Guest Blogger Joshua Graham: ‘Write What You Know’

We have a special guest today!  Joshua Graham, author of the suspense thriller, Beyond Justice (Dawn Treader Press), is here with us to share a few writing tips!

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

by Joshua Graham

It’s one of the basic guidelines (I don’t like rules, when it comes to creative work) of writing.  That’s why lawyers like Linda Fairstein and John Grisham write legal thrillers.  It’s why so many of Dean Koontz’s books are set in Orange County, CA.   With firsthand knowledged and experience, authors can write with authenticity.

Does that mean writers can only use subject matter in fields in which they’ve worked, places they’ve lived in or visited?  Absolutely not.  But does it help?  Of course!

My book BEYOND JUSTICE is set in San Diego, known as “America’s Finest City.”  It’s a gorgeous part of the country with near perfect weather all year round.  Friends from the Pacific Northwest hate it when I complain about the occasional cloudy day (Sorry, we’re all kind of spoiled, I know.)  Over a decade ago, my brother first invited me and my wife to come out to San Diego for a visit from Brooklyn, NY,  and we fell in love with the place.

Granted, you don’t have the diversity and “city that never sleeps” spirit of the Big Apple here.  But the tradeoff is more than worthwhile, in my aging opinion.  It’s a great place to raise a family; you have Sea World, the world famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park in your backyard, Disneyland just a stone’s throw away, and beautiful beaches along the coast straight up through Los Angeles County.

You’ve probably read plenty of books set in New York or Los Angeles, with all the grit and tension of those cities infused it’s quite familiar to most readers and movie-goers.  But things that happen in suburbia are generally not as well-known.  For example:  We had the infamous 2002 David Westerfield murder case where a young girl (Danielle Van Dam) was abducted right out of her house and found murdered later by her neighbor.  This happened in the same neighborhood where my friends lived.  It rocked the deceptively peaceful foundations of our quiet and pleasant existence.

For me, “write what you know” also applies to being a husband and father.  When I set out to write BEYOND JUSTICE, I asked myself what my greatest fear was.  That fear was not for myself, but for the suffering of my wife and children.  The opening chapters were perhaps the most difficult chapters I’ve ever had to write because I had to imagine in graphic detail my absolute worst nightmare. Anyone can imagine how terrible a crime like that of the opening pages can be, but these chapters resonate even more deeply with anyone who has a spouse or child.

I’ve written other books and stories that draw upon my experiences in my faith, my previous occupations (a classical musician, an IT professional/executive, etc.,) countries I’ve visited (Egypt, South Africa, Jordan, Israel, Italy, France, Canada.)  All of these contribute to my fiction, and makes it easier to write, but the most important thing is the story.

Writing what you know is a great starting point and I recommend it for all emergent writers.  But don’t limit yourself to these things.  Branch out.  If you want your readers to use their imagination, you as a writer must use yours.

Joshua GrahamJoshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego. Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble. It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer. You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.


Interview with Joshua Graham: ‘My characters dictate where the book will go’


Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.   During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego.  Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble.  It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer.  You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Joshua. Can you tell us what your latest book, Beyond Justice, is all about?

Beyond Justice is a story about a man who is falsely accused and convicted for the brutal murder of his wife and daughter and the human struggle for redemption, forgiveness and truth.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Sam Hudson, the protagonist is a attorney at a reputable law firm.  He’s a straight shooter, a bit self-righteous, but overall a likeable person who strives to do right by all people, especially his family who he loves more than life.  His worst fears are not for himself, but rather, the suffering of his wife and children.  And of course, his worst nightmares come true.

Rachel Cheng is Sam’s wet behind the ears defense attorney.  She’s really good at her job, but must deal with a powerful district attorney’s office in trying to get Sam acquitted.   This is by far the most difficult case, emotionally and technically, she’s ever had.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Most of the characters are an amalgam of people I’ve had the honor of knowing, as well as people who have left a less than positive, but memorable impression in my life.  The protagonist’s fears are very personal and ones I’m sure every spouse or parent deals with in their darkest moments.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  I do have an overall feeling of the beginning middle and end (this book is in three acts), but even with mini-outlines, my characters dictate where the book will go.  Within my given parameters, of course.

