Friday, October 28, 2016

Interview With Author Helen Stine

The Truthful Story

1. What inspired you to write your book?
Like the character in the book, when I was nine years old, my grandmother, with whom I had an incredibly special relationship, drowned off the wharf of her Lowcountry home while fishing. It was a very traumatic experience for my mother, our family and me. The people and places during that time had a profound impact on my view of the world and inspired me to write at an early age. When my mother died a few years ago, I knew the time had come, and my childhood memories of family and friends and the hauntingly beautiful landscape of the South Carolina Lowcountry provided me with everything I needed to craft my first novel.

2. What is it about?
The Truthful Story is a literary novel set in the South Carolina Lowcountry in the 1960s, centered around a young girl's relationship with her grandmother. When ten-year-old Genevieve Donovan’s Nannie dies mysteriously in the Lowcountry river she’s loved and lived near all her life, Genny and her family are heartbroken. During this time, new industry is encroaching on old country, and Genny fears her grandmother may have gotten in the way of so-called progress. What’s more, ever since Nannie passed, Genny has been hearing and seeing things she’s not sure she can share with anyone except her mother, whose own grief is making it harder and harder to get through to her. The Truthful Story traces a family’s journey through the pain of loss and the survival of love.

3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?
Long after readers finish The Truthful Story and leave Genevieve’s world, I hope that their lasting thoughts will focus on the courage to believe in what they cannot see and the gifts that come from that belief. We know there are differences between all of us, and in The Truthful Story those become evident—the gaps between generations, between races, between people and nature, and even between life and death. But it’s not the obvious, visible differences that really matter. In Genevieve’s world, the message is about that beautiful, invisible space where we can go and which is defined by the ease of generosity that flows between those differences—a place or a moment where nothing matters except what you can give to each other that contributes to good and hope and that lifts each other up. It is where you see, with great clarity and no matter the differences, the gift the other has to give, and in turn, it is where you discover your own gift and how to to share it. In The Truthful Story, Genevieve asks her father what this quote means from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Her father then tells her it like how he loves her. “You can’t see love…but you can feel it, and you can’t live without it.”

4. What advice do you have for writers?
Make time to write as often as you can about what matters to you. Get your thoughts out of your head onto paper. As writers, we have thousands of thought and ideas, and they’re not always cohesive ones, but that’s okay. Like journaling, the process of transferring those may start out as deliberate or even forced but end up spiraling into something you never saw coming. And that something you never saw coming is very likely the story that needs to be told. Don’t wait for that big idea, the big reveal, or the big message to come before you start writing. Sometimes, it’s helpful to start with a trigger or special memory point. For example, when I was writing The Truthful Story, I knew the general direction in which I wanted to go, but I started with one singular memory and wrote just that sentence down. It described me, as a child, with my hand on the dark wood bannister of the stairway in my grandmother’s old house. That bannister led me to or from all kinds of events and conversations occurring around me as a child. And each event around me was a story waiting to be told. So, then, I placed the character of Genevieve there, and I let her take me the rest of the way.

5. Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
I hope it is heading toward a healthy balance between the independent and traditional publishing worlds. As an independent film producer and now independent author, the goal is to have an opportunity to tell your story the way only you can, choose partners and build a team that brings both traditional and independent expertise and experience, and benefit from the lessons learned across the entire industry. In the end, we want our readers to get the best experience we can possibly give them.

6. What challenges did you have in writing your book?
Because I was working a full-time job (and a job that was the opposite of writing a novel), it was challenging to find the time to write. But, I knew what I wanted to do, and I committed to a schedule the best I could. I often wrote from 2am to 6am on weekdays, and I locked down many weekends and holidays. It was hard on my family, but they were tolerant and forgiving. The hardest part of all was leaving the story and that creative zone, knowing that I couldn’t get to it when I wanted to. It took a long time to finish, but it ended up being the most joyful experience I’ve ever had.

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
In The Truthful Story, readers will meet Genevieve, a young girl who will take them into her world where everything is personified and where the land, the trees and the waters literally breathe alongside a diverse cast of characters who help her navigate a painful journey. Readers can settle in and escape and experience life through her eyes. Genevieve takes them to the darkest times and then shows them the light. She acknowledges despair and sadness and then lets them feel hope and comfort. She reminds the reader about the many gifts that surround us all—to include what her Nannie called “truthful stories.” In Genevieve’s words, “Truthful stories are gifts—like special powers. The storytellers give the gifts to anyone who accepts them. My grandmother taught me when someone tells you a truthful story, it’s not like any other story. You’ll recognize it because it has a special message inside of it, and if you listen close, you’ll find out what it really means. If you use its special powers, the words will jump out from the story and land inside of you and live there forever. They change you…”

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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