I have really been slack on my author interviews as of late and hope to do many MANY more in 2011. Taking time today to sit and chat with the amazing Beth Hoffman is just the incentive I need to get going on this! This vibrant and fun author is so easy to chat with, I wish I really did have her in my living room, chatting over a hot cup of tea and some really yummy scones.
Please welcome to Book Journey, Beth Hoffman!!!!
Beth, thank you so much for joining me here today at Book Journey. As you know, I recently listening to Saving CeeCee Honeycutt on audio and am RAVING about it. I can’t wait to chat with you about this!
Beth: Hi Sheila, it’s a treat to be here with you today. Thanks for inviting me.
For starters, I would love to know how you take your coffee?
Beth: Oh, a low-fat, decaf latte, please!
Mmmmmm… sounds delicious, I think I will have the same. Beth, are you a big reader? Is there a book that really sticks in your memory for you as you were growing up?
Beth: I’m a huge reader, and since I began following all of you book-bloggers, I’ve turned into a bibliomaniac! The book that started my love of the written word was THE WORLD OF POOH, but I adored STUART LITTLE. I must have read that book fifty times. I spent my early years living on my grandparents’ farm and animals were always dear to me, so those stories held a special magic.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is such a unique book! I love how it was told from CeeCee’s perspective. Did you ever consider doing it from a third person perspective?
Beth: I knew from the get-go that CeeCee’s life had to be told from her unique perspective. Her voice and the world as viewed through her young eyes were imperative to the story’s authenticity. Plus, the humor in the story was vital to the development of the supporting characters, and CeeCee’s thoughts about the new women in her life and their antics gave the story a freshness and innocence that would have been lost if told from a different viewpoint.
That is really true Beth, I enjoyed seeing through Cee Cee’s eyes how these women looked to her at first sight and how that changed as she began to know them. I hope this isn’t the question you are asked all the time, but I do have to know, where did CeeCee’s character come from? How was she developed?
Beth: When I left my design business and set out to write a novel, I had originally thought I’d write a story based on my first childhood trip to visit my Great Aunt Mildred in Danville, Kentucky. She was a true Southern lady who lived a life that was beyond my imagination. Her house was a colossal old Greek revival that stood on lovely grounds that were smothered by flower gardens. She was a great reader, and her home library stole my breath. I was just a simple little farm girl, and I felt like I’d been plunked into a museum of beauty and culture. But when I began jotting notes about that visit in preparation to begin my novel, I experienced something that’s often referred to as writer’s alchemy. I actually heard a little girl’s voice in my head, and what she told me was far beyond anything I had planned to write—it was so much better! So I opened a new Word document on my computer and typed as I listened to what she wanted to tell me. It was a remarkable experience.
I listened to this on audio and simply loved Jenna Lamia’s voice for Cee Cee. Do you as an author have a say in who narrates?
Beth: My publisher, Pamela Dorman (Viking/Penguin), knew CeeCee’s story had to be narrated by someone very special—someone who had Southern heritage and was skilled in transitioning flawlessly from a child’s voice to that of an adult. Pam sent me a sample of Jenna Lamia reading in a studio and asked for my thoughts. I knew right away that Jenna was perfect.
All the characters in the book were so full of life and I could picture them all … is there one you really enjoyed creating over the others?
Beth: I honestly loved creating them all, but from the moment she arrived in my imagination, Oletta stole my heart just as much as CeeCee. I loved Oletta for her wisdom, no-nonsense strength, and how she could say something that was so simple and yet profound. Now, when something is bothering me, I often ask myself, “What would Oletta say?” And it’s amazing what I hear in my head.
And there are two characters in the book that have such small roles, and yet I adored them—Miz Obee and Sapphire. I had so much fun writing the scene at Green Hills Nursing Home, and then, when they showed up at the garden party, well, I about laughed myself sick writing that scene.
Is there a chance that any of these characters may pop up in a future book?
Beth: I would say yes. I can easily see some of them making cameo appearances in future novels. I’m not certain when, but I do believe I’ll bring back Oletta, CeeCee, and a few of the others. And ever since the book was published, Thelma Rae is all but demanding it!
Oh I am so glad to hear that! I look forward to meeting them again! I really love strong characters in any books I read. Is there a fictional character that you would really enjoy knowing and hanging out with in real life?
Beth: Now that’s an interesting question. Off the top of my head I’d have to say Tom Wingo from Pat Conroy’s THE PRINCE OF TIDES. Tom Wingo was fascinating because he was sharp-tongued and wise, yet sometimes emotionally crippled by what he perceived to be his imperfections, which only made him more endearing.
Beth, what is next for you? Is there another book in the making?
Beth: Yes. Though I’m still touring extensively with the paperback, I’ve started my new novel and I’m completely enthralled with it. The title is LOOKING FOR ME.
I like the title and can’t wait to hear more about this book!
It is customary for me to ask every author I interview to share a little known fact about themselves.
Beth: When I was 4-years-old my mother gave me raisins with my lunch. I was anxious to go outside and play, but I knew she’d make me sit at the kitchen table and eat them. So, when she wasn’t looking, I stuffed the raisins deep into my ears! And I really mean deep — so deep that I had to be taken to the hospital and have them removed by a surgeon.
Oh… that is a great fact! Thanks Beth! You rock!
Beth: This was fun, Sheila. Thanks for having me over for coffee!