Gloria Beanblossom, who hails from Illinois, the state where I was born and raised, contributed a moving story, “The Girls From Byron’s Corner,” to the Sisters Born, Sisters Found anthology. A short piece in an anthology can cause readers to seek more information about an author’s work. Such was the case for me with Gloria, so I sent her several questions via email. Her answers provided me insight into her novels and her writing life, and I think they’ll do the same for you.
I thought “The Girls From Byron’s Corner” was a true story from your life, but Byron’s Corner is listed as a novel on Amazon, so I expect I was wrong. Are the novel and story based on your own life or completely outside of your own experience?
First of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss my books. I very much enjoyed contributing to the anthology Sisters Born, Sisters Found.
To answer your first question, “The Girls From Byron’s Corner” is an excerpt from my novel, Byron’s Corner, A Child’s Story of Abuse and Survival. It’s the story of two little girls who have lived their entire young lives in an abusive home.
Daddy, a shadowy figure, is absent one way or the other, either physically gone from their lives or drunk and emotionally unavailable. Mommy, although she loves the children, is mentally unstable. The merest provocation can trigger a manic episode. One minute Mommy is singing and dancing through the house; the next minute, as if flipping a switch, she is enraged.
The sisters, Dora and Stephanie, have no one to depend on except each other. They form an unbreakable bond. The book chronicles this bond and how their grandparents took them away to live at Byron’s Corner.
Byron’s Corner is a work of fiction; however, I must confess that it is based loosely on my own childhood. I would say if we were talking percentages, it’s about a 50 -50 draw. But if asked, I don’t divulge to the reader which half is me and which half is fiction.
Tell me about your other two books, The Tamarisk Tree and The Wishing Stone.
The Tamarisk Tree was my first published novel, and thus will always hold a special place in my heart. I suppose you could say The Tamarisk Tree is a love story that went terribly wrong: actions have consequences, and words like “I’m sorry” and “if only” can’t turn back the clock or bring back a dead child.
The book revolves around an average, young, somewhat spoiled and entitled man-child, one David Schmidt. David meets Abigail Hoffman when he is on spring break. Abby was born into a religious sect, very similar to the Amish, but the reader knows immediately that this sect, The Fellowship of the Brethren, is in no way affiliated with the Amish. One thing leads to another and sheltered, naïve Abby finds herself pregnant at age nineteen. Of course she is terrified. She tells David. He promises to take care of her—but he lies. He leaves her waiting along the road for him and continues blithely with his college education as though she didn’t exist.
Shunned by family and friend alike, Abby becomes a ghost among the living. Her only source of comfort is her Aunt Ruth and her brother Jesse. Abby has her baby, a beautiful little boy she names Jonathan. But he has a weak constitution, and at the tender age of four, he dies—of what, Abby isn’t sure. No doctors were called, no prescriptions were written, only Aunt Ruth’s herbs and tonics were used.
Meanwhile, David matures and develops a conscience. A very guilty conscience. He wants to make amends. But how? He starts by helping Abby leave the Fellowship of the Brethren. This causes a chain reaction that threatens to destroy a willow tree, nicknamed the Tamarisk Tree, where Abby and Jesse had played as children and where they later buried little Jonathan. Can David, Abby and Jesse save the little Tamarisk Tree and Abby’s last link to her child, or will it be destroyed and Abby with it? It’s a complex story, but I loved writing it.
The Wishing Stone is a ghost story of sorts. Let me give you a little insight into how this book came to be. There is a village in Brown County, Indiana, named Beanblossom. It was named Beanblossom because one of my husband’s ancestors, under the command of William Henry Harrison, drowned in the little creek that runs alongside the village. So, since my husband and I had never been to Beanblossom, Indiana, we decided on a hot summer weekend to make the three hour trip, find a little bed and breakfast, and do a little sightseeing.
While there, walked around the small village cemetery to see if we could find any headstones of interest. We found no stones containing the name Beanblossom, but we did find a secluded little stone near the barbed wire fence that enclosed the back side of the cemetery. The headstone was engraved, “Catherine – Consort of James Yoder – died April 25, 1872.”That’s all it said. I couldn’t get that lonely little tombstone out of my head. What did it mean? Was Catherine engaged to James Yoder? Was she consorting with James Yoder? Was she a woman of ill repute? That’s the process that started the wheels in motion for the story of the consort and her wishing stone. It was a fascinating book to write and, I hope, to read.
Have any reviews you’ve received on your work given you aha moments? How about feedback that has deeply moved you?
