Friday, May 23, 2008

Beth Pattillo talks small towns, knitting, and London

Due to scheduling conflicts, Bandita Donna was kind enough to offer up her normal blog day today so author Beth Pattillo could be with us before she jets off across the pond to England. Beth is not only a RITA-winning author, she’s also one of my oldest writing friends (oldest as in I’ve known her for several years, not her actual age). There we are on the left, in Dallas in 2004 after I won my first Golden Heart. She’s been a critique partner extraordinaire, a fun conference roomie, a wonderful supporter, and frequent opponent for Scrabbulous on Facebook, at which she routinely kicks my butt (Trish hangs head in shame). Beth and I have been friends since we became charter members of our local RWA chapter, Music City Romance Writers.

Trish: Your new book, The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, was just released this week. How does the release of this book compare to the release of your previous novels?

Beth: It’s been two years since I had a novel released in the general book market, and I have to say that I’ve missed that! This book is also my first women’s fiction novel, so I’m nervous about how it will be received. I hope that readers will enjoy reading about all six members of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society.

Trish: How did this story come about? What attracted you to it?

Beth: I was inspired by the knitting group at my church, a very diverse collection of women from young teenagers to retirees. I loved the way that knitting bonded us, despite our age differences. I’ve also been wanting to do a book about a book club but needed a fresh angle. So combining the two served a double purpose.

Trish: You write for Waterbrook Press, an inspirational publisher. What makes Sweetgum an inspirational story?

Beth: I think the inspirational elements in the book are pretty subtle, but at heart, the book is about how women can find unexpected strength within a circle of friends.

Trish: What is your favorite part of writing? Your least favorite?

Beth: My favorite part of writing is when I get so caught up in what I’m doing that I lose all sense of time passing. I also enjoy the times when I read something I’ve written and realize that I achieved what I set out to do. My least favorite part of writing is getting started. I use all sorts of tricks to get my fingers to the keyboard each day.

Trish: You said at your book launch party that Sweetgum, the small town in your novel, is partially based on the two small towns where family members lived. What are some of the aspects of these small towns that you incorporated into your fictional Sweetgum, and how did you decide on those?

Beth: I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned town square. They make small town life feel so centered. As a child, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ home in Sweetwater, Texas. So some of my locations -- like Munden’s Five and Dime -- come from those experiences.

My grandfather was from Waynesboro, Tennessee. I’ve used some elements of that town, too, in creating Sweetgum in my imagination and on the page. For one thing, I had some of the best chicken fried chicken livers I’ve eaten in my entire life when I was visiting Waynesboro! That memory inspired Tallulah’s CafĂ© in the book.

Trish: I know you’re about to embark on a trip to London. What are some of the things you’re looking forward to seeing during this trip? And if a person had only one day in London, what sights should they not miss?

Beth: I’m going to London to do research for a novel related to Jane Austen, so we’ll be taking a day trip to Hampshire to visit some of the important places in her life and the Jane Austen House at Chawton. I’ve also booked a walking tour in London to see some of the relevant locations there. My husband and I are bringing the kids along on this trip, so we have lots of fun things planned for them -- the Tower of London, the London Eye, the London Duck Tour (in an amphibious vehicle from WWII), and, of course, lots of shopping!

If I had only one day to spend in London, I’d take one of the open-air, double-decker bus tours. Then I’d hang out at the National Gallery, troll the bookstores along Charing Cross, and finish off at a play or musical in the West End.

Trish: What are you working on now?

Beth: Currently, I’m finishing the sequel to The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society. It’s tentatively titled The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love, and it should be out in May 2009. It’s a real treat to be able to continue to tell these characters’ stories.

Trish: You won the prestigious RITA Award for your novel Heavens to Betsy. Where is your RITA now? Do you just stare at it for inspiration? :)

Beth: My RITA sits on the mantelpiece in the study, along with my grandmother’s china dolls and her set of McGuffey Readers. I don’t know that I look to RITA for inspiration so much as a reminder that perseverance is the name of the writing game. And also a reminder that dreams can come true! (And Beth has been known to kiss her RITA, the proof of which I captured to the right.)

Q. Recently, we played the Two Truths and a Lie game here at Romance Bandits, so we’re going to extend the fun to you. So, tell us two truths about yourself and make up one lie, and we’ll see if our readers can figure out which is the lie.

A. Two truths and a lie, hmmm? Well, let’s see.

1. I’m addicted to MTV’s The Gauntlet.
2. I adore Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
3. I wouldn’t miss an episode of Desperate Housewives.

