Monday, July 25, 2011
INTERVIEW with Author SMOKY TRUDEAU ZEIDEL
Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.
On the Choptank Shores is a love story. The love between a young wife (Grace) and her decidedly middle-aged husband (Otto), and the love of a big sister for her abused baby sister (Miriam). It is the story of the love for an aging, grief-stricken father (Luther) who is spiraling into a dark world of insanity, and the love of a kind and benevolent God whom Grace knows must exist, despite the crazed ravings of her father, who paints a picture of a vengeful, angry God as he spouts biblical verse to defend his abuse of both Grace and little Miriam. It is a story of the land on which they live, and the power of Mother Nature. Most of all, it is a story of love conquering all.
Describe the genre of this particular title, and is the only genre you write in?
When did you start writing toward publication?
I was a freelance journalist for several years before I dove into fiction writing. In 1989, I was struck by lightning and nearly killed. (You can read all about the experience in my short story eBook, In a Flash). That put a halt to my graduate school education, where I was studying to be a clinical social worker. I started writing features for my hometown newspaper. It was a perfect job for me, because I could write when I felt well, and I could turn down assignments when I wasn’t. My editors were wonderful and understanding.
Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?
I’m blessed in that I have published every book and short story I ever wrote. And yes, I found my publisher on my own. Well, sort of—I was friends with another Vanilla Heart author, Vila Spiderhawk. She suggested I submit my work to Kimberlee Williams at VHP. The rest is history.
Why have you become a published author?
Because I have a passion for the written word that I want to share with readers. Because I have good—no, great—stories to tell, and I want people to read them. Most of all, I became an author because I couldn’t not become an author. It is what I am meant to be. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Do you have any rejection stories to share?
I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t have any rejection stories. I know that isn’t the norm in this business, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for my good fortune.
What is your writing routine like?
I’m a morning person. I like to get up, put the coffee on to brew, then step out onto my back deck to greet the mountains across the valley and watch the sun rise over them. I am blessed to live in a place of exquisite beauty, so this morning routine puts me in touch with Mother Nature, centers me. I take my coffee and toast to wherever I a going to write—my office (called the milkroom) if it is cool, the living room couch if it is hot—check my email and Facebook, then begin to write.
What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?
I have a website, www.smokyzeidel.wordpress,com, where I talk a lot about my books and where there are links to a site where you can read the first few chapters for free. I also write two blogs, “Observations of an Earth Mage” at www.ObservationsOfAnEarthMage.wordpress.com and “Smoky Talks Books” at www.SmokyTalksBooks.wordpress.com. While I don’t directly promote my books on these blogs, other than having links to my website, it gets readers familiar with me and my writing style. I hope this makes them want to read more of my writing. I promote on Facebook, and write guest blogs and do interviews like the one you are so graciously conducting right now. I’ve done several book and writers conferences and fairs.
Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?
Having my father tell me he was proud of me before he died. I loved my dad deeply; knowing he’d read The Cabin and was proud of me for writing it was not only the most rewarding thing about being published; it was one of the highlights of my life.
Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?
No, I don’t belong to any writing groups or organizations. I used to teach fiction writing at Parkland Community College in Illinois. I did belong to a couple groups, but when a few less than tactful people found out I am a former teacher, they pestered me for free advice, critiques, and editing. I am a freelance editor; that’s my day job. I cannot give away my work for free. That’s like asking a lawyer or doctor or accountant to give you free advice or treatment. It’s wrong. So I no longer join groups.
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
First, make sure your story is as polished and perfect as possible. Having your work professionally edited (and they key word is professionally) is something I strongly encourage, because no matter how hard you try, you cannot and will not find all your errors. And don’t rely on your computer’s spell checker! I can guarantee it won’t find some of your miss steaks. (Yes, like that one!) Then, once your book is as perfect as possible, don’t give up! I used to tell my students that getting published is like running into a brick wall. You go at it full speed, hit it, and knock yourself out. Then, you have to get up, wipe the blood from your nose, and say, “Gee, that felt good! I think I’ll do it again!” The point is, hit that brick wall often enough, and eventually you’ll knock it down. That is what publishing is like. Never, ever give up!
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
Lots of things! I’m working on a new book, although I’m thinking rather than a novel it may end up being a short story collection where the stories tie together to read like a novel. I have a growing stack of books to review—I review only books published by small and independent presses, and welcome queries from authors who want me to review their book (the submission guidelines are on my Smoky Talks Books blogsite). And I’m editing some interesting projects. Good things are ahead for me.
The tragic deaths of her mother and two younger siblings have left Grace Harmon responsible for raising her sister Miriam and protecting her from their abusive father, Luther, a zealot preacher with a penchant for speaking in Biblical verse who is on a downward spiral toward insanity.
Otto Singer charms Grace with his gentle courtship and devotion to his brother, Henry, but is unable to share with Grace the terrible secret he has kept more than twenty years.
Luther's insane ravings and increasingly violent behavior force Grace to question everything she ever knew. Then, tragedy strikes just when Otto's secret is uncovered, unleashing demons that threaten to destroy the entire family. Can Grace find the strength to save them all?
