RW: Tell us about Atonement, Tennessee. TEAGAN: It always seems simple in my head, but describing it never is. Atonement, Tennessee is a tiny fictional town where a lot of strange things happen. The novel is an “urban fantasy” – set in the current day of our real world, but with magical elements. I also added a mystery subplot to the fantasy. The story is inspired by (but not based on) ancient Celtic/Welsh mythology, particularly the myth of Gwydion fab Don. I give sneaky little nods to the myth in some of the characters’ names (such as Guy Fabdon). If you’re a person who responds well to visual information, I have a modest book trailer. Because of the mythology that motivated me, I put a lilting Celtic tune with the trailer — it will give you a good idea of the story. The heroine, Ralda Lawton, short for Esmeralda. She narrates the story. Ralda moves from the big city to the quaint little town of Atonement, hoping for a quiet life. She buys an old estate house, and she is off to a good start, making friends with her neighbors and settling into the community. But her new life is anything but peaceful. The old house is rundown but interesting, and the grounds include an old cemetery. Some of the antiques in the house have strange properties; a mirror that might show truths you don’t want to see, and a brass bed that gives you dreams of the past, or even past lives. Ralda begins to unravel mysteries about her past, things she hadn’t previously given much thought. Also one of her new friends gets into serious trouble – the woman is suspected of wrong-doing when her husband disappears. Ralda and the other women set about clearing her name. Meanwhile supernatural entities have their own agendas. Their dangerous schemes involve Ralda and she has no defense to compare with their magical strength. She doesn’t know who, if anyone, she can trust. At the end, I deliberately left a few minor details unresolved, to leave room for more novels in the Atonement series. RW: How did you come up with the story? TEAGAN: In 2005 the TV series Desperate Housewives was a big hit. My friends kept telling me I should write a story like that. I didn’t like any of the characters in that show, but I gave it a try… for all of half a dozen pages. I couldn’t make it work. The characters who were supposed to be despicable turned out to be people I would have been happy to call friend. And my “justice for the philandering husband” scene was not realistic. How could it be, when it involved a magic mirror? So I put the story aside. Years later I was preparing for my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I still remembered those characters. It was time to give them a story. Since Atonement, Tennessee was a NaNoWriMo book, requiring a draft to be written in a single month, I geared everything about the story to be something I could write quickly. Following the advice “Write what you know,” I wanted a small southern town as the setting. I chose Tennessee for the state of my fictional town. (Even making up a fictional town was intended for speed – it wouldn’t need as much research! I research everything…) Suddenly, “Atonement” popped into my mind as the name for the town, and I took the story forward from there. RW: You and I talked about the Southern Voice, explain to our readers what you mean by that. TEAGAN: It seems that I always work on more than one level at a time; or so I’m told. I think the idea of a “southern voice” is just one of those levels. I’m sure the concept of a southern voice means different things to everyone. To me, it means writing in a way that makes the reader feel they are in a place in the southern United States, or that they are listening to a person from there, without resorting to stereotypes, or overt reminders that “Hey, you’re in a southern place.” I’m talking about subtleties in description, cadence, and character development. RW: Who are some classic examples that one might look to in order to get an idea of Southern Voice or even some contemporary favorites of yours? TEAGAN: For me, Charlaine Harris did that in her “Southern Vampire” series. Another good example is the old television series, Designing Women. RW: What draws you to this particular style? TEAGAN: I suppose it is a style at that, isn’t it? I had not thought of it that way. I mentioned the advice “Write what you know.” That was the first guidance I heard as a writer, and I’ve always followed it. I am native to the southern United States. I’ve lived in a number of locations from one coast to the other, but always in southern states. In writing fiction, it never occurred to me to try and suppress it. Even though I write in various styles, points of view, and tones, I expect that (if you were aware of my roots) you would pick up on the “southern voice.” RW: Do you think you need to have lived in the South to be able to truly capture that voice? TEAGAN: I’ve seen it accomplished by non-southerners a few times, whether on film or in print. However, the ones who do manage it did a lot of homework to achieve a good result. They didn’t just jump in and start writing, or assume that they already knew, or accept stereotypes as truth. RW: Give an example of something that would be the Southern Voice and then in some other way. I know it’s not exactly that simple, but you did it, especially in your prologue with Lilith. You nailed it perfectly. TEAGAN: Why thank you Ronovan! I’m quite flattered. I’m not certain that I understand this question, but a good example of a southern voice seeping into the writing was the late Robert Jordan in his Wheel of Time series. I found myself very at home with the main characters, their thoughts, manners, and ideals. When I learned Jordan was a native of Charleston, South Carolina, I understood why those things were integrated so seamlessly into that series. RW: So you naturally write with that style in mind or do you have to go back and work some magic to get that right feel? TEAGAN: I hope I give each separate written work its own tone while still keeping part of my particular voice. I begin any story with an overall “voice” or tone in mind. That comes from 15 years as a technical editor and writer. I often “put words into [my boss’s] mouth” by writing as him or her. That requires a constant focus on how the other person speaks and thinks. So it’s ingrained in me to think of the tone I want a story to carry before I even begin writing. RW: I read the opening pages available on Amazon and I loved it. I liked the style, the tone, the story to that point and it did make me want to read more. Your writing is very professional and I don’t mean that in a mechanics way, I mean that as in polished. Share with us your writing back ground and tell our readers what other things you do in the Lit World. TEAGAN: Ronovan, I would take that as a great compliment either way! Oops… I guess I answered most of that question before I was supposed to. But yes, around 20 years ago I took up the pen (keyboard) to begin my first novel (unpublished). Shortly after that I made a career change to IT technical writing. That grew into technical editing, and eventually morphed into a sort of executive advisory role. If you’re saying something to which your boss is going to sign his name and publish it to a thousand people (including his bosses), you want to be meticulous about getting it right. As far as the mechanics, I’m actually proud to say that I did all the technical/mechanical parts myself. The paper back of Atonement, Tennessee is made by Create Space (a print on demand service), and they did a great job. I went outside their standard template, to produce higher readability in the print version. I did all the formatting, designed the cover, all the details. And yes, I added that to my professional resume. (Grins.) RW: Which of your cats is Lilith based on? Or is this like a friend of yours you have put into cat form? TEAGAN: Ha-ha. No, I haven’t put a human into feline form. Since most of your viewers have not read Atonement, Tennessee, let me explain. The novel is told in first person; through the eyes of Ralda, the heroine. To keep the story interesting, when something happens that Ralda couldn’t be present to witness, I let her calico cat, Lilith be there. Those segments are told through the calico’s eyes. Throughout my life I’ve always had a cat. Lilith’s behaviors and personality are a composite of every cat that has owned me over the years. You’ve guessed by now that I’m a cat person. I love to study them, their movements and behaviors. That let me write the parts that are told from the cat’s point of view. RW: What’s your favorite color for a cat and a cat’s eyes? TEAGAN: Whatever pair of feline eyes holds my gaze at a given moment, that’s my favorite. I have a white cat with eyes the clear blue of the southwest desert sky, and a black and white cat whose golden eyes are the color of the lighter striation in tiger’s eye gems. All cats have beautiful eyes, no matter the color. Lilith is a calico because I’ve always been intrigued by their multi-colored markings. I’ve never had a calico myself. However, I sincerely don’t have a favorite as far as markings or eye color. RW: I ask authors to describe their book in one word. You can do that and tell why or you can describe the Southern Voice style in one word and why. I have my word that instantly says Southern to me. TEAGAN: Ha-ha, one word? When I already need a novel and a running serial on my blog to express my thoughts? I can say that I hope others would choose a word like, intriguing, or exciting, or maybe multi-dimensional. RW: Is there a way people could get an autographed copy of the book? Say by ordering through your site? I know there has been a call for a sequel by fans so I wondered if there might be something in the works for those fans to get hold of. TEAGAN: Since the paperback is made via print on demand, I haven’t worked out an efficient way to provide autographed copies. Now that you’ve made me aware that there might be a demand for that, I will put some thought into how it might be done. Yes, I have started book-2 in the Atonement series, Atonement in Bloom. It brings in a few new supernatural characters, and returns your favorite citizens of the little town. I also have plans for a third novel in the series. It will explore more of the mysterious history of the Cael character. RW: How are you coming on book-2? TEAGAN: I’m worked on Atonement in Bloom concurrently with this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, The Guitar Mancer. (That one is also urban fantasy, but it is very different from Atonement.) So with two novels — and the serial story I publish each weekend on my blog, and of course my paying job… Well, book-2 not coming as quickly as I’d like. I’ll get there though. I’m trying really hard. RW: Where can people purchase your book? TEAGAN: I’ll give you links below to all the ways Atonement can be purchased. Ronovan, thanks so very much for letting me visit with you and your readers today. It’s been a joy to talk with you. Links Barnes & Noble Nook Kindle and Paperback Amazon UK Amazon India Other Links Teagan’s Blog See Teagan’s Workspace Character Interviews-I wonder if the cat was interviewed. Pinterest I’ve used Pinterest to tell a story in pictures not just for “Atonement, Tennessee,” but for my works in progress as well. Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/teagangeneviene/ Twitter: @teagangeneviene Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM Business Profile LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=174325949&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile http://youtu.be/koggOn6vcDs There you have it. Southern Voice. Two Southerners, one asking questions and one answering them. Too bad you couldn’t hear us, right? Maybe another time. You never know what I might come up with. Hope you enjoyed the interview. I thank Teagan for doing a different kind of interview than the norm here. This is more the direction I want to take and slowly we’re getting there. Buy her book! Check out the LWI Review of the book by Olga Núñez Miret by clicking here.
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