Q: Your book is set in San Diego.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Write what you know, right?  Plus, we’ve all seen movies and read books set in New York, or Los Angeles.  San Diego is a beautiful part of the country and well deserving of more attention.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely.  For the entire second act setting is everything.  And it’s a place you don’t want to imagine being, but I’m confident you won’t want to close the blinds on the picture window I’ve opened for you.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

69? Not 42?  J  Okay, on page 69, Sam, who has just dodged the bullet and made bail, having been arrested as the primary suspect in the murders of his wife and daughter remains under house arrest. He’s already lost his job, and struggles to pay the medical bills for his 4 year old son, who lies in a coma—the only survivor of the killer’s attack.

Believe it or not, things do get even worse for Sam.  It’s only page 69 out of 430!

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is from the opening chapter, Sam has just returned from an important dinner meeting with a potential client.

…I entered the house, greeted by the sweet scent of Lilac—her favorite candles for those special occasions.  So much more than I deserved, but that was my Jenn.  Never judging, never condemning, she understood how much stress I’d been under and always prescribed the best remedy for such situations.

From the foot of the stairs I saw dimmed light leaking out of the bedroom.  It wasn’t even date night, but I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking.  So before going up, I stopped by the kitchen, filled a pair of glasses with Merlot and set out a little box of chocolates on a breakfast tray—my secret weapon.

As I climbed the stairs I smiled.  The closer I got, the more I could smell the fragrant candles.  From the crack in the door classical music flowed out:  Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem. Must’ve been writing a love scene.  She always used my classical CDs to set her in the right mood.

A beam of amber light reached through the crack in the doorway into the hallway.  The alarm system beeped.  She must have shut a window.  It had just started to rain and Jenn hated when the curtains got wet.

Kathleen Battle’s angelic voice soared.

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem,
Requiem sempiternam.

Jenn didn’t know a word of Latin.  She just liked the pretty tunes.

I nudged the door open with my foot.

“Honey?”  Caught a glimpse of a silky leg on the bed.  Oh, yes.  I pushed the door open.

Shock ignited every nerve ending in my body like napalm.  The tray fell from my hands.  Crashed to the ground.  Glasses shattered and the red wine bled darkly onto the carpet.

Jenn lay partially naked, face-down, the sheets around her soaked crimson.  Stab wounds scored her entire body.  Blood.  Blood everywhere!

“Jenn!”

I ran to her, turned her over.

She gasped, trying to speak.  Coughed.  Red spittle dripped from the corner of her mouth.  “The kids…”

I took her into my arms.  But her eyes begged me to go check on them.

“You hang on, honey.  With all you’ve got, hang on!”  I reached for my cell phone but it fell out of my belt clip and bounced under the bed.

On my knees now, I groped wildly until I found the cell phone.  Dialed 9-1-1.  Barely remembered what I said, but they were sending someone right away.

Jenn groaned.  Her breaths grew shorter and shorter.

“Bethie… Aaron.”

Her eyes rolled back.

“I’m going.  Hang on, baby.  Please!  You gotta hang on!” I started for the door.  Felt her hand squeeze mine twice:  Love-you.

No.

Tears streamed down my face.  As I began to pull away, she gripped my hand urgently.  For that split second, I knew.  This was the end.  I stumbled back to her.  Gathered her ragdoll body in to my arms.

“Jenn, oh God, Jenn.  Please don’t!”

“Whatever it takes,” she said.  Again, she squeezed my hand twice.  “Mercy, not…sacrifice.”  One last gasp.  She sighed and then fell limp in my arms, her eyes still open.

Holding her tight to my chest, I let out an anguished cry.

All time stopped.  Who would do this?  Why?  Her blood stained my shirt.  Her dying words resonated in my mind.  Then I remembered.  The kids.  I bolted up and ran straight to Bethie’s room.

Bethie’s door was ajar.  If my horror hadn’t been complete, it was now.  I found her exactly like Jenn—face down, blood and gashes covering her body.

Though I tried to cry out, nothing escaped the vice-grip on my throat.  When I turned her over, I felt her arm.  Still warm, but only slightly.  Her eyes were shut, her face wet with blood.

“Bethie!  Oh, sweetie, no!” I whispered, as I wrapped the blanket around her.

