I’ve just finished revisions on my novel and my thoughts are very focused on the magic that brings themes together, the essence of the human story, actually. We’re all in this together, connected, eternally changing and learning and growing, and still ever the same. There is wonder in being part of something larger than ourselves, and comfort in the cycle of all living things.
Christmas decorations are up and I’ve been baking up a storm. But today I put on my favorite Christmas album to find a little peace in the middle of all the activity. It’s nearly seventy degrees outside in north Georgia, and a murky morning, but I’m drinking my coffee and feeling tucked in a warm cocoon in the soft glow of my Christmas lights.
It’s corny, I know. But that’s why I love it. So I’m sharing a song with you today and I hope you’ll take a minute to listen and ponder the words and what they mean in your own lives. Because I find that after all my hard work and hours of searching, it turns out maybe the Muppets knew what the season — and the story — were about, all along.
When The River Meets the Sea
Sometimes a story comes along that immediately connects with us in a secret place. Some way or other, this author, a stranger, has found out your inner workings and put them on a printed page. Even better, when a story makes you aware that those experiences we work so hard to hide or deny, are universal. You’ll find yourself calling a friend or turning to a spouse or chatting online, because a door has been opened. It’s like we’ve been given permission to explore, to speculate, to share and to cherish that which, of course, turns out not to be so hidden or secret after all.
Author Sheila Deeth’s latest novel, FLOWER CHILD, is one of those stories; a brave exploration of the “curious relationship between a grieving mother and an unborn child who’s not quite ghost or angel.” The novel begs many questions. In the midst of such loss, do emotions distort reality? Could you let yourself believe the impossible if it could restore the one you loved? You’ll lie awake contemplating to what lengths you might go to preserve your own life, and whether you’ve known love great enough to lay down that life for someone else? Deceptively simple and poignantly effervescent, this gentle novel speculates over the limits of memory, the fine line between faith and fantasy, and that place where intellect fails us, revealed only in dreams.
Recently, Sheila said something to me in an email that I believe will represent the wisdom and unique perspectives found in this beautiful piece of fiction.
“Sometimes I think reading is a window into the needs of other souls.”
I couldn’t agree more, Sheila. I’m so glad you’re here today for this interview. Welcome!
What is your favorite quality in a person? Trust probably. I admire people who are trustworthy, and admire them more if they’re also willing to trust.
What is your least? Always expecting the worst is probably my least favorite quality–in others and in me.
As a child, did you dream of becoming a writer? Once I got over dreaming of being a trapeze artist (it was never going to happen) I decided to be a writer. Somehow I became a mathematician instead, but I still had dreams, and stories.
Who/what influenced you to pursue your dreams? My Mum influenced me a lot–she’s always been my greatest fan. My oldest son insisted that if I was going to tell bedtime stories they had to be in a book, so I guess he influenced me to believe it was worth writing something–not that he’d dream of reading my writing now. And the author Jane Kirkpatrick influenced me–oddly enough, I “won” an hour of her time a few years ago and she told me I was a writer. Her encouragement helped me keep going when the rejection slips stacked up.
What is your greatest love? My faith I think. With a Catholic Dad and Methodist Mum it was something I always had to think about, and it always seemed to reward the time I spent thinking. I love reading the Bible. I love science and math and history. I love words. I love telling stories. Oh, and I love dogs!
What is your greatest fear? Rejection–that’s a crazy fear to have as a writer–those rejection slips do pile up. But rejection’s always been my greatest fear. Of course, I’m also scared of spiders, moths, wasps and other such things.
What is your favorite place? Anywhere I can curl up with a book? My Mum’s favorite place is that path in Yellowstone where you stand right on top of the waterfall–not a good location for reading, but it’s probably one of my favorite spots too. And the glaciers in Alaska–I saw them for the first time last month. And the Grand Canyon… How many answers do you want? The advantage of curling up with a book is it can take me anywhere.
If you could give a bit of sage advice to novice writers, what would it be? Keep writing. Keep reading. And never be afraid to delete something.
Where to find Flower Child:
About the author:Sheila Deeth grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States with her husband and son, she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, telling stories, running a local writers’ group, and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.
Sheila describes herself as a Mongrel Christian Mathematician. Her short stories, book reviews and articles can be found in
VoiceCatcher 4, Murder on the Wind, Poetic Monthly, Nights and Weekends, the Shine Journal and Joyful Online. Besides her Gypsy Shadow ebooks, Sheila has several self-published works available from Amazon and Lulu, and a full-length novel under contract to come out next year.
