Andrea Lochen is the winner of the signed copy of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR!
Author Barbara Claypole White is not new to Women’s Fiction Writers or to many of you! She’s the author of THE UNFINISHED GARDEN and now, THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR. One of my favorite parts of being both an author and a book blogger is reading some books before everyone else. I hold them close, like well-kept secrets with an expiration date. I know I get to share, and when, but for a while they’re mine-all-mine! I read an ARC (advance reader copy) of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR and loved it so much I wrote a blurb for the finished book. So you won’t be surprised that I loved it as both a reader and a writer. Barbara’s books traverse some dark areas, but she does so with such great care and respect for her characters that it’s a pleasure to read. Barbara’s powers of description (and they are powers) are remarkable, as she paints vivid pictures of her story for the reader to get lost in.
My blurb of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR: “In THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR Barbara Claypole White’s elegant prose paints a vivid portrait of multi-generational families, unlikely friendships, crushing loss and binding love. THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR breaks your heart and mends it at the same time.”
Below, Barbara shares her personal journey to write this book, and some tidbits about her next one. And she offers advice on the benefits of failing.
One winner of a signed copy of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR will be chosen at random next Wednesday. Just leave a comment about writing or reading or Barbara’s interview to be entered to win. If your email address isn’t part of your entry, either through a link or by adding it to the comment, and you don’t read the blog regularly by subscribing (GASP), we’ll have no way to let you know you’ve won. (Happens ALL THE TIME!) So — include your email!
Now—please welcome Barbara Claypole White to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Barbara Claypole White’s THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR Lets In The Light When It Comes To Love and Loss
Amy: Barbara! I’ve been waiting and waiting for the release of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR because I wanted the rest of the world to be able to read it. Congratulations on writing an eloquent and gripping story. Now, down to business. Who was the first character, or what was the first bit of TIH to reveal itself to you, or did the story hit you fully formed?
Barbara: Thank you, Amy, and thanks for having me back on the blog!
I really, really wish my stories walloped me fully formed, but I’m a messy, organic writer who weaves all over the place. My loosey-goosey process is riddled with false starts…and false drafts. THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR started as a ghost story with a dual timeline and a different heroine, and yet the premise has remained unchanged: What could be worse than losing your child? Having to pretend he’s still alive. And THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR has always been about the power of memories.
An older relative was stuck in a memory loop, calling us constantly to rant and rave about his retirement home while blaming us for putting him there. He called again and again and again, each time forgetting the previous call. After one particularly traumatic evening, I thought, “Life can’t get any worse.” Being a writer I realized it could, and I had two dark thoughts: What if something happened to our son and we had to constantly remind this relative? Or would we just pretend our son was still alive to protect this person from constantly reliving unbearable grief?
Those ideas led to Will Shepard and became his dilemma. I knew Will was a writer; I knew he’d lost a young son in horrific circumstances; I knew he was struggling with his aging father’s mashed-up memory. And I knew I would be telling his story.
I found Will through his intriguing description of silence. That description, which opens the novel, gave me clues to his personality: the love of rock climbing that made me wonder if he had Native American ancestry, and the strong connection to the North Carolina forest, which he tries so hard to deny.
Amy: You write wonderful characters who are fractured in one way or another. What’s the appeal of these characters to you (or to your readers)?
Barbara: I’ve always been drawn to broken people—in real life and in fiction. I like gloriously complex, quirky people who manage to overcome emotional and mental conflict that could, so easily, cripple them. To me, that takes true courage. And if they manage to help others while battling their own demons? Well, that’s a slam dunk.
Much of what I write comes back to my favorite themes—that people who need each other find each other and that you can discover your real family in an unexpected place at an unexpected moment in your life. I can trace both back to my favorite story as a child: the parable of the Good Samaritan. To help a friend is one thing, but to reach out a hand to someone you don’t know? That fills me with the warm fuzzies of hope.
Amy: What was your favorite scene to write in TIH? (No spoilers, of course)
Barbara: My absolute favorite scene comes with too many spoilers, but I do love the first scene with Jacob, Will’s 80-year-old dad who has a penchant for the illicit Wild Turkey he sneaks into Hawk’s Ridge Retirement Community. Jacob has a southern cadence that’s hard for a Brit to reproduce, but I worked and reworked that scene until I could hear him quite clearly. From then on, I had Jacob’s voice. I love Jacob. He’s the heartbeat of the novel and has his own, unique way of interpreting the world despite his short-term memory dysfunction.
