A lifetime of lies, and a truth too painful to tell.When Suzanna Duff was ten years old, she lost her mama, and that’s when the lies began. At first, they were just harmless little fibs, a way to hide her unbearable loneliness and the truth about a daddy who came home rip-roaring drunk every night. But in time, the lies grew bigger and now, when she is a grown woman with a daughter of her own, they threaten to destroy everything she loves.
The irony of this situation is that Suzanna never planned to stay in Georgia, she was simply passing through, looking for a fresh start in New Jersey. Attending that wake with her daughter Annie, was a fluke. An opportunity to enjoy a free meal. It should have entailed nothing more than a solemn nod and a brief expression of sympathy but, Ida Parker, the grieving widow mistook her for her the granddaughter who was carried off as an infant. Too embarrassed to do anything else, Suzanna played along. What harm was there in pretending to be someone else for a few hours? Hours turned into days and days into weeks; strangers became friends, love happened, and before long a year had flown by.
Now the past is standing on her doorstep and Suzanna must decide to leave here and disappear as she has done before, or tell the truth and break the hearts of those she loves most.
Some Q & A with Bette ~
How did your writing journey start?
I started out as an artist and was asked to write some copy for the back of a pantyhose package I’d designed. I discovered a love of words, and went from there into marketing where I wrote business plans, ads, brochures and the like. After a good number of years, I decided to follow my heart. Since reading fiction was what I loved, it was a natural progression.
Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I am an avid reader and a sucker for happy endings. Although not a big TV watcher, I enjoy complex stories and am totally hooked on This is Us. Sunshine, palm trees, warm weather and dogs are the things that make me happy. In the morning I start with two miles on the treadmill, then settle at my computer for the rest of the day. My office is very small, but I love it because I am surrounded by things that bring me happiness—books, dog toys, pictures of friends and family, my fur-baby Sugar and a tropical flower garden just outside my window. My guilty pleasure is letting time fly by as I chat with friends and fans on Facebook.
You’re a Southerner, how does that influence your storytelling and where does that special warmth in your books come from?
I truly am a Southerner at heart, but you wouldn’t guess it to hear me talk. My ‘southernism’ comes from growing up with a Southern Mama, Daddy, aunts, uncles, etc. – it was the ‘voice’ I heard in my ear from the time I was a child and it’s the voice that sounds most natural and convincing to me. Southerners are born storytellers, it’s in our DNA. My mom was never a writer, but she could mesmerize a room full of kids with her stories. I’d like to believe I got lucky and inherited that gene.
The warmth of a story is often drawn from the experiences you carry in your heart. When asked for advice about writing, I always say write what you know. That may sound trite, but the truth is you can’t write about emotions you don’t understand. Honest emotion is what gives a story warmth. That doesn’t mean you have to have lost a loved one to write about it, but you do need to understand what deep down grief feels like. By internalizing what your characters feel, you can make them believable and vulnerable.
You write about family, what does family mean to you and why is it such a good subject for a story?
The significance of family is almost universal. We all need family, whether it is our parents, spouse, children, siblings or in some cases friends, we all need someone. Family may have different meanings for different people, but the bottom line is that your family is the person (or people) you return to at the end of a long hard day; it’s the person who will comfort you when you’re sick, encourage you when you’re down, and celebrate when you are successful. Without family, a victory seems hollow, and a setback seems insurmountable. More often than not, those we consider family are what turns an ordinary life into something special.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Early on I was with a publisher who as it turned out was rather unscrupulous in their pricing structure. I had signed a seven-year contact with them, and while I had a say in editing and cover design, I had no say in pricing. My first book titled “Girl Child” was published at $14.99 and when it began to do well, the publisher raised the price to $19.99. Luckily this happened before e-books became popular, so after three years, when the publisher asked for the rights to publish the e-book, I refused. He then allowed me to buy back my rights and I was off to the races as an Indie Author.
What are you working on now?
An as yet untitled novel that follows the same family in two different time periods. In 1968 a woman has received a sizable inheritance and is trying to find the siblings she has not seen or heard from in 50 years. I then take the reader back to 1901 and they discover what caused the family to break apart.
Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
Yes, the 1901 portion is set in the coal mining country of West Virginia, which is where my mom was born. She too came from a very large family, but the similarity to the story ends there.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. The more you read, the more you will come to know what you like and what you don’t like in a book. Once you’ve discovered what makes you fall in love with a book, you will have found the true north of your writing path. Follow it faithfully.
What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
The best part is getting to do what I absolutely love. The downfall is way too much sitting. I sometimes stand at the kitchen counter when I am making note for a scene or chapter, but there are still those long hours of sitting.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Yes… From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all the wonderful reviews you’ve given my books, and for the way you have so generously shared them with book-loving friends and family. Without the wonderful readers I have met on this journey, I am certain my days would be longer and my stories less inspired.
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