May 5, 2009

3 Questions with River Jordan

I met River Jordan more than twenty years ago. (Eep.) Obviously, I was still a fetus. Okay, fine. I was a teenager. Same thing, in a lot of ways. We were in a playwriting class together at the University of West Florida, one of the many Southeastern colleges I passed through on my loop-de-looping path to getting both a piece of paper and an actual education. Back then, I thought she was both a brilliant writer and an excellent human being. My opinion has yet to shift on either front.

I have not read her new book, Saints in Limbo, as it is just now out. In fact, it releases TODAY. But I can tell you that I will be getting it the very next time I am in a bookstore, and that I TRULY loved her first novel, The Gin Girl to distraction. I loved her second, The Messenger of Magnolia Street enough to blurb it.

When a mysterious stranger appears at her door on her birthday and presents Velma with a special gift, she is rattled by the object’s ability to move her in time–back to a place where Joe still lives, her son Rudy is still young, unaffected by the world’s hardness, and the beginning is closer than the end. Secrets old and new come to light in a book Publisher’s Weekly calls, “a thrilling, often touching gothic tale about conquering fear and regret with a stubborn, Southern love.”

JJ: What do you think of your cover and how does it compare to the cover you imagined when you were writing the book?

RJ: Usually when I’m writing I’m so lost in the story I forget it’s going to be in a book. I mean, to me, it’s a very real place that I’m visiting or more like – living in at the movement. When the final cover came through it astounded me. I mean it. It captured so much of my childhood in a moment that I could barely breathe. White clothes on a clothesline being as much a part of the south to me as sweet tea and cornbread. And yes, most of the clothes always seem to be white in my memory. Whites and work jeans. And right there is that green grass that my barefoot toes could run through. And my Granddaddy’s barn in the background. I mean, just look at it! It’s all southern, off-center, part shadow, and part light. It’s captured the story perfectly!


JJ: I hate writing sex scenes. I get embarrassed, even when I KNOW the way the sex plays out is thematically important.....I hear you have trouble with your sex scenes, as well. How do you approach writing about sex?

I never thought I have a sex scene in a book because I hate writing them, too. I used to joke with people who said that sex sells that I was going to start my next book with a sex scene just for that reason. But dang if I almost didn’t do that – unintentional of course. You often ask people about their being an organic writer or outlined writer and to describe that process. Well, I’m an organic writer and follow the story and next thing I know - there’s a sex scene in the first chapter of Saints In Limbo.

Velma, though the power of this mighty surprising gift she has been given, travels back in time and the next thing you know she is young again and living mightily in the moment to the fullest with her husband right there in that barn on the cover. I ain’t lying. If anybody has a problem with that, they will just have to take it up with Velma. I didn’t have nothing to do with it.

JJ:Tell us about the place your story is set in called, Echo.

It’s the very place my daddy grew up in. Seven Swampy acres on a creek full of all manner of fish good to eat and alligators sunning on long, dead logs. Cypress trees and long-legged birds nested at the waters edge right alongside the chicken coop, the barn, the pigs, and a horse named Maude that does not make her way into this story. This is the part of north Florida they call L.A. meaning lower Alabama because the beaches feel a thousand hot, sticky hours away.

It was Daddy’s spot of heaven on earth and that is very evident in the story. It was his touchstone to all that was good when he was away in the Army and his healing balm when he came back from Vietnam. It’s still in the family in spite of a cloud of vultures that descended immediately following his death and tried to talk/trick Momma into selling. Next thing I knew I was channeling that spoiled, sassy Scarlet when one lady caught me in mourning in the front yard. I remember saying something out of my mind like – “As long as I have breath in my body this land will belong to my children and my children’s, children’s, children . . .”

I must have scared her because she put her witchy hands on that steering wheel and left a trail down that dirt road I can see to this day. So that land is very sacred to me - full of magic, and memories that echo far back before my time. I fully intend in my most stubborn, southern way for them to continue echoing long after I’m gone.

Thanks, River. HA! I grew up in L.A., too.

Meanwhile, soon, VERY SOON, this week, possibly tomorrow, I can tell you about THE MYSTERIOUS DOINGS in Dallas. I am not Pink Socking you, Beloveds, really. I am only waiting on my friend to e-mail the pictures of me in full on bondage gear that I need to tell the story PROPERLY. And in your hearts, don’t you think the story would be better WITH bondage gear pictures? Most stories are.

Posted by joshilyn at May 5, 2009 7:30 AM

Oh, goodness. Well, now, I can practically hear that pretty Southern accent grating out a "Lick my boots, worm!" Almost. I may need the pictures.

Posted by: Brigitte at May 5, 2009 10:20 AM

Oh, River is just too awesome! Although a quick look at her name made me think of Joan Rivers!

Posted by: Reagan at May 5, 2009 1:33 PM

Totally enjoyed the interview, Joshilyn. THANKS! I felt like I was sitting right there with you and River. I hope eddy body runs right out and buys a copy of Saints In Limbo-- it's that good!

Oh, and for the record, I'd call Velma's barn memory a love scene, River. Sex scene doesn't do your words justice.


Posted by: Shellie at May 5, 2009 2:59 PM

I was getting impatient--but it will be worth it to wait to see the bondage gear.

Posted by: Alison at May 5, 2009 5:36 PM

I just recently read The Messenger of Magnolia Street. It has been on my must read list for a long time (but it is a long list). I loved it- those characters went on in my head for a long time afterwards. I can't wait to read her new book.

Posted by: Jill W. at May 5, 2009 10:15 PM

Oh my..."bondage gear pictures"?

Mysterious doings, indeed.

Posted by: Jennifer at May 5, 2009 11:53 PM