Vi Masters wonders…can you come home again? More, she wonders why anyone would want to. She fled upright, backwater Freedom, Iowa at seventeen and hoped never to return. But this time, she can’t stand up against the pleas of the aunt who raised her. It’s one weekend. How bad can three days be? Three measly days in a wonderful eighteen-year marriage – that’s what Vi’s stepmother hopes. But what if Ben discovers Tammy knew why his daughter ran away – something he seems determined to finally find out? She can’t be sure Ben would forgive her, and that’s got Tammy scared to her bones.
Really, how bad can three days be? Well, we’re about to find out with the help of the author behind the three days of upheaval, Sally Crosiar. Sally, I love that you decided to explore the uncertainty around the idea of returning home. What inspired you to work around this space and turn it into a book?
My writers group accepted a challenge to write from the same prompt. It would be a spoiler if I told you what the prompt was, so I’ll keep that under my hat. But the characters in that little story wouldn’t let me go. How did they get where they were? And what would happen to them when they left that life? Vi’s story came from those questions. She goes back to where it all began and finds yet another new path to follow.
As you found yourself exploring those questions, and in turn Vi’s story, did you find that events in her life were similar to the history of yours?
Hmmm…I’ve been a lot luckier than Vi, so her history is not mine. But the small town of Freedom, Iowa is a carbon copy of the town nearest the farm where I grew up and much like other towns where I’ve lived. I have breakfast nearly every Sunday at a diner like the Pinewood with its cast of regulars, and did my first public speaking at a community center like the one where Vi performs at her aunt’s party, complete with the sea of green floor tiles.
Not having directly had the pleasure of living in a town that small, I imagine that a small town like Freedom would have its own cast of interesting characters. How did they develop as you thought about some of the interactions on those sea green floor tiles?
I started with Vi, where she’d been, where she was now, where she might go next. The other characters filled in as catalysts and roadblocks for Vi. Only a few supporting characters were inspired by real-life people. Sadie is a blend of a woman I saw wearing a cheer-leading costume and my mom in her last years – both rather dotty but so loving. Connie was based on a flight attendant who took the stage and ‘worked the room’ when the plane I was on got delayed on the runway. And I know a talented theatrical guy much like Jerome. I loved how Jerome helped Vi see that the backwater town she fled at seventeen was populated by smarter and more sophisticated people than she realized. I suspect that’s true in most towns, big or small.
Was this nugget of recognising that smart, sophisticated people live in places you wouldn’t expect what you really wanted to share with readers, or did you find that you dug up a bigger idea as you kept working? And if so, what did you really want the readers to take away from the book?
Hope takes courage. I didn’t start out to write a story about hope, but the risk and scariness of hope kept coming up for Vi. And it made me consider hope and courage from a different perspective as well as how bleak life could be if one did not muster the courage to hope.
Did you find that you learnt a lot by following your story repeatedly into the hope territory? What was the most potent take away that you had personally, by the end of the book?
Oh boy. How long have you got? This was my first foray into fiction, so the learning was intense. I suppose more than anything, I was hit over the head with the fact that people act the way they do for a reason. My job as a novelist was to uncover those reasons. And I learned that while I needed to know the tiniest details about my characters, readers wouldn’t. I had to remember that readers would likely enjoy trying to figure out the reasons behind characters’ behaviors, so I should hint, but not give too much away. (This partly explains why the book is fifty pages shorter than the first draft!)
*Laughs* It sounds like you also took away a lot of ideas about the power of editing too! Now, you’ve hinted that you’ve written a bit of non-fiction before. How do you feel that your voice as an author has changed as you’ve taken on the fiction writing challenge?
My first books were non-fiction so my author voice was explicitly my own. Writing fiction means I’ve had to learn how to give voice to the characters in my stories. Writing a point of view that’s far from my own has been a stretch of my empathy muscles!
Has it been important for you to keep empathy at the top of your mind when you write, or do you find that your mind settles on something else?
I’d like to say the readers, but I’m too single-minded to give them the merest thought when I write. I get entirely focused on whatever characters inhabit the scene I’m writing.
Does this focus turn into exhaustion, or do you find that the focus gives you heaps of energy to continue writing?
The thought of writing is exhausting. But the doing? Once I actually force myself to begin, I must get a spurt of energy because I almost always write more than I expected to.
It really is that first bit that’s the hardest isn’t it? Have you forced yourself to start another writing project yet?
I’m 95% through the first draft of Home Place, my second novel – I hope. The characters keep going off on tangents so they haven’t yet told me how things turn out. Again the setting is real but the characters are not. Kat Patterson is trying to keep her home from becoming the golf-course that my family farm did become. I hope she’ll be able to do it, but maybe she won’t. I hope she’ll show me soon!
*Whoot!* Congratulations on getting 95% of the way there! No doubt you’ll be set off onto another tangent, but you’re well within striking distance of the end! I look forward to seeing how successful Kat is saving the family farm, I think it’ll be a great read! One thing that I think makes a great read is a twist of fun, so let’s add a little greatness to this interview through the twister questions in my collection. We’ll start our twisting with an easy one, what’s your favourite word?
Today, it’s highfalutin. I love that it is spelled just like it sounds. And by the way, there is no low-falutin.
Oh, what a wonderful choice. I think highfalutin is in my rotation of awesome words too! Have you ever been on a literary pilgrimage?
I don’t know. Does reading every novel set in an upcoming vacation destination count? I do love doing that – especially when some contemporary stories include references to good restaurants and bars!
As long as you actually go to the vacation destination then yes. If you just read about the places but never go, I think you’re classified as more of an armchair traveller! In your many travels have you ever found that you can cry underwater?
I have and it’s messy. My swim goggles fill up and I have to stop to empty them.
In my experience googles fill up with water anyway, so it sounds much the same as regular goggles use! What’s your zodiac sign?
I’m a Pisces on the cusp of Aquarius. So I read both horoscopes and take my choice.
*Laughs* I love that you throw a little caution into the wind! How would you describe a personal quirk or guilty pleasure that you’re secretly rather proud of?
Do any of us really see our own quirks? Or are they only detected by the people who know us best? Guilty pleasure is easier. I like to think of myself as a serious reader and enjoy challenging literary stories. But I often crave and devour romantic thrillers and chick-lit too – and don’t publicize the fact! I think of my serious reading as meat and potatoes and top those off with a little candy!
I don’t anything really like to admit that they pick up romantic thrillers or chick-lit, but we know it sells so someone must be reading it! I think we’ve worked our way through the meat and potatoes of this chat today, so can you leave myself and the readers with a little taste of sweetness, by sharing your favourite line from ‘Come Back’?
Sadie defends her choice of sunflowers for table centerpieces at her birthday gala. She says, “It’s the bright ones make me happiest.”
Sadie’s right, the bright ones are the best! Sally, thanks for sharing a little brightness from the world of ‘Come Back’ with our readership today, and I can’t wait to see your next bright addition to the world in ‘Home Place’.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Come Back ( ASIN: B075RR8TGS )‘.
Want to find out more about Sally Crosiar? Connect here!