Saturday, May 11, 2013

Have No Shame by Melissa Foster: Interview and Excerpt


Plotter or Pantser? Total Pantser and proud of it. 

Tell us about your family. We have six kids; five boys and one girl. Our house is loud, funny, and ridiculously wild at times. I love it just the way it is. My husband is also a giant kid, so that just makes it more fun.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what? Absolutely! Loud as can be, and a mix depending on the novel I’m writing. I listen to anything from golden oldies to Top 40 or country.

What books have most influenced your life? Jodi Picoult’s earlier novels and The Lovely Bones. I’d say they influenced my writing more than my life.

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula? I never use a formula.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about? I’ve just begun my first series; The Snow Sisters Series. They are about two sisters, Danica and Kaylie Snow, as they navigate the landscape of their lives in their late twenties. It’s funny, spontaneous, and romantic. The first book in the series, THE OTHER SIDE OF ME, will be out later this year.

Do you play any sports? I’m too old to play now, but when I was younger I played whatever my brothers or neighbors played, from football to basketball, dodgeball to kick the can (is that a sport?). Oh, and of course, Karate.

What are you passionate about these days? Equality for everyone. 

What do you do to unwind and relax? Can you please rephrase the question? I’m not sure what that “r” word means.

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they? Yes, stop worrying about if your book will sell and concentrate on writing the best damn book you are capable of.

Do you have a milestone birthday coming up? If so, how are you approaching it? I’m sorry, the moment you approached the whole age thing I had you on **ignore**

Have you attended a high school reunion? What did you learn? No, I’m afraid I’ll learn that none of us aged well

How do you react to a bad review of your book? They sting. There’s no doubt about it. So…I usually read it 20 times, evaluate the worthiness of the criticism, and if the review mentions areas of concern that I feel are accurate, I take note to work on those aspects in my next book. If it’s just a malicious review, I read it two or three times, throw a silent stone or two, then move on. Every book is not for every reader.

Are the names of the characters in your novels important?  How and why? Oh yes, so is the title. I cannot write about people I don’t feel that I know. My characters have to have the right name – one that feels connected to the character. I also need to know their backgrounds, likes and dislikes. It’s like meeting a friend. The first thing you want to know is how to address them.

Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know? Morning, because I wake up ready for a great day and excited about what it might hold.

What would we find under your bed? Nothing but my pet monster.

Beatles or Monkees? Why? Can I choose both? I love the Beatles because I grew up listening to them, but the Monkees are so darn cute that I’d hate to leave them out.

New York or LA? Why? Definitely New York. No worries about not being blonde enough, cute enough, skinny enough – there seems to be more diversity in New York, and I love diversity.

What makes you happy? EVERYTHING! LIFE! Ice cream, brownies, my family and friends, when I meet non-judgmental people, reading a good book, writing a great scene, waking up with a new character in mind, the wind in the spring, the snow in the summer. 

What is the next big thing? You’ll have to ask Oprah

Describe what it’s like to be an author in three words. Exciting, inspiring, and exhausting

What one word best describes you? Effervescent

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go? If they could get me on a plane, then Greece.

Do your friends think you are an introvert or an extravert? Why? Extravert, because anyone who thinks otherwise certainly hasn’t met me. I talk to everyone. I’m interested in most things and people. I’m not afraid to dance in the rain or down the middle of the street.

Where are your fans most likely to find you hanging out? The corner ice cream store or Provincetown, Mass.

Do you have a Website or Blog? Yes,

What do you find most rewarding about writing? Receiving notes from fans who connect with my characters or find inspiration in my stories. 

If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why? Definitely, without a doubt, I’d want to be Maggie Tillman in Have No Shame. She’s a rebel with a cause and I think we’re very much alike. What fun it would be to speak my mind in the 1960’s.


The racially-charged prejudice of the deep South forces eighteen-year-old Alison Tillman to confront societal norms--and her own beliefs--when she discovers the body of a hate crime victim, and the specter of forbidden love turns her safe, comfortable world upside down.