Find her on her website: http://www.sheiladeeth.com
or find her books at: http://sheiladeeth.weebly.com
Last week I was surprised to be challenged by fellow bloggers extraordinaire, Jolina Petersheim and Julia Monroe Martin, to the 7 Links Challenge. Well, folks, the first challenge was to figure out how to link something to my blog. Yes, it’s true. I am lost most of the time when it comes to point and click. So, see those little highlighted names back there? I’m proud of that. Hope it does the trick.
Now that I’ve already broken a sweat this morning, here are my seven links — a true feat, considering my blog is fairly new and I’m just happy to be here, telling my stories!
Thanks, Jolina for such a sweet encouragement!
Most Beautiful Post: The Wonder That’s Keeping The Stars Apart
I was pleased with this post and found so much beauty in the legacy of this woman. The image of her, looking beyond herself and her world in search of something greater, moved me.
Most Popular Post: What She Would Have Said
I’d like to think it was because of my wit and deft command of language, but really this post was most popular because it was my first and many friends and family came out to support the new blog. Either that, or people liked the picture of this tough little woman.
Most Controversial Post: A Story That Seeps To The Bone — Alma Katsu Interview
Now, the interview itself may not be controversial. But Alma is one of a kind and that tends to turn hairs. Her novel may not be for everyone, it may be a tough read, tackling the darker natures of mankind, but that’s why I chose to celebrate her. She is a strong-minded woman who is a gifted writer and her work may make you cringe or turn away, but I guarantee it will also make you think.
Most Helpful Post: Endurance And Authenticity — Jessica McCann Interview
While all of my interviews are helpful, this post exemplifies what I’ve found most authors have in common — not only the kind of characteristics that I believe can make you a successful writer, but also a successful person. People like Jessica, improve the world.
Most Surprisingly Successful Post: Hemingway Would Have Bought Her A Drink
Apparently, ghosts and Hemingway and drinking will get you some attention. I had a good time sharing the account of watching this woman at the Hemingway Bar in Paris. Here is the seed of a story. She still enchants me.
Post That Didn’t Get Attention: The Band Played On
All right. I know. It was a sappy memory. But it was one of those posts that sneaks up on you, unplanned. And it made me cry, listening to that old recording.
Post I Am Most Proud Of: She Began To Sing To Me
I probably should have been most proud of the post where I mentioned my wedding anniversary, but that would have been a post about my greatest blessings, not a matter of pride. So, I chose this post, which includes the first excerpt from I’ve shared from my upcoming novel. If you know me, this is a big deal. I’m just learning to talk about my writing with others.
And now here are five other bloggers (boy, this was hard!) who I enjoy reading and who I now nominate for the continuation of the 7 Links Challenge:
Amy Sue Nathan: Women’s Fiction Writer’s
Erika Robuck: Muse
Robin O’Bryant: Robin’s Chicks
Misty Barrere: Writing And Research: What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into
Susanna Kearsley: Not-A-Blog
Careful what you wish for. That’s what Alma Katsu’s book THE TAKER whispers long after the cover has been closed. You’ll hear it, a small voice on a breeze. A cool warning to check your motives and expect them to find you out. Think twice about obsessions that lead you down winding paths. Inspect the lessons in your life and see if they hold true. And most of all, take courage. True love can overcome our greatest fears. Perhaps even conquer death. If you’re willing to pay the price…
Alma’s dark and lascivious story may not be for everyone — and folks, it will turn some hairs white and make some skin crawl, and probably offend the gentler souls among us. But the writing will transport you. It will make you look over your shoulder. And like all genius storytellers, Alma’s gift to the reader is a story that seeps into the bone and becomes your own. Like it or not.
I’m honored to have you here today, Alma. Welcome!
“Alma Katsu takes the reader by surprise in the first chapter of her mesmerizing debut and never stops delivering. What a wonderful book! A dark, gothic, epic worth savoring. A sweeping story that transcends time as it moves effortless from the tempestuous past to the frightening present. Enchanting and enthralling! No question—I was taken!”
—M.J. Rose, international bestselling author
“Alchemy and love prove a volatile mix in Katsu’s vividly imagined first novel, which toggles between the present and the past… Katsu shows considerable skill in rendering a world where Adair’s unspeakable evilness and Lanny’s wild passion make the supernatural seem possible. The result is a novel full of surprises and a powerful evocation of the dark side of romantic love.”
“Alma Katsu’s THE TAKER is a frighteningly compelling story about those most human monsters—desire and obsession. It will curl your hair and keep you up late at night.”
—Keith Donohue, NYT bestselling author of The Stolen Child
What is your favorite quality in a person?