Beth will donate an autographed copy of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society (trust me, you want to win this) to one poster who guesses her lie correctly. And for the record, I had to ask her which was the lie and I KNOW her. I knew one of the truths, but I was stumped on the other.

So, how about you all -- do you like small towns? If so, what do you like best? If you’re a writer, what do you like most about the writing process? Least? And if you had one day in London, what would you go see first?


Jane said...

I haven't seen many small towns. I'm a city person and most of my vacation destinations have been big cities. I think it would be nice to be in a place where everyone knows each other. If I were in London for a day, I would love to see the Tower Bridge and Parliament. I think number 3 is the lie.

flchen1 said...

Hi, Beth! I'm so excited to learn about your writing--I do love reading about small towns (never having lived in one), and I really enjoy "ensemble" stories about women's friendships. It seems like small towns have more of a community/family feel to them (at least the ones I like reading about! ;)) and though that can have its drawbacks, it seems mostly like a very special blessing.

How exciting that you and your family are going to be spending some time in London! I had the pleasure of visiting many years ago, and enjoyed it all! Hmm... in one day, I think we saw Trafalgar Square and the Tower Bridge. The National Gallery is right around Trafalgar Square, too.

I'm going to guess that #2 is the lie--I'm awful at this game! :)

Congrats on the GR, Jane!

Trish Milburn said...

Jane, congrats on nabbing the Golden Rooster.

Small towns do have their charm, but there's the potential drawback of everyone knowing your business too. Still, the little town squares and mom-and-pop stores and eateries are nice.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey Jane - Congrats on the rooster! You're quick on the draw.

I'm jealous. Terri just got back from London, Beth is heading there. I feel like Eppie on Dreamgirls singing - What About Me?? I want to go. *g*

I'm guessing the Desperate Housewives line was a lie. The charm has left that series IMO - easily forgettable now.

My favorite part of writing is crafting the beginning. My least favorite part is all the hard, hard work it takes to get to THE END.

Have a safe trip, Beth.

jo robertson said...

Great interview, Beth and Trish. Have fun in London, Beth!

I love small towns. I spent my elementary and high school years in a fairly small Virginia town and when I revisit, I'm surprised at how much smaller that little town is! I love to walk by the five and dime store where we stopped for a coke every day on our way home from school.

Hmmm, I'm going to guess that the lie is about Desperate Housewives.

Your books sound like a wonderful new twist on the bonding that women do, whether quilting or knitting or just hanging out and talking.

Helen said...

Congrats on the GR Jane

Great intervew Ladies I love the idea of small towns I have never lived in one but have driven thru a couple and stayed overnight in some and you can almost feel the closeness of the people who live there it feels like a big family with all the emotions of a normal family. I love knitiing as well so this appeals to me although I don't knit the way I used to (I don't have the time anymore) I still have all of my knitting needles and pattern books and hope to one day get back into it.

If I had one day in London I would love to visit one of the beautiful estates and Buckingham Palace and the Tower Of London really as much as I could fit in LOL. Beth I hope you and your family have a wonderful trip.

As for a guess about the lie I would say Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Have Fun

Carol said...

Congrats! Jane on nabbing the travelling GR from hyperspace, Please tell us your city or state or country so we can picture him at your place?

I was amazed to google the knitting blogs a while back and find there are zillions!
And of course Knitting and Book clubs go together very well... chatting and knitting. I think Beth will have a ready audience for her books!

I have always lived in small and even smaller towns, such places can be terrible for people who are different!
(ie race/religion/handicap etc.)
If the people in power positions are not people of integrity and goodwill...then towns like that can be shockers!
The best bit about a small town is the freedom your kid's can have running around playing in relative safety.
London... a boat trip way up the Thames I think!
Just to have a stab at this...I don't think Beth is a Buffy fan.

Cheers to all

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome to the Lair, Beth!
And thanx for inviting her, Trish!

I was in London in January for 4 days and that was WAAAAY too short a time! I think if it was my first visit there and I only had one day, I'd go to the Tower and Westminster Abbey, and if only they were open 24 hours, I'd hit the British Museum too.

I'm with Jane, small towns aren't really my cuppa and for the very reason Trish mentioned -- don't like everybody knowing my business.

Oh, and knitting is one of only two things I successfully do right-handed, and THAT is the truth!


Trish Milburn said...

