It’s the story of a man who reluctantly returns to his hometown to attend his father’s funeral, but winds up having to rescue his brother from the consequences of a ridiculous and ill-thought out crime. Along the way, he has to confront his own unsettling internal issues, but ends up learning about himself in the process. It’s also about trailer parks, fruit stands, pickup trucks, idiot criminals, sleazy motels, drugs, guns and money. :)
2. The novel is described as a "Southern Thriller", though you like to use the term "Country Noir". As a Florida native, is it easier to write from this perspective, and to set a novel in your home state?
It’s funny, like the main character of my novel, James, I spent a large part of my time after high school trying not to return to my hometown or state. I really didn’t want anything to do with Florida. And now, I write books where the identity of small Florida towns plays a key role. But as far as research for the setting of A Tree Born Crooked- it is much easier, I believe, to write about places that seem to be ‘in your blood.’
3. A Tree Born Crooked is not your first book. Tell us a little about your other projects.
My first novel (which is currently unavailable because I am planning to rewrite it) is about a Depression-era traveling carnival. The first draft of it served as my master’s thesis. I’ve also written and published poetry and short stories.
4. As an author, I know how hard it can be to find the perfect name for a book. What is the significance about the title of A Tree Born Crooked?
Usually I have the worst time coming up with a title, but I had the title for A Tree Born Crooked before I even started writing. I was still in the planning stages of the novel when my husband called me from work and said, “I have the title for your book.” It was perfect! Of course, the title and its significance took on a life of its own during the writing, but it was wonderful to have the title taken care of ahead of time.
5. You are also an English teacher at an arts high school. What advice do you give your students when it comes to pursuing their dreams?
I tell my students to work their tails off! That with enough hard work, they WILL succeed- even if they don’t know what or how that success will take form. I think it means a lot to students when they can see a living, breathing example of someone who had to work hard and fight for their dreams.
6. What upcoming projects are you working on right now?
I just finished another novel, so at the moment I’m taking a short breather from novel writing. I’m hoping to attack my first novel this summer and strip it down, take it apart and rewrite it into a much better book. I have a short story coming out in June in the literary magazine “From the Depths” and that’s gotten me excited about writing short fiction again. There’s always something going on and something on the horizon when you become immersed in the writing life! :)
About A Tree Born Crooked
Synopsis: Thirty-six year old James Hart, with a tough-as-nails exterior and an aching emptiness inside, does not want to go home. Upon hearing of the death of his father, however, James decides to bite the bullet and return to Crystal Springs, Florida, a collapsed rural town running on the fumes of the occasional interstate tourists passing through. It is a place where dreams are born to die. Here, James discovers that he is too late for Orville’s funeral, but just in time to rescue his younger brother, Rabbit, from the deadly consequences of his petty crime life and, in the process, discover that he can’t escape the grips of his family, and might not even want to.