I kissed her head.  Held her hand.  Rocked her back and forth. “Come on, baby girl.  Help’s on its way, you hold on,” I said, voice and hands trembling.  She lay there unconscious but breathing.

Aaron.

Gently, I lay Bethie back down then got up and flew across the hall.  To Aaron’s door.  His night light was still on and I saw his outline in the bed.

Oh God, please.

I flipped the switch.

Nothing.

I dashed over to the lamp on his nightstand, nearly slipping on one of his Thomas Train toys on the carpet.  Broken glass crackled under my shoes.

I switched on the lamp on his nightstand.  When I looked down to his bed, my legs nearly gave out.  Aaron was still under his covers, but blood drenched his pillow.  His aluminum baseball bat lay on the floor, dented and bloodied.

Dropping to my knees, I called his name.  Over and over, I called, but he didn’t stir.  This can’t be happening.  It’s got to be a nightmare.  I put my face down into Aaron’s blue Thomas Train blanket and gently rested my ear on his chest.

I felt movement under the blanket.  Breathing.  But slowly—irregular and shallow.

Don’t move his body.  Dammit, where are the paramedics?

I heard something from Bethie’s room and dashed out the door.  Stopping in the middle of the hallway, I clutched the handrail over the stairs.  Thought I heard Aaron crying now.  Or maybe it was the wind.

My eyes darted from one side of the hallway to the other.  Which room?

Faure’s Requiem continued to play, now the In Paradisum movement.

Aeternam habeas requiem.

Something out in front of the house caught my attention.  The police, the paramedics!  Propelled by adrenaline, I crashed through the front door and ran out into the middle my lawn which was slick with rain.  I slipped and fell on my side.

Nobody.  Where were they!

Like a madman, I began screaming at the top of my lungs.  My words echoed emptily into the night.

“Help!  Somebody, please!”

A dog started barking.

“Please, ANYBODY!  HELP!”

Lights flickered on in the surrounding houses.

Eyes peeked through miniblinds.

No one came out.

I don’t know if I was intelligible at this point.  I was just screaming,  collapsed onto the ground,  on my hands and knees getting drenched in the oily rain.

Just as the crimson beacons of an ambulance flashed around the corner, I buried my face into the grass.  All sound, light, and consciousness imploded into my mind as if it were a black hole.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Joshua.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for the opportunity.  It’s really been a pleasure.  I hope your readers will visit me at www.joshua-graham.com or facebook: www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham .  Trade paperback and Kindle editions are available at Amazon.com, all ebook formats available at Smashwords.com, and for the iPad and iPhone through the iBooks store.

‘Beyond Justice’ Joshua Graham on virtual book tour September & October ’10

Joshua GrahamJoin Joshua Graham, author of the suspense thriller, Beyond Justice (Dawn Treader Press), as he virtually tours the blogosphere September 7 – October 29 ‘10 on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego. Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble. It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer. You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.

Publishers Weekly calls Beyond Justice “…A riveting legal thriller…. breaking new ground with a vengeance… demonically entertaining and surprisingly inspiring.”

To find out where he’ll be appearing on virtual tour, visit his official tour page at Pump Up Your Book here. Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours and online book promotion. Visit their website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

Interview with Ann Putnam, author of ‘Full Moon at Noontide’

Ann Putnam holds a PhD in literature from the University of Washington. She teaches creative writing and gender studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.  She has published short fiction, personal essays, literary criticism and book reviews in various anthologies including Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, and in journals, including the Hemingway Review, Western American Literature, and the South Dakota Review.  Her latest work is a memoir, Full Moon at Noontide:  A Daughter’s Last Goodbye.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Ann. Can you tell us what your latest book, Full Moon at Noontide:  A Daughter’s Last Goodbye?  is all about?

Yes, thanks for asking.  I’m going to give you a little excerpt from my “Preface”:  “This is the story of my mother and father and my dashing, bachelor uncle, my father’s identical twin, and how they lived together with their courage and their stumblings, as they made their way into old age and then into death. And it’s the story of the journey from one twin’s death to the other, of what happened along the way, of what it means to lose the other who is also oneself.

