Intimate Conversation with Ann Clay
Ann Clay resides in Southern Illinois with her family. She enjoys reading, writing, crafts, traveling, and family time. She began writing in 1999 and is a member of the Romance Writers of America. Thanks to the support of family and friends, Ann shares her heartwarming stories with readers of the heart.
Beyond the Blue Cypress is the second book of the Gumbo Love series. Ann is currently working on the next title in the series.
BPM: How did you get started writing Romance novels? Who or what motivated you?
I love to read, but mostly I love to daydream. So characters are always dancing in my head. I was inspired to write because I had great author examples like... Beverly Jenkins, Rochelle Alers, Francis Ray, Donna Hill... just to name a few. And these ladies served as good mentors, reaching back to inspiring writers and helping them by paving the way.
BPM: How could your books shape or better the lives of your readers?
Well my books always have take-a-ways... don’t limit your thinking or abilities, family always come first, love could be starring you in the face or love will meet you where you are, you just have to be a willing participant--- So I try to develop plots that are normal everyday things people can relate to. I’m also the believer in endings with hope. While there might be tragedies in a story, there is also hope, and to me the greatest influence in life is hope.
BPM: Who does your body of literary work speak to? Would men enjoy the book?
Funny you ask. I try to create stories that both men and women can relate to. Now, I know that sometimes guys are turned off by the romance genre because the hero seems hard to live up to. But for me, my heroes are everyday men; men who work for a living, who struggle with knowing what makes women tick, but most of all men who respect women. There are still so many good men out there, and I think sometimes we don’t give them the credit they deserve.
My one title, Priceless, I think is a good example of a romance from the guy’s prospective. Men could really relate to the plight of the hero, Wendell.
So, honestly, I’m not setting any of my heroes up to make them seem unrealistic. And yes, I believe men would rather enjoy these stories. In fact they might learn a thing or two. LOL!
BPM: Could you tell us something about your most recent work? Is this part of a series?
Beyond the Blue Cypress is a part of a series. It’s the second book of the Gumbo Love; a series created because of the chastising from readers who wanted to know more about the characters in More Than a Bargain.
Even though Drace was a part of the original title, still many readers wanted to know more about Autumn’s mysterious grandmother from the title, Beyond the Blue Autumn. This particular story starts in the early 1950’s and will hopefully provide some insight on what made Drace such an interesting character.
I’m thinking this series will produce at least two more books. I’ve started the work for the third book, and hopefully will be able to have the final book done by late fall.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or speakers. What makes each one so special?
Drace is a feisty, determined young woman with questionable heritage living in a small coastal town in Louisiana. Now her heritage is questionable because of a horrific event in her mother’s life. However, Drace is sheltered from the backlash that might have otherwise changed the course of her life, the protection of a strict stepfather.
When she meets the hero, the stranger introduces her to an unforgettable first-love experience. However, rooted bias will test this unconditional love, so much so, that she is committed to years of loneliness in order to honor her pledge to him.
Demarcus rolls up on Grand Isle by chance. An orphan, who runs into a bit of trouble in New Orleans, heads west, looking for a new experience. He is by-chance introduced to a job opportunity to make some good money on the oil rigs now popular in the bayou town.
He had no intentions of staying in Grand Isle, let alone meeting this beautiful young woman and fall completely over himself for her. When all is well and perfect, his strength, his rights as a man is tested, by local men who hated him simply because he was an outsider. He is thrust into a situation where he has to devise a plan for the well-being of his family.
BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book? Why now?
Again, these characters took on a prominent role in the previous story and to settle the curiosity of my readers, I had to succumb to their requests if for nothing else, my own sanity. As it would seem, Drace and the readers would not rest until her story was told.
Drace was not one of the original characters planned for Gumbo Love. The stories were intended as a spin-off of characters in the book More Than a Bargain. However, Drace eased herself into a story of her own. When you read Beyond the Blue Cypress you’ll understand why.
BPM: Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
We still live in a time when black men are still struggling to put their feet on equal groundings. The plight of the black man has been challenged since as long as we can remember.
The hero had a rough time securing the well-being of his family, even though he brought much of his tribulation on himself. He made some missteps that cost him and his family years of unwarranted suffering.
