Hello everyone! Today is the Book Blitz for Janie Dempsey Watts’ Return to Taylor’s Crossing. There will be several posts throughout the day that I will be linking to on Twitter. So be sure to follow along. For my own first post I will be interviewing Janie, but stay tuned for my review a little later in the day.
Hello Janie – Thank you so much for the interview! To kick things off why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and your books?
HI, Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work.
I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moved to California for college. After receiving my bachelors degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, I moved to the Los Angeles area and lived there for many years. I moved back to the South nine years ago. I have written two novels, both set in North Georgia near Taylor’s Ridge, a real and historic place located near my Georgia home. My first novel is called Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge, while my second one is called, Return to Taylor’s Crossing. The books are not linked except through the setting of a fictional small southern community, Taylor’s Crossing.
What has been your favorite part of being an author?
While writing, I enjoy spending time in my fictional world and seeing where the characters take the story. After the book is completed and I’m on book tour, I really enjoy meeting readers and hearing their questions. So fun to connect!
Do you have a favorite character from your books? I know it’s sort of like asking a mother their favorite child but if you do have a favorite we’d love to hear it!
My favorite character in both books is Xylia, the owner of the general store featured in both novels. About 70 years of age, she’s a good listener and shares her wisdom and sense of humor. She’s very grounded and likable. I hope when I’m older to be just like her.
Racial tension plays a major role in Return to Taylor’s Crossing, what made you decide to explore this in your novel?
A personal experience. When I was a little girl, my grandmother employed a dairy worker and farm hand who was beaten and kidnapped by the Ku Klux Klan. They told him to never return to the area. He was a good and gentle man and very kind to us children. My parents, and my grandma, could not understand why the KKK would do this, and my early opinions about racism were formed from this one event. For years, I wondered what became of him, and I finally decided to write a story to show what I thought the impact of this hate crime was on his life. I also created a cast of characters, some black and some white, to help tell the story.
What are some of your own favorite books and authors?
One of my favorites is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I also really liked The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck and The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. These are all wonderful books, but there are many others, too numerous to list!
When you’re not writing, what are some of your other favorite things to do?
My favorite activity is spending time out in the pasture with my two horses and my dog, Bella. Some days I ride, and other days I just pet the horses and talk to them or walk down to our creek. I also like to shoot pictures of Taylor’s Ridge or the horses.
What does your writing schedule look like – are you more go with the flow or do you stick to a set schedule?
Because I work four days a week in a college writing lab, I go with the flow. Right now I am editing my short story collection, Mothers, Sons, Beloveds, and Other Strangers.
Do you prefer background noise when writing or do you need complete silence?
Either complete silence or music without lyrics is fine.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Yes, I do. I have to say the dialogue aloud to get it right. And if it’s a sad scene, I actually get caught up in the emotion and feel what I’m saying. I might get tears in my eyes. If it’s an angry scene, I feel mad and get up to stomp around the room. Acting it out allows me to better capture emotions in my dialogue. I need to be alone
to this, of course. It’s a very intimate moment between me and my characters.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with potential fans about you or the books?
Yes. Set in present day 1959 in North Georgia, Return to Taylor’s Crossing is primarily the story of a young African-American couple, Abednego and Lola, whose lives are thrown off course by a Ku Klux Klan attack. But it’s also the story of four other characters, white and black, who are involved in the couple’s lives. At its heart, the novel is a love story that spans a lifetime. This book was just honored with an indieBRAG Medallion, which is like the Good Housekeeping seal for indie books. Several reviewers compare this book favorably with To Kill a a Mockingbird.
Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge, my first novel, is about a woman who returns home to settle her father’s estate, but instead gets caught up in her son’s search for a legendary Cherokee silver mine. As her marriage begins to fall apart, yet she seems to blossom, she meets the man who lives on Taylor’s Ridge. The book has been compared to Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani.