Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Meet Debrah Williamson (and a contest!)

Today, in lieu of a normal DWT blog, (because I'm lazy and it's hot out), I'm posting an excerpt of an interview I recently did with Debrah Williamson, whose latest novel, PAPER HEARTS hit the shelves yesterday, August 7, 2007. On my other blog, I've talked about cyber friendships and meeting people online. Well, Debrah is another example. She found my website, noticed we have the same agent, and we started up a correspondence.

UPDATE! Debrah is generously running a contest. Comment on this blog post before August 23rd for a chance to win an ARC of PAPER HEARTS! (Note to self and to fellow drunk writers... We should have contests more often.)

Here's a bit of the interview. (Some context since this is from mid-interview. Debrah published close to thirty romance novels with various publishers under a couple of different pen names, including Debrah Morris. Some of these novels were co-written with another writer.)

MM: You describe yourself as a veteran romance novelist. Do you think the genre has changed? For better? For worse?

DW: A veteran is someone who’s been through battle and survived, right? Maybe wounded, maybe scarred, but stronger for having seen the elephant, and no longer starry-eyed or delusional about her insignificant role in the big scheme of things. Yep, that’s me. A veteran.
Seriously, romance gave me opportunities I probably would not have found in other genres of fiction. I will always be grateful for those opportunities and what I learned from them. And yes, I think the genre has changed. A lot. Hence, the reason I am a veteran romance writer and not a currently successful one. I won’t make a judgment call on better or worse. It is what it is. Like any living organism, fiction must adapt to the changing world or perish. Romance is still going strong, and that says a lot.

MM: Why did you decide to branch into mainstream fiction?

DW: I think I’ve always been a mainstream writer at heart. As I said, I didn’t read much romance before I got into it, and what I read was mostly Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.
I quit writing for a while after our collaboration dissolved and focused on my clinical profession. But you know what they say. Writers must write. My last foray into romance was as a solo writer. I wrote five Silhouette Romances as Debrah Morris and had a good time with those. However, when I realized the line was on the verge of closing, I finished my contract and decided to make one last do-or-die stab at cracking mainstream.

Besides the practical consideration of the line folding, I just wanted to write bigger stories than could be told in 50K words. Even after cutting and revising, my novels are 100K words or more. And I wanted to explore relationships other than romantic ones. There are too many kinds of love in the world to limit myself to just one. For example, my recent work delves into the meaning of love for children, parents, and friends.

MM: Tell us a little about PAPER HEARTS.

DW: Thanks for asking. Paper Hearts is about the oddest of odd couples: a young girl at the beginning of her life and an old man at the end of his. Fifteen-year-old Chancy Deel runs away from Pittsburgh and her abusive mother and finds herself stranded in picture-perfect Wenonah, Oklahoma. Streetwise and vulnerable, Chancy is afraid. Afraid to be alone and of being hurt. Afraid she'll never find the new life she so desperately wants.

Eighty-three-year-old Max Boyle is scared too. And just as desperate. He's lost his beloved wife and is about to be forced out of his home of fifty years by a well-meaning social agency. He has no reason to tough out the rest of his lonely life. Because his chronic heart condition isn't doing the job fast enough to suit him, Max decides to end it all.

Everything changes when Max finds Chancy sleeping in his garage. He believes the girl with the wary heart was sent by his late wife and hatches a plan that might just save them both. One transforming summer teaches these two unlikely friends what we all know in our hearts-that no one is meant to go through life alone.

I have worked with these at-risk populations in a professional capacity. In our city, abandoned or homeless teens can have their own place through an independent living program.. We have a day care program that allows young parents, both girls and boys, with custody of their children, to attend high school. I’ve also dealt extensively with the geriatric population. On both professional and personal levels, I understand how devastating the loss of independence can be. Max Boyle grew out of some statistics I read about how the fastest growing rate of suicide in this country is among men over the age of seventy.

It’s been said that the true test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. In PAPER HEARTS, I try to put faces on these voiceless – and often invisible – populations. I hope after readers meet Chancy and Max, they will never look at a grungy teen or grouchy old man in quite the same way again.


DW: Oh, now we’re talking about the book o’ my heart. I first started hearing Pauly Mahoney’s voice twenty years ago. In the conversation with the author pages in the back of the book, I talk about how she visited and revisited me over the years. Well, nagged the heck out of me is more like it. She just wouldn’t shut up until I wrote her story. So I did. When I finished it, I realized I didn’t have it quite right and put it away. I did other things. Wrote those five solo romances, and a historical (as yet unpublished). When I decided to make the do-or-die-trying effort to break into mainstream, an interested agent asked to see something completed.

When I pulled out SINGING WITH THE TOP DOWN and re-read it, after so much writing time had washed under the bridge, I realized exactly what it needed. So I rewrote it. The agent took it on, submitted it to publishers and it sold within a couple of months.

The story is set in 1954 and is about a couple of children orphaned when their irresponsible young parents are killed in a freak carnival ride accident. An aunt they don’t know — a wannabe movie starlet — shows up at the funeral to take them back to California and a new life.
SINGING is essentially a road-trip story. They set out in a 1953 Buick Skylark convertible, thus the title, and share many adventures and misadventures between Oklahoma and California. They pick up an elderly hitchhiker who is a nursing home refugee, and together these four figure out how to be a family.


Molly O'Keefe said...

Those books sound amazing! Thanks for posting the interview -- can't wait to read Paper Hearts.

Anonymous said...

Yep, love the sound of both books. Will definitely pick them up.

Okie Deb said...

Hey, Maureen, thanks again for the opportunity to get the word out about Paper Hearts.

Here's a deal for you and your drunk writers, er, readers.

How about I keep track of all the posters commenting on this thread until, oh, say August 23rd, two weeks from today.

At that time I'll draw a name from the hat and send the poster an ARC of Paper Hearts.

I'll gladly check back and answer questions readers might have about my work too!

Molly and Sinead, thanks for stopping by!

w/a Debrah Williamson

Maureen McGowan said...

Great idea, Debrah! I'll add the contest info to the post.

Anonymous said...

Hey Deb,
I read your "Singing With the Top Down" and loved it. Even blogged about it on my blog.
And now I have to get your new one. Looking forward to it.
Best to you....Terri

Anonymous said...

This book sounds wonderful. I can't wait to read it. -- Linda

Anonymous said...

I'm the last person you should give this book to, because after reading the excerpt I have to buy it for myself. I can't wait to read it.

Marcy said...

I got a little misty reading the description of Paper Hearts. Sounds like a heart warming story. Can't wait to read it!!!


Bonnie Staring said...

Thanks for sharing this interview with us, Maureen! And thank you, Debrah, for creating characters I can't wait to read about!

Oh, and the contest is pretty darn cool too. ;)

M. said...

- ref paper hearts: at the risk of sounding squeeish - love,love,love the cover art. unusual, appealing, intriguing photos, good color. i pay perhaps too much attention to covers. the proof is that i let the consistently atrocious cover art put me off of Loretta Chase and the wheel of time series for decades

- ref 'singing' - great title and intriguing concept. i can totally see it as a retro-type movie


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