Wednesday, April 21, 2010

GUEST – Jean Brashear

Jean Brashear’s wholly original, funny and poignant novel has a heart as big as Texas. Told in a warm and intimate voice, it’s like a road trip with your best friend. Don’t miss it!”~#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs

Sometimes life gives us gifts of pure grace; one such for me has been meeting Pea O'Brien, the protagonist of THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA. She began as an exercise in sheer fun—sitting on my deck in a wicker rocker, taking a few weeks off from my contracted writing to see if, after several years as a working writer, I still remembered how to play, how to write for the simple pleasure of it, a joy too easily lost under the pressure of deadlines and expectations.

I knew nothing about Pea, even her name at first—only that a psychic had sent this woman on the road to search for the reincarnated soul of the sister she desperately missed. It all seemed like a lark those first few days, drinking this killer Mexican iced coffee recipe I got from Barbara Samuel (so much of said coffee wound up practically eating a hole in my stomach, but it's not Barbara's fault I brewed it so dang strong.) I'd sit and sip and type on my Alphasmart while listening to birdsong under my live oaks...and see where Pea would take me next.

When it was time to get back to my deadlines, Pea was never far from me, and over the next few years I returned to her often, letting the flight of fancy take me away whenever I could scrape up a day here or there.

Sometimes flights of fancy lead to real life experiences...and vice versa. My husband and I love taking back roads whenever possible (he has a whole collection of photos of oddball sights) and on one of our rambles, I spotted a sign for the Conan the Barbarian Festival in Cross Plains, Texas. Who knew?!? We were too late for that year's festival, but we detoured to Cross Plains, anyway, and indulged in such landmarks as the mural on the side of the library (wanna see the picture of me and Conan?) and Robert E. Howard's homeplace.

The year following, I'd forgotten all about the festival until I ran across a notice that it would be occurring in three days' time. Ring, ring: "Lover man, I know you're trying to make a living, but this is important—how would you like to go to Cross Plains this weekend?" Long silence. Then laughter. "I'm sure that's exactly what I was thinking, I just didn't know it." Never let it be said that this man doesn't love me. (Also, don't ask him where else on God's green earth I've dragged him in the name of research, OK?)

Three days later, we were in Cross Plains, watching the parade. (I cannot tell you how disappointed I was not to find cowboys in furry leggings with breastplates and helmets, brandishing broadswords—and okay, it's my dirty little secret that there is no sword-fighting competition at the festival as there is in my book.)

But there should be.

Speaking of Conan's daddy REH...I cannot positively recall how Howard's bloodthirsty, sword-wielding women got involved in my story, but I think it began with touring the tiny library and looking at first editions and manuscripts, then coming back home and ordering some of his books. I read the one called Sword Woman, and—voila!

There was Dark Agnes on the cover, nosecone breastplate and all, trying to take off this big burly brute's head with an evil-looking sword. She'd been her father's work animal, then sold to a husband but escaped, only to wind up befriended by a man who taught her swordplay—then tried to sell her, too. Heck, she had to become bloodthirsty just to survive. She seemed to me to be exactly the sort of spirit guide the lost and lonely Pea needed.

But how to connect the two? Well...on another back roads meandering a few years earlier, I'd spotted this gun shop housed in a portable building (pictures of that, too, on my website) that never quite left my mind. Presto—Guns 'N' Glory, owned by a ferocious former Marine named...yep, Glory. She's the person, in the story, who decides Pea needs toughening up and hey, doesn't it seem perfectly in character that she's a big fan of warrior goddesses and good ol' whack job REH? (Gimme a big Heck, yeah!) I never went inside the real gun shop (closed every time we drove by) but I'm pretty sure it doesn't have crystals hanging from the ceiling or a lunch box collection.

But it should.

(Are you seeing a trend here? Ah, the godlike powers we writers wield!)

This book probably sounds a wee bit quirky—and, okay, it is—but I think I became the truest me as a writer I've ever experienced in the process of writing it. I went through a lot of agonizing and reworking and second-guessing myself (to say nothing of all the other people who second-guessed me) but in the end, I zigzagged and wrung my hands and got as stubborn as I was scared until I listened enough to my gut to unearth the version that I hoped like the dickens the amazing Debs of BelleBooks would "get" because I just felt in my heart that they would do right by the story.

Well, they did get it—and like it enough to buy it, these women I have so admired for years—which made every low point worth it, every moment of trying to hold onto my faith and keep going. And since then, I've experienced the enormous pleasure of spending several months playing with these fascinating and brilliant women in the most author-friendly environment I can imagine. To then also have some fabulous writers love it enough to give me killer quotes, a writer, I don't know how life gets any better than this.

Mission accomplished. Joy rediscovered.

Jean Brashear is the author of 23 novels in romance and women’s fiction, with sales of more than 1.6 million copies, she is a three-time RITA finalist and Romantic Times BOOKReviews Career Achievement Award winner.

Book Trailer:


ForestJane said...

If I thought any roadtrip I'd take would go like Pea's, I'd leave immediately! I like roadie novels anyway, but this one was special.

