Monday, April 13, 2009

Author Interview: Earlene Fowler & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a charming book called LOVE MERCY by Earlene Fowler. I really liked the characters from this novel, and I loved some of the messages. So you can probably guess that I am pretty excited that Ms. Fowler is joining me today and answering some of my questions about LOVE MERCY and her other novels!

Booking Mama: You have had a lot of success as the author of the Benni Harper mysteries. What made you decide to take the jump and start a non-mystery series?

Earlene Fowler: The murder mystery part of my Benni Harper books has always been hard for me. There are thousands of ways to murder people, but there is only so much I have (or want) to say about crime and how it affects people. Since my books are definitely character driven, the subplots about the lives of my regular cast are actually of more interest to me..and to my fans...than the "visiting" characters and the crime that involves them. I wanted to expand my storytelling possibilities, write about something other than homicide. Writing outside the mystery genre allowed me to do that.

Booking Mama: Did you find it more difficult or easier to write LOVE MERCY than the Benni Harper mysteries?

Earlene Fowler: LOVE MERCY was a very difficult book for me to write, but not because it wasn't a Benni book. I'd already jumped that hurdle when I wrote THE SADDLEMAKER'S WIFE. It was hard because it was the first time I'd written about a subject at the same time I was experiencing it. Usually I wait a few years after emotional events to write about them, let them simmer a little. One of the subplots in LM involves dementia, which my father is living with now. While I was writing LM he was staying with me two days a week to give my older sister a break. I had two days a week where I couldn't write, so that made the physical part of producing a book harder. But it was emotionally hard dealing with emotions that were still raw. On the other hand, since I didn't have a murder, suspects and red herrings to worry about, I could just allow the characters to drive the plot and let the story unfold. The suspense had to be maintained by the character's actions, rather than the artificial suspense in a genre mystery. I admit I like writing non-mystery better. It suits me.

Booking Mama: It was clear to me throughout this book that you are a very spiritual person. When you began writing this book, did you know that faith and hope were going to be such a big part of this novel?

Earlene Fowler: Certainly my faith is going to enter into whatever I write. It is a central part of who I am, though I don't write what is traditionally labeled as Christian fiction. I think of myself as a Christian who happens to write fiction. Some of my novels have more of a spiritual edge than others. I'm not exactly sure why. I certainly don't plan it that way. Flannery O'Connor says we should write about the "country we know," that is, the world with which we are familiar. I guess you could say that is what I try to do. I realize that Christianity is much bigger than the particular parts I describe, but what I write about is my "country." It has been interesting to me that my books aren't Christian enough to be sold in the Christian book world and, at the same time, some reviewers in the non-Christian book world say my books are too evangelical. My only response is my stories and characters are what they are. They are the stories I can tell. Not every character in my books is Christian and not every problem is solved. I hope that I portray both Christians and those of other beliefs in a fair and realistic way.

Booking Mama: The characters in this novel and terrific (and very memorable.) Are any of the characters based on people you know?

Earlene Fowler: Like all my books, the characters in Love Mercy are a combination of people I know and people I make up. And, of course, there's a little of me in every character. Rett is eighteen and though I wasn't an eighteen-year-old girl who was a professional gospel singer or a songwriter or lived in the South, I was once eighteen. I remember what it was like to feel awkward, to want to be free of family, especially my mother and what it is like to be in love with and betrayed by a boy. Times change, emotions never do. Mel is a combination of every female law enforcement officer I've met and what I would imagine myself being if I'd had the background she did. Love has many of the same longings I have, the desire to make everyone happy and the wish that she could sometimes just walk away from everything and start a new life (only she really doesn't want to and neither do I). I did take some of the experiences with my father who has dementia and used them to characterize August, Love's father-in-law. I think my dad, if he were able to comprehend it, would have liked how I used his experience with Morse code. He can't remember most things, but he still remembers the Morse code he learned as a Navy signalman in WWII.

Booking Mama: What do you want readers to take away from this novel?

Earlene Fowler: Boy, that's a good question, but a hard one! I have to admit that when I'm writing a book, what people will get from it doesn't even occur to me. I'm just so deep into the story myself that I'm writing to see "what happens." So much of the subtext in my books happens unconsciously, though some scenes, like Rocky's sermon on prayer, were planned. I've been studying and thinking about prayer (and quizzing my friends) for a long time. It is still such a mystery to me. That was some of the stuff I learned and articulating by using Rocky helped clarify it for me. If it helps someone else, that's great, but it was more of a physical working out of my own questions and discoveries. I've always believed that God will allow my books to go where they need to go, end up in the hands of those who want or need them. What I'm thinking while I'm writing is--here's a story, hope you like it, but if not, that's okay. And, maybe, it'll help kill some time in a lonely hospital waiting room or help someone through a tough time. That is always the highest compliment a reader can give me, that my books helped them through a tough time. I know I appreciate all the author who were "with me" when I was going through hard times.

Booking Mama: What is your writing process like? Do you write at a set time everyday or when the mood hits? Where do you write?

Earlene Fowler: I try to write every day. I've been on a book-a-year schedule since 1993 so I can't slack off too much. I like to write in the mornings. I have a lap top computer now, so I sit on the sofa or in a chair. I have a writing room upstairs, but I like writing downstairs so I yell at my dog, Boo, to quit barking. As I get older I seem to be more easily distracted so when I'm not writing well (that is, getting the pages done each day), I often go to a hotel somewhere for a few days. It has to be someplace nice, with a desk and a good television, but not in an area that is too much fun (like the beach). Then I'd be tempted to play and not write. I try to write five days a week, though when I'm close to deadline, it can be seven days. If I waited until the mood hit me, I would have never finished my first book, much less any of the others. Though it's never "easy," the first book is the most exciting one to write. But it's the second, third, tenth and every book after that really proves if you are a writer. Being a writer simply means writing. It is that easy. And that hard.

Booking Mama: I always am on the lookout for new books and new authors. What are some of your favorite books? What is on your nightstand right now?

Earlene Fowler: My favorite authors are Lee Smith, Bobbie Ann Mason, James Lee Burke, Richard Russo, Jo-Ann Mapson, Lorna Landvik, Anne Tyler, Jessamyn West, John Steinbeck, Mary Stewart, Fannie Flagg, Flannery O'Connor, Philip Yancey, Donald Miller. I could go on and on, but I won't. Three books I've recently read that I've thought were outstanding were The Gods of Animals by Aryn Kyle, The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Life Sentences by Laura Lippman. All three books were so good I was jealous! Right now I'm reading The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss and Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas. The best non-fiction book I've read recently is Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin. Also I'm reading a really funny book by Susan E. Isaacs (the comedy writer and performer, not the fiction writer) called Angry Conversations With God--A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir. I have about 100 books in my to-be-read pile. The biggest thing I dislike about being a writer is how much it cuts into my reading time.

Booking Mama: I adored the characters in LOVE MERCY and can't wait to see more of them in future books. Are you currently working on another book in this series? If so, when can we expect for it to be published? Can you give us any hints about the storyline?

Earlene Fowler: I'm so glad you liked the characters in LOVE MERCY! When you write a long-running series, you're always worried that readers will only accept those characters and no others. The response to both of my non-mystery books has been wonderful. Right now I'm working on another book in the Benni Harper series. It's called State Fair and will come out in May 2010. After that, who knows? Publishing is in such a turmoil right now. There are no guarantees. But I've got a proposal with my publisher for another Benni book and the sequel to The Saddlemaker's Wife. As for Love Mercy sequels...I certainly left open enough with the characters to write more books about them. As my mother used to always say, we'll see!

A big thanks to Ms. Fowler for spending so much time answering my questions. I really appreciate how much thought went into each and every one of her answers!

