April 18, 2008

3Q with Susan Gregg Gilmore

Beloveds – I am heading to MONTGOMERY for The Alabama Book Festival. Hope to see you there, but if not, I will see you back here Monday.

I met Susan Gregg Gilmore at one of my favorite indies, the fabulous Square Books of Oxford, MS. We were there to do Thacker Mountain Radio, and we were both as twitchy as coked-up squirrels over it. She was worried she would get light headed and faint, which is at least a LADYLIKE way to panic. I, meanwhile, was threatening to vomit.

She did a FANTASTIC job, reading a section about a…let’s say, “unique” aunt who could VERY well be one my own personal relatives. I bought the book immediately; it’s on the top of my TO READ pile as soon as I get this DRAFTING done and can read Southern fiction again without it mucking my voice up – I SO WISH her reading was recorded and somewhere up on the web. I googled furiously around for it but alas, I am full of lose at google today. I couldn’t find AQUAMARINE SHOES either. Sheesh.

Library Journal praised her “true-to-life family dynamics and life in a small town; secondary characters add to the story's authenticity. Look for future literary works from this talented new voice.” You can get her debut anywhere, but I bet OXFORD still has a few signed copies of Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and you can order it on the web or call them at 662-236-2262 to get your own.


JJ: Tell us about the perfect tomato.

SGG: Like Catherine Grace, I understand a Southern girl’s commitment to finding the perfect tomato. It’s a pursuit, a crusade, a quest really of the most spiritual kind. And whether this commitment is a product of nature or nurture, I no longer know. Generations of Gregg men and women have always understood the nutritional and metaphorical value held within the firm fleshly skin of this most beautiful red, round fruit. My own daddy always left three of four tomatoes in the kitchen windowsill waiting for the day that one would be chosen for the evening meal, thinly sliced and lightly salted, and always consumed with the proper amount of thanksgiving.

JJ: What writers influenced your work and why?

SGG: I walked into my seventh-grade English classroom and found this young, beautiful, blond-headed woman sitting behind the teacher’s desk. Hmm, I thought, this might be a really good year. Well, it was a life-changing year. The woman behind the desk was Lee Smith. Of course, I didn’t know then that my English teacher was going to be, in my opinion, one of our truly great modern writers. Heck, I didn’t even know she had written a book until about halfway through the school year. As a teacher, Lee taught me to diagram a sentence and develop a proper outline. As a mentor and friend, she has taught me to persist no matter how big the dream may be. And as writer, she has shown me that every life is a story worthy of telling.

JJ: How;d you come up with the title?

SGG: The title really was inevitable. I spent a good part of every summer with my grandparents, and my granddaddy was a sure-enough, country-bred Southern Baptist preacher who talked in the “hellfire and brimstones” vernacular. After church, Pop always took his granddaughters down to the Dairy Queen to get a Dilly Bar. And I think for me, salvation of any kind and a trip to the Dairy Queen are simply synonymous.

Posted by joshilyn at April 18, 2008 2:05 PM

"we were both as twitchy as coked-up squirrels over it. She was worried she would get light headed and faint, which is at least a LADYLIKE way to panic. I, meanwhile, was threatening to vomit"

You just keep on givin' it away for free. . .your blog is the reason I bought your first novel. . .and I feel like every entry here at FTK is Christmas. Coked-up squirrels? I must go and find Ray Stevens on you-tube and listen to his famous song. . .

Posted by: Roxanne at April 19, 2008 10:55 AM

I am having to laugh at myself after my comment, because it dawned on me that only a southerner would consider "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival" a "famous" song--or even KNOW who Ray Stevens is. I may have him with a side of Jerry Clower then fix crowder peas and cornbread for lunch.

Posted by: Roxanne at April 19, 2008 10:56 AM

Hey, Roxanne, I knew exactly what you were talking about in your first comment before reading your second comment. Oh wait, I'm a Southerner too. Oh well.

Can I share the peas and cornbread?

I love Susan's explanation of the title of her book. I've seen it at the bookstore and had wondered. Now I'm going to have to buy it. Thanks, Joshilyn!

Posted by: Deborah P at April 21, 2008 12:01 PM

Thanks Joshilyn for following up on "your favorite authors" blog I planted in your brain that night at the Decatur library. This one has been ordered...

Posted by: Bridget at April 26, 2008 8:26 PM