I have nothing new to report on The Ride but I am delighted to let you know about the release of Tina Murray’s novel, A Chance to Say Yes. I enjoyed reading this book when it was in the galleys stage and thought it might be a fun diversion to have Tina stop by for an interview.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
Tina: If you mean in conventional terms, I am a mature woman, Southern by birth, who has lived in various parts of the US, and who has experienced life from many different positions on the game board. During my lifetime, I have known many people, seen many things, survived many things, thought many thoughts, and reaped the consequences of many of my actions and decisions. The good news is that, with the publication of A Chance to Say Yes, I am now a professional novelist. I particularly like this position on the board. I may skip my next turn.
Why did you begin writing?
Tina: I began writing when I was around thirty. I was living in Miami, doing clerical work, right after the collapse of my first set of dreams and ambitions. One day I pulled out an old typewriter. I was bored and restless and without direction. For some reason, I started typing out a historical romance, set in the time of the American Civil War. I had spent my childhood in the Deep South, where I had been surrounded by antebellum architecture and attitudes, and where, beneath spreading oak trees, I had escaped into dreams. I am, to a certain extent, haunted by the era in my life.
At the time I first pulled out the typewriter in Miami, however, I did not know that it was possible to be—to really be—a writer, to be published. In a sense, I was playing. I had not yet learned how to complete a project. This was just before I returned to college, as an adult, and then went on to grad school. I had yet to learn determination, which is a primary requirement for completing any large writing project, no matter how inspired and passionate one is about a story.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Tina: Here's how I think of it: Most of my life I was a Mary Sunshine walking down a woodland path. Around me, all the little animals were holding signs. The flowers were holding up signs. So were the trees, in their limbs, and the birds flying over head. The signs all read, "Be a writer.” For some unknown reason, I did not notice these signs. I just toddled along for years, on my merry and not-so-merry way, wondering to myself, "What should I do now? What should I be? I believe I'll try so-and-so...” So-and-so never worked out for me. Eventually, one of the birds dropped a sign on my head, and I picked up the sign and read it. That was when I was about halfway through my doctoral program in art education. That's when I started trying to write for real. By that time, I had learned how to reach goals and that the goal of being a writer was an achievable one. Also, by this time, several professors along the way had pointed out my writing ability.
Is A Chance to Say Yes your first novel?
Tina: A Chance to Say Yes is my first published novel. I had a lot to learn, even after the bird dropped the sign on my head.
What is A Chance to Say Yes about?
Tina: I'm still working on my answer to that question. In the meantime, here's the pitch: What if your old high-school flame became one of the world's biggest movie stars? What if he moved back to town, wealthy now, and married, with a family of his own? What if he didn't know that, for twenty years, you had been keeping a guilty secret from him? Would you tell him the secret—or not? Lovely art-dealer Poppy Craft-Talbot struggles to overcome her fear of—and unresolved passion for—the drop-dead gorgeous Hollywood hunk, actor and superstar Heston Demming, once her childhood playmate and now the toast of the world. When Heston walks into her gallery, Poppy knows she can no longer hide. Set in sophisticated, tropical Naples, Florida, A Chance to Say Yes takes you inside the volatile private life of the exclusive beachfront community's most celebrated son.
Who or what was your inspiration for writing this story?
Tina: To answer this question fully would require an essay. The short, off-the-cuff answer is that I had become fascinated by our increasingly celebrity-obsessed modern culture. I wanted—and continue to want—to explore the phenomenon. In my teens and twenties, I had pursued a career in acting.
How has your environment /upbringing colored your writing?
Tina: Of course, both have colored my writing in many ways. Almost literally, the vivid colors of the South Florida environment play a role of their own in A Chance to Say Yes. I touched on the Southern influence in my childhood. Certainly, my writing has been influenced by encounters and experiences I had while living in various other parts of the country. I have known and interacted with many people during my span on the globe. My writing is not, however, autobiographical in nature. I am writing fiction. I am trying to write the most engaging story I can in the most interesting, yet, gripping, way I can.
My parents were very important to me. They were sweethearts, married for 62 years. I loved them deeply and miss them profoundly. I dedicated A Chance to Say Yes to them. I am sorry they are not here to share in my joy at its publication.
How did you come up with the title?
Tina: The title, A Chance to Say Yes, grew organically from the story as I worked. I was sitting at the kitchen table, where my computer was situated, and I was thinking my character Poppy's thoughts, her speech: I never had a chance to say yes—or no—to his proposal. I didn't say anything. The title just reached out and slapped me.
What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?
Tina: My biggest challenge in writing this book was dealing with the tragic and difficult chain of events that occurred in my life and the lives of my parents before, during, and after the novel's completion and acceptance by the publisher. Basically, I don't want to talk about it.
Is there a message in your novel that you want your readers to grasp?
Tina: Several, but I'm not going to single any out right now. That's because