Does LOVE MERCY sound like a book that you'd like to read? If so, then you're in the right place because I have two copies to giveaway courtesy of Berkley! For one entry, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me why you'd like to read this book. For another entry or two, you can blog about this giveaway with a link back to this post and/or mention it on Twitter. You have until Monday, April 27th to enter. I will announce the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!

54 comments:

bermudaonion said...

After reading your review, I'd like to read this one. The characters sound great. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Bridget said...

Just a note to let you know I posted this on Win A Book.

Beth F said...

Great interview. I'm a *huge* fan of the Benni Harper series, so I'd love to read a copy of this novel. Thanks!!

BFish[dot]Reads[at]gmail.com

I'm twittering about it right now.

shelburns said...

Great interview! I think this is one I'd like to read just from what you have to say about it.

shelcows AT gmail DOT com

shelburns said...

Here's my tweet!

http://twitter.com/writereader/status/1508845287

Natalie said...

i wanted to read this once i read your review....then i read the author interview and REALLY wanted to read it! pick me :)

Cheryl said...

This one sounds good ... I'd like to read it!

Christie Jarvis said...

When I read your review last night, I knew that this was a book that I needed to read!
Christie@christiejarvis.com
Thanks!

MJ said...

This sounds good. My Mom had dementia and it was very hard to accept. I think it's neat that Earlene's father still remembers Morse code!

mj.coward AT gmail.com

MJ said...

I wtweeted! http://twitter.com/sumrthyme/status/1509864407

mj.coward AT gmail.com

Lisa said...

Who doesn't love a heartwarming story? It sounds like such an enjoyable story! I'd love the chance to win a copy. I also need to look into her mystery series as well!

lisamos64@gmail.com

Jake said...

I hadn't heard of this book before but after reading the interview it sounds good. please enter me into this giveaway contest.

thanks,
jakewoodworth(AT)gmail.com

tetewa said...

I'm always lookig for new authors to read, count me in! tWarner419@aol.com

ReadingRobin said...

I am reviewing books for my book club and would love to consider this one after your review.
Thanks,
cmrobin at bellsouth net

The Book Resort said...

A step away from Benni... sounds like a good read.

mindy said...

it was such a wonderful interview that it inspired me to want to read this book thanks for the giveaway minsthins(at)optonline(dot)net

Beth said...

This looks great! I'm always looking to read something new. Please enter me!

BookCrossingKitten22[at]gmail[dot]com

Annie said...

I'd love to read this book! I am currently a child to a woman with dementia.


Thanks


nancyrobster@gmail.com

Annie said...

Tweeted

greeeneyedwhwomhttp://tinyurl.com/c4zb4k Win a copy of Love Mercy!!!

greeeneyedwhwom (twitter name)


Thanks


nancyrobster@gmail.com

scottsgal said...

What a nice interview - I think I'd enjoy reading this book

msboatgal at aol.com

Cheryl S. said...

What an interesting interview! I'd like to read this book because the author is new to me & I enjoyed her interview.

Please count me in - Thanks!
Cheryl
megalon22[at]yahoo[dot]com

Amy said...

I'd love a chance to win this one!! Thanks!
castellanoamy@yahoo.com

Amy said...

I've added you to my "giveaway" sidebar, I don't know if that qualifies if not s'okay! ;-)
castellanoamy@yahoo.com

bison61 said...

read the interview and the book sounds good! I'll have to check out the Benni Harper books

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

Nickolay said...

I have heard some good things about this, and would love a chance to read it. Thanks

jason@allworldautomotive.com

S. Krishna said...

I'd love to read this book because of your amazing review!

Lady Roxi said...

Love to have this.

Thanks,

darkfyre1(at)gmail(dot)com

liane66 said...