I've thought before that small towns in our books are our idealized versions of what we wish they were like -- all the good qualities without the bad. Carol is right about it being difficult to be different in a small town. There definitely wasn't much ethnic diversity in the town where I grew up.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats on the GR Jane.
I grew up next to a small town and the 5 and 10 was where my first books came from. :-) I think the smaller towns are more like "family". Everybody knows you and you know them.
My guess for the lie is number 3 too.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Beth and welcome to the Lair! Your knit-lit book sound lovely. I think different generations have a lot to offer each other, don't you?

Your book made me think of this wonderfully warm, cozy cafe near us that is attached to a yarn and knitting shop. There's something wonderful about being amongst all the colour and creativity. Such a pity I can't knit and don't have time to learn right now!

I love reading/watching shows about small towns but I'm quite a private person. I wouldn't want to live somewhere that everyone knows your business.

Congrats on snaffling the Golden Rooster, Jane!!

Gillian Layne said...

Small towns--love them! Of course, they are mostly all I've known. The best is the sense of community and security. The worst is the lack of privacy.

Gillian Layne said...

I'm guessing number 1 is the lie.

terrio said...

Hi there, Beth. Congrats on all your success and I like the sound of this book. I'm a women's fiction fan as well so this is right up my alley.

I grew up in the suburbs and have lived in both big cities and very small towns. I like the option of being invisible in the city, but given the choice, I'd have to go back to the small town.

I'm guessing you're not a fan of The Gauntlet. Just because I can't imagine anyone over 25 being a fan of that show. *g*

Beth said...

Banditas -- Thanks so much for the warm welcome. It's great to hang out here with you all.

And I agree about the good news/bad news split when it comes to small towns. Most of my small town memories are from childhood, though, so they're not colored by some of the more negative things. I tried to hold on to that for the Sweetgum books. Yes, it's idealized, but sometimes (like when gas is about to hit $4 a gallon!), I think we need a little escape from reality.

I'm running around in a flurry of packing today. I've been nagging my family for weeks -- "everyone needs a rain jacket!" -- and so, the day before we're leaving, they're all looking at me like, "Do I need a rain jacket?"


doglady said...

Congrats on nabbing our feathered friend, Jane! Enjoy his company until his fickle heart takes him elsewhere.

Hi Beth! I love the sound of your book! My Nana taught me to knit and it is one of my fond memories of her.

I live in a small town after having traveled the world and living in towns of all sizes. This small town in Alabama is somewhat captured in time. It was used to film THE GRASS HARP and BIG FISH because it hasn't changed all that much since the turn of the LAST century.

I love going to the post office and having everyone know my name and ask about how the writing is coming and how my dogs are. The Fed Ex guy delivers my packages to the bakery of the local Wal-Mart because that is where I work. The little bookstore is a place where people meet and exchange reading recommendations. The little theatre troupe puts on some great plays and you know everyone in the cast. People greet you when you cross the street. It just the kind of place that makes you stop and smile for no reason at all.

I too love the writing when it is flowing and I lose track of time. I hate it when I stare at the page and have no clue what word to put on the paper to get me started again!

I'm going to go with number 3 as the lie.

Joan said...

Welcome to the lair, Beth!

Your Sweetgum books sound great. I've recently gotten back into knitting baby afghans (A rash of pregnancies in my hospital unit....2 singles and 2 sets of twins! You ought to see the reaction when we offer someone a cup of water, LOL) so the book sounds right up my alley.

I think small towns are great. I especially like the ones in Ireland. You feel the special bond the minute you drive into town. Course that could just be the Fae magic :-)

As to London, well a friend of mine that wants to go already has picked out what we will see....

She wants to find out what the Queen carries in her purse :-)

Have a fun, safe trip!

Maureen said...

I really haven't experienced small town living but I imagine they must be more relaxed places to live in. Also they seem more personal as opposed to living in a large suburb. I'm guessing the lie is #3.

PBW said...

Hi Beth!

I just ordered your book on Amazon, looking forward to reading it.

Hmmm... I can't decide which one is probably the lie Desperate Housewives or Buffy???? Wanna give me a hint?

Have fun in London!


Trish Milburn said...

So, Beth, is the gas in Sweetgum cheaper than $4 a gallon. If so, I'm moving there. :)

doglady, my hubby and I enjoyed the movie Big Fish. But then, I really like Ewan McGregor. :)

Joan, LOL about the water at the hospital.