When I first saw the title, I was expecting Southern soap opera fiction, with perhaps a recipe for fried okra in the back - but Goddess of Fried Okra is much more. Laugh-out-loud funny in a couple of places, sad in others; but characters you quickly begin to care about. It's definitely worth your time reading it.

Anonymous said...

Jane, thank you so much! The reception Goddess is getting has blown me away.

I do love me a good road trip (and all the cool stuff you can see when you get off the interstate.) Recently we found the best bread pudding (and I don't even much like bread pudding) on the planet in Cherokee, Texas while detouring and just trying this little hole in the wall place where we got a huge meal--handcut fries, homemade bread on the sandwich and bread pudding without ordering it--for $4.95. It's 120 miles from me, but I swear hardly a day goes by that I don't think of jumping in the car to go see if they have some...but then it takes very little to get me in the car.

lois greiman said...

Hey Jane, welcome to the convert.

Your story has inspired me. And I need some inspiration these days. Thanks so much for sharing.

And Peas be with you! Heh!

Anonymous said...

Heh heh! Funny girl! I'm glad, Lois--sometimes the business of writing gets in our heads, doesn't it?

Helen Brenna said...

Hooray! Jean, I'm so glad this book is finally out there. Can't wait to read it. I have a sister book rattling around in my brain. Maybe someday ...

PJ said...

Congrats, Jean! I've been reading your Harlequins for years. I ordered "The Goddess of Fried Okra" the minute I finished reading my friend, Janga's review. Can't wait to set aside a warm afternoon, settle in the rocker on my front porch with a tall, cold glass of tea and get lost in your wonderful writing.

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Jean
Welcome to the 'vert. Goddess sounds enchanting! I HAVE to check it out.

Debra Dixon said...

Peas be with you?

LOL! Okay, that has to be the official TGOFO motto.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome, Jean!
It's so good to see you, girlfriend. Quirky, you say? I love quirky. Can't wait to read "Goddess."

Okra reminds me of Mama. She loved it, along with kale and collards and all that Southern green stuff. Pot likker--anybody ever heard of that? Again, one of Mama's things.

Hated okra when I was a kid except in Campbell's chicken gumbo soup. But now...mmmm, gumbo. Lovelovelove.

Anonymous said...

Helen, thank you. I'm a big believer in not waiting for the 'someday' stuff--it's how I got started writing in the first place (seriously in the slow class on figuring out what to be when I grew up--but now I'm on a mission!)

Anonymous said...

PJ, I'm so honored--thank you for telling me you've been reading me all along. Wasn't that Janga review *amazing*??!! "Eudora Welty meets Sue Monk Kidd and they lunch with Fannie Flagg"?!?!!! Talk about swoon material!!!

Anonymous said...

Cindy, thank you--hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it!

Anonymous said...

DD--I agree. We gotta tell Debs that Goddess has a new tagline! (I can only imagine what she'll make of it.);)

Anonymous said...

Kathy, it's wonderful to see you again--just wish it were in person!

Thanks to all you cool kids for having me here, btw. And congrats on all the RITA noms!!! I feel like the in crowd just invited me to hang out. :)

catslady said...

I absolutely love the cover/title combination - one doesn't seem to go with the other so it would definitely be a book I would pick up and being curious, buy :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you! You just fulfilled our dreams, saying that!

Miss Debra needs to take a bow--did she do a kickass job with that gorgeous cover or what?!?! I just about keeled over when I first saw it, I was so instantaneously in love! And the lettering...OMG! Plus we sure had fun working out that title!

Christie Ridgway said...

Jean! Thanks for coming today. I love, love that there is a Barbarian Festival. Who knew?

Your book sounds wonderful and isn't it fun when we have so much dang fun at this job?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Christie! I know--the Barbarian Festival has to rank right up there with uber-great ideas!! Of course, it would be even better if they'd let me run the show. ;) I mean, I'm learning swords in tai chi right now, and I totally get why Pea loves wielding a sword!

Betina Krahn said...

This sounds like such fun, Jean! Thanks for joining us in the convertible and for having the guts to put the words "fried okra" in the title of your book! I LOVE IT!

I hope it sells a million!

Betina Krahn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

I can't wait to read GODDESS. I love a book like that!
BTW: Kathleen--the best way to eat okra is breaded with cornmeal and fried. Yummers! Pair it with home grown 'maters and it's so good it'll make your tongue lap your brains out.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Susan! Fried okra really manna from heaven!

Betina, thank you! (From your mouth to God's ear, as they say.) That title has gotten such strong reactions! Every time I tell it to someone, they immediately grin--how can I not love that?!?

Speaking of loving...I ADORED your post on Post-its! I'm a closet office supply geek, too. Virtual chest bump!

I so very much appreciate you all taking me for a spin today! Like I said, awesome to hang out with the cool kids!

Leanne said...

Omigosh Jean, this sounds wonderful! I want to meet Pea! I want to meet her sister! Can we all go to lunch?:) I'm so glad you created this wonderful story!!!

Anonymous said...

Heck, yeah, Leanne--lunch is on me! Great to see you, girlie!

ForestJane said...

I betcha if you wear your sword to lunch, you can get a VERY good table... lol