Kindle  |  Nook

Chapter One
It was the end of winter 1967, my father was preparin’ the fields for plantin’, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and spring was peekin’ its pretty head around the corner. The cypress trees stood tall and bare, like sentinels watchin’ over the St. Francis River. The bugs arrived early, thick and hungry, circlin’ my head like it was a big juicy vein as I walked across the rocks toward the water.
My legs pled with me to jump from rock to rock, like I used to do with my older sister, Maggie, who’s now away at college. I hummed my new favorite song, Penny Lane, and continued walkin’ instead of jumpin’ because that’s what’s expected of me. I could just hear Daddy admonishin’ me, “You’re eighteen now, a grown up. Grown ups don’t jump across rocks.” Even if no one’s watchin’ me at the moment, I wouldn’t want to disappoint Daddy. If Maggie were here, she’d jump. She might even get me to jump. But alone? No way.
The river usually smelled of sulfur and fish, with an underlyin’ hint of desperation, but today it smelled like somethin’ else all together. The rancid smell hit me like an invisible billow of smog. I covered my mouth and turned away, walkin’ a little faster. I tried to get around the stench, thinkin’ it was a dead animal carcass hidin’ beneath the rocks. I couldn’t outrun the smell, and before I knew it I was crouched five feet above the river on an outcroppin’ of rocks, and my hummin’ was replaced by retchin’ and dry heavin’ as the stench infiltrated my throat. I peered over the edge and fear singed my nerves like thousands of needles pokin’ me all at once. Floatin’ beneath me was the bloated and badly beaten body of a colored man. A scream escaped my lips. I stumbled backward and fell to my knees. My entire body began to shake. I covered my mouth to keep from throwin’ up. I knew I should turn away, run, get help, but I could not go back the way I’d come. I was paralyzed with fear, and yet, I was strangely drawn to the bloated and ghastly figure. 
I stood back up, then stumbled in my gray midi-skirt and saddle shoes as I made my way over the rocks and toward the riverbank. The silt-laden river was still beneath the floatin’ body. A branch stretched across the river like a boney finger, snaggin’ the bruised and beaten body by the torn trousers that clung to its waist. His bare chest and arms were so bloated that it looked as if they might pop. Tremblin’ and gaspin’ for breath, I lowered myself to the ground, warm tears streamin’ down my cheeks.
While fear sucked my breath away, an underlyin’ curiousity poked its way through to my consciousness. I covered my eyes then, tellin’ myself to look away. The reality that I was seein’ a dead man settled into my bones like ice. Shivers rattled my body. Whose father, brother, uncle, or friend was this man? I opened my eyes again and looked at him. It’s a him, I told myself. I didn’t want to see him as just an anonymous, dead colored man. He was someone, and he mattered. My heart pounded against my ribcage with an insistence—I needed to know who he was. I’d never seen a dead man before, and even though I could barely breathe, even though I could feel his image imprintin’ into my brain, I would not look away. I wanted to know who had beaten him, and why. I wanted to tell his family I was sorry for their loss.
An uncontrollable urgency brought me to my feet and drew me closer, on rubber legs, to where I could see what was left of his face. A gruesome mass of flesh protruded from his mouth. His tongue had bloated and completely filled the openin’, like a flesh-sock had been stuffed in the hole, stretchin’ his lips until they tore and the raw pulp poked out. Chunks of skin were torn or bitten away from his eyes.
I don’t know how long I stood there, my legs quakin’, unable to speak or turn back the way I had come. I don’t know how I got home that night, or what I said to anyone along the way. What I do know is that hearin’ of a colored man’s death was bad enough—I’d heard the rumors of whites beatin’ colored men to death before—but actually seein’ the man who had died, and witnessin’ the awful remains of the beatin’, now that terrified me to my core. A feelin’ of shame bubbled within me. For the first time ever, I was embarrassed to be white, because in Forrest Town, Arkansas, you could be fairly certain it was my people who were the cause of his death. And as a young southern woman, I knew that the expectation was for me to get married, have children, and perpetuate the hate that had been bred in our lives. My children, they’d be born into the same hateful society. That realization brought me to my knees.
Chapter Two
It had been a few days since that awful night at the river, and I couldn’t shake the image from my mind; the disfigured body lyin’ in the water like yesterday’s trash. At the time, I didn’t recognize Byron Bingham. I only knew the middle-aged colored man from town gossip, as that man whose wife was sleepin’ with Billy Carlisle. Daddy told me who he was after the police pulled him from the river. I know now that the purple, black, and red bruises that covered his skin were not caused from the beatin’ alone, but rather by the seven days he’d spent dead in the river. I tried to talk to my boyfriend, Jimmy Lee, about the shame I’d carried ever since findin’ that poor man’s body, but Jimmy Lee believed he probably deserved whatever he got, so I swallowed the words. I wanted to share, but the feelin’s still burned inside me like a growin’ fire I couldn’t control. It didn’t help that some folks looked at me like I’d done somethin’ bad by findin’ Mr. Bingham. Even with those sneers reelin’ around me, I couldn’t help but want to see his family. I wanted to be part of their world, to bear witness to what was left behind in the wake of his terrible death, and to somehow connect with them, help them through the pain. Were they okay? How could they be?
I walked all the way to Division Street, the large two-story homes with shiny Buicks and Chevy Impalas out front fell away behind me. A rusty, red and white Ford Ranch Wagon turned down Division Street. There I stood, lookin’ down the street that divided the colored side of town from the white side. Even the trees seemed to sag and sway, appearin’ less vital than those in town. A chill ran up my back. Don’t go near those colored streets, Daddy had warned me. Those people will rape you faster than you can say chicken scratch. I dried my sweaty palms on my pencil skirt as I craned my head, though I had no real idea what I was lookin’ for. The desolate street stretched out before me, like the road itself felt the loss of Mr. Bingham. Small, wooden houses lined the dirt road like secondhand clothes, used and tattered. How had I never before noticed the loneliness of Division Street? Two young children were sittin’ near the front porch of a small, clapboard house, just a few houses away from where I stood. My heart ached to move forward, crouch down right beside them, and see what they were doin’. Two women, who looked to be about my mama’s age, stood in the gravel driveway. One held a big bowl of somethin’—beans, maybe? She lifted pieces of whatever it was, broke them, then put them back in the bowl.  I wondered what it might be like to help them in the kitchen, bake somethin’ delicious, and watch those little childrens’ eyes light up at a perfect corn muffin. The short, plump woman had a dark wrap around her hair. The other one, a tiny flick of a woman with a stylish press and curl hairdo, looked in my direction. Our eyes met, then she shifted her head from side to side, as if she were afraid someone might jump out and yell at her for lookin’ at me. I felt my cheeks tighten as a tentative smile spread across my lips. My fingertips lifted at my sides in a slight wave. She turned away quickly and crossed her arms. The air between me and those women who I wanted to know, thickened. 