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome Beth - your book sounds fabulous.

As the Brit Bandita I'm thrilled to see you're embarking on a visit to our green and pleasant land. Hope you and your family have a wonderful time.

I'm a small town gal, though I like it to be close to the city so I can enjoy all the city can offer. Our home in the UK is in a small village just outside Cambridge and we used to live in a beautiful market town in Yorkshire called Beverley.

I'm guessing #3 is the lie (or is that just me *grin*)

terrio said...

Forgot to say what I would do with one day in London. My grandmother was born just outside London in someplace called Dunstan on Tyne (not sure on that spelling) and other than her family name, there isn't much else we know about her. So I'd spend the entire day trying to find out all I could.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good morning, Beth and welcome to the Lair. Anything our cabana boys can get you?

I love small towns. My parents are from the same small town in Eastern Tennessee, and since I'm from Ohio, I've visited tons of small midwestern towns. I'd visit some in Texas, but nothing is closer than an hour's drive in any direction! Geesh!! Do you think that writing about small towns allows you to delve into the POV of more characters in each book? And don't you think the town itself becomes a character in the book? (Or is that just my book?)

I'll guess the MTV Guantlet as the lie.

Cheri2628 said...

Since I don't know you, Beth, I am just going to guess that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the lie. Congrats on your success, and have a wonderful trip to London.

Esri Rose said...

That sounds like a great book! I know a lot of knitters. Will have to let them know about it.

If I had one day in London, I'd probably spend it at the Tate Britain.

Rae Ann Parker said...

Hi Beth & Trish. I think small towns make great setting for books. I also love town squares, but the small town I grew up in did not have one. That's one of the fun things about writing, I can just stick that town square in whenever I want to.

Beth said...

DogLady -- The idea of a community theater group is wonderful. If I get to do a third Sweetgum book, I'll work that in.

Hi, Phyllis!

Christine -- I may run with that yarn shop/cafe idea, too. And maybe add a bookstore!

Suzanne -- I do think the small town becomes like a character in the book. I've really enjoyed the world building. In this book, I wrote six different points of view, which was both wonderful and exhausting. Hopefully they all hang together and weave themselves into one big story.

Anna Sugden said...

Joan - probably a hankie and not much else. Definitely no money (her lady-in-waiting has that).

TerriO - Although I don't know it specifically, I think Dunstan on Tyne is well outside of London. The River Tyne is up north - Newcastle way. (I know you're used to long distances over here - but for us, that's a long, long drive!) If you have her name and dates, you can investigate her records at the Family Records Centre in London.

Esri - Tate Britain is fab - as is the Victoria and Albert Museum. That's on my list to do when I get back home.

terrio said...

Anna - I do have her name and dates, thank you for the tip. And it always cracks me up about the distance thing. I mentioned once that I drove 500 miles somewhere and a British friend thought that sounded SO far way. I'd only gone one state over. LOL!

Cherie J said...

Welcome Beth! I love small towns. They are fun to read in stories. Not totally sure I would want to live in one though. Not sure I like the thought of everyone knowing my business. However the sense of closeness in the community would be wonderful. I don't know where I would visit in London first. There is so much I would want to see since I have never been there before and have always wanted to. I am going to guess #2 for the lie.

jo robertson said...

Forgot to say congrats on getting the golden rooster. Take good care of him!

When my first two children were born we lived in a tiny little town in Idaho, less than 3000 population. I'd walk to the post office to get my mail -- no delivery -- and knew EVERYBODY. It was pretty cool.

Minna said...

My guess is number 3.

"Small town" is a relative term. Most towns here are small.

Trish Milburn said...

Phyllis and RaeAnn, so happy to see chaptermates stopping by. RaeAnn, my small hometown had a downtown square, but the courthouse was a "newer" type building so didn't have the charm of the ones that have the Civil War-era courthouses. Ours was one that I believe burned down, as so many buildings did back in the day.

I've traveled to lots and lots of small towns across Tennessee for the magazine job I used to have. One of the cutest little towns doesn't have a square at all, just a single line of buildings. It's called Bell Buckle. Actually, the cover of Beth's book reminds me of Bell Buckle, home to the annual RC & Moon Pie Festival. :)

terrio, LOL on the 500 miles being a long way. Of course, I'm the chick who doesn't fly and has driven from Nashville to Seattle solo before. I love the open road!

jo robertson said...