More and more, women are raising their families alone, without the support or total protection of a husband or significant other. Men are not in the places they should be.
Much of this dilemma is created by choices, but still there are so many biases in the world that creates and fosters centuries of injustices. In the end an entire generation suffers as a result.
Luckily Demarcus is given a second chance, and at least is free to enjoy a good life with his family.
BPM: Do you write outlines for your book or do you let the characters guide you?
I’m not that structured outline-kind-of-writer. My characters have a tendency to do their own story writing, and I gladly allow them to have their way. Every now and again, I have to rein them in, but for the most part, they do the work.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Your experiences? The headlines?
I’m mostly influenced by everyday kinds of activities. I like taking ideas from people and experiences I know and weave together the plots and characters to create plots. It’s easier to create stories from situations I’m familiar with.
I do, from time to time, take on projects involving things/activities I have no clue about. And when I do, I really have to do my homework to pull the pieces together. It’s important to have the facts correct because the reader will call you on it, and quickly. Sites like Google, Bing, and Wikipedia are my new best friends!
BPM: Are your books plot-driven or character-driven? Why?
Both. My characters form really early in my story development. Their lives are always intertwined with other fascinating or plot-driven people… someone they know with a secret life or an issue with trust, for example. Most of the times I know what will happen, that there will be certain events to occur somewhere in the story, but I’m often surprised by a twist or chance of events when a character steps outside of their normal role.
Most of the times the reader is pretty certain of the outcome in a genre like romance. Still, I hate plots that are predictable. To me, it’s the in-between the beginning and the end of the story that determines if it was a worthwhile read.
I also don’t like it when there are way too many things happening in a story. I lose interest when the plot takes far too many twist and turns. I like a plot to take some time to develop. It gives the reader a chance to digest all the pieces so by the end, even though it’s inevitable, they understand what happened to the characters to get them to the final chapter or last sentence.
BPM: How does your book relate to your present journey?
The setting is pretty close to home --- where I grew up, what I’m familiar with most when I think of that region of the country. This story, like others in the series, provides me a chance to reflect on the culture and how living in bayou country shaped my opinion of people and places outside of that world.
I’m always interested in bringing a different perspective to conversations, or in this case stories, that will share something about a place or people that the reader might not necessarily know or understand.
The 1950’s and 60’s was definitely a sensitive time to live anywhere in the south, but seemed super sensitive in rural areas of Louisiana. A lot has changed; however, there are still some biases that will never change. I’m convinced that it’s up to every individual to make change in their lives and in the world.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
Yes; mind over matter --- the will of the heart has far more strength than any physical challenge. The characters drove this story. Drace and Demarcus, their commitment, their faith, and their willingness to compromise, are all things I can learn from.
BPM: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
I asked a lot of questions; mostly because I wanted to make sure I captured the climate of the early 1950’s. I went to family and friends who grew up in New Orleans and asked some very specific questions.
I remember as a kid riding the St. Charles Street Cars and strolling down Canal Street during the Christmas holidays, but never really thought twice about what things were really like. My parents were good at shielding us from things that might cause harm.
I needed to make sure that the child’s view I had actually mirrored what really was going on. History is a beautiful thing, but only when it’s accurately captured, and I did learn a thing a two in my search.
BPM: Were there any topics you wanted to shine the light on with this book?
Yes. Family sticks together even in the toughest situation. That love can really heal the most devastating things in your life. There really is a God. And, if the heart really wants something, time is just a placeholder until you get it.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m currently working on a ghost writing project, but I’m also working on the third title for the Gumbo Love Series. This will be Michael and Denise’s story. I hope to have the third book by early summer… we’ll see.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Amazon carries all of my titles, both in print and on Kindle. Books are also available at your local bookseller or at any of the on-line book stores. If in doubt or have problems getting a title, I encourage readers to contact me directly at email@example.com.
Website: www.annclay.com or check out my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Ann-Clay/e/B001K8HZ3G
Purchase Beyond the Blue Cypress by Ann Clay
Gumbo Love - Volume 2
Purchase Blue Autumn in the Bayou
Gumbo Love - Book 1