Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Today I'm interviewing, Misha Crews, author of two novels -- Homesong and the soon-to-be-released Still Waters.
Karen: Welcome Misha!
Karen: So the news is that you were a finalist in the Bronte Prize for Romantic Fiction for your first novel, Homesong. Congratulations! Tell the readers a little about the Bronte Prize.
Misha: Well first, thanks very much for the congrats! The Bronte Prize is similar to the Hugo/Nebula Award for science fiction, or the Edgar Award for mystery novels. It was named after Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, which is considered by many to have been the first viable work of romantic fiction. It also happens to be one of my favorite books, which just adds to the excitement and the honor of being a finalist for this award!
Karen: What inspired you to write Homesong?
Misha: It started as a simple love story, about two childhood sweethearts who are unexpectedly reunited on an exotic cruise. But as I started writing, I really became curious about their home town, and why the two of them had been separated for so many years. What had divided them in the first place, and what was keeping them apart? What if their lives together had been affected by family secrets that neither of them ever suspected? Once I started asking myself those questions, all of these characters and circumstances from the past just sort of leapt into life, and the story evolved, almost on its own.
Karen: I loved the characters in Homesong. Do you draw from real people in your life when you create your characters?
Misha: Well, for the most part no, actually. The characters tend to develop through their relationships to each other and the events that are going on – the events that they're effected by, and the ones that they cause. But on the other hand, there are definitely elements of real people in every one of my characters. Little stories, mannerisms, expressions, favorite sayings – these things tend to be drawn from real life. And I'm so glad you liked them, by the way! I got to be pretty fond of them, myself – well, most of them anyway, lol!
Karen: Who is your favorite character in that book?
Misha: Oh, that's a tough one, lol! Hmm…well, most of the time I'd have to say it's Billy Lewis, the traveling preacher. Billy was in his prime in the mid-1930s, and he passed through the little town of Cherubim in 1938, never realizing what effect his visit would have! He's only in a small part of the book, but he's a very pivotal character. The story definitely wouldn't have been the same without him!
Karen: What else have your written?
Misha: I have a second novel coming out this summer. It's called Still Waters.
Karen: Tell me about Still Waters – what is the story about?
Misha: It's set in the mid-1950s, and it's about a woman named Jenna Appleton who loses her husband in an accident. On the day he dies, she finds a picture of him with another woman, but before she can ask him about it, he's gone forever. Jenna's search for the woman in the photograph takes her deep into the murky waters of family secrets. The truth ends up lying much closer to home than she ever would have imagined.
Karen: When and where will we be able to purchase Still Waters?
Misha: It's currently available on Kindle, and it will be available in paperback on August 18th.
Karen: What are you working on now? What can readers hope to see from you in the future?
Misha: Lately I've been working on some short stories, one of which will appear in Passionate Hearts, a romance anthology from my publisher, Vanilla Heart Publishing. I can't say for sure when my next novel will be out, but I'll definitely be writing another one in the not-too-distant future!
Karen: I’d love to give readers a taste of Homesong – could you provide them with one of your favorite excerpts?
Misha: Sure! Since I mentioned Billy Lewis already, I think maybe I'll let him out to have some fun! Here goes:
It was a carnival this time, and probably the last one of the season. It sprawled insolently across a tired brown field about a hundred miles south of Louisville, Kentucky. The pageant lights that had been strung between tents and along walkways glowed a dull yellow in the inky blue-black of night. Those lights were visible from miles around, and they summoned the somnambulant inhabitants of the local towns like a church bell calling the faithful to worship on Sunday morning.
Hands in his pockets, Billy Lewis strolled cheerfully along the "backside" of the carnival shows – the narrow lane created by sideshow tents on one side, and old trucks on the other. Moonlight lit his path, and he stepped nimbly over a deep groove that appeared out of the darkness. The dirt beneath his feet was hard and brown, rutted from the weight of old boots and tires, and he had to watch where he was going, lest he turn a delicate ankle and be unable to perform tomorrow. His leaps and bounds in praise of the Lord were one of the audience’s favorite parts of the show, and what kind of man would he be if he disappointed them?
How would it look to all those dear Christian souls, baking and sweating in the heat of their own religious fervor, if he were to be glued to the stage like any other mortal sinner? Would he be able to represent himself as a true Man of God if he, injured and unable to leap, merely stood on that old wooden platform and shouted, like any other faithless preacher? No sir, he would not. And so he was careful with his body, with his legs especially.
A dry, late-summer wind swept down from the mountains, rifling through the goldenrod in the fields. It scampered along the lanes and aisles of the carnival, making the flaps on the tents dance briefly, then continued on its way, carrying the smells of deep-fried corn batter and spun sugar out across the fruited plains. Billy paused and removed his hat, closing his eyes as he lifted his face to the breeze.
There was a smile on his face as he started moving again, picking his way along the treacherous earth. 1938 had been a good year for Billy. Yessir, Mrs. Lewis’ boy William had done all right. God had provided, as Billy assured his congregation each and every night that He would. There was the daily jingle of coins in his pockets, his belly never went empty, and there had been no shortage of attractive females to swoon under his holy verbiage. And swoon they had.
He thought back. Had there been even one night in recent history when the Lord hadn’t blessed his bedchamber with a willing woman – or sometimes two, if He were feeling particularly generous? To Billy’s recollection, he had enjoyed the company of one lovely lady or another every night this week, and most nights in the weeks preceding. He had even remembered the Sabbath, and kept it holy by making his girls cry out the name of the Lord as loudly and ardently as was in his considerable power. Hallelujah Lord, and Amen. God will provide.
He came to the end of the long lane of cars, and stopped beside his own vehicle – his pride and joy, a 1935 Ford pickup truck. It was carefully covered by a custom-made tarp that had cost him nearly three weeks cush. But the money had been worth it, to keep his beloved safe and clean amidst all the chaos of carnival life. Billy pulled the tarp back gently on one side, viewing with satisfaction the new paint job that had also cost him dearly. The body of the truck was painted a soft cream color, genteel and understated, the way a gentleman's automobile ought to be. But on either side of the truck was a painted sign that was a merry cacophony of color – an eye-catcher and a brow-raiser, the way a journeyman preacher's vehicle had to be.
The rainbowed letters spelled out the words Brother Worship – Salvation Awaits. Originally he had wanted a longer message, something a bit more juicy, with more pizzazz. But space and money had forced him to be succinct, and now he was just as glad. He liked the briefness of the message. It said what needed to be said, and established him as an entity unto his own self – Brother Worship, traveling preacher, Man of God. Come unto me, children. Salvation Awaits.
He smoothed the tarp lovingly back into place, tucking it in and tying it firmly. This truck was his life. It was his independence, his freedom. It was what allowed him to be autonomous, belonging to no one. He hitched his wagon to one star or the next, or he went it alone, whatever took his fancy at the moment. This time it was a carnival, next time it might be another, bigger traveling revival. There was safety in numbers, of course, and sometimes it was nice to be surrounded by his fellow travelers. The carnie management took part of his earnings in exchange for giving him the right to travel with them. But there were times when he wanted to strike out on his own, and let the devil take the risk.
Karen: Wonderful! I have to admit, he's my favorite character as well. Thank you for stopping by Misha, we hope to see you again soon!
Misha: It was my pleasure, Karen, any time. Thanks so much!
You can learn more about Misha and sample her books and short stories at Misha Crews. Homesong is available now in paperback and Kindle versions at Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com and other retailers, and Still Waters, Kindle version is available now at Amazon
Posted by Karen Cantwell at 4:57 PM