Book Review and Interview with Jenny Share on BookCoffeeHappy.com Blog
In April, STILL BREATHING was featured for a review on an excellent book blog site owned by Jenny Share. She not only let me answer her questions but she conducted a giveaway for the book on her blog site as well as her facebook and instagram sites. We had a great time.
Here is Jenny Share's review of my novel:
I’ve always been drawn to books which take place in different cultures. I find learning about other cultures and places fascinating and as soon as I read the synopsis of this book, I immediately knew that it was one I needed to read.
I found myself learning and researching a great deal while reading this book which is always such a bonus for me. I love when a book is so well written that it makes me want to learn more about the subject and/or place, and this book is a perfect example.
There were many different characters and storylines and all were interesting. I found myself being able to connect to many of these intriguing characters and truly became immersed into their lives.
My favorite parts of the book took place in Owino Market…what a fascinating place that must be! The descriptions of the market were so rich and colorful that I felt like I was there!
Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with E.A. Fournier through social media and email quite a bit and he truly is such a kind person. Always such a bonus to learn that the person behind the words is as lovely as the words are themselves.
I loved this wonderful book and the ending made me cry. Such a special story which begs for a sequel.
Here is the interview:
How did you create the idea for your book?
I carried the beginnings of Lizzie’s story in my head for years. At one point, I wrote it out as the opening for a screenplay. An older woman sits alone at the bedside of her comatose husband. He comes conscious long enough to apologize for not sharing the major decisions in their life. It’s his biggest regret. He asks her to choose to do something, after he’s gone, that she’s always wanted to do. He slips back into the coma and a few days later he’s dead. I could never quite resolve what the wife would choose to do, so I put it aside.
Years later, I challenged myself to write women’s fiction. It seemed to me that the leads in most of that genre were young, smart and lovely. I wanted to feature someone significantly older: a woman with wide hips and grey hair, someone sensitive but not sappy, big-hearted but seasoned. I considered revisiting Lizzie’s story. Since I’m the wrong gender, I wondered if I could pull it off and make her character ring true. I decided I was willing to try. The question that remained was what Lizzie wanted to do. It turned out that the answer was right in front of me. My small church funded an orphan home in Kampala for street boys. The young founders were my friends. My son traveled there to teach art and make a film. His efforts not only helped the orphans, but won him a lovely Ugandan bride. It seemed clear to me that Lizzie had finally found her unlikely destination.
What audience would be most interested in your book?
The special audience I had in mind when I first created Still Breathing was women over forty. At this point in their lives many of them question their own significance. I felt that this group would uniquely appreciate a determined main character like my 69-year-old Lizzie. However, I’ve discovered that the power of the book’s characters reaches far outside my demographics. At one end, my granddaughter, a sophomore in high school, loved Lizzie and her journey. She posted a very perceptive review on Goodreads and promotes the novel to her YA friends. At the other end, my 70-year-old male acquaintance, John, begrudgingly agreed to give my book a chance. He only reads non-fiction. John called me a week later to say he’d finished. He would have called sooner, he admitted, but was crying so much that he didn’t know if he could talk on the phone. I reminded him that it was only fiction. He replied that it sure didn’t feel like fiction to him.
So, the novel seems to be seeking out its own wider audience, despite what I think.
Any additional information that you would like to provide about you or your book?
Most of the situations and events in the story come directly out of my research and from interviews with former Ugandan street boys, teachers and house fathers. For example, the plight of boys on the street, the scarcity of copper, the way boarding schools work, the corruption of customs officials, the perils of marriage for women, the new method to send money from the U.S.—these all came out of the research.
I peppered the book with accurate local language and flavored it with open markets, tribal clothes and native foods. Many of these elements came directly from my Ugandan daughter-in-law, Diana. Luganda, the language used in the book, is the main dialect spoken in Kampala. Fortunately, most Ugandans also speak English.
I tend to write by the seat of my pants and let my characters tell me what comes next, but I’m enough of a plot and outline guy to limit their scope. People don’t understand that there are times when characters talk back, or refuse to say lines, or do the opposite of what you ask. Really. It’s why I laugh when people say a writer’s life is lonely. No, it’s not! It’s stuffed with noisy imaginary people who interrupt each other, argue and laugh and cry, and are certain of their own opinions—just like people in the everyday world.