Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Joshilyn Jackson

Today's t-shirt: Souvenir shirt from New York, with a stylized rendering of the skyline (pre-2001) in silver and gold puffy paint.

I'm back on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, this time with Joshilyn Jackson, suspected terrorist and author of Between, Georgia.

And before anyone goes nuts, I should explain right away that the "suspected terrorist" thing is JUST A JOKE. Joshilyn is on book tour right now. She's one of those "lucky" authors who gets a real tour involving airplanes and nice hotels, with her publisher making all the arrangements. Unfortunately, when they made the arrangements, they made them in the wrong name. She writes under her maiden name, and that's the name all the travel arrangements were made for, but all her ID is in her married name. These days, the airlines aren't inclined to let stuff like that slide. She was able to get the ticket staff to change things by showing a copy of her book, complete with author photo, and proving that she really is that other person, but apparently changing the name on a ticket flagged it in the system, so now she's getting the special security groping treatment every time she goes through a checkpoint. I can relate. For some odd reason, I always seem to be the one who gets "randomly" picked for the extra security screening (which isn't so bad on a Sunday at O'Hare because that's a separate line that's a lot shorter than the usual security lines).

Because she's on tour right now, I decided not to add to all the stress and pressure by subjecting her to an interview. I thought it might be even more fun to put together something based on a past interview and some things borrowed from her own blog. Incidentally, her blog, Faster Than Kudzu, is one of my daily treats. Read it and you'll want to read her books. Her last book, gods in Alabama, was a #1 Booksense pick for the month, and won the Southern Independent Book Award for 2005. It also kept me up all night. Her new book, Between, Georgia, is the #1 Booksense pick for July.

Between, Georgia tells the story of Nonny Frett, who understands the meaning of the phrase "in between a rock and a hard place" better than any woman alive. She's got two mothers, "one deaf-blind and the other four baby steps from flat crazy." She's got two men: a husband who's easing out the back door; and a best friend, who's laying siege to her heart in her front yard. And she has two families: the Fretts, who stole her and raised her right; and the Crabtrees, who lost her and won't forget how they were done wrong. Now, in Between, Georgia, population 90, a feud that began the night Nonny was born is escalating, and a random act of violence is about to ignite a stash of family secrets. Ironically, it might be just what the town needs...if only Nonny weren't stuck in between.

Here's what Joshilyn said about what inspired this book:
It's based on a real town---Between, Georgia---that lies at the midpoint between Athens and Atlanta. I used to drive that route all the time, and I always wanted to stop and look at this place. As I recall, they had this population sign that read something like "111" and one day I came and it said, "Population 110." Someone had died and they had rushed up to CHANGE the sign...I got even more interested.

I started imagining the town and populating it on my drive. It kept me entertained... Now I have set an entire novel in a place I have never been, but have imagined so extensively that I never want to go.

I love the way she describes her writing process:
I spend 10% of my writing time drafting a big, ugly, mutated, unruly, repugnant pile of crap that is SO HUMILIATINGLY AWFUL I want to DROWN myself.

I spend the other 90% revising. This is the part I like. I take a MESS and start flensing away the extraneous crud and excavating the themes that drove me to tell the story in the first place. I have no idea what the story is ABOUT when I start---I just feel compelled to tell it. I get interested in the people or a dilemma. I don't examine it then, I just write it. Then I take the sweaty, uncrafted heap I pulled out of the back alleys of my brain and find the important images in it and figure out why this writing about this particular set of people, telling this story, felt so urgent to me.

Now, here are some random things I know about Joshilyn:
We discovered that we're about the same age when we realized we both have class reunions this year. Hers was last weekend and mine is this fall (which means I have more time to transform myself into something that looks more like the author photo I submitted as my "now" photo).

She read her own book for the audio version of Between, Georgia. That's because she has a background in theater and can do different voices for the various characters, and stuff like that. I'm very impressed.

Although she's an incredibly lovely, funny person, she does have some mortal enemies. One has gone down in infamy as "Eeyore," the person who was of absolutely no help in her quest to get chips from a hotel vending machine late one night during a book tour (though I think the hotel shares some blame). Read the whole story here. (Caution: Beverage on keyboard alert!)

Then there's the Evil Bookstore, that invited her for a group signing with other authors, then forgot to order any of her books, so that when she showed up at the store for the signing, they treated her like some deranged person who'd wandered in off the street and tried to barge in on the signing. Eventually, the store's events manager did confess to the store manager (after letting the wrong impression linger for far too long) that yes, she was invited, and no, they weren't able to get any of her books, and yes, they forgot to tell her this before the signing. I live in fear of this kind of thing happening to me, and though I'm generally pretty laid back, that's the kind of situation where my temper tends to go nuclear in an instant, so I'd have been plotting the death and destruction of the store and its employees. They would be going DOWN! I'm doing my part on Joshilyn's behalf by relating the story. Read it here.

Joshilyn and her kids keep getting interesting pets, most of whom seem to have gender identity issues. In all fairness, though, it can be hard to tell a girl newt from a boy newt. Even girl gerbils and boy gerbils aren't that easy to tell apart, but when the boy gerbil starts popping out baby gerbils, it's a pretty good sign that he's not as masculine as you thought.

Now you see why I want to meet her in person (her e-mails are hilarious). Unfortunately, she's on book tour when I'll be in Atlanta (I'm starting to get a complex about my friends who all seem to flee town whenever I'm in their city on business).

And, finally, Joshilyn hosts and runs Blogging for Books. This month, you can win all sorts of prizes, including signed copies of Between, Georgia and gods in Alabama and even the audio version of Between, Georgia. Here's the scoop on how to enter.

If all that wasn't enough to convince you to check out the book, take a look at her web site for more info and lots of rave reviews.


Moose said...

Hi Shanna,

Apropos of absolutely nothing in your post, I wanted to say that I just reread Enchanted Inc. on my way to New York (fitting, I thought, though I was distressed by the lack of garden gnomes in Central Park) and made a special trip to the bookstore to pick up Once Upon Stilettos to read on the way home. (An excellent purchase, both because I enjoyed the book and because it kept me from being subjected to The Shaggy Dog, also known as Another Wretched Pick By Whoever Chooses Those Wretched Airline Movies.)

I really enjoy the world you've created and look forward to reading more. Thanks!

Shanna Swendson said...

Oh, aren't those airline movies awful? And it always seems like the people around me crank up their headphones so loud that even if I don't get the headset and choose not to subject myself to the movie, I can't help but hear every bit of it.

Glad you enjoyed the books!