Monday, October 14, 2013

I had a Little Nut-Tree - and it was delicious!

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by the very lovely and humorous writer/blogger/mom/reader Jill Haugh. She asked questions about my books that I'd never been asked before, and I thought you all might like to read the interview, too. Go here to follow Jill (and doesn't her daughter, Ohana, have the most unique and beautiful name?)

An Interview with Author Kimberley Griffiths Little

Greetings Dear Readers! 

I hope you enjoy the following interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little, author of The Healing Spell, Circle of Secrets and When the Butterflies Came. I recently did a review of the fabulous Circle of Secrets which you can find over at Kate Brauning's "The Bookshelf".  I am still pining that this book is over and am having to detox by reading non-fiction until I sufficiently recover.  Sigh. 

So without further ado... here's a little about Ms. Little.

Welcome to the nut-tree, Kimberley!
  My daughter Ohana and I have so enjoyed reading your books and discussing them.  It's been a wonderful summer of reading for us.  To begin, both Circle of Secrets and  The Healing Spell are set in the Louisiana bayou.  What influence(s) made you choose this setting? 

I became captivated when my family took a trip there about 15 years ago. We got to go out on a boat with a Cajun fisherman and he took us to his crawfish traps and home in the bayou woods. I took pictures like crazy, asked him a million questions, fed the alligators chicken - and absolutely fell in love with the beauty and mystery of those swamps. I spent the next five years visiting and researching and talking with lots of people and taking trips down another 6-7 bayous/swamps around the state. It’s like my second home now and I still return every year or so to visit friends I’ve made.

What does “char” mean?

It’s actually a bastardization of the French word “cher” for “dear” or “darling” or “my dear”. I used it the way I’ve heard the Cajun people say it. “shar”. Often it sounds like they’re leaving the “r” sound off, so it’s even closer to “sha”. They use it a lot for family and friends. And when I talk to Miz Olive and Mister Elward on the phone, they always call me shar, too! I love it.

Water, and the dangers of water in particular, play such a large part in your three books set in the bayou.  Have you ever had a dicey experience in the water?

Not exactly – unless you count the time when I was 7 years old and lost my flip-flops while on an inner-tube on the Russian River in Northern California where I was raised. I slipped off my tube and was screaming bloody murder and my parents hurried over, thinking I was in trouble, only to find out that I was crying for my lost flip-flops - not because I was drowning. My family still likes to tease me about that. BUT, I have always had a fear of what is below the surface of lakes and ponds and the ocean. I’ve gone water-skiing, too, but I hate being stuck in the water for very long after going down. It just freaks me out. 

Where I live now along the Rio Grande, we have ditches everywhere for irrigation. I take daily morning walks along these ditches which run full of water in the spring and summer from the mountain snow run-off. The water is brown and murky and filled with crawfish and muskrats. While writing Circle of Secrets I spent a long time scaring myself silly as I imagined what it would be like to fall into one of those ditches when they’re running fast and full and not being able to crawl up the slippery, muddy slopes to get out. Nobody would be able to hear you, either.

In The Healing Spell, Circle of Secrets and When the Butterflies Came the characters all live in the same town, and either know each other or know of each other.  Did the idea for the stories come before the idea of inter-relating the characters or vice versa? 

I would say both! It was sort of a mish-mash. I thought I was done with Livie and Miz Mirage and the bayou after The Healing Spell was finally published (a journey of 8 years!), but when I began thinking of my next project I found myself wanting to explore the character and unusual swamp lifestyle of Miz Mirage who is a traiteur (French for “healer”) from the perspective of her estranged 11-year-old daughter—a town girl who has never lived in the swamp before—juxtaposing their personal points of view and their rocky relationship. I also wanted to do a ghost story and that ended up being a girl that Mirage used to know so everything is inter-related. 

When I started thinking about When the Butterflies Came, a girl started coming to me in bits and pieces. She lived in an old plantation mansion, has a touch of OCD as well as a bossy, annoying older sister. She also had a very close relationship with her scientist grandmother. Butterflies are magical and mysterious and so I knew Grammy Clare was researching some *unusual* butterflies on a remote island. All of a sudden that girl became Tara Doucet, the rich Pantene Princess from Circle of Secrets. Figuring out Tara’s story also helped explain why Tara did the things she did in that book, essentially the back-story of the town princess who is a bully.


