the first fifty pages of Roseflower Creek without stopping. The article was such an inspiration.
What inspired you to write it from the child's point of view?
I thought telling the story from the grave in the protagonist’s own
words would be the most effective way to get the story to the heart of the reader. Lori Jean was so real to me, I hung on her every word. She said things like: My real daddy left when I was five on a day so hot they was giving out free fans.
Later when her mother decides to marry Ray, a no-good alcoholic who treats her badly, she says: I couldn’t understand my mama’s way of thinking. Ray was a terrible boyfriend. What made her think he’d be any better a husband?
Her wisdom astounded me.
What were the pros and cons of writing from the child's point of view?
The easy part was listening to Lori Jean as she spewed out her story. She was so deeply imbedded in my heart this part wasn't hard to do.
The really hard part was trying to keep the story an adult book without losing Lori Jean's voice. There's a fine line between Young Adult books and a main stream book when you're writing in the voice of a child. The Lovely Bones is a good example as is Peace Like a River and A Glass Castle.
Most readers (and writers) are interested as to an author's process of writing. Do you have a system for writing or a schedule you keep when writing?
First of all I try to write every day but Sunday, not always an easy task. Life tends to get in the way. But I work hard to stay on schedule. I’m a firm believer that keeping ones fingers on the keyboard is the perfect way to ward off writer’s block.
Initially, when I begin a book, I listen to the voice of my character and what they have to tell me. Usually these characters are inspired by an incident in my own life or something that I’ve read, as in Roseflower Creek. In my second novel Cold Rock River, the story came from the time my baby sister choked on a jelly bean. She survived, but fifty years later when I was trying to go to sleep, I recalled the memory and it was fresh as newly skinned knees. I got up and wrote the opening line:
I was five-years-old that spring Annie choked on a jelly bean. She was twenty months old; she wasn’t supposed to have any. Mama made that quite clear. Sadly I wasn’t a child that minded well, so I gave her one anyway. I figured she should taste how good they were. I figured wrong.
Once the protagonist is firmly planted in my mind I keep writing until they have nothing else at the moment to say. That’s when I sit
down and start outlining the story, where it’s going, the story points that will get it there and what the best possible ending might be. Often times as I’m writing I don’t end up following the initial outline, but it does give me some type of structure to follow, and if I move outside the lines, I’m not concerned. Characters do have a habit of running away with the story and I usually follow them wherever they’re going.
Toward the end, I take another look at the story arc and see if I’ve fulfilled the promise I made to the reader when they picked up the book. Will it take them to a spot where they’re happy with the story? If I am extremely pleased, I have confidence that my reader will be, too. If I’m not, I go back and fix whatever it is that I feel is missing.
Then I start the process all over again with a new book and a new premise.
What is the best advice you've received that has helped you in your writing?
Read, read, read and write, write, write. That’s the best advice I’ve received and the best advice I can give.
What is next for you? Do you have any books in the works?
I have a new book debuting in January that I expound upon in the next question. In the interim I am working on Summer Ridge, my latest. In this novel, twelve-year-old Mary Alice Munford struggles with the knowledge her mother plans to marry her father, a man who abandoned them before she was born.
Anything we haven't touched on you'd like to share with the readers?
I hope they’ll check out my latest novel that debuts January, 2011. It’s titled ALL THAT’S TRUE. Sourcebooks calls it “an authentic coming-of-age tale with a terrific takeaway.”
It follows the life of thirteen-year-old Andrea St. James (Andi for short), who discovers in the summer of 1991 during the first Desert Storm War, that her father is having an affair with her best friend’s sexy new step-mother. With equal joy and equal sorrow, the book celebrates Andi’s coming of age where she uncovers the allusive nature of truth and the devastating consequences of deception.
Here’s the opening:
My life was close to being perfect until my brother Alex got killed. Then my mother started drinking and my father started having sex with Donna, my best friend’s stepmother. She not even thirty years old. Me and Bridget—that’s my best friend—we saw them through the window of the pool house and nearly stopped breathing. You would not believe the moaning. For a life that was moving along really well, right now everything sucks.
Look for it in January 2011 and pick up a copy! All great best,
Jackie Lee Miles
Jackie, thanks so much for stopping by today and guest blogging. Your writing process sounds intriguing. I like that you write until the characters stop talking.
For a little background on Jackie. As I said, she and her husband live in Georgia where she is a featured speaker at book clubs, schools, and writer’s workshops. The author of three novels, Roseflower Creek was Jackie’s first, published to critical acclaim. When not writing, she tours with the Dixie Darlin’s, four nationally published book-writing belles. Her next novel, All That’s True, will be published by Sourcebooks Landmark in early 2011. For more information, please visit her at http://jlmiles.brinkster.net/.
Now for the giveaway, thanks to Jackie and Danielle at Sourcebooks I have two copies of ROSEFLOWER CREEK to giveaway to two lucky visitors commenting on her post between today and 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 17. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only (sorry). Be sure to include your e-mail address with your comments if it isn’t included in your profile.
If you are an author, what are your thoughts on writing from the POV of a child? If you are a reader, do you enjoy books that are told from the child’s point of view?