In this scene, we go inside Jacob’s head for the first time and see the story seed take root. Jacob has just ended a phone call with Will. During that phone call, Jacob erased the memory of his grandson’s death, and Will, in a moment of grief and exhaustion, tried to protect Jacob by spinning a story. Will pretended his son was traveling around Europe, assuming Jacob would forget. But Jacob, who has never left the state of North Carolina, latches onto My Grandson’s Great European Adventure, and soon Will finds himself trapped in a lie.
Amy: Did it feel different to launch TIH than it did to launch The Unfinished Garden last year?
Barbara: Very different! I’ve learned to expect nothing, be pleasantly surprised when good things happen, and not check my Amazon rankings. The killer deadline for novel three also helped. (Writing to contract is a fabulous cure for book launch neurosis!) Plus I was blessed to discover—before launch day—that the novel had been chosen as a SIBA Winter 2014 Okra Pick. THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR is my love letter to the little corner of the South where I live: the Orange County forest. Going into the launch with the knowledge that I had the support of Southern indie booksellers made a huge difference to my psyche. It’s like shouting out, “The Oscar’s mine and you can’t take it away even if you trash my red carpet gown.”
Amy: Your novels have remarkably lush settings. You’re an avid gardener. No coincidence, I imagine. Can you tell us another tidbit of your real world you’ve written into your novels?
Barbara: We live in the middle of the forest that provides the setting for THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR and the opening and closing scenes from THE UNFINISHED GARDEN. In both novels, my heroines share my love of this land. Tilly’s garden is my garden, and Hannah’s relationship to the forest is completely autobiographical. Hannah talks about living breathing history on Saponi Mountain, history that is tangible. I grew up in an English village with a church that celebrated its thousandth birthday when I was a teenager. I walk into that building; I sense the past. I have the same feeling when I enter our forest.
And I’m obsessed with how the light filters through the trees. Yes, my fascination with light and shade comes from being a woodland gardener, but it also comes from my need to find hope in darkness, to find what Leonard Cohen describes as the light that gets through the cracks. My brilliant son has battled obsessive-compulsive disorder for most of his life. We’ve visited hell together, but we’ve always come out the other side—into the sunlight.
Amy: What’s your best advice for any writer embarking on a brand new project?
Barbara: Give yourself permission to fail. I had a horrible time finding a new story after THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR and then abandoned what I thought was going to be my next project. A different story premise spoke to me, with characters I loved, and that stalled out, too. Following my editor’s brilliant advice, I approached the second story from a different angle and as I did so, finally began to feel a connection—after five months.
You don’t have to know where you’re going but you need the commitment to find out. Show up for work every day, even if it feels like wading through quicksand. And then, without warning, the wading will get easier and you’ll experience that first jolt of passion. Commitment and passion can lead to a wonderful story…
Amy: Okay, I’ll come clean. I asked that because I know you’ve started on your third novel. Anything you can share with us about it—like when it will be published, so we can mark our reading calendars?
Barbara: We have a tentative release date of June 2015. I’m still working on the first draft, so it’s one huge, glorious mess. I am intrigued, however, to realize that unlike THE UNFINISHED GARDEN and THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR this is not a story of healing. Novel three is a story of acceptance. It’s about what happens when a full-time mother becomes chronically disabled and her emotionally removed, workaholic husband must figure out how to connect with their son—a teenager who is juggling first love, college applications, and a soup of issues that includes Tourette syndrome. Oh, and there’s an elderly, lesbian neighbor called Eudora. Eudora owns a gun, and she’s a squirrel sniper. 🙂
(Ooh, Barbara, I can’t wait!! If you live in the U.S., don’t forget to leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR!)
English born and educated, Barbara Claypole White writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina. Her husband is an internationally-acclaimed academic; their son is an award-winning young poet / musician. His battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have inspired her to write stories that find healing and hope in the darkness of invisible disabilities such as severe grief or clinical depression. Her characters are quirky and damaged, but they always find the light through the trees (a recurring image in her writing). The Unfinished Garden, Barbara’s debut novel, won the 2013 Golden Quill for Best First Book. The In-Between Hour, her second novel, has been named a Winter 2014 Okra Pick by Southern Indie Bookstores.