Melissa Foster is an award-winning, International bestselling author. Her books have been recommended by USA Today's book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the Women's Nest, a social and support community for women, the World Literary Cafe. When she's not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on Fostering Success.

Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she's written for Calgary's Child Magazine and Women Business Owners Magazine, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa's interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping others see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.

Melissa is available to chat with book clubs and welcomes comments and emails from her readers. Visit Melissa on The Women's Nest or her personal website.

Megan's Way
2011 Beach Book Award Winner (Spirituality)
2011 Readers Favorite Awards, Winner (Fiction/Drama), Finalist (Women's Fiction)
2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award, Finalist (Spirituality)
2011 New England Book Festival, Honorable Mention (Spirituality)

Chasing Amanda
2011 Readers Favorite Awards, Winner (Paranormal), Finalist, (Women's Fiction, Mystery)
2011 Dan Poynter's Global eBook Awards, Winner, (Paranormal)
Top 10 Books of 2011, Pixel of Ink
Amazon Top 100 75+ Days running
Indie Reader's Bestselling List That Counts (8 weeks)
Top Books of 2011, The Write Agenda

Come Back To Me

2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Finalist, 
2012 Readers Favorite Awards, Finalist 
2012 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Books Award, Finalist
2011 Dan Poynter's Global Ebook Awards, Finalist 
Top 5 Must Read Books of 2011, IndieReader
Top Ten Books of 2011, Tea Time With Marce
IndieReader Best Reviewed Books of 2011, Huffington Post

Member: Maryland Writers' Association
Member: Independent Author Network

The Alliance of Independent Authors — Community Builder
Advisor: Alliance for Independent Authors
Member: League of Extraordinary Authors.




Joanne Clancy said...

Great post, Laurie! I've seen Melissa a lot on social media, and I enjoyed getting to know a little more about her :)

Melissa Foster said...

Hi Laurie! Thank you so much for featuring me and HAVE NO SHAME. I really enjoyed chatting and I love your blog!

Joanne, it's so nice to meet you!