My story takes the reader through the journey of the end of life: selling the family home, re-location at a retirement community, doctor’s visits, ER visits, specialists, hospitalizations, ICU, nursing homes, Hospice.  It takes the reader through the gauntlet of the health care system with all the attendant comedy and sorrows, joys and terrors of such things.  Finally it asks:  what consolation is there in growing old, in such loss?  What abides beyond the telling of my own tale? Wisdom carried from the end of the journey to readers who are perhaps only beginning theirs.  Still, what interest in reading of this inevitable journey taken by such ordinary people?  Turned to the light just so, the beauty and laughter of the telling transcend the darkness of the tale.”

Q: Is this your first book?  If not, how has writing this book different from writing your first?

And the next day the trespass of her picture in the paper, her life so suddenly laid open for all to see, how she was carried off, half out of her mind.  She was twenty-one.   Then the violence of the hooks and barbed wire and dynamite to bring the bodies up. And the taste of the day bitter on her tongue forever after, and the plums, where were the plums?   Who had eaten the plums?”

They’d spread the tablecloth on the grassy hill above the beach, where they’d gone for a picnic—the bowl of fried chicken covered with a white linen napkin, and potato salad and cucumber pickles, fresh bread, and fruit.  There would have been chocolate, of course.  Pearl would have brought it from the candy store where she worked.

As they carried Alfreda off the dock, she looked back one more time to that place in the water where the boats now circled, so still, so dark.  How could he be so suddenly gone? That night she lay numb and disbelieving in her boardinghouse room, while thunder cracked against the house and the wind blew the curtains and someone came in but who? to shut the window.  She lay with her head in the pillow and tried to sleep, but every time she closed her eyes, she saw him floating over the bottom in that green, murky water, his arms outstretched in astonishment.  She did not see Pearl anywhere.  It was better to keep her eyes open.  So she watched the lightning flash across the sky as Will lay at the bottom of the lake, and she knew her prayers had gone unanswered.  When the lightning shattered the sky, she wondered what goodness ruled the universe now.

“Once the boat flipped over, she’d gone under fast, her skirts weighing her down, but she’d pushed through the dark green water with her strong, swimmer’s legs, to see William swim away from her and toward his sister, :Pearl, to see her grasp his neck and pull him down, no thrashing to the surface for a second try.   She saw the rush of water knit itself back again, still as glass.  When the other boats reached her she’d called out to leave her and save the others.  She’d stayed like that, hugging the boat for over an hour, refusing rescue until it was clear even to her that they were gone.  It was the first of May.

I’d like to illustrate this with an example from my memoir, which involves my paternal grandmother, whom I had never met, who watched her fiancé die in a boating accident.  It was the event that marked and marred the rest of her life.  I needed to understand this and the only access I had to her was through my imagination:

That being said, I must tell you that many scenes had to be invented, as it were, out of memory, dream, intuition, but invented from absolute fidelity to the “truth,” if that doesn’t sound completely contradictory.

Thank you for a wonderful question to think about!  Now I’ve published short fiction and written two novels, which I’m currently revising, so fiction is the logical choice for me.  In fact I was in the middle of revising a novel called Cuban Quartermoon, which is set in Cuba just after the discovery of Che Guevara’s bones, when life intervened and my duties as caretaker for my father and his identical twin brother took over everything.  When my uncle died, I began taking little notes—just words or phrases or lines someone had spoken, or first, quick impressions of what my family was going through. When my father died six months later to the day, I found I had collected several little notebooks full of such things.  Now the really interesting take on this question for me is why didn’t I render this family drama in fiction?  Why did I choose memoir?  My first novel was autobiographical and so this narrative of my parents might seem a natural for fiction.  Still, it was the voice that emerged from my little scattering of writings that felt like a memoir to me more than fiction.  I needed to be wholly, fully myself, with no masks at all, to tell this tale.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

I would say the first rough draft was the hardest.  The first thing I wrote described the death of my father, which comes late in the book as it was finally sculpted.  But I’d written that part for a reading at a conference.  It was about six months after my father had died and I thought I was ready to write about it.  I didn’t sit at my computer with tears running down my face at all.  I was cool and very much the writer at work, telling herself that she could do this just fine. But after about an hour, I would begin to feel ill. And sure enough found myself running a fever—the aches and weariness, the works.  I’d take a couple of Tylenol and lie down for an hour or so, and it would pass.  So I learned that I could only write about an hour at a time through those summer months.  That feeling eventually just sort of left me, and only returned now and then.  But as I wrote the memoir, I experienced more losses—the death of my mother, and then when I was doing final revisions, the death of my husband.  So I guess now that I look at it, it was all very very hard.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest work?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

So many readers have told me how my book has touched their lives.  There is no end to loss or to our experience of it. After my readings, people come up to me for a signing and want to tell me their own stories of loss and thank me for having giving voice to their own.

