Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book-A-Week Challenge Interview with author Joyce Scarbrough

This week we had the pleasure of reading SYMMETRY by Joyce Scarbrough. Today we are interviewing Joyce about her book, her writing, and herself.

Please join me in welcoming Joyce by leaving her a comment or another question.

A little background about Joyce before we get started:
As an intelligent Southern woman, Joyce Sterling Scarbrough is weary of seeing herself and her peers portrayed in books and movies as either post-antebellum debutantes or slack-jawed yokels, so all her heroines are smart, unpretentious women who refuse to be anyone but themselves. Joyce writes full time and does freelance editing. In addition to her three published novels, she has four short stories featured in upcoming anthologies from L&L Dreamspell. Joyce has lived in Alabama all her life, she's the mother of three gifted children and has been married for 26 years to the love of her life.

You can read samples of all her work on her pages at Authors Den:

On with the Interview!

What motivated you to write this book?
Like 8 million people in the U.S. and 40 million worldwide, I have a nervous system disorder called trichotillomania (TTM), which is compulsive hair pulling. I wanted to create a fictional character with TTM who would be a positive role model for the millions of people who suffer with the disorder so much more than I do, some of whom think they're the only ones who do it and don't even know that what they do has a name. The reason I decided to write a novel featuring TTM instead of a non-fiction book is because I hope to raise awareness in the general public and the woefully uninformed medical community who often refer people to psychiatrists when they go to them about TTM. It's not a mental illness and isn't caused by abuse or trauma, otherwise I wouldn't have it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Actually, there are two. For readers with TTM: you are not defective, damaged or mentally ill, and you are worthy of love and respect. For everyone else: I hope you gain some empathy for the millions of people like my heroine, Jess. Teach your children not to make fun of their peers who may have missing hair, eyebrows or eyelashes. You wouldn't let them laugh at a cancer patient, would you?

Are the experiences in the novel based on someone you know or events in your life?
Obviously, Jess's experiences with TTM are based on mine. It's not a major problem for her both because she has so much hair and because she learns to manage it by using Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Habit Reversal Training. However, the relationship issues she deals with in the story are completely fictional, although her infuriating husband does resemble mine at times! And her cultured, domineering, Southern Belle of a mother is an amalgamation of many women I've known like that, but NOT my own mother!

Who is your favorite character in the book?
That's like asking me who is my favorite child! All my characters are real people to me, and they sometimes rewrite their storylines too. Many times I've created a character who was originally intended to be only the unlikable antagonist, then I begin to feel sorry for them when I discover what's in their background that made them so bad, and they end up almost turning into a protagonist!

How did you come up with the title for your books?
For TRUE BLUE FOREVER, the title came to me as I was writing the last line in one of the four original poems included in the story. For DIFFERENT ROADS, it was inspired by a line from the song “What Might Have Been” by Little Texas. For SYMMETRY, the title has a dual meaning: symmetry is very important to someone with TTM because things that are uneven or imbalanced trigger the state in our nervous systems that cause us to pull (my personal theory but supported by some research!) And my heroine is searching for balance or symmetry to her life—in her marriage, her career, and her relationship with her mother.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I was thinking about this the other day and realized how much the characters in my favorite books had influenced my own novels without me even realizing it until now. Like the epic loves in FOREVER AMBER and GONE WITH THE WIND, all my books feature couples whose love will never die despite all the obstacles they encounter. My heroines are all strong women like Amber and Scarlett, but most especially Jaycee in DIFFERENT ROADS—she's a hellion who couldn’t care less about public opinion and who loves her man with the force of a tempest. Inspired by the unrequited love that Laurie has for Jo in LITTLE WOMEN, I gave the heroine in TRUE BLUE FOREVER a best friend who will always love her. And all my heroes are fearless, macho men who usually fight with my heroines as passionately as they make love to them.

How do you get inspired to write your romantic scenes?
That's easy—I live them every day! My kids learned long ago to overlook their parents' frequent PDAs (public displays of affection, not Palm Pilots!) When my son was about 13 and in a hurry to leave one day, he told me to stop being so “moniscuous” by kissing his dad goodbye. He said I was promiscuous but only with one man, hence I was “moniscuous.” Other than that, I'm always inspired by music. I have a special playlist on my computer called “Songs To Write By.”

How does your family feel about your book or writing venture in general?
My husband is my first reader and reads everything as I write it—but not over my shoulder and not until I tell him he can! He even lets me watch him read so I can see which parts make him laugh or react in other ways.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members?
My best friend and fellow writer, Lee Ann Ward, is a gift that God sent to me. Not only does she love my books, it’s so important to have someone who understands what you're going through and can empathize and commiserate with you about this crazy publishing world. We console each other over the rejections and celebrate together over the triumphs. I even wrote her a fantasy romance short story to cheer her up one time. I thank God for her every day!

What is your guilty pleasure?
I like to watch boy band videos on YouTube. Love me some Backstreet Boys, Nsync and 98 Degrees!

What are your current projects?
I'm about three-quarters done with a coming-of-age novel titled SHADES OF BLUE that my critique group partners have said reminds them of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I can't tell you how flattered I am to even be mentioned n the same breath as a book like that. I'm also writing a YA paranormal novel that I like to describe as DEXTER meets BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. No vampires, just a smart-mouthed dead girl with a penance to pay.

One last question. Were you the model for SYMMETRY'S cover?
No, that's actually my step-daughter, Tonya Goodson. She has curly auburn hair like Jess, and I love her big, beautiful brown eyes!

