Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Debutante and Her Granddaughter

This week my very special guestdoing the rounds on the Bywater Books blog touris the 'newbie' author Sally Bellerose, who talks about her debut novel and some other good stuff; in an interview she conducted on herself.

Sally Bellerose’s book The Girls Club won the Bywater Prize and is forthcoming from Bywater Books in September this year.
     Sally was awarded a Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts based on an excerpt from this book. The first chapter won first place in fiction from Writers at Work. Excerpts from the novel have been anthologised and featured in literary journals including Love Shook My Heart, Sinister Wisdom, The Sun, The Best of Writers at Work, Cutthroat, and Quarterly West.
      The manuscript was a finalist for the James Jones Fellowship, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, The Backspace Scholarship, and the Bellwether Endowment.  Robert Olen Butler chose Chapter Two as first place winner for the Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award. 
       Sally lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. In the USA.

Question to Self
Your soon to be published novel The Girls Club is loosely based on certain milestones in your life i.e.:  you married a man, had a baby, lost most of your digestive track to disease and surgery, left your husband, came out, became an RN.  The family portrayed in the book is of French Canadian descent and lives in a town much like the one you grew up in.  How do you plan to convince family members that the characters in this book are fictional?

The broad shape of the plot points and the societal and cultural similarities to my actual family do mirror my life.  However, the scene by scene action, events that happen within the social/cultural milieu and nuances of the story are totally fictionalized.   Most scenes are 100% fiction.  As in the story, I do have two sisters, but the personalities, physical attributes and circumstances of the story’s sisters don’t even resemble my sisters.
      I have drawn heavily from what I know about illness, coming out as the lesbian mother of a son, and working class family life in a small town New England in the ‘70’s, but the novel and all the characters are fiction.  Even the protagonist, Cora Rose, who might be mistaken as an autobiographical character, is not a self portrait.
      The grandmother, called Memere by her grandchildren (in the story and in “real” life), is closest to a portrait of an actual person, but even Memere is a fictionalized version of my beloved grandmother.
      Some members of my family have read parts of the book and love it.  Some really want to read the novel.  At least one has vowed not to go near The Girls Club with a ten foot pole.  I applaud them all.
      If my brother complains that there is no brother in the book I will repeat my mantra – this book is fiction.

 Question to Self
You are old.  How many more books do you think you have in you?

I’ll soon be sixty.  Is that old?  Sweet Jesus, sixty.   No need for panic.  Writers and chess players often make their best moves later in life.  
At the moment I am working on a book of linked short stories called Fishwives.  The title story of this would-be collection won first place in Saints and Sinners Fiction contest.  The stories orbit around a poor elderly lesbian couple – a novel about the exploits of a jaded RN who is trying to stay sane while working in a state run institution, taking care of her elderly parents and having an affair with a married co-worker.   This one features two queer teens, tattoos, and as ever, squabbling sisters – and always poetry and essays.
      Also I have many published pieces about my mom and dad that I should put together as a collection.  And probably a book’s worth of published erotica.

Question to Self
How does it feel to finally be a debut novelist?  Do you consider yourself a debutante?

I’m thrilled to be a debut novelist.  I can’t wait to hold the actual finished, signed sealed delivered copy of The Girls Club in my hands.  I love my publishers at Bywater Books, Kelly Smith Marianne K Martin, and Val McDermid because they are lovable and because they published my book.
      And, yes, although at no point in my life could I be called ‘an upper-class woman making a formal debut into society’ I do consider myself a debutante.  I plan to hijack this word, flaunt the fact that I have a debut coming-out novel about working class sisters and queers, buy myself large sparkly hoop earrings and strappy shoes, and call myself a debutante at every opportunity.

Question to Self
How do plan to find a way to brag about your granddaughter as part of the publishing process?

Pictures, anecdotes, short stories, slide projections, poems, essays. 

Sally's blog:
Bywater Books:

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