I’m so excited to have Judy Fogarty here for this month’s (late–sorry!) Bookish People interview. If you remember, she wrote the book Breaking and Holding that I reviewed a few weeks ago and loved so much. It has a great mix of heavy and light–dysfunctional marriage, addiction, secrets, and abuse plus a sweet romance, friendship, longing and hope. And some tennis!
Judy was kind enough to do the Q&A with us, despite a nasty bout of pneumonia and her own deadlines and time commitments. Thanks Judy!
1. Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.
Set in 1978, Breaking and Holding is a story of deception, betrayal and love that can’t let go. It begins when Patricia Curren, searching for the courage to end her desolate marriage to a controlling husband, spends a summer alone on Kiawah Island. There she takes a tennis lesson from collegiate player Terry Sloan and a physical attraction begins a slow burn to obsession. What gives the novel its edge is the presence and perspective of career-driven Lynn Hewitt. As Patricia’s closest friend and her husband’s assistant, Lynn is trapped in the middle, trying to protect everyone from life-shattering consequences.
2. What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback?
Throughout countless revisions, my writing group posed one elemental question I had trouble answering: Whose story is this? I had Patricia and Terry and their story of unshakeable love, but I also had first-person narrator, Lynn, in a Nick Carraway role. I wrote 15 beginnings trying to clarify her role before finding the simple lines that open the novel today. The final line, which now seems equally obvious, didn’t come to me until the proofreading stage and barely made it into print.
3. Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?
At my launch party in my native Savannah, Georgia, people I hadn’t seen in years turned out to buy my novel. Many, I’m sure, didn’t know its elements: an illicit love affair, a hot steamy summer at the beach, and the Me Decade of the 1970s (“If it feels good, do it!”) At one point, I looked up from my table and saw a contingent of octogenarians, including my elementary school librarian, my childhood ballet teacher, and my sweet neighbor hobbling on two canes to buy ten copies. All of them are dear to my heart. And I’m still wondering what each of them thought!
4. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?
I’m an orderly lark, at my best in the morning. I wake daily at 4:00 without an alarm and write until life demands otherwise or I hit the wall. I love the quiet of the morning, the darkness outside and the moment when the first bird sings. Apart from schedule though, I’m a total mess, with an office, desk, bulletin board and countless laptop files to prove it.
5. Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
Breaking and Holding was somewhat dark. My second novel is darker. So, craving something light and aspiring high, I’d like to discover my Nora Ephron side.
6. What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
Never to church or a sports event, but to every other place you can think of.
7. Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.
Paulette Giles had me at page one of News of the World, and held me all the way with her poetic prose, voice, scene setting, dialogue, meticulous but unobtrusive historical detail, and most of all, with her story. I didn’t read. I rode with Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and ten-year-old Johanna, from Wichita Falls to San Antonio. I would say much the same thing of Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton. I didn’t read. I listened to Lucy, lying in a hospital bed, conversing with her mother for the first time in years about their relationship and her childhood of poverty, abuse, shame and separateness. I loved Lucy’s wisdom and her exuberant appreciation of small kindnesses, all related in her distinctive voice and Strout’s spare, resonant prose.
8. Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.
My go-to genre is literary fiction, but I’m trying to read more of what I write: commercial women’s fiction with a literary bent. I wasn’t expecting to love Big Little Lies, my first Liane Moriarty novel, but I did, for its wittiness, edge and brisk pace coupled with important issues of domestic abuse, bullying and facets of marriage, parenting, and divorce.
9. What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?
Pedestrian prose or voice, even in a well-plotted page-turner. If the prose isn’t rich, quirky or original, or if the voice is flat, I have a hard time going on.
10. Books: print or e-reader?
Both. I like the feel of a book in my hand and the sight of books on my shelves or in one of many stacks you’ll find around my house. They’re like art—colorful, meaningful, valuable. But I love the immediacy of downloading to my Kindle when I hear about a new book and just can’t wait.
11. Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
Electronic only, though I do have a wall calendar with inspiring daily quotes.
12. Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate. Especially dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.
13. Coffee or tea?
Starbucks Sumatra, always with half and half.
14. Tell us what you’re working on now.
A novel that takes place over 30 days, between two full moons, the second of which is a blood moon. Set in present-day on the Isle of Hope in Savannah, it’s a relationship story with strong elements of suspense. The widowed protagonist’s son, four-year-old Zach, is an absolute joy to write.
Thanks Judy and thank you for reading!