Featured Post

Book Blogger - Submit a book for review!

  Are you an author? Would you like your book promoted on my blog? and website? Would you like to have your book reviewed? If so, please con...

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Interview with Avery Caswell


Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Avery Caswell.  Avery has written the novel, Salvation.  


First, let me thank you for joining me.  I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.


Averycaswell.com  @averycaswell on Facebook and Instagram  

I'm also with writer Marianne Spranger's a podcast: TurnThePage, adventures & misadventures in writing:

Terrific. And you are here today to tell us about your new work.

Salvation is my new novel.

Salvation is based on the harrowing true story of two young girls who were abducted by a traveling preacher in 1971.



Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?


I snuck into writing through the back door. I began in advertising, writing brochure copy and snappy 8-word billboard headlines. The agency won a restaurant account and we decided to do the menu like a J.Peterman catalog with evocative descriptions of the international cuisine the restaurant featured. Writing that was so much fun, I decided to write full time and left advertising. My first books were niche local histories, several for former clients. After I was accepted to Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I turned my attention to writing fiction. 


Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books? 

Inspiration is everywhere! An acorn hit my head while I was raking once and that led to my novel FALL (an excerpt is one of the stories in MotherLoad). 


As an unashamed eavesdropper, I will say overheard conversations can lead to fantastic characters and scenes. A few years ago, in Ohio, I visited two competing museums and witnessed such palpable animosity between the two places I thought the town was ripe for a murder mystery. When I got home, I started writing one. 


Anger can also be a great inspiration. Some really hilarious scenes have derived from interactions with difficult people. It turns out to be so much fun writing those awful, frustrating moments that by the time I’ve written them, I’m no longer upset. I get my revenge in a way—a healthy, safe way. No chance of prison time. No legal fees—as long as all the names are changed, of course.


That is one of the best answers I've ever heard. You are absolutely right. As writers we must be excellent observers. What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?

One of my favorite quotes about writing is “A book is a party the writer throws for the reader.” Consequently, I want readers to have a good time and be glad they spent time with me via my writing. I always try to include scenes with food, describe what people are wearing, and make sure the conversation is interesting. 


I love to bake, am a former costume designer, a shoe fanatic, and a huge fan of history; all those things figure into my writing. 


What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer? 

Write every day. Don’t get caught up in having the “right” journal, or pen, or any writerly gear or software. Just put words on paper. And READ. Read a variety of material. Take apart a sentence or a paragraph that someone else wrote. Discover what makes it tick. Then write a similar sentence based on your work in progress. I’ve found that doing this just once or twice can get the creative juices flowing and before you know it, you’re deep into your story.


One of my favorite quotes about writing is “A book is a party the writer throws for the reader.” Consequently, I want readers to have a good time and be glad they spent time with me via my writing.

What is the best advice you have ever been given as a writer?

I can’t recall any specific advice, but I can say the most important thing I ever received was encouragement. My mentor, Abigail DeWitt (News of Our Loved Ones) saw potential in my early writing and without her support and praise for my early work, I’d never have continued. Her belief in me made me believe. 


Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?

I am a writing coach and book designer for Better Books (writingbetterbooks.com) and work with writers at all levels, from emerging to established. It’s a privilege to help other writers and watch as their work takes shape and flies. Just this afternoon, one of my protégés unveiled a collection of essays she wrote under quarantine during her gap year. Titled Mind The Gap, Essays of Pandemic Proportions, it is funny and dark and absolutely wonderful. I’m so proud of her.

How many hours a day do you write? 

I’m fortunate that my work schedule is flexible. Plus, I can write anywhere—the carwash, the dentist’s office—so I always have something to write with and write on. On a good day, I’ll get a solid eight hours in. Some days, it’s only eight minutes. I always seem to get some of my best work done while on vacation.  


What is your favorite part about writing? 

Editing! I love revision. I also really enjoy playing with a scene, getting it moving, developing its rhythm, making sure the character’s action propels the plot or provides subtle metaphor.


I admire that and it speaks highly for your work. So many authors who ask me to review their work don't revise. 

I’m so grateful for your interest in my work and feel honored to be here. Thank you!


Like Nike says, Just do it.

Writing is deceptively simple. Seemingly anyone can do it; but few succeed at doing it well. 

Time is your friend. Write every day. That is the secret in a nutshell.


I am very interested. Please tell us about your current release.

Salvation is based on the harrowing true story of two young girls who were abducted by a traveling preacher in 1971.  


Their mother Del Munro, was a single mom with four young children and was having a hard time making ends meet. When Mother Franklin, a traveling evangelist, came to town that summer, she welcomed her into her home. “This is the beginning, she feels it, when blessings will start falling down on her like summer rain, soft at first and then a deluge.”


Blessings are what Mother Franklin, whose ambitions are as outsized as her enormous girth, trades in. Inspired by Sweet Daddy Grace, the Messiah-like preacher who baptized her many years ago and was worth $25 million at his death, she believes she’s destined for greatness.


When school is delayed because of court-mandated busing, the evangelist offers to take Del’s girls, seven-year-old Glory and nine-year-old Willie June, home with her to Savannah for two weeks at the beach. For the girls, restless at the end of a long hot summer in Charlotte, it's a dream come true. To Del, it's a much-needed reprieve.


But what seemed like a blessing soon becomes a nightmare when the girls do not return to Charlotte. Instead, they are pressed into service by Mother Franklin who promises power and glory to the unsuspecting while relying on the book of Ezekiel to propel her ministry. Along with her driver Luther, a man with questionable connections and a Saturday Night Special hidden in a wig box, they travel from one church to another along the backroads of Georgia and Florida.



