Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I grew up on a cotton farm in the Arkansas Delta (where my family goes back five generations). I have an economics degree from Baylor University. For twenty-five years, I lived in Dallas and raised two children while working as a commercial lender. About four years ago (as empty nesters), my husband and I moved back home to Arkansas. We now live in Fayetteville in the gorgeous Ozark Mountains with our two schnauzers, Lucy and Annabelle. I’m editing my next book and working to turn our backyard into a butterfly garden.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
The inspiration for my book came from my childhood. Although the genre is southern fiction, flashes and situations within The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee are autobiographical, inspired by the farm where I grew up and the people who influenced me. One of my favorite writers, Eudora Welty, said, “One place understood helps us understand all places better.” The setting for my book, Mississippi County, Arkansas, is my “one place understood”. The Delta, my small country church, the schoolhouse, the all-encompassing nature of farming—these things inspired me to tell Gracie’s story.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Leaving a successful banking career to follow my writing dream felt both exciting and frightening. While the solitary nature of writing fits my personality, I had no idea how difficult it would be to reach readers, to grow an audience, to earn an income from it.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
My most rewarding moments have resulted from connections made with readers who are eager to tell me that Accidental Salvation took them back to their own childhoods, to places or times they had all but forgotten. Also, having my book featured on NPR’s Arts & Letters was a definite high point!
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
A few of my favorite authors include Carson McCullers, Robert Olen Butler, Eudora Welty, Dorothy Allison, Charles Frazier, Zadie Smith, Stephen King, Jeffery Eugenides, and Nell Leyshon.
Childhood books that first sparked my love of reading include The Secret Garden, Little Women, Nancy Drew, Tarzan of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, and any Newbery award winner.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
Yes, I write most every day early in the morning with a cup of coffee. I start by recording in my journal the date, time, place, and current weather conditions. As a farm girl and gardener, knowing the weather forecast is ingrained in me. I can’t get started without checking the conditions. Crazy, I know!
What are your interests outside of writing?
Besides writing, I love nature and gardening, and I am a voracious reader.
Share some tips for other authors or aspiring authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
My advice to aspiring authors is to read excellent writing. Slow down and don’t be in a rush to publish your book. Hire a professional editor. Spend your spare time perfecting your craft rather than on marketing.
It’s my belief that good writing will be discovered. At least I hope so.
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of “The Anchor Clankers.” To suggest an author interview, email her at email@example.com.