Do you have a blue-bottle tree? 

No, but I do have big plans for one – and meanwhile I have a blue bottle hummingbird feeder! See, see?

*Spoiler alert* Read only if you have read The Healing Spell or suffer the dire consequences. 

I was very interested in your choice of ending for The Healing Spell.  While the final chapter was, to me, very mysterious, magical and metaphorical, I was wondering what made you choose to not have the big “wake up” scene at the end.  (note: I did find particular closure with it at the end of Circle of Secrets-- in Mirage’s note about the yam cake, so thanks for that!) 

I've had tons of fan mail about this very question so you are not alone, Jill! I also loved adding that little secret note at the end of Circle of Secrets tying the two books together.
         As I was writing The Healing Spell, and getting closer and closer to the ending I knew that it would be anticlimactic to have the Hallmark ending where Mamma wakes up and everything is hunky-dory. Life isn’t usually like that, and coma patients have a long rehabilitation period when they do finally wake up. But I wanted there to be lots of HOPE. I wanted to show how far Livie’s relationship with her mother and the rest of her family (Mamma, sisters, annoying cousin, even Daddy whom she’s always been the closest to) had progressed—in ways that only she could change things. I also wanted to show far Livie’s faith and love had developed so it felt right to end the book as it is. I’ve been astonished at how many kids *get* the underlying themes, too.

Please tell us about your next book, The Time of the Fireflies.  Was the doll influenced at all by writing about Gwen’s doll from Circle of Secrets? 

Oh, yes! The doll in the antique store IS Gwen’s doll from Circle of Secrets! In The Time of the Fireflies readers will get to find out the history of that spooky doll going back 5 generations, and how past events affected various tragedies the family has endured for 100 years. There is time-slipping and family dramatics and a cool uncle and a girl from 1912 that collides with the future—or maybe it’s the other way around. Hmm . . . How’s that for mysterious!

In regards to your upcoming YA debut trilogy, what pulled your interests East? (And could you tell us a little bit about these books?) 

I’ve been researching and writing about the Middle east for about 15 years, actually. I sold several stories about Arabian horses and Egypt to Cricket Magazine many years back. I also find the stories of the Old Testament to be very fascinating (and I taught the Old Testament for a couple of years to high school students). So I combined these loves and created a story about a girl in 1759 BC, a great-great granddaughter of Abraham at the time that Goddess Temples of Ashtoreth and Innana were widespread and luring young girls into temple prostitution. I’m also a belly dancer and the story is about the roots of belly dance and the women’s world of the desert tent people (Bedouins). After years of dreaming, I finally got to travel to Jordan and Israel this past February and over the next year I’ll be posting on my blog and Facebook about my own Middle East travels. You can go to my Facebook page right now and look at the photo album called Petra, Jordan. I did a lot of research from original sources about the Bedouin way of life, camels, etc. Plus the research and personal experience with belly dancing and how it shapes women’s lives and relationships and health. 

This book has been 12 years in the making. I began outlining in 2002, the novel sold in 2008, was pulled from that publisher (long story) in 2011, sold to Harpercollins two months later in a significant pre-empt deal, and will finally publish Fall of 2014. Whew! 

*I just learned that a photo shoot is scheduled next week for the book’s cover. They have a model and a dress, even – oh, my! :-) 

Here is a quick synopsis if you’re interested: 

FORBIDDEN is a sweepingly epic and sensuous novel, a story of peer pressure and cults set against the ancient art of belly dance, in which 16-year-old Jayden’s faith and character is tested to their limits, even death, as she watches her family and the world around her falls apart. She suffers blackmail over a murder from the tribal leader she is betrothed to, as well as hiding the forbidden love with a stranger from the secret frankincense lands. The Goddess temples of Ashtoreth may be Jayden’s only escape, even though the allure of the sexual rites tempt the women of the desert to turn their back on everything they hold sacred.

Is there a grammar rule that consistently trips you up?
          Hmm. I always got 100% on my spelling tests, and I’ve read so many thousands of books over my life-time that most grammar doesn’t get me anymore (although don’t ask me what a “hanging participle” is) – but I *WILL* rewrite a sentence to the death just to avoid the word “lie” or “lay”.

THANK YOU so much for having me, Jill! This was an awesome interview with questions I haven’t been asked before.

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Time travel, war, love, rattlesnakes, magic . . .

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