At one of my very first book signings in a Barnes and Noble in Peoria, Illinois, a distinguished looking gentleman walked up to me and asked me why I had to kill the baby. He asked this question in an accusatory voice. I was a bit taken aback. I explained to him that The Tamarisk Tree was a work of fiction and that I hadn’t actually killed anyone.
He went on to explain that he was an assistant district attorney and he dealt with domestic violence on a daily basis. He not too kindly told me he’d had his fill of seeing battered and abused women and children. In one sense, I was flattered that the characters and circumstances in my book felt so real and genuine that he, as a reader, truly had reached a point that fiction, at least to him, had moved into the realm of reality. But it also drove home the point that my words have power. I do not take for granted the effect my words can have to influence the positive and the negative in my readers.
What are you working on right now?
I’m in the processing of writing what I believe to be my most ambitious novel to date. Titled The Mourning Ring, it is a piece of historical fiction centered on the lives of three distinct characters during the American Civil War: William Bowen, Parthenia Brooks and Jig Higgins. I hope to have the manuscript completed soon, and with good fortune smiling on me, it will be ready for publication in November 2016.
Tell me about your writing journey, for example, what drew you to the craft and how long you have been a writer.
When you ask what “drew” me to writing, I honestly don’t have an answer for that. I always knew, even as a child that I could write. My first real attempt at writing a novel was when I was in high school. It was a silly little romance, hand written on white lined paper. I was trying to imitate Victoria Holt.
I began writing seriously in my early forties. That may sound late to some, but life has a way of throwing the odd curve ball. Firstly, I needed to contribute to my family. Making a living and paying the bills, as mundane as that may sound, is a fact of life. Writing isn’t as glamorous in real life as it is in the movies and not nearly as lucrative. And, unfortunately, I was thrown another curve ball in my early thirties. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I was very ill for several years. It’s difficult to be creative when you go to bed sick and wake up sick every day. But the good news is, those days are behind me, and I’m able to do what I was called to do. And I do consider writing a calling.
What do you hope to accomplish with your body of work?
Firstly, I want to create books that are entertaining and that people want to read. Secondly, I want to elicit an emotion in the reader—be that happy, sad, angry, whatever—I want them to believe that the story is not only probable, but that it’s happening right before their eyes. And most importantly, I want to give my reader something of substance to think about long after they’ve forgotten the title of the book.
What books have you read in the last three months, and what did you learn from them?
I haven’t been reading a lot of fiction as of late, because I’ve been writing. I have an extremely bad habit of unintentional plagiarism. So I have to be very careful. I’ll be typing along, patting myself on the back for writing such a great paragraph, and then, zing! It occurs to me that I’m reproducing almost word for word what another writer has so skillfully crafted. So honestly, the only book of fiction I’ve read in the last three months is Leigh Russell’s Journey to Death. I will say three of my favorite authors are Anne Rice, Edgar Allen Poe and Philippa Gregory. And my all-time favorite novels are Madame Bovary, The Scarlet Letter and Interview With a Vampire.
What do you like about being an indie author and publisher? What do you find especially challenging about it?
What I like most, I suppose, about being an indie author is that I have absolute say about the content of my book, and I set my own deadlines. I am the boss. I love that. But I don’t necessarily love marketing and advertising. I have to admit, that can be daunting, but it’s like everything else in life, you live and learn.
What’s something about life in your part of Illinois that most people would never guess?
Oh my gosh, that’s such a hard question. I wish I had a fascinating answer, but I really don’t. I will say though that the Midwest is often overlooked. The United States is so vast, and it seems as though the east coast and west coast get all the love. Sometimes I feel like shouting, “Here we are; don’t forget us!”
Many thanks to Gloria for introducing us to her writing world. Here’s a brief bio:
Author, Gloria Beanblossom grew up in the quaint Midwestern town of Robinson, Illinois. This is where her love of books, writing and her fascination with the diversity of the human experience first took root. She received her degree from Parkland College in Urbana Illinois. Gloria and her husband, John reside in Stanford, Illinois.
And you can check out Gloria’s books at: http://www.amazon.com/Gloria-Beanblossom/e/B00IYLH3UM/
Woot! Sisters Born, Sisters Found, which won a gold medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards earlier this year, was just named a finalist in the 2015 IndieFab Book of the Year Awards, women’s issues category. Winners will be celebrated in Orlando, Fla., in June. Here’s a little badge Foreward Revews sent along with the email announcement.
Note: I’ve removed pictures from this post and others created around the same time, because that’s when this site began loading very slowly. No one has been able to figure out why. I’ve changed all kinds of things, including my web host. Now I’m going to see if deleting pictures posted when the problem began will help.