Monday, August 6, 2007

Grace E. Howell Interview

Grace E. Howell: Interview

Grace E. Howell has been writing most of her life, winning several awards for writing in elementary school. She has been a classroom teacher in grades 1- 8, a school librarian, and an editor for a national periodical. Her writing has appeared in anthologies and magazines for children and adults. True Friends, her first novel, was published by Echelon Press in 2005. A Master Gardener for 10 years, she has landscaped new Habitat for Humanity houses. She loves going to the theater and has written and directed plays for children and adults. Grace and her husband Frank live in Memphis, Tennessee. They have four children and three grandchildren.

My guest today is Grace E. Howell, author of True Friends, a middle-grade novel about tomboy Annie Davis struggling to become a "proper girl" in the midst of a war while learning the meaning of true friendship and trust.

MARY: Welcome, Grace. True Friends is set during World War I. Is it based on a true story or characters you've known in your life?

GRACE: Actually True Friends is a conglomerate of tidbits I heard from people who lived through World War I and the 1918 flu pulled together and seasoned by my imagination. The Bolman family in the story is based on the family of my grandfather and grandmother. My mother would have been Rose.

MARY: How does the main character, Annie Lou Davis, resemble the author?

GRACE: I may have been a bit of a tomboy as Annie was. My summers were spent at the park playing softball and other sports. Yet, as Annie wants to be one of the girls, so do I. Both of us are independent thinkers with strong family loyalties. I've never before thought how much of myself I put into Annie. She is very much like me.

MARY: I noticed that you are a former teacher and librarian. Have these experiences helped in your research and writing? Is so, how?

GRACE: Being in the classroom and the library at school allowed me to see interactions among the students and to get to know each one of them as individuals. I think actually being with the people you write for gives an insight into their characters and personalities that helps develop fictional characters for a story.

MARY: Will we be seeing another story about Annie Lou?

GRACE: I love Annie and her irrepressible spirit, but I have no plans at the present to continue her story. I am working on a novel about Mrs. Bolman in True Friends. Remember she was partially blind and went to the blind school when she was a girl. That's the story I want to tell, the one about Harriette, a blind girl in the late 1800s. So much was happening at that time with women's suffrage and all.

MARY: Is there someone special, a mentor or author, who influenced your writing?

GRACE: I can't think of any one or two people who influenced my writing. There were many—teachers at all levels from elementary through college were always encouraging me to write. I guess my cousin Kathy and my daughter Joyce with their confidence in me and my writing have had the greatest effect because I respect and trust their opinions. I owe a lot to Karen Syed and Echelon Press for publishing True Friends. All the dear people, adults and children who keep telling me how much they love True Friends, are the ones who keep me going.

MARY: Finally, is there anything funny you can share about yourself that your readers and fans might not know?

GRACE: I don't know if this is funny, but I am sort of a daredevil. A few years ago I was with a tour group, who thought I was a quiet little school teacher. At the top of Mount Pilatus in Switzerland four or five feet down that very steep slope, I saw a rock I wanted. Thinking nothing of it, I got my husband to hold my feet while I stretched myself flat down the mountain reaching for the rock and sending that poor tour group into shock at the sight. I still have the rock.

Thank you, Mary. I've enjoyed being here and chatting with you.

True Friends is available through Amazon, Fictionwise E-books, through Follett Distribution, all independent bookstores and her publisher, Quake.

Grace E. Howell

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