In 1955, Ann Qualls gave birth to her daughter Patti in the front seat of a Buick. By pure coincidence, Ann claims, their daughter was named Patti Day Qualls, PDQ. This moniker has served Patti well, as she’s moved at least ten times, traveled to forty states, and changed occupations with a liberality unusual in native Texans. However, Patti thinks her latest profession will stick awhile.
The Still, Small Voice encouraged Patti to write after a brave Irish friend shared memories of betrayal and her decision to forgive. In 2008, An Irishwoman’s Tale was published by Kregel Publications. Patti’s second novel, What the Bayou Saw, draws on the memories of two young girls who refused to let segregation, a chain link fence, and a brutal rape come between them. My Name is Sheba, Patti’s third novel, will be published in 2011.
The secrets women keep and why they keep them continue to capture Patti’s imagination. She writes full time, teaches Bible studies and seminars, and attends book signings. Patti and her husband Alan, an Illinois State faculty member, live in Normal. They have two grown children and a dog named Laura.
What? No coffee? Oh, well. I’ve had enough already since I got up around three to work on edits.
Yeah, I’m WIRED! It’s such a blessing to be a guest at your blog today!
Patti, I watched the book trailer for What the Bayou Saw and I wondered how difficult it was for you to write about such gritty topics as racism and rape. First, tell us about the story premise and then tell us about your experience with writing the book.
Since leaving Louisiana, Sally Stevens has held her childhood secrets at bay, smothering them in a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her husband Sam, has heard the truth about what happened to her and her best friend, Ella Ward, when they were twelve years old.
Now a teacher in Normal, Illinois, Sally has nearly forgotten her past. Then Shamika, one of her students, is violently attacked, and memories of segregation, a chain-link fence, and a blood oath bubble to the surface like a dead body in a bayou. Lies continue to tumble from Sally’s lips as she scrambles to gloss over the harsh reality of a betrayal that refuses to stay buried.
Cornered by the Holy Spirit and her own web of lies, Sally and Shamika embark on a quest to find Ella in post-Katrina New Orleans. With the help of friends, family, and God, Sally can glimpse a life free of the mire of deceit and truly begin to live with joy. Will she pay the price for a lifetime of deception? Can she save Shamika?
Sigh. Back to the question. Was the rape scene hard to write? Yes.
I talked to counselors at Rape Crisis centers and a YWCA staff member, then drew on memories from two unfortunate childhood incidents. Research revealed the sad truth that if victims do not turn to someone they trust within the first forty-eight hours following the incident, they likely will bury the hurt deep inside. Even decades later, the ugly secret can uncoil, like a snake, to strike.
I tried to approach the difficult scenes in a professional, detached way. Somehow it was easier to write when I literally positioned myself in the hand movements, the angles, and just wrote. Kinda like dissecting something to see the truth.
If you could go back in time and have a conversation with someone from the past, who would you like to talk to and why?
Probably my father, who passed before I began writing. Our bathroom cabinets—any cabinet, really—were converted into bookshelves for Dad’s Zane Gray and mystery novels. Dad bought our family a set of classics from either a catalogue or a door-to-door salesman when we probably couldn’t afford it. What a wonderful gesture—and investment!
As a reader and reviewer, do you prefer books that make you laugh or cry and who are your favorite authors of such books?
I prefer books that make me cry, though I’m having fun with a debut novel, The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. Quirky and different. It’ll be interesting to see where Joyce Magnin takes it.
Favorite CBA authors? Francine Rivers, Lisa Samson, Angela Benson, Athol Dickson.
My favorite reads fall on literary fiction and popular trade shelves. However, I occasionally flit over to nonfiction bookstore areas. This year, What is the What, My Sister’s Keeper, The Help, The Lord of Death, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, and Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet have captivated me. Yep, I devour books!!
When folks ask me how long I’ve been writing, sometimes I say, “Since age five, when I began to read.”
The story of my brave best friend, who was given away by her Irish mother, forms the core of The Irishwoman’s Tale. My heart was gripped by her first memory of being called a “little eejit” and then gussied up in clothes that she later learned were her “sending-off” wardrobe.
If you could add two extra hours in a day, how would you spend the time?
READING, of course!!
What’s in store for you next? What are you working on right now?
Yesterday I inked my John Doe on a contract for my third book, and then faxed it to the publisher. As soon as I receive the signed copies, I’ll share the details.
In the meantime, a brave woman named Kai has invited me to step back to the turbulent days of the Cultural Revolution in China. With God’s help, Kai is reclaiming Lily, a sister adopted by an American pastor and his wife.
God willing, I will visit China in May to conduct research on my fourth book!
Thanks ever so much for having me at your site today, Sharon!