A magical story:  I received a message out of the blue on Facebook from someone named Susan, who asked me if I perhaps remembered her, as she was the nurse who cared for my uncle in the ICU at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, when he was dying.  She has no idea why she chose that moment to write me.  I had just published my book, and had not seen her since I walked out of the ICU years before.

I wrote her right back, and said, “Susan, I not only remember you but I wrote a book about it with you in it!”  And so we met over coffee and became friends.  I asked her how in the world she would remember my uncle and me across so many years and so many families that had crossed paths with her in the ICU.  She said, “How could I forget it?  What happened was as deep as it goes.”

I hope this little excerpt catches the magic and depth of her:

I still have not met Susan.

That night I do.  “Where do you hurt, Henry?” Susan croons to him like a love song.  She’s the night ICU nurse who is an angel on this earth.

“Everywhere,” he says. “I hurt everywhere.” And in a choreography of such lightness and air, she shifts his pillow, smoothes out the blankets, adjust his meds, and he can breathe again. Then she tucks him in for the long night, and he find his way back to the comfort of sleep.

“What’s happening to him?” I ask Susan.  She explains how systems are shutting down, one after the other.

“What is happening to his spirit?”  I ask Father Bill.

“He’s becoming pure spirit now, what he was and always will be.  He’s going to it now.  Everything else is falling away.”

His chest is quiet now, and the light has gone from his eyes though they are still open.  “We can give him something to close them,” Susan says.  Tears run down her face.  I am grateful for her tears because right then she is everybody who loves him who is not here.  And then as if on cue, his eyes close slowly, sweetly as in a dream, because that’s exactly where he is now.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

Ah, this is always such an interesting question.  I’m always asking this of others.  Still, turned to the light, I’m not sure I can answer this so easily.  I usually begin with little jottings and scribbles in a tiny notebook I always carry with me.  This way I’m not so intimidated at starting a big project.  At some point those jottings turn into free-writes. And this I can do easily and apparently endlessly.  Once I produced an eighty-page free write for a middle section of a novel.  It was a glorious time.  Words came unbeckoned and without end.  But then it stopped, and I had eighty pages of this and that and hardly any idea how to organize it.  So I’m very easy with right-brained writing, but seem to have little of the logical, left-brain to work with. So the next part can be terrifying and seemingly endless.  So I try outlines at this point but never ever before, as I try to encourage all apparent side roads.  I never know where I should really be going until I get there.   Eventually I have what I call a “working rough draft,” and at this point I begin to sculpt and shape and polish.  This is a calmer, saner process and I feel more in control.  Actually, at this point the terror leaves me and I can see what’s good and what’s really awful and does not deserve the light of day. These sections I move to the bottom of the manuscript in case I see later that they are worthy of redemption.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

I try to find some Law and Order re-runs. In this series, we don’t care about the victims because we only get to know them through flashback or refracted through the disingenuous views of others.  We don’t care about the killer because, well s/he’s the killer, after all.  After my husband died, this was the only thing I could do. I have no idea why.  I’d sit in this special place which was his special place, turn on the fireplace, and you know you can always find a Law and Order re-run somewhere.  It requires a left-brain engagement and unfolds without effort.  Reading is too difficult after a long stretch of writing.   Or if it’s in the middle of the day, I’ve stopped writing because the demands of life pull me out of it and rarely into anything relaxing. I do like the hot tub.

Q: What book changed your life?

A farewell to Arms. I read it as a college sophomore and it indeed changed my life.  After Catherine dies in childbirth and Frederick Henry walks out of the hospital into the rain, the book ends.  I remember putting it down and being unable to function for about a week I was so moved and taken with this book.  From then on I knew I would be an English major and that I wanted to live my life in the magic and power of language.  I wanted to be someone who could do that with words. I wanted to be someone whose work in the world was to teach others how to do this.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Incantation

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

Inside I am very shy, and public performances come at great cost, though I do them very well.  All through graduate school I lived in fear that I would be found out as an imposter—I rarely raised my hand in class because I knew my answer couldn’t be right.   Now, as a new “widow,” and how I hate that appellation, I wish people knew how much I needed them but how shy I am of telling them.

