I'm so happy to invite back to the blog Elaine Hussey who was here a year ago talking about her novel The Sweetest Hallelujah and is here today about her brand new just released today novel, The Oleander Sisters.
She's also offered two signed copies of The Oleander Sisters for a Giveaway, details below.
Congratulations Elaine and thanks!
Elaine has generously offered 2 signed copies of
The Oleander Sisters
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter
Read an Excerpt:
Read an Excerpt:
Elaine, Hi welcome back to The Reading Frenzy.
I love the cover of the new novel.
Tell us a little about the novel.
In The Oleander Sisters, I explore the bonds of family, particularly that of sisters of blood and sisters of the heart. I ask the hard question, How far would you go to save someone you love?
In the summer of 1969, the Blakes are in an uproar, and the weight of the entire family falls on Sis’s shoulders. Her emotionally fragile sister Emily, an unwed mother, is getting married; her brother Jim, wounded in body and spirit, is returning from the killing fields of Viet Nam; and Sweet Mama, the grandmother who raised them, is getting senile. Only the indomitable Beulah is left to lend Sis a helping hand and a strong shoulder.
One of the things I loved most about writing The Oleander Sisters was peeling back the layers and uncovering the Blake family secrets. There are many, and I hope you’ll enjoy discovering them and discussing them at your book clubs!
Speaking of the cover I’m always interested in the who, what and why of them.
Tell us how it was chosen.
My publisher, MIRA, has a fantastic team of editors, artists, and marketing experts who discuss the cover. They are looking for stunning visuals, sales appeal, and artwork that will capture the flavor of the story. Once the concept is committed to art, my agent and I get to take a look and add our two cents. It’s a heady process, coming as it does in the final stages before a book is released.
Elaine your last novel and this one are both set in the near past.
What was the catalyst of the year(s) this novel is set in?
The Oleander Sisters is set in Biloxi in the summer of 1969 between Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and Hurricane Camille’s devastating sweep through the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I love the contrast between hope and despair, between finding dreams and losing them. I choose my time frames carefully. My settings are more than place; they impact the story in ways that allow me to test my characters, to rip away everything they hold dear and then discover whether they can rise again, stronger than before.
Elaine there is something really special about Southern Fried Fiction, they have a unique voice and pace to them.
Is it a result of nurture or nature, do you have to originate from the South to write like this?
I was born in the Deep South and grew up hearing the cadences of the Southern drawl and the colorful expressions that are unique to this region. The storytelling tradition is strong here, and was particularly so in my mother’s family. Like Billie in The Sweetest Hallelujah and Andy in The Oleander Sisters, I got my best information from eavesdropping.
I am lucky enough to have spent my entire life on the doorstep of the great Southern literary writers William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and the inimitable playwright, Tennessee Williams. I can’t imagine how I would give an authentic voice to The Sweetest Hallelujah or The Oleander Sisters if I didn’t have that background. Somehow the richness of my heritage mixes with the stories I tell. I am deeply grateful to call Mississippi my home.
Elaine you taught writing at the college where my son is a Fine Arts Professor, Mississippi State University.
Do you still teach?
No, I don’t. I loved my teaching stint at Mississippi State and would still be there if I could clone myself so one of me could teach and the other could write.
Elaine you’ve written under several aliases.
Is this your last incarnation, do you think?
Oh my goodness, I hope so! And I’m glad Elaine Hussey is the one. That’s my real name, you know. I was born Peggy Elaine Hussey, then years later started my career with my married name, Webb.
Eating for two is fun, but writing for two, blogging for two, Face Booking and Tweeting for two, and going on book tours for two is not for the faint of heart.
Elaine you’ve been a published author for many years.
What’s different about you the author today vs. when you started?
That’s a great, thought-provoking question. I still have the same fire in my belly to tell a story. I still write with the same intense love of language. But the very act of creating more than seventy books has fine-tuned my writing skills. Too, this long career has given me the confidence to take risks in my writing, to dig really deep into the lives of my characters and mine the story for every nuance and detail.
Unlike many writers who carved a niche and stayed there, I’ve penned books in multiple genres. Each genre demands a certain set of skills from the writer. Though I now focus primarily on writing literary fiction, I still occasionally write comedic mysteries as Peggy Webb. When I am in that mode, I wade in the shallows and race along telling the story in a light-hearted manner, making myself laugh and hopefully creating a book that will entertain the reader.
When I write literary fiction, I dive into a deep ocean of creativity and meander along, uncovering the wonders I find. This type of exploration takes longer. It requires me to pay strict attention. And it leaves me utterly exhausted but absolutely exhilarated.
It also garnered me an invitation this year to become a member of PEN. I am thrilled.
Elaine you’re also a talented musician. What’s been going on in your musical life lately?
Every Sunday I sing first soprano in the choir at First United Methodist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi. What a joy!
Though I once played piano for church services and the occasional local concert, I now play strictly for my own pleasure. Yesterday I sat at my antique baby grand, channeled the spirit of the original owner, a professional jazz musician, and challenged myself with some new blues arrangements of old spirituals by Mark Hayes. I played a few Broadway show tunes, too, and sang along.
Next week, my family will arrive from Florida and New Hampshire, and we will gather around the piano for a song fest. My son plays guitar and harmonica, my daughter sings alto, my oldest grandson plays ukulele, my youngest grandson plays piano, and my two granddaughters sing with the voice of angels.
Elaine thank you so much for being here today to let us into your life just a bit.
Will there be any events/signings for this release?
There will be a launch party on Tuesday, July 29, at Reed’s Gum Tree Books, a really great Indie bookstore in my hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. 4:00-5:30. We’ll be serving up refreshments and fun!
The following Saturday, August 2, 2:00 – 4:00, I’ll be in Barnes and Noble in the Barnes Crossing Mall, north Tupelo. I’m cooking up more fun with the great folks at B&N. Expect food and door prizes!
The fabulous Indie booksellers at Page and Palette have invited me to the Grand Festival of Books in Fairhope, Alabama, Saturday, October 4. Details TBA.
My publicist at MIRA is still working on events in between!
Thank you so much for letting me chat with you at the Reading Frenzy. I invite readers to visit www.elainehussey.com to read an excerpt and early reviews of The Oleander Sisters, as well as watch my video interview with filmmaker, Roy Turner.
Elaine Hussey is a writer, actress, and musician who likes to describe herself as “southern to the bone.” She lives in Mississippi, where her love of blues and admiration for the unsung heroes of her state’s history served as inspiration for The Sweetest Hallelujah. Visit her at www.elainehussey.com.a Rafflecopter giveaway