For my second interview here at A Piece of My Mind, I've got Thomma Lyn Grindstaff joining me from her home in East Tennessee in the United States. A big Down East welcome, Thomma Lyn from me here on Canada's east coast.
1 - Your novel Mirror Blue releases May 1st. Will you be doing anything special on that day?
I'd thought of having a Virtual Book Release party on that day, but I've decided to postpone the party until my book trailer is ready, date TBA on my blog. Otherwise, on May 1, I'll be working on additional promotion activities, and my hubby and I are planning a celebratory hike on the mountain!
2 - Is this your first sale?
No. In 2006, I sold a novella, Thy Eternal Summer to a small e-publisher which went belly-up the next year. Yeah, bummer. But it's okay - I kept on plugging.
3 - Mirror Blue tells the story of a web site designer who meets an acclaimed author she's admired for some time as a reader. The designer and the author begin a relationship that spins her world onto a path she couldn't have foreseen, but must now fight for.
If you were in her shoes, which real-life author would tip your world upside down if he arrived in the flesh?
What a fun question! Well, I'm married, so its my hubby who tips my world upside down, but thinking as though I were single, I have several answers for this one. Authors who are still living: Sherman Alexie and Neil Gaiman; authors who are no longer with us: John Gardner and Ernest Hemingway.
4 - Your book is published by Black Lyon Publishing. How did you and your publisher get together?
Thanks go to my friend Ann Pino. She sent me a link to Black Lyon Publishing and told me that they were looking for Literary Love Stories, which sounds much like what I write. I thought immediately of Mirror Blue (which I had recently reworked) and sent Black Lyon a query.
5 - Your female character, the web designer, is Aphra Porter. Tell us a little about her.
Aphra is a free spirit. Her family loves her, but they don't understand why she isn't more normal, like her sister Di who is married and has a baby on the way. Aphra works as a website designer and has never been in love, at least not with a man she's met. For years, though, she's had a crush on Isaac Lightfoot, an acclaimed regional author. Since childhood, Aphra has felt second-best to her sister Di, who is more conventional and outgoing and wants what, in their mom's words, "most women want." Though Aphra wants love in her life, she marches to the beat of her own drummer and doesn't want the same things as her mom and her sister.
In Mirror Blue, Aphra's dream comes true: when Isaac hires her to update his web site, they fall in love. At that point, her challenges begin in earnest. Isaac's ex wants to reconcile with him, she turns their grown son against Aphra, and even Isaac's mom wants Aphra out of the picture. In order to become the person she wants to be, Aphra must learn to hold on to what her heart desires most, despite her fears of pain and rejection, and despite a lifetime of feeling second-best.
6 - Your male character is famous author, Isaac Lightfoot. What does he write about?
Isaac draws on his experiences as a Vietnam veteran. He wrote two nonfiction books, one about the origins of the Vietnam conflict and another called On Self Reliance in which he chronicles and laments the decline of individual self reliance in America. He's written several novels, and it is his novels which have garnered him the most recognition. Some of them are about the Vietnam conflict, such as The Lion and the Cobra, about the struggles of an American medic following his return from Vietnam, but not all: his first novel, Red Sands was about a young Appalachian soldier in World War II who was part of the D-Day invasion, and his most recent novel, The Smallest Survivor, is the story of a young orphan boy's struggle to survive in the frigid ruins of Stalingrad during the height of the pivotal World War II battle.
7 - There's an age difference between the characters in your book. How does each character feel about that?
Isaac is fifty-three and Aphra is thirty-three. Despite the twenty-year age difference, they have a great deal of common ground in their interests and in their characters. But the age difference presents plenty of challenges. Aphra worries that Isaac sees her as a groupie and that he is secretly ashamed of how their relationship looks to others, particularly to his son. And though Isaac is not ashamed - he loves Aphra for herself - he doesn't want his son or his mom to view Aphra as a Trophy Wife in the Making.
Aphra shares the same concerns, and their age difference exacerbates her insecurities over Isaac's history with his ex. Isaac and his ex were married nearly thirty years. How, Aphra asks herself, could anything he might share with her compete with all those years he shared with his ex, even though their marriage was far less than ideal?
8 - Isaac has been through experiences Aphra can never truly share. How do you think this affects their relationship?
If they're not careful, it hinders communication. Because of their age difference and the vast discrepancy in their life experiences, misunderstandings can easily arise. They have to be sure that they're talking to each other, not around each other. The discrepancies in their ages and experiences also work to hammer at their insecurities - Isaac worries that perhaps Aphra would be better off with a younger man (like the one her sister Di has been trying to set her up with), and Aphra worries that perhaps Isaac would be better off to reconcile with his ex, to go back to what's familiar to him instead of taking a chance on someone new.
9 - Do you have any other projects coming up?
You betcha! *wink* Right now, I'm working on a novel called Patchwork Stained Glass. It's a story about a young atheist woman who falls in love with a graduate student who's also a country preacher. To have a future together, they must work not only to find common ground but they must deal with disapproval from those around them - everyone from the preacher's family and congregation to the atheist's closest friend.
Next up is my novel Heart's Chalice. I started work on it last year, but because of the complexity of its world-building, I'm letting it bake in my mind's oven for a while. It's a magical realism tale: through sightings of a mysterious cat, a piano professor mired in an unhappy marriage is empowered to travel to an alternate reality in which she built a life with her first love, whom she desperately hurt but never forgot.
10 - What are your writing habits? Do you write daily or do you write in bursts of creativity?
I try to write every day. When a story is rocking and rolling, every day sparkles with bursts of creativity. But for a story to rock and roll for me, I have to be emotionally invested in the characters and their situation. Also, I like to write at night. I'm a night owl, and nighttime is the most peaceful time of day for me - I can better relax my mind and allow creativity to flow.
11 - When you're not writing, what are your favorite things to do?
I love to play piano and write music. I'm a classically-trained pianist, and at some point, I'm hoping to fuse my music with my writing, perhaps on my web site in some way. I'm still brainstorming the possibilities! And I'm fortunate in that I live close to mountains, and I hike regularly for exercise, for mental and emotional renewal, and to recharge my creative batteries. I'm a voracious reader, and I also love to blog, cook, and ride the Harley-Davidson motorcycle with my husband. And you could call me a crazy cat lady - we have four cats, and guess what: they have their own blog (which they manage to share without too much hissing, haha!).
12 - Where will readers find your book?
My book can be ordered from Black Lyon Publishing, and it will also be available for purchase online from Amazon.com (United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, England and France), BarnesandNoble.com, Target.com, and Books-a-Million.com. The novel can also be ordered from book stores in the United States and Canada.
13 - Will you be doing any book signings or online events for Mirror Blue's release?
I'm planning on doing some local book signings, and I will be holding a Virtual Book Launch Party once my book trailer is available. I'm currently in party-planning mode, and keep an eye on my blog, because I will announce the date for the party as soon as I get it figured out. I hope to see everybody there! There'll be lots of fun and prizes, too (including autographed copies of Mirror Blue).
Thanks so much for the interview, Thomma Lyn! It's hard to say who's more excited - me or you! Well, okay, probably you. But I'm pretty psyched!
Hehe, yes, I'm stoked!
Lori says Thanks. :)
Colleen says Good interview. Thanks.
Claudia says I like the way you draw her out to talk about the characters. That's not often done!