I just finished Buffalo Lockjaw (about dementia) and really liked it. I think I would like this too.
Thanks for the giveaway!
Kimspam66(at)yahoo(dot)com

Debs Desk said...

Great review, I will have to put this on my wishlist. Please include me in your giveaway.
Thanks
Debbie
debdesk9(at)verizon.net

shelburns said...

I blogged about this one today. Hope it helps!

http://writeforareader.blogspot.com/2009/04/wednesday-wanderings-41509.html

Marie said...

Wonderful review, it sounds like a book I would really enjoy!

marielay@gmail.com

nightdweller20 said...

I'm always looking for new books and authors. Sounds interesting.

jaam121388 at yahoo dot com

tatertot374 said...

Thank you for a great giveaway! I would love to win because this sounds like a fantastic read. Thank you!
tatertot374@sbcglobal.net

Selinda said...

It sounds like a great thing!

Thanks,

selinda_mccumbers at yahoo.com

Holly said...

This one looks interesting. I haven't read her before.

je2kids(at)yahoo(dot)com

christin said...

Reading your review/interview made me want to read this:) Thanks!
christinbanda@yahoo.com

a real librarian said...

This sounds great!! Thanks for the chance to win!!

areallibrarian[at]gmail[dot]com

thebun said...

I love books and I love reading from all genres. This one sounds like a great read..hope I win.

thebun@personainternet.com

LittleEagle said...

After the interview this sounds like a book and series that I would like to delve into. sharonaquilino(at)hotmail(dot)com

Crystal said...

this sounds like a great book - I would love to win it.

crystalfulcher*at*ec.rr.com

Yvonne said...

Great review! It sounds like a book I'd really enjoy. Please enter me in your giveaway.

yvone473[at]optonline[dot]net

ellie said...

I've loved the Benni Harper series, and by the way so has my mom, so I'd love to read this new one by one of my favorite authors. Please enter me.

Belinda M said...

Based on reading your review/interview it sounds like a page turner that would be tough to put down..my favorite kind of book. I would like to have the opportunity to read this if given the chance. please enter me in the giveaway

bluebelle0367(at)hotmail(dot)com

Sue W. said...

I just visited an old friend who has some dimentia. She remembered my name and then started talking about a recipe on page 84 that she wanted her husband to find her. It was so sad. That was a wonderful interview and it made me not only want to read this book but also others by her.
roylsue(at)telpage(dot)net

Carol said...

My neighbor has dimentia and it's so sad. This book sounds like one I would be interested in reading.
Carol M
mittens0831 At aol.com

Anita Yancey said...

I'd like to read this book because it interests me. It sounds like a wonderful read. Please enter me. Thanks!

ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

Ally in WA said...

My mother has dementia. It is a struggle for me and a constant sadness. I miss my "old mom". I'd like to read this book. Thanks for the chance to win it.

espressogurl at hotmail dot com

northernmama-northerngirl said...

I enjoy reading books focused on emotional topics which many face at some point! This one intrigues me because in the interview the author talks of the suspense and I enjoy the suspense that urges you to keep page turning without stop:)
~Angela
northern_mama@yahoo.ca

quelleheure4 said...

It seems like it's a very character driven book and so it's appealing to me.
quelleheure4[at]gmail{dot}com

quelleheure4 said...

I tweeted it too. http://twitter.com/quelleheure4/statuses/1598542241
quelleheure4[at]gmail{dot}com

shelburns said...

Blogged about this giveaway this week.

http://writeforareader.blogspot.com/2009/04/wednesday-wanderings-42209.html

sharon54220 said...

Great review & interview. Makes me want to read the book.

sharon54220@gmail.com

3carnations said...

This book sounds great. I haven't read anything by this author, but the complexity of the relationship between the grandmother and her estranged granddaughter sounds interesting, for certain.

Thanks for the giveaway!

Buki Family said...

i read anything i can get my hands on, but this review makes it sound like a good one. if i dont win i will have to wait and see if the library gets one...