Interview with Angie
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up in Kentucky, but I’ve lived in Nashville for the last twenty years. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. I started with a newspaper that I wrote, illustrated and distributed with the help of my mom’s work copy machine. I had a successful run of three editions before publishing an exposé based on sketchy facts in my fourth edition – that one shut me down for good! Since then, I’ve become an accountant that writes, sings, ballroom dances and paints in her spare time, a wife to a kick-ass filmmaker, and a mother to a too-smart-for-his-own-good but highly empathetic college-age (eeek!) son, which is my favorite role of all. Oh, and I have two fur babies pictured below (Mia is the lab, Kirby is the curmudgeon Yorkie).
What were you like at school?
I was a very good student – all A’s, or very nearly so. I had scholarships to college which was good, because I married young (at eighteen) the first time and was living on my own with my new husband. We were broke and knew it (I always wonder how some people can say they were broke but didn’t know it – it was very apparent to us :)). Anyway, I worked three part-time jobs and studied my butt off during college, but I graduated summa cum laude. In high school, I was talkative with my friends, but I didn't feel a great need to try to be popular. I moved a lot growing up -- 8 times by the time I graduated from high school. I was tired of starting over and trying to make all new friends by the time I moved, just before my sophomore year, the last time.
Were you good at English?
Yes – I took college English in high school and made the only A in my class both semesters. That continued on through other English and Humanities courses in college, where my papers and essays were often read to the class.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To write books that inspire or entertain, that make readers think and feel. My highest honor would be if I could inspire a reader to feel empathy in a way they haven't before. I would feel honored and blessed to have been given such a gift.
Which writers inspire you?
I bow down to Barbara Kingsolver. Her use of the English language and imagery are incredible. I also love Diana Gabaldon – her gift of dialogue and her ability to convey everyday life in eighteenth century Scotland are awe-inspiring.
How would you describe your genre?
I generally write in upmarket women’s fiction – think book club. In fact, both A WHISPER OF SMOKE and A PAINTED LILY have discussion questions for book clubs. They are available at the back of each book, and also on the 'For Book Clubs' page on this website. But men, don’t let the term 'women's fiction' turn you off – I’ve had lots of men read my books and love them! The genre of women's fiction just means that the main point of the story is the protagonist's emotional journey.
However, my latest book is upmarket contemporary with elements of realistic supernatural suspense (i.e., ghosts!). Because it's so different, I may publish it under a Pen Name. But don't worry! I'll still provide updates if you are subscribed to my mailing list, and I will link it on this website! See the question below for more details about this new book!
What inspired you to write your books?
A WHISPER OF SMOKE: Most of us have our share of family secrets. I was intrigued by what might happen to cause a new generation to deal with them differently from the older generation, and how cycles might be repeated or broken, depending sometimes on the smallest of decisions. I also was interested in the notions of redemption and condemnation, and how complicated both can be yet, at the same time, intrinsic to the human condition.
A PAINTED LILY: This book was originally inspired by a dinner conversation I had with the CEO of one of my clients (back when I was a financial statement auditor). He talked of his family fleeing Cuba after the revolution, and how difficult it was for them. I then was inspired by many of my friends and their relationships, both the functional and dysfunctional, particularly when one friend is in love with the other -- secretly. I’ve always been fascinated by relationships and personal growth!
MISSING PICTURES (Coming Soon!): This book is inspired by my real-life experience going through a traumatic divorce that temporarily destroyed my life and cemented a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder (neither of which ever went away entirely), and that resulted in a stint in intensive outpatient therapy where I met my two best friends, both of whom suffer from their own versions of mental illness and have their past own traumas. Our unlikely friendship (which has now lasted 10 years) and their ability to make me laugh even in the worst of it inspired me, with their blessing, to write this book as a fictional but honest depiction of women with mental illness that doesn't just present us as caricatures or oddities, or focus on shock elements. It shows, in a real way, what it is to live with mental illness every day, and still have jobs, responsibilities and relationships, and how a beautiful friendship can be borne from the shared experience. And that also, and just as important, that it’s possible to find laughter and hope in the midst of living with mental illness and loss, especially when you have the right support.
In A WHISPER OF SMOKE, what makes the setting, 1960s Kentucky, important? And how does the Vietnam War play an important role in the story?
The story took place in Kentucky because, as my home state, it is familiar to me – this story could have taken place virtually anywhere across America. However, the 1960s setting was essential because it was a time when dysfunction was as common as it is today, but very often not discussed . It was also a time when a nation’s innocence was passing away in the shadow of civil rights unrest and a foreign war with ambiguous purpose. I liked the parallels between our nation’s loss of innocence and Susanna’s, and how both were underlined by the strong personal and cultural desire to develop new moral boundaries that were different from those of the previous generations. The Vietnam War was an important part of the book because it emphasized for my characters, as in real life, the idealization that’s inherent in innocence, and how, when that innocence is lost, you are faced with the realization that even the most honorable person can be changed by his or her experiences.
Where can we buy your books?
They are available in trade paperback on-line or electronically for Kindle on Amazon (see the 'My Books' page of this website). Stay tuned (on my web-site and my Facebook page) for news about local bookstores (in Nashville, TN) where you can find my book.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm actually departing from my normal genre, and working on a novel that is upmarket adult contemporary with elements of realistic supernatural suspense (ghosts!). Currently titled THE SUNFLOWER PATCH, here is a description:
Giselle Lewis is halfway to becoming a CPA at her new job in Nashville, she has her own apartment with coordinating throw pillows, and she’s found two amazing friends, Brynn and Crosby. So why does anxiety grip her stomach, the telltale sign that a new obsession is forthcoming? Previously, it was séances, and then past lives. This time, Giselle is compelled to investigate a haunted Civil War plantation and makes contact with the ghost of young Emily Ruth. She must understand why the girl’s spirit lingers, convinced that it may somehow hold the key to unlocking herself and the fear that’s always plagued her. Brynn and Crosby are worried it’s an unhealthy obsession, so Brynn tries to distract her with adventures designed to show her how to live bravely, while Crosby hopes to prevail with logic. But when one of Brynn’s adventures goes terribly wrong during a paranormal investigation, Giselle’s connection with her friends is pushed to its limits, and she is faced with a difficult choice: confront the parts of her past that could forever redefine what it means to be brave, or lose herself forever to the fear that is waiting to consume her.
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How much research did you do for A Whisper of Smoke?
Quite a bit. I didn’t grow up in the 1960s (I was born in the 1970s and was Susanna’s age in the 1980s), so I did quite a bit of research, supplemented by interviews, in order to get a sense for that time period in history and the generation that grew up then. The majority of my research, though, was around the Vietnam War. I wanted the letters to have a realistic feel and for the reader to get a clear sense of what it might have been like for two people who cared about each other to be separated by that conflict. My research included reading lots of resource texts, watching documentaries and several interviews with a Vietnam veteran. In the end, though, the sentiments that were expressed between Susanna and Calvin, the farmboy-turned-soldier who was her best friend and secret love, were from my heart.
How long does it take you to write your books?
It took me ten years to write A WHISPER OF SMOKE from start to completion, with many, many drafts in between. This was because I was also working full-time at my career as an accountant.
It took me four years to write A PAINTED LILY.
It took me a year to write MISSING PICTURES. I'm getting faster! It really is my day job that gets in the way...
Are any of your books part of a series?
No, Sp far I’m enjoying writing stand-alone books.
How can fans contact you/learn more about you?