Can you read / provide us with a small exerpt? 

This is the opening to SALVATION:




To imagine what reality looks like ... is a challenge.

It’s the things not said, the stories, the unremembered histories.

Statements made only in whispers.

                                                         —Timothy Powell, “Summoning the Ancestors” 



No one ever talks about what happened when Glory was seven; she says the family acts like they don’t remember. They talk about other things though, like losing her little brother JoJo to AIDS, decades later, in 1997. 

            Willie June says when she gets a whiff of celery it comes back to her. Glory says celery doesn’t even have a smell—not one she notices anyway. She wonders if that’s just her sister’s way of messing with her, or maybe it means she really doesn’t remember. 

Glory remembers—every time she looks at her legs. 


—here is something a little later in the book:


Luther was Mother Franklin’s driver. At least that’s how he thought of himself. He spent a lot of time waiting around on her; her being so big and all meant she was a slow mover. He’d stand for what seemed like hours waiting for the old woman in one churchyard or another. This time of year, when the grass was brown and crackly and clover was the only thing showing green on the ground, he would kick at it with his shoe, grinding the clover until it disappeared in the red dirt.

That’s what that fat old woman was doing to him.Grinding him down.It wasn’t like she was really paying him.He was just part of her—what’d she call it?—retinue. My driver. A plate for my driver, she’d demand and the church ladies always did provide. It wasn’t begging. But it was charity. What he’d like was a little cash in his pocket. Even when they pulled into a filling station she’d get the bills out of her black square of a pocketbook and not let go of them ’til he was done pumping. Two dollars, she’d bawl in her wheezy old voice, and not a drop more!

Even though technically the station wagon wasn’t his, Luther watched over it like a jealous lover, noticing every little hint of trespass—fingerprints on the windows, mud on the floor, crumbs. He kept a little whisk broom under the driver’s seat and a red rag, worn soft, that he folded in half and then in thirds and tucked up under the visor. Every time they stopped for gas, he swept the floorboard on the driver side and wiped down the dash. When Mother Franklin was doing her business, he’d whisk her side of the car as well.

He was sure this dust-covered, paneled wagon would do better if they just filled it up to the top of the tank every once and again.He wasn’t anything more than a shade tree mechanic but he knew where to poke around under the hood and it was looking like there were going to be some serious problems soon enough.


What exciting story are you working on next?

I’ve been revising my novel FALL, which explores the intertwined fates of small town families and the perils of conflicting expectations. It takes place during a prolonged dry spell in a small southern college town. 


The three main characters are: Maggie Bliss, who is determined to hold on to her legacy—her grandmother’s home and Gullah healing practices; fifteen-year-old Nate Simmons; and his mother Eileen who up to then had been successful in controlling her family. Nate exposes himself to risks far beyond his mother’s worst fears, forcing Eileen to let go—of her children, perfection, and the hope for true fulfillment. 


Who are your favorite authors? 

There are too many to list! 


What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I will preface this by saying I write everything longhand first.

That is a great system. I hear James Patterson only works longhand. I like to do it, but if honest I only do it about half the time. Bet you burn through legal pads and journals.

 I’m incredibly frugal and have quite a collection of free hotel pens and write on yellow legal pads, or any handy scrap of paper. Best money spent: purchasing/upgrading my laptop. I’m a Mac person through and through and I use a MacBook pro.     


My first computer was an Apple 2c and I have never gone PC.  Sounds like you have a great system that works well. Do you have a writer’s kryptonite? 

Self-doubt and falling prey to procrastination. My former athletic trainer in Baltimore seems to intuit when I need a jolt and he’ll message me links to motivational videos that never fail to get me re-energized.


Are you involved in any writer groups?

I tried one or two in the past, but never found one that had the right mix of people. I am still in regular contact with a writer I befriended at Iowa (Naná Howton whose novel Burning Seasons will be published in France in 2022). We plan writing retreats fairly regularly and read each other’s work and offer feedback. And one of my former coaching clients is well on her way to writerly fame and glory and we constantly compare notes and cheer each other on.


Anything additional you want to share with the readers? 

Like Nike says, Just do it.

Writing is deceptively simple. Seemingly anyone can do it; but few succeed at doing it well. Time is your friend. Write every day. That is the secret in a nutshell.



One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?

Add your links here again




Salvation by Avery Caswell is based on the true story of two young girls tragically abducted in 1971 by a traveling preacher, Mother Franklin. Mother Franklin, an obese, African-American woman, takes Glory and Willie June with her one summer. What begins as innocently helping Mother Franklin negotiate her clothes in a bathroom stall evolves into a road trip bouncing from service to service with hunger pains and an empty bread box. There is a gun introduced to the car, smelly socks, and the kids’ homesickness for their mother. There is also theft as the two become part of the caravan’s continual innovation of schemes as Mother Franklin’s health declines. My favorite was where Mother Franklin would do readings as Sheila would slip her information overheard in the waiting room. Based on a true story, I loved how Avery weaved the detective’s reports with the narrative. The “journal in my head” was another device used to end some chanpters, giving insight into the two kidnapped children. 


Overall, I would highly recommend the book. I read it in two sittings and found it to be engaging and compelling. There are so many themes still prevalent today in our society, even as the setting is nearly fifty years ago. Avery’s prose are wonderful with lines like “On the bravery scale he was closer to a rabbit nibbling at lettuce than a bear grabbing a fish” or “Ain’t no Jehoshaphat jumping, no Jeremiah, no Joshua fitting no battle of no Jericho. Far as I see, they just be Luther Jackson.”


I was given a copy for review. The opinions are my own.



No comments:

Post a Comment