On the Choptank Shores is set on Maryland's eastern shore in the late 1920's. Happy endings, in novels as in life, sometimes come at a heavy price.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, On the Choptank Shores and The Cabin, and two nonfiction books on writing. She is also the author of Observations of an Earth Mage, an enchanting collection of prose, poetry, and photographs celebrating the beauty and splendor of the natural world. All her books are published under the name Smoky Trudeau by Vanilla Heart Publishing.
She also is author of numerous short stories that are available in eBook format, as well as her recent biographical In a Flash, where she recounts the story of how she was struck by lightning and how the experience has affected her life in the more than two decades following the event.
A popular book reviewer, Smoky wrote reviews for several newspapers and magazines before starting her blog, Smoky Talks Books. She specializes in reviewing books published by small and independent presses and by emerging writers.
Known to her fans as The Earth Mage, Smoky lives her life honoring Mother Earth through her writing, visual art, and spiritual practice. She lives in California with her husband Scott (a college music professor and classical guitarist), her daughter (a college student and actress), and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tidepools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.
But perhaps the best way to know Smoky is through her own words:
My friends say I’m the salmon who swims downstream, not up. When the invitation says “black tie,” I’m more likely to show up in tie-dye. If there’s a tree, I’ll climb it. A rock, I’ll scramble up it. A creek, I’ll splash in it. I love my tattoos; I paint my toenails fire engine red. When our neighborhood coyotes howl, I tend to howl back. I once called a rattlesnake we saw “precious” and named a tomato horned worm “Spike.” My husband calls me eccentric. I prefer the term free-spirited. Or whimsical. Who wants to live a life exactly like everyone else? Not me!
At one time, he had loved them.
During the Pennsylvania years his love had been steady as the beacon from the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse, on the Delaware shore where he’d taken them on vacation when she was seven. He’d bought them salt water taffy, and she’d eaten too much and gotten sick. He held her head while she vomited, speaking soothing words and wiping her mouth and forehead with his handkerchief when she was finished.
Their house had echoed with the chattering laughter of little girls playing Annie Oakley, shooting make-believe pistols in the air while riding on his back as he pranced around on all fours, snorting and pawing the floor in so poor an imitation of a real live horse that she had tumbled to the floor in fits of hysterical laughter, nearly getting trampled in the process. He’d feigned wild fury, rearing up, pawing madly at the air, pretend hooves thrashing. Emily had saved her, roping the marauder with a yellow satin sash lasso.
Then Emily died, and Papa didn’t want to play anymore. He’d packed up the family and moved them away from the only home she’d ever known to Maryland and the sandy shores of the Choptank River. Some memories were too painful to live with.
Emily’s memory refused to stay put in its Pennsylvania grave, following them to the ramshackle farm he bought on credit, drifting in and out of their collective unconsciousness like the shifting sands of the Choptank itself, insinuating itself into every corner of their house and their minds. Grace found comfort in her sister’s memory. Mama cried. Papa alternated between cursing God for taking his child from him and burying his nose in his Bible, searching for a divine reason for the tragedy.
God’s answer—Matthew, a golden-haired son; and Miriam, raven-haired and solemn—arrived, red and screaming, at a time when most women Mama’s age were welcoming grandchildren, not babies of their own. Papa celebrated the miracle of their birth with zealous participation in a month-long revival meeting, where he accepted ordination into the ministry with a single dunking in the river. He left the revival the newly appointed pastor of their tiny rural church. Hope springs eternal, Grace once read. Although his religious epiphany turned the playful father into a serious and strict man, at least Papa’s grief had been replaced with hope.
Then came the sickness, riding in on a heat wave, swallowing up young and old alike with the greed of a stray cur. For three days Matthew lay writhing on his cot, dehydrated and delirious, tangling his sturdy legs in the sweat-soaked sheets until, at last, he writhed no more. He died on his fifth birthday. Grace fancied she saw his small spirit dance out the window, hand in hand with Emily. She never felt her sister’s presence in the house again.
Grief is a poison that works its devilry in insidious ways. For Mama, grief meant taking to her bed the day after Matthew’s death, and not leaving it again until, a year later, she was carried out in a pine box. Heart attack, her death certificate read. A broken heart, Grace thought more likely.
Papa’s heart bled with each blow of the hammer as it sealed Mama’s coffin shut; bled as she was lowered into the ground in the cemetery next to Matthew; it bled as he turned to face his two surviving daughters, his face twisted with a bitter confusion of emotions Grace could not read. Grief tore at him like a riptide, drowning the last vestiges of the kind and loving father, leaving in his stead a stranger, cold as the ice floes of winter.
How can my readers buy your book?
On the Choptank Shores is currently available as an eBook at Amazon, Smashwords, and All Romance Books; publication date for the print version hasn’t been set yet. All my other books are available both in print and eBook formats at these same venues.
Readers can go to the publisher’s home page at http://vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com.
Check out my book trailer on Smoky’s website, but you can also go directly to YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhxxrYE0hBs.
You can find more information about Smoky Trudeau Zeidel and her book, On the Choptank Shores by visiting her website, http://smokyzeidel.wordpress.com or her blogs at http://smokytalksbooks.wordpress.com and http://observationsofanearthmage.wordpress.com. You can also find Smoky on Facebook. Just look for Smoky Zeidel, and put a note with your friend request saying you read this interview and would like to be friends.