Beth, I think you're right about small towns giving us an escape from reality, especially in fiction! Sometimes it's annoying when every knows your business (or wants to LOL), but it's great knowing there's someone close by who'll stop everything at the drop of a hat to help you out. I like that.

The drawback for me is that many small towns can be culturally deprived as far as plays, universities, libraries, theatre.

Trish Milburn said...

Jo, where did you live in Idaho. I've been to Twin Falls in the southern part and across the top through Couer d'Alene. Lake Couer d'Alene is one of the most beautiful sites I've ever seen. I nearly drove off the side of the mountain staring at it the first time I saw it.

Trish Milburn said...

Since we're on the topic of small towns, what are some books, movies or TV shows set in small towns that made you wish you could wish this fictional town? One of my recent favorites is Elmo, Alaska, the site of the sadly canceled Men in Trees.

One of my favorite real small towns is West Yellowstone, Montana. If I could handle cold better, I'd live there.

terrio said...

I loved the setting of the Three Sister's Island trilogy by Nora Roberts. And all those great Irish towns she does so well. I thought SEP did a good job of having the small town setting become a character in Ain't She Sweet. It rang true with me as I've lived in a town very similar to the one she describes.

The amazing thing is I was told by someone that SEP has never lived in a small southern town. No idea how she made it come to life so accurately.

Trish Milburn said...

terrio, I love the Three Sisters Island trilogy and the setting too. My sister and I dream of owning that bookstore and cafe. Don't worry, people, my sis will do the cooking. :)

Minna said...

What about Northern Exposure? The town in that series was called Cicely, I think.

Trish Milburn said...

Minna, I almost mentioned Northern Exposure. I hope to visit Roslyn, Washington this summer, which was where Northern Exposure was actually filmed. I also want to visit Forks, Washington, the setting of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.

Anna Sugden said...

I LOVED Northern Exposure - have it on DVD now to enjoy.

The Three Sisters Trilogy by Nora is my favourite of her ST series.

I hope you'll let me know if you're over, Terrio - we can meet up.

terrio said...

Trish - does that mean you're driving to San Fran?!

Anna - I'll be sure to do that. But sadly, it's not happening anytime soon. *g*

Pat Cochran said...

I'm a big city person: born and bred!
I do remember visiting one of my room
mates on break, her family lived in
a small East Texas town which had a town square. I was amazed to find out that they really did "roll up
the sidewalks" at the end of the day.
After dark, the square was deserted
except for us "carousing" college kids!
My guess: #3

Trish Milburn said...

Terrio, I'll likely take Amtrak during most of my trip, but I think I'm riding down from Northern CA with a friend to San Fran.

Pat Cochran said...

I forgot! So sorry! Congratulations
to Jane on the GR!!

Pat Cochran

anne said...

Hi Beth. So wonderful to read this lovely post about your novel and s mall towns. I always had lived in a large metropolis but have now located to a medium sized city which I really appreciate. In London I would go to Buckingham Palace.
I think that number 3 is the lie.

Jane said...

Hey Carol,
The GR is in NYC with me.

Kerin starr said...

I can't wait to read the book because I love the theme -- women supporting other women! That said, the only thing I ever knit were a "scarves" for my Barbie dolls and trolls!

As for what to do if only given a single day in London - I think you described it perfectly: the Tower in the morning, the National Gallery in the afternoon, and then a wickedly funny Brittish comedy at the theater (no one does comedy like the Brits!)

As for the lie, I HOPE it is Desparate housewives, though I've never seen any of hte three shows and never heard of one of them so I am making lots of assumptions about DH!

Have fun on the trip.

tetewa said...

Glad to see you here today and your latest release sounds good! As for the lie I'm going with #2.

Virginia said...

I love small towns or country life. I was raised in a small community, and live in a small town right now. I just don't like big towns at all.

Now for the game not good at this but I am going to say 2. I adore Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think that is the lie.

Dina said...

I'n a city girl, visited small towns when I was young, liek the corner store on the corner, lol.

I do want to visit Londond hopefully next yr and the 1st thing I'd see is the Tower bridge, it is so beautiful. I love to see it in movies.

now for the lie, hhhhmmm, I'll say:

1. I’m addicted to MTV’s The Gauntlet.

Trish Milburn said...

Corbette, I love the image of you knitting scarves for Barbies and trolls! :)

Carol said...

Thanks Jane,apparently LOTs of temptations there in NYC!!
Cheers Carol

Beth said...

Thanks again, ladies, for letting me hang out with you today. What a great group!