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 Café 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?