I don’t think I have a favorite quality. I don’t mean for this to sound flip, but I try now to appreciate people for who they are. I’ve had to work at this. For many years, I was shaped by my career, where I had to manage teams working under very high pressure, and tended to view the people in terms of what I needed from them (which was the ability to work under high pressure!) Now I realize that just about everyone has something interesting and unique to share with the world if we slow down & pay attention. I don’t mean to sounds Pollyannish. I realize there are some people who don’t deserve your attention, but you have to at least give them a chance. I also try to learn something from everyone I meet.
What is your least?
Close-mindedness. The world is a big place, full of things you haven’t even begun to imagine. I don’t understand people who think they have the answer to everything.
As a child, did you dream of becoming a writer?
Oh yes, from elementary school. I had no idea how to do this, though, no role model. The only job I saw (at the time) that paid you to write was as a newspaper reporter, so that was how I started. It was helpful in that I got to be around writers. But making the jump to fiction seemed like an impossibility.
Who/what influenced you to pursue your dreams?
I grew up in a very practical family, so I wasn’t encouraged to be a writer. I’m from the generation that was told not to take risks and to get a safe job. I’m not saying I got me bad advice: my father lived through the Depression, my mother was a child in Japan during WWII. They knew firsthand that life could be tough and uncertain. I ended up following their advice and as a result, had a long government career. Luckily, it turned out well.
But at a certain point in my life, I wanted to try again to write fiction. I didn’t think I’d get published; I just wanted to see if I could master a craft that was so complex and unquantifiable.
What is your greatest love?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say my husband. We’ve been together over twenty years and I’ve learned a lot about life from this relationship. But if you asked what my purest love was, I’d say my dogs. Especially the one I raised from a pup. That’s probably the closest thing I’ve felt to unconditional love, because it’s impossible for them to hurt me.
What is your greatest fear?
I try really hard not to be afraid of things. What’s the worst that could happen? You experience pain, maybe you die. You’re going to die anyway. I’ve had to face some terrible fears in my life and luckily, I was young & strong enough to deal with them. I know I probably won’t be so lucky when I’m older.
What is your favorite place?
Lying on the couch in my office where I write, preferably with my dogs. It’s so comfortable.
If you could give a bit of sage advice to novice writers, what would it be?
It’s about the journey, not the destination. Trite but true. You’ll have the most fun figuring out how to write your story, so try to concentrate on that and not let yourself get anxious over finding an agent and selling your book.
There’s a song in my head since I woke up this morning. I haven’t heard it since I was a little girl, a long while now, but it’s still there. Just as clear as a bell. I know every lyric and I am taken back to a time when I twirled in sock feet across the slick top of my grandmother’s living room coffee table. She had an old record, so thick and stiff it was like glass. I loved the sound of it, the hissing and scratching when she’d put it on the enormous record player, the needle touching down with a little gasp before the music would start. And then, I’d watch my grandmother’s face. One breath, two. No matter how many times I made her play that song, or how she protested and begged me to settle for a different tune, no dice. Because none of her other records did what this one could do. With the first strains of that melody, the corner of her mouth would lift.
There was a story in the song. It was simple: a boy and a girl, dancing, thrilling to one another. That was enough to make me love it. And trust me, I didn’t need an excuse to get up on that table and perform waltz after waltz, all dolled up in my grandmother’s square-dancing slip, delighted with the way those skirts billowed out around my little legs. I knew my grandmother was smiling at me. I was a little queen, then. But she had another smile, a secret smile, one I’d never seen before. It puzzled me and bothered me and made me dance harder and wilder, trying to pull her attention back to the wonder of me.
For the first time, I must have realized the woman in the little farmhouse – the person I thought I knew everything about, whom I believed had set her days to revolve solely around our family – had lived a life before us. Each time she played the waltz, I caught a glimpse of that girl. A stranger. A mystery. A pure wonder.
She taught me to make biscuits. She taught me the Lord’s Prayer. She taught me other things, too, like how to manipulate or regret decisions. She was quick to laugh, quick to judge, full of such pride in her family and weighed down with sorrows for brothers she couldn’t redeem. She loved her work, but never felt she was a smart woman. She loved her husband, and they were a gruff pair. She could work like a man in the summer garden, always lamented that she couldn’t grow a rose, and she never missed an epidsode of ‘Dallas,’ come Friday night. I knew all of this and I remember her that way to my children.
But today, I’ll put on a waltz. Because I know the corner of my mouth will lift, so like hers. And my daughter will wonder. She’ll watch me and weigh all the things she understands about my life against all the things she fears and hopes for her own, and she will tuck away the seed of what my grandmother’s waltz taught me.
She had a secret…
The Band Played On