Friday, June 10, 2005

It's time once again for a GCC visit! Today, our guest is Mindy Friddle. Mindy's book, THE GARDEN ANGEL, has been an SEBA Best Seller, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and a pick of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. The synopsis sounds wonderful:

In Sans Souci, South Carolina, talk is cheap, real estate even more so. No one knows this better than Cutter Johanson, a gruff tomboy who waits tables, writes obits, and makes every effort, however comical and in the face of her mercenary relatives, to avert the sale of the dilapidated ancestral home. And despite her plucky resolve, all appears to be lost—until she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth, a shy and fragile academic who puts both their fates on the mend.
The Washington Post writes "Friddle has a way with the comic yet apt image...funny, down-to-earth and steeped in a sense of place."

I recently had the chance to walk through Mindy's garden (via an email interview.) Here is what I discovered...

--What inspired this novel? What inspires you, in general?

I was inspired to write THE GARDEN ANGEL by a dilapidated old house at the edge of a city-swallowed mill town here in South Carolina. It was a once-grand estate boarded up, abandoned, and for sale. I even had a real estate agent take me inside. The once-gorgeous garden was swallowed up by Kudzu, although the climbing roses were doing their best to outrun the weeds. Rumors were that two spinsters had once lived there, and had come from money. All that ruined finery! Later, I found myself wondering what kind of character would live in such a place and what lengths would she go to to keep her homestead? I pictured a young woman soaking in a claw foot tub in the attic bathroom, plotting to thwart buyers. That was Cutter: A nostalgic, eccentric, comical character who gardens in the family cemetery, knits hair doilies, and writes obits for a living. She began to tell me her story.

I continure to be inspired by the hidden history of neglected homesteads, by elegiac buildings, by cemeteries, and by nature-- gardens, forests, wildflowers. The lessons of writing are all there, in our gardens, aren't they? Deadheading spent blooms keeps a plant budding (revsision), thin out seedlings ensures the remaining ones are strong (more revision), composting-- thinking and ruminating and letting the draft sit for a while-- enriches the characters and story.

--Any words of advice for new writers?

Tenacity. Tenacity. Tenacity. The more I talk to other published authors, the more I realize how rejection is part of the writing life, and tenacity is a must. I have to remind myself of that everyday.

--What are you working on now? Could you give us a window into your writing

I'm working on a new novel, and researching a third. I like to write about four hours a day...but it's not easy. The world intrudes-- publicity work for my book, dirty dishes, occasional day jobs. But ideally, I love to write from about 9 am to 1 pm or so. Saturday is usually my most productive day. I think that just comes from years of Saturday's a groove.

--What have been some of the gifts and challenges re. having your book

Oh. That's a great way to put it: "gifts and challenges." Gifts were accomplishing a goal I set for myself-- to publish this novel, THE GARDEN ANGEL, which I'd worked on for about eight years or so. (Mostly weekends.) It's such a pleasure to meet one's readers, to hear from them...and I've received heartfelt and inspriring e-mails from all over. It's also wonderful to have an agent who believes in me, and editor who edits, and new friends who are fellow writers-- cyber and non-cyber alike. The challenges are, quite frankly, balancing the isolation and rumination that is necessary for writing with the clanging, loud but oh so necessary business of publishing. To be a pro-active author involved in the publicty process of her books can sap your strength and time and energy and money. But, face it, there's tons of books out there, new ones flood the bookstores every week-- and no one cares about your book as much as you do. So writers are expected to partner with their publishers these days when it comes to promotion..even spearhead their own campaigns and tours.

--Because this is a Fruitful interview, what is your favorite fruit, and why?

That's an easy one! Peaches. Succulent, juicy ones from here in the South. If there is a better fruit-- I have yet to taste it. I just got my first batch of early peaches from the farmers' market this morning-- a little small but they are heavenly.

--Yum! I'm about to head over to the farmer's market now--I'll have to look for peaches (although I doubt CA peaches are as good as those in the South!) Thanks so much for stopping by, Mindy--I am very excited to read your book!

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