Where the Crawdads Sing meets The Four Winds as award-winning author Donna Everhart immerses readers in a unique setting—a turpentine camp buried deep in the vast pine forests of Georgia during the Great Depression—for a captivating story of friendship, survival, and three vagabonds' intersecting lives…
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
I was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, and still live within forty-five minutes of there. I’m married, have two kids, and two grandkids. I used to have an adorable little Yorkie, named Mister, but we, sadly, lost him unexpectedly in July of last year. I am a huge animal advocate and donate to various organizations. I’m a Stage IV cancer survivor.
My “origin” story as a writer is off the beaten track, I suppose. How I got started seems like a bit of karma. You know how you meander along going to work every day, come home, do the “home” stuff, and start all over? That was me, not unlike so many other people. I had what I call a “nothing to see here,” sort of life. In the background to all of this lived my desire to write, recognized around age eighteen. But, Marriage, Kids, Work, Family, Other Obligations, Bills (capitalized because those are major influencers), had taken hold of my destiny, at least for the time being. Oh, I had dabbled with a book I’d had on my laptop since 1992, but . . . , to take it seriously? No. Writing was a back burner dream for decades. Until a bankruptcy – not mine, fortunately!
I worked in Information Technology for thirty-five years, (I’m aging myself with this info - haha) and, I would have most likely retired from that, had everything stayed as it was – but, it didn’t. The company I had been with a good while declared Chapter Eleven in late 2008. Talk about pushing a panic button. Then came the layoffs. One, by one, by one, I saw my colleagues go, people who were like family. On any given day, I thought I was next. Luckily, I was able to continue working for three more years as they sold off parts of the business. I went back to school and got a degree – not an MFA in writing, although in hindsight . . . anyway, late at night I worked on a manuscript that was disastrous, and about sixteen years old. That, (amazingly) is the manuscript that would eventually become my debut novel, THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE.
I suppose what it boils down to is, I was more or less pushed off the cliff because of my company failing. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d still be happily project managing my way toward retirement. I signed with an agent on March 9th, 2012. My exit date from my IT job just so happened to be exactly three weeks later on March 30th, 2012. I haven’t looked back since.
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
Running used to be my go to, head-clearing, make myself feel better about eating ice-cream at night, mainstay. The cancer diagnosis in 2017 and the long-term side-effects have more or less sidelined something I did for the better part of thirty years. Nowadays I walk/run, bike (when it’s warm), work in the yard, read and bake. My husband and I also like to take trips to the North Carolina mountains in our 5th wheel camper.
How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)
I typically am downstairs by 6:00, and spend a bit of time with my husband before he goes to work, around 7:15, or so. Then, I go back upstairs to my office to work. Normally – and this is probably a MISTAKE, I check on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Well. We all know what happens. Sometime later, I realize, I haven’t written ONE word! I write for at least a couple hours – depending on how it’s going. Sometimes I have to get away from it to think, and this is when I like to go outside and get in some exercise of some kind. It always helps unclog the brain cells. Despite the time drain of social media I do find that I write about 4 hours a day, usually more.
Finish this: “I can’t write without…”
I can’t, make that CANNOT, write without coffee, and quiet. Sometimes, even neighborhood noises, leaf blowers, etc., disrupt my train of thought. I am talking tomb silent. Crypt silent. I.e. dead silent. ☺
What is something about you that would surprise people?
Oh, gosh, I don’t know. My life is still that “nothing to see here,” sort of life, except I write, which is exciting to me. BUT – one thing that might be surprising, and it’s not really about me, but more of something that happened to me. I was walking on the beach and found a dead person years ago. It was out of season, so there weren’t a lot of people around. I recall seeing this odd looking shape in the distance moving back and forth in the waves. I kept walking, and when I realized what I was seeing, I started to run and found a young man who had drowned. Since that day, which was in late September, right after 9/11, I have kept up with his mother. His name was Joey Johnson, his mother’s name is Mary, and he was from West VA. I found out he was fasting because of 9/11. There was still a rip current from a recent hurricane, and he got caught up in that. So sad.
Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
Yes! If anyone ever hears me speak at a book event, I always, always talk about the influence of Kaye Gibbons (I have every single book she ever wrote) as well as Dorothy Allison. Both of those authors were my introduction to Southern fiction, stories told in the sort of “voices” that spoke to me.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)
What is it the weather people say when it’s the holidays and there are travel snafus? “Pack your patience.” That applies very well here. So, all that great stuff happened above; signing with an agent on March 9th 2012, and three weeks later I left my decades old job for the life of a bestselling author! Except, the book didn’t sell for THREE years. (!)THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE officially went on sub in mid-March 2012.
There was a flurry of email excitement at first between my agent and myself. A week went by and while some of the biggest editors in NYC were reading the book, I was determined to prove I could do it again! I got busy on Book #2 just to keep myself from going nuts. Two weeks go by. A month. Six months. A year, and on and on. I never went on sub with Book #2, and instead, started and finished Book #3. In mid-February 2015, Book #3 went on submission and was getting rejected. One editor who rejected it liked my writing enough to see something else. My agent took a chance and submitted DIXIE DUPREE to him. Six weeks later on April 1st, 2015 came an offer. Phew – when I think on how THAT happened, I realized what I had been told was true. Always, always have something else to offer agents and editors.
Do you have a manuscript(s) in your drawer? If so, will it ever see the light of day?
I do, and it’s Book #2, as well as Book #3, although that one did see a few editors. I really like both of those stories, and I wouldn’t mind, with some hard work, polishing them up and seeing what might happen. Book #2 takes place in 1928 in the North Carolina mountains and is about a young couple who lose their son in a tragic accident, and their inability to cope with his death. It’s about the impact it has on them. Book #3 might have to go out under a pseudonym should my agent ever agree to resurrect that one. It’s a hard crime novel and I’d have to tone it down some, I think, to get any interest in it.
What are you working on now?
I am under contract for Books #6 and #7. Book #6 takes place during the Civil War, and it’s so fresh and new, I can’t say much more about it because it’s in that ugly stage of development. The “yuck,” this can’t be writing, stage.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write the way that is comfortable for YOU. Writing is an individual activity and what works for one person might not work for another. Some people still like to take a legal pad and write long-hand. Not me! Some like to write 1,000 words a day – that is me! But, that might not work for you. You might want to write more, or less. When you sit down, and if the words are coming, keep going! If you’ve barely added a hundred new words and you’re moving commas around mostly, get up, and do something else for a while, then come back to it.
The one thing that does ring true, a book does not get done unless there is real work put towards it, so you have to know your work rhythm and what resonates to begin to build your stories.
Place you’d like to travel?
Many! My husband and I want to travel the United States – particularly out West. I have a bit of a travel bug/itch going on right now. I want to see the Grand Canyon, travel Route 66, go to the Pacific Northwest, see the great sequoias, and many other places. I want to return to my mother’s home state of Maine. I haven’t been since I was seventeen, but I recall it like it was yesterday. I want to see the rocky seashores, and smell the evergreens. It’s very distinctive, and she used to call it “God’s country.” I have relatives up there, too, so it would be nice to reconnect.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my stories! I wrote a sort of “review” for THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW HILL out on Goodreads – which was done mostly so I could “talk” to readers about the book, but it truly speaks to what I am trying to accomplish with my stories overall. What I wrote was this, “It's true that I never write easy stories, however, I like to think I write honestly about troubles, worries, about souls lost, and then found. I write about hardships, friendships, honor, and truth. I hope to create characters you love to hate, and those you want to root for, cheering them on to The End.”
And so, dear readers/fans, if that sounds like you, then I’m glad you found my work, and I appreciate your support so much! As always, happy reading!
To connect with Donna:
To connect with Donna:
Thank you so much, Jill!ReplyDelete
Thank YOU for writing such a fantastic story!ReplyDelete