Thank you for this interview, Ann. I wish you much success on your latest release, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye.

Information about her book and how to order it can be found on her website at www.annputnam.com, which includes reviews and radio interviews and bio.  Her book can be ordered at any bookstore, through Amazon, and directly from the distributor at www.tamupress.com or by phone: 1-800-826-8911. She has a Facebook page also, as well as a website through her University: www.ups.edu/faculty/aputnam.html.

Ann Putnam’s ‘Full Moon at Noontide’: heart-wrenching memoir about loss and laughter

This is the story of my mother and father and my dashing, bachelor uncle, my father’s identical twin, and how they lived together with their courage and their stumblings, as they made their way into old age and then into death. And it’s the story of the journey from one twin’s death to the other, of what happened along the way, of what it means to lose the other who is also oneself.

My story takes the reader through the journey of the end of life: selling the family home, re-location at a retirement community, doctor’s visits, ER visits, specialists, hospitalizations, ICU, nursing homes, Hospice. It takes the reader through the gauntlet of the health care system with all the attendant comedy and sorrows, joys and terrors of such things. Finally it asks: what consolation is there in growing old, in such loss? What abides beyond the telling of my own tale? Wisdom carried from the end of the journey to readers who are perhaps only beginning theirs. Still, what interest in reading of this inevitable journey taken by such ordinary people? Turned to the light just so, the beauty and laughter of the telling transcend the darkness of the tale.

During the final revisions of this book, my husband was dying of cancer, and he died before I could finish it. What I know so far is this: how pure love becomes when it is distilled through such suffering and loss–a blue flame that flickers and pulses in the deepest heart.

As I finish this book he is gone three months.

These are the words of Ann Putnam, author of the heart-wrenching memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye (Southern Methodist University Press).

Here’s an excerpt:

Writing this now in a rainy light after loss upon loss, a memory comes to me. When I was a teenager, I took voice lessons from Ruth Havstad Almandinger, who gave me exercises and songs I hardly ever practiced. I have wondered why this memory has so suddenly come to me now, and why this, the only song I remember, comes back to me whole and complete:

“Oh! my lover is a fisherman/ and sails on the bright blue river
In his little boat with the crimson sail/ sets he out on the dawn each morning
With his net so strong/ he fishes all the day long
And many are the fish he gathers
Oh! My lover is a fisherman
And he’ll come for me very soon!”

If only I’d known then that my true love would be a fisherman, I might have practiced that song harder and sung it with more feeling, which was what Ruth Havstad Almandinger was always trying to get me to do. If only I’d had a grown up glimpse of my true love when I was sixteen, I would have sung that song so well. If only I’d known he would have cancer and go to the lake for healing the summer after the radiation treatments were done. If only I’d known that I would be his fishing partner that miracle summer of the sockeye come into the lake from the sea. If only I’d known that the cancer would return and that I would do everything I could to save him, knowing all along that he could not be saved, and that my heart would break beyond breaking, then break again. If only I’d seen the sun coming up over the mountains and the sky shift from gray to purple and the pale smudge of light against the mountains turn gold just above the crest. If only I’d seen the sun glinting off those sunslept waters as my love lets down the fishing lines, and off in the distance a salmon leaps—a silver flashing in the sky as if to split the heart of the sun—before it disappears into a soundless splash, in this all too brief and luminous season, to spawn and to die—oh, how I would have sung that song.

Ann teaches creative writing and women’s studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She has published short fiction, personal essays, literary criticism, and book reviews in various anthologies such as Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice and in journals, including the Hemingway Review, Western American Literature, and the South Dakota Review. Her recent release is Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye. You can visit her website at http://www.annputnam.com.

Ann will be on virtual book tour June 1 – July 30 ’10. Visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book to find out more about her new memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye.

Amazon or Barnes & Noble are the best way to obtain your copies, although it will be available to order in most local bookstores.