Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Author Interview/Promo/Giveaway: The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby
Describe your book in five words or less.
Inspirational, funny, wise, heartwarming, memorable.
How did the ideas for your books come to you?
Each novel was brought about by some incident that caught my attention. The idea for The Twelfth Child came to me when a friend was telling a story about his aunt who was swindled out of her life savings by a neighbor who pretended to be a friend. It made me stop and think – what if it was the other way around, and that neighbor really was a true friend and the nephew was the swindler. From that thought I created a road not taken type of story.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, I suppose there is, but if I tell you what it is, I’ll spoil the surprise of the story. I can tell you it has to do with the things we hold most precious.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? What's the easiest?
The hardest part is without a doubt, editing. The easiest part is character conversations. Once I begin writing a novel, I know my characters as well as I know myself, and it becomes very easy to think and talk exactly as they would. That said, I do have to admit that dreaming up the concept of the story is also one of the easiest (and most fun) parts.
What's next for you? Are you currently working on or have plans for future projects?
My latest work, a fun holiday story called “Cupid’s Christmas” was just released, so right now I’m editing “What Matters Most” a novel that has been in the publishing pipeline for almost three years. There, I said it – EDITING – did you hear the groan of discontent?
Why did you choose to write for specific genre?
My family came from the South, so I write mostly Southern Fiction because it’s a voice that I’m so very comfortable with – I think Southerners are often more colorful, funnier, and can offer up the kind of sage wisdom that is handed down from generation to generation. I think you have to be able to feel what you write, otherwise a story won’t ring true with the reader.
What's it like hearing that readers are eagerly awaiting your book's release date?
It’s amazing. It brings to life the relationship I have with my readers. I feel like the favorite aunt who is the guest of honor at a family celebration. I am always thrilled at the thought that readers enjoyed my work so much that they are wanting more.
What is one question that you've always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Well, no one has ever asked for my beauty secrets. If I were asked, I’d have to answer…If I had beauty secrets, would I look like this? As you can tell, irreverent humor is part of who I am. ~grin~
What was your road to publications like?
Lumpy, rocky, hard. I spent over ten years honing the craft of writing and then when my first book was published, the publisher was less than ethical and way overpriced the book. These are lessons learned the hard way, but in the long run, I’m very happy with where I am right now.
The Shenandoah Valley
In the spring of 1912, Livonia Lannigan’s body grew round and firm. Her breasts became heavy and her stomach swelled to a great size. She took to leaving the waistband buttons of her dresses unhooked but even so could barely fit into the clothes she had worn just one year ago. The cotton bodices pressed tight against her tender breasts and she worried that it might stifle the milk flow needed for the baby so she loosened them whenever she was alone. Last summer her ankles and feet had not swollen, now they throbbed and were thick and heavy as ham hocks. All of these discomforts were of no concern to Livonia as she was thankful for the size of her stomach, surely an indication that this baby was growing robust and healthy. When walking became painful she sat on the front porch, rocking back and forth so slowly that at times she appeared motionless. For hours on end she would remain that way, waiting to feel movement from the baby that would come in September. Every night she crouched down with her knees pressing against the hardwood floor and her hands folded across the rise of her stomach. “Please God,” she would pray, “help me to deliver a healthy son for William.”
Her first baby boy had died before he was christened or even named. The birth came two months early, on the second Wednesday in August—a day when William rode off to the Lexington Market long before the cock crowed. Livonia blamed no one but herself, for it was she who felt such a burning hunger for the cool breezes of the Rappahannock River. It had been a brutal summer—almost no rain, the earth so dry that gritty dust rose from nothing more than the flutter of a bird’s wing, and a dark red sand settled into Livonia’s pores and stripped her hair of its luster. On that fateful day, her only intent was to cool herself; to sit beneath a shady oak tree and perhaps dangle her feet into the edge of the water. She saddled Whisper, a mare named for her gentleness, and rode out beyond the meadow. The animal moved along at an easy canter, slowing when she came to a dry stream bed or overgrown thicket, seemingly aware of the precious cargo she carried. No one could have known that a flock of wild turkeys would tear across the pathway and startle the poor mare so that without warning she’d rear up and throw the rider. Late that afternoon the animal returned home with an empty saddle; she stood there alongside the barn and waited.
