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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Welcome, Shannon, and another October giveaway!

Okay, I admit it. I'm a pushover for books written about the South, with true Southern characters, told in an authentic Southern voice.

On the other hand, my Fake-South-BS-meter is pretty strong. I'm always skeptical when somebody says "You have to read this one. It's funny and honest and a great book narrated by an honest-to-goodness Southern kid. With a really great voice."

Yeah, right.

Well, yes, it is right in the case of Shannon Wiersbitzky's middle-grade novel, THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS. Shannon sent me a copy when the book was published and now she's offered to answer a few questions and she's giving away a signed copy to a commenter, a re-tweeter, a Facebook sharer. Just let me know if you're interested, either here or on Facebook, and you'll be entered in the drawing. 

Spread the word! The giveaway ends next Wednesday, October 17th.

Now, let's sit with a glass of sweet tea and listen to Shannon spilling the beans about characters, place and other helpful tidbits.

You live in Pennsylvania. How on earth did you channel the voice of a young southern girl from West Virginia?
During my childhood, from kindergarten to high school, I spent summers with my grandparents in Culloden, a small speck of a town in West Virginia. So I was a young southern girl for three months of every year! I’d play with cousins, climb trees, help my grandmother can vegetables, and generally amuse myself using my own imagination. Today kids turn to devices and electronic games, but back then, we all went outside and created games for ourselves. It was a fabulous way to spend the summer.

I love the sense of community that can exist in a small town. The way neighbors meet and share gossip at the Post Office or a local coffee shop, and the way they reach out their hands to help when someone is in need. I think that comes through in the story.

I'm a fan of spunky girl characters. (Excuse that much-overused description, but really, that's what they are.)
What do you admire most about Delia?
Delia is facing a tough situation. Her mama is in the hospital, her house is about to be condemned. She could easily have thrown up her hands and said, “I’m just a kid”, then let the chips fall where they may. But she didn’t. Instead she takes it upon herself to give it a shot.

There is a scene that takes place in her church, Delia stands in front of the entire congregation and asks for help. That is an emotional one for me. I greatly admire Delia’s bravery at that moment.

Church plays a critical role in the story. Did you ever worry about that?
It crossed my mind a few times that some kids might be less interested in a story that included church. At the same time, for Delia, and the people in Tucker’s Ferry, church is an important part of life. In the end, I had to write what I felt was an authentic story for the characters. I believe readers will relate to Delia, regardless of whether or not they have any experience with church.

Your story has the same sort of feel as Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. Was that intentional?
I’ve heard that a few times from readers. First, I take that as high praise. I’ll just smile for a few minutes now before I answer. (Grin)

Kate is a wonderful author and any comparison is a compliment. If I try to step back though, I can see where readers may find similarities. Both take place in the south, have female protagonists, include quirky dogs and neighbors, and combine humor and gentle, lyrical language. They also both include church!

You’re donating part of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. Did the organization help inspire you?
I’ve been involved with community service since I was little and have done several builds with Habitat. Once, a woman we were helping cooked all the workers an amazing meal. In thanking us she told me, “All I know how to do is cook fried chicken.” Those words, and that woman have remained with me my entire life. Maybe it was the first seed that eventually grew to become this story. I gave that line to Miss Martha.

The Summer of Hammers and Angels is published by a new and somewhat non-traditional house, namelos. Can you tell me a bit more about them and your experience?
Stephen Roxburgh, who founded namelos, has worked in traditional publishing almost his entire career. He’s edited some amazing authors including Madeleine L’Engle and Roald Dahl. His new publishing company is similar to traditional houses in that they go through the same process of selecting manuscripts and then providing editing, production, distribution, and marketing services. What makes them different is that namelos publishes only in the new technologies of print on demand (paperback and hardcover) and e-book formats. The company has a separate services division for authors interested in paying for manuscript evaluation and editorial advice, but the publishing division does not take money from writers.

Most of the writers published by namelos thus far, including me, initially met Stephen through a writing workshop. I expect that will change as namelos publishes more novels. My first connection to Stephen was at a Highlights weekend focused on picture books. After the workshop ended he read a draft of The Summer of Hammers and Angels, and our partnership began. I’ve enjoyed working with him and the process of pulling a book together. The namelos team feels like a creative family, everyone who works on a novel is extremely accessible for questions and feedback, and all along the path, I felt they cared about my story and characters as much as I did.

I like quotations. Do you have a favorite quotation?
I’m fond of quotations too. In terms of writing, one of my favorites is from Robert Cormier, “The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” I share that one with the kids when I do middle school visits. They always laugh. For both kids and adults, I think that notion of not needing to get it right the first time takes some of the pressure off.

I love that quote! I'm off to do a middle-school visit this afternoon and will totally steal that line.

Would you describe your childhood as a happy one?
Definitely….which means by all measures I should be a terrible writer! I’ve read articles about how only unhappy, tortured childhoods can produce good stories. Maybe my teen years yelling at my dad helped a little. Of course my Dad and I are great friends now.
See? All ends well in my world. I think there’s a place in the literary world for that too.

Describe your usual writing day.
I dream of a day when my writing studio is done (I’m about to start construction on that – which will be a lovely space above my garage) and I can get the kids off to school and write for hours at a time. The reality is that I get up at 4:30 every morning and write until about 6:00 or 6:15. Then I make lunches, coffee, get myself ready, make sure my oldest walks out the door on time, and then I head off to the full-time job that actually pays the bills.

What is interesting about writing early and then going to work, is that in between meetings at my day job, I’ll suddenly realize how to solve a problem for a character, or a specific line to end a chapter. I’m always amazed at how the brain keeps noodling away on a story in the background. Then I’m ready to write the next morning. I love that! 

Check out Shannon's website here: 

Read a few snippets from reviews, and I know you'll rush right out to read this one. 
Or down to the comment box to enter the giveaway!

“This debut novel of self discovery and the power of prayer coupled with hard work is a must for everyone who loves story. It excites, stimulates, and, yes, it is also a tearjerker. A young adult book that would be a good read for adults, as well.”
     —Catholic Library World

 “….down-to-earth life struggles combine with inspiring generosity of spirit in this uplifting debut.”
     —Publishers Weekly

“...will leave readers hungry for fried chicken and Coke from glass bottles.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your story with us. I hope my blog readers will jump right in with comments about writing, publishing, religion in kids' books, quirky dogs- whatever!


Barbara Watson said...

Genuine stories, stories that are simply being themselves, and stories where setting is a character are among my favorites. This book sounds like all those things. I would love to win a copy.

Augusta, I LOVE that you have a Fake-South-BS-meter!! :-)

Carol Baldwin said...

I'm interested in this book so please include me in the giveaway. I'll FB your post. But I'm curious; is Shannon's novel a ebook? I couldn't tell from the interview, but it sounded like that's what namelos is doing.

Augusta Scattergood said...

This is a real print book, Carol! Available also in Kindle. And perhaps other ebook formats.
Haha, Barbara. I hate it when people talk Fake South, don't you both?

Augusta Scattergood said...

For some reason, this comment from

disappeared. I am reposting it because she said such nice things about the book. Thanks, Rosi, and sorry I lost you!
Here's her comment.

This is a terrific book and a wonderful interview. I have read the book, so don't enter me, but I just wanted to add my voice to your fine review.

Augusta Scattergood said...

Just drew the winner's name out of my husband's fishing hat!

CAROL BALDWIN- you are the winner!

I'll FB this and message you. Send your address and the book's on the way.