Thank you Joyce for taking the time to visit with us and to share your wonderful story. Best of luck and looking forward to reading more of your books!


Shannon December 13, 2009 at 8:56 AM  

Boy bands?!? Joyce, you should feel guilty! Can't do boy bands, unless the boys include Mick and Keith. Congratulations on the release. Nice interview.

Jacqueline Seewald December 13, 2009 at 10:14 AM  

Very interesting interview, Joyce.
Lots of people love YouTube. So you're in good company--or bad as the case may be.

Jacqueline Seewald
THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale 2009

L&L Dreamspell anthology 2009

Joe Prentis December 13, 2009 at 10:31 AM  

I read and enjoy Joyce Scarbrough's books. They are very real from a plotting standpoint, portraying people and situations that are as current as the morning news. She also has a great sense of humor and a healthy regard for others that shows through her writing. Get back to work, Joyce, and give us another and another . . .

Joe Prentis

The Belle in Blue December 13, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

The truth shall set you free, Shannon! And, hey, if I can admit that I pull out my hair, I should be able to admit that I love boy bands! LOL

Thanks, Jacqueline. And at least I don't watch bad martial arts movies on YouTube like my husband does!

Thanks to you too, Joe. I'm working on two more right now.

Loretta December 13, 2009 at 1:20 PM  

I love the idea that you're writing something that evokes the feelings that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD does. A work like that has been a long time coming:)
I also find a smart mouthed dead girl really intriguing:) You have a very interesting body of work Joyce:)
And as usual, great interview Denise!


Shannon December 13, 2009 at 1:29 PM  

Okay, Joyce, since you shared your guilty pleasure, I feel obligated to share mine: I love mac and cheese from the box--Velveeta Shells and Cheese. That truth doesn't necessarily set me free, just trashes my body!

The Belle in Blue December 13, 2009 at 1:43 PM  

Loretta, all my heroines tend to be smart-mouthed. Couldn't imagine why!

Shannon, I can top the boxed mac and cheese: I love canned ravioli!

unwriter December 13, 2009 at 2:01 PM  

I don't do boy bands, I do classical, but I also do Joyce Scarbrough books. I've read and reviewed the first two and I have this one. A very good interview with a very good writer.

(Do I get to review your next book???)

The Belle in Blue December 13, 2009 at 2:10 PM  

Ron, I want you to review all my books!

I also just realized that something needed clarification: I like WATCHING boy bands, but that's not my taste in music. I love the Eagles, the Commodores, Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé, and--since we're coming clean about guilty pleasures--yes, I love Barry Manilow!

Jay Hudson December 13, 2009 at 5:03 PM  

Joyce Scarbrough is without a doubt one of the most talented writers in America.
Jay's Writer's World

The Belle in Blue December 13, 2009 at 5:43 PM  

Thank you, Jay! And, folks, Jay's Writers World is a wonderful Yahoo group where everyone is like family. Come join us if you want to share info and support with other writers from all over the world.

Denise December 13, 2009 at 6:03 PM  

Joyce - you seem to have quite the fan club. Add me to that list.

What's your favorite aspect about being a writer?

Anonymous December 13, 2009 at 7:32 PM  

I like all of Toyce's books, she is my favorite author, Stephen King is second. The only problem with Symmetry is that Lee (the husband) gets a raw deal. And squeamish guys shouldn't read the opening line!

~Tony S.

The Belle in Blue December 13, 2009 at 8:06 PM  

Denise, my favorite thing about being a writer is meeting the characters who are born from my books. They stay with me even after the book is done and pop up sometimes in after-the-fact short stories. (See some of my stories in the upcoming LLD anthologies DREAMSPELL GODDESS, ROMANCE OF MY DREAMS VOL. 2 and DREAMSPELL REVENGE.)

And that wasn't a typo in Tony's very nice and sycophantic comment. Since everyone else's name in our family begins with a "T", he has always called me Toyce. My youngest daughter argued with her kindergarten teacher that it was my name!

Pauline B Jones December 13, 2009 at 11:07 PM  

Great interview, Joyce. Had no idea hair pulling was a disorder, etc. What a great way to raise consciousness about it. Great interview! December 14, 2009 at 1:32 AM  

Hey Joyce!

Just stopping in from Avoid Writers Hell - taking a breather from my own WIP - wishing you much success with this book and with 2010!

Eh-gads! 2010? I'm still getting used to writing 2000 - anything! 2010... Suddenly I feel old. I think I need a nap and some prune juice.

Anyway, sorry I got derailed there. Your book sounds smashing!

I too, love YouTube! I watch it more than I do television! (Seriously) There are some really creative people out there (and some really idiotic ones too.)

Take care and have a great day! Wonderful Interview by the way! You seem so 3-D now!

George Allwynn, aspiring m/m romance writer

The Belle in Blue December 14, 2009 at 7:43 AM  

Thanks for stopping by, George! And thanks so much to Denise for hosting me here on her wonderful blog!

Mom of Tbone December 14, 2009 at 5:36 PM  

"all her heroines are smart, unpretentious women who refuse to be anyone but themselves"
- that's what I LOVE about your books! : )

(Jaycee) "she's a hellion who couldn’t care less about public opinion and who loves her man with the force of a tempest"
- this is why DIFFERENT ROADS is my favorite!!! I can relate to her on so many levels!!!!

Roxanne Smolen December 14, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

Nice interview. I think giving characters real life quirks makes them seem natural and believable. Best of luck to you with your latest book.

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