Saturday, July 31, 2010

Interview with Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Here I sent interview questions to Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, which I have reviewed before this post. She was gracious enough to answer those for me.

Here goes:

1. How much time did it take to write Saving CeeCee Honeycutt? Did you have stumbling blocks in the way? If so, what?

It took me a little over 4 years to write Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, the final 9 months of that time was devoted to editing, re-editing, and proofreading. I really didn’t experience any stumbling blocks along the way, but I did have days when the muse wasn’t with me, making me feel a bit stalled in the water so to speak. But I used that time to go back and polish previously written chapters, and soon the muse returned.

2. Where do you like to sit and write (i.e. sitting on the bed, in a comfortable chair or out in the open, etc.)?

When I made the decision to leave my career in interior design and pursue my dream of writing a novel, I entertained the vision that I’d take my laptop to the park and write while surrounded by nature. The serenity of that image was burned into my mind and I couldn’t wait to make it a reality. But I rapidly discovered that I was the kind of writer who needed to be at a desk working on a big screen.

I live in a restored historical home, and on the second floor I created what I call the writing library. It’s cozy and bright, filled with bookshelves and artwork that I love. Three large windows are set in an ashlar-cut stone bay that overlooks the front gardens, and morning light floods into the room. I enjoy the fireplace during the winter months and keep it burning during the day when I’m working. My cats like to be with me when I’m writing and I enjoy their company.

The writing library is my own private cocoon. I don’t handle noise or disturbances very well when I’m working, and I’m happiest and most creative when the house it totally quiet. I oftentimes unplug the phone and forget to check for voice messages for days on end.

3. What was the process you went through to find a publisher for you book? Was it difficult?

For me the publishing process has been a bit of a Cinderella story. I had queried Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management on October 8, 2008, and the next day she invited me to submit the first three chapters of my novel. Two days later, which was a Friday evening, she requested the entire manuscript. On Sunday, October 12th, the familiar ping of my email sounded, and when I saw the message was from Catherine, I knew it had to be a rejection—there was no way she’d read the entire manuscript in less than 48 hours during a weekend. But when I opened the email I was stunned—Catherine loved my novel and offered representation.

For several moments I sat in a stupor of disbelief as I read and reread the email. A few minutes later Catherine called on the phone and we immediately clicked. She explained that most publishers were attending the Frankfort Book Fair and that she’d submit upon their return.

Never in a million years could I have dreamed what happened next. The day after the publishers returned, Catherine called to inform me that several were interested, and then wham, less than an hour later she called again with a pre-emptive offer from Pamela Dorman who is a highly respected veteran of women’s fiction. Within a half hour I was sitting on the sofa in my living room, talking to Pam on the phone. It was a wonderful and almost surreal experience that I’ll never forget.

4. Are you writing full-time? If yes, do you think it is a good decision?

Yes, I left my career in interior design to write full-time; it was the gutsiest and ultimately the best decision I’ve ever made.

5. What were you doing before you decided to be writer? Did that help in your writing career in any way?

I was the president and co-owner of an interior design studio that I helped to build from the ground up. I can’t say my design background helped me with writing per se, but I’m very aware of texture, color, and architecture—those elements are prevalent in my writing.

6. Can you please describe you writing style and the various influences you have had?

That’s a tough one. I think it’s difficult for an author to describe her/his style; at least it is for me. Many reviewers have said that I write in an organic, fluid way, but I honestly don’t know how to describe my style. All I know is that I write with my eyes and ears—I actually see my story as if it were being played out on a large screen, and I hear it too—especially the dialogue.

7. When is your next book coming out?

I’ve just begun working on my next novel, and I honestly have no idea when it will be completed. I’m still doing radio interviews and author events, and, I’ll go back on tour when the paperback is released in October—that will slow down my writing quite a bit. Ideally, I’d like to have my next completed within 2 years, but I suspect that might be pushing it.

8. Do you have any favourite authors? Can you tell us why you like them?

Though I’ve always gravitated to Southern authors, in the recent past I’ve branched out quite a bit. There are so many authors that I admire, but a few all-time favorites are Truman Capote, Reynolds Price, Toni Morrison, Pat Conroy, and Laurie Lee. Above all else, I’m most drawn to these authors for their excellence in creating rich, character-driven fiction and vivid imagery.

9. What are you reading now?

At the moment I’m reading Willem’s Field by Melinda Haynes and enjoying it immensely.

10. Do you have any book recommendations for my readers?

Ah, that’s a tough question. Reading tastes are so subjective, aren’t they? But for your readers who enjoy Southern fiction that possesses great heart and a healthy serving of eccentricity, I’d recommend The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds, and Mama Makes up her Mind by Bailey White. I loved all three of these books so much that I’ve read them more than once.


bermudaonion said...

Wonderful interview! Beth Hoffman is the greatest and I can see why Pamela Dorman jumped on her book! I am anxiously awaiting her next book.

Serena said...

I love Beth and her writing. What a wonderful interview. I'm so glad that Pam read the book in 48 hours and loved it.

Anonymous said...

Beth is so sweet. I love her Cinderella story - she deserves it :)