I recently had the privilege of copy editing Jeanne Charter’s debut novel Shanty Gold. I enjoyed reading the book so much that sometimes I forgot I was supposed to be editing it and would have to go back and re-read parts so I could proofread it properly. If you find any errors in Shanty Gold, just know that it was because I was enjoying the story too much to catch all the errors. Anyway, Jeanne was kind enough to do a short interview with me about her novel. I hope you enjoy reading what she has to say.
I wrote Shanty Gold because I had to. All my life, I’d heard the name Mary Boland from my mother and aunts. She was my maternal great-grandmother. But trips to Ireland revealed no information about her. There were no pictures, no documents. Nada.
It was as though the woman had never existed. But I knew she did. She started coming to me in dreams when I was about six years old. She was young and had curly red hair that swirled behind her as she rode a chestnut stallion along the Irish seacoast. She was strong and beautiful, and she whispered,
Tell my story, Jeannie. Tell my story.
As an adult, I was accepted into a very prestigious juried fiction class at the New York Writers’ Institute. Our teacher was John Montague, the poet laureate of Ireland. Frankly, John didn’t do much but flirt with his much younger poetess girlfriend who had accompanied him to New York from Ireland.
He did say one thing, though, that inspired me: “Write what you don’t know about what you do know.”
Wow! What freedom that gave me. Create a life where none exists. I felt like God.
My “process” for playing God is sporadic, however. Sometimes, I do the right thing and sit my backside down at the computer and don’t leave there until I have 10 decent pages written. Other days, more days actually, I find a million ways to avoid it. Yoga, meditation, planning and cooking meals. I love food.
Oh, I also have a therapy dog named Bucky who, accompanied by me, visits kids in hospitals. Now, how can I beat myself up about spending time doing something so noble?
But I can. Because it’s a distraction from my writing. And I know it.
When I finally get the discipline to stay put at that computer, though, I really like what comes through my fingers and onto the page. To this day, much of what happens in my novels is informed by dreams.
I wrote Shanty Gold as Young Adult historical fiction. My agent, Jeanie Loiacono, wants it positioned as pure historical fiction so as to not limit its appeal. The YA process chopped a few fairly steamy sex scenes I would have liked to include, but oh well…I can use them for another book.
Mary Boland is the most heroic young woman I’ve ever met. I feel as if we’ve been friends for years. I love her like a daughter. Actually, she is sort of a compilation of my four daughters. She’s beautiful and hard-headed, stubborn and compassionate. And always principled. Unlike her creator, aka Jeanne Charters, she doesn’t allow the traditional mores of her generation to distract her from her stated goal. I suppose that’s why I created her, as sort of the antithesis of the character flaws I see in myself.
Shanty Gold is the first book of a trilogy. The titles of the three books are based on the Irish-American social system in which I grew up. First, there were Shanty (poor) Irish. Next class is called Lace Curtain (middle-class) Irish. Finally, if they were lucky, the family hit Silk Stocking status (wealthy) Irish. An Irish friend in New York calls the rich folks “two pot” Irish. That means their home has two toilets. Ha!
Lace Curtain is half written and should be published in 2016. If, and this is a big if, I can glue my butt to that computer chair long enough to get it finished.
I think Shanty Gold was rejected by nearly 100 literary agents. Maybe more. I had decided to quit querying when Jeanie Loiacono offered me a contract. Now, I’m not going to give writers a “don’t give up” pep talk or anything because if they need it, they won’t ever get published. If a writer doesn’t believe in himself or herself, how can they expect anyone else to? Getting published it’s a tough biz.
My advice to other writers is it’s important to love your own work, even as your skin grows thicker each day from rejection form letters. I knew Shanty Gold was good. I mean, I really knew it. Deep in my gut I was certain.
Learning that other novels like The Help were rejected by hundreds of agents kept me afloat during the toughest times. Maybe knowing that Shanty Gold suffered so much rejection will help another writer reading this. I sincerely hope so.
I also hope readers will plug into my website jeannecharters.com and follow my progress on the second and third book of this trilogy. I try to write a new blog there two or three times each week. And lots of them are funny.
I really hope people enjoy Shanty Gold. If you do, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to answer if you write. And it won’t be a form letter.
Shanty Gold was published by Rogue Phoenix Press and is available on their website, but it is also available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Be sure to come back here on Thursday to read my review of Shanty Gold.