William did not return from Lexington until almost nightfall. The much needed rain had started that afternoon and on three different occasions he was forced to climb from the wagon and walk the skittish horse through a flooded gully in the road. He was wet and weary when he arrived home and it angered him that Livonia had not lit a lamp in the window. He did not see the still-saddled mare until he pulled close by the barn. As he guided both animals into the barn, he wondered if Livonia would have been foolish enough to go riding in this weather; and a sense of dread settled over him as he hurried to the house calling out for his wife.
When William heard nothing but the sound of his own voice echoing back from the mountains, he took a lantern in his hand, folded an extra blanket beneath the mare’s saddle, and started across the meadow in search of his wife. The rain had washed away any trail she might have left, so William had to rely solely upon his understanding of Livonia’s nature to figure out which way she had traveled. He rode for three hours, calling her name out as he went, “Livonia, Livonia.” He finally came upon her lying in the mud of the narrow pathway and nearly unconscious; a bloody baby was locked in her arms. The baby’s eyes were closed and its tiny fingers curled into fists. When William lifted the dead baby and saw it was a boy, he let out a wail so mournful that folks say it echoed up and down Massanutten Ridge for days afterward.
William Lannigan was a man who worked from sunup ‘till sundown. He plowed and planted, harvested the crops and whatever produce he didn’t use to feed his family, he carted off to market in the back of a horse drawn wagon. He single-handedly loaded his bushel baskets of apples onto the wagon and traveled twenty-three miles back and forth to the Lexington Market. Even in the drought years when many Shenandoah Valley farmers abandoned the fruitless land, he stayed, worked the farm, and eked out a living for his family. When the orchards failed, he planted corn and beans and tomatoes. His father before him had done the same, only his father had three stropping sons to help with the labor. William, being the eldest, had inherited the farm. A farm he would one day pass down to his own eldest son. But last November William turned fifty-six; he was feeling the weight of a man who had fathered seven girl babies and two boys, three if you include the dead child of his fourth wife Livonia. Not one of his boys had lived to see five years of age. William had already made his decision—if Livonia failed to produce a healthy baby boy this time, he would burn the crops and let the land lay fallow for all eternity.
In the last week of August, when the temperature in the valley was at an all time high, Livonia noticed a red stain on her panties and flew into a panic. Not again, she thought. It was too early. She had another three or four weeks before her time. It can’t happen to this baby, not this baby she repeated over and over in her mind; all the while reminding herself how everything in the valley got dusted over with the gritty red sand that rose from the earth in the heat of summer. This time, she had done nothing to cause a miscarriage; she had weeded the garden and gathered eggs early in the morning then stayed indoors when the sun was at high noon. Twice a day she had sat in the rocker and done nothing but rest. She knew this was a healthy baby; she had felt him moving. When he kicked and squirmed beneath her skin, she soothed his restlessness with the gentle stroke of her hand and a whispered lullaby. This time Livonia had done nothing wrong. Nothing. She went to the bedroom and checked her panties against the red discoloration on her white smock but it was not the same. The smock had splotches of a reddish brown color, the panties were the color of watered down pig’s blood. Livonia went to the front porch and rang the large copper bell with a firm hand. The clang echoed through the mountains, loud and clear for almost five minutes. As she waited, Livonia sat down in the rocker and prayed.
Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to works of fiction—the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away.
Born in Detroit and raised in a plethora of states scattered across the South and Northeast, Crosby originally studied art and began her career as a packaging designer. When asked to write a few lines of copy for the back of a pantyhose package, she discovered a love for words that was irrepressible. After years of writing for business, she turned to works of fiction and never looked back. “Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”
Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since that, she has gone on to win several more awards, including another NLAPW award, three Royal Palm Literary Awards, the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal and most recently the 2011 Reviewer’s Choice Award and Reader’s View Southeast Fiction Literary Award.
Her published works to date are: Cracks in the Sidewalk (2009), Spare Change (2011), The Twelfth Child (2012), and Life in the Land of IS (2012). Life in the Land of IS is a memoir written for Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of Records lists as the world’s longest living quadriplegic.
Crosby newest novel Cupid’s Christmas is scheduled for release in early October and following that, What Matters Most will be released in early 2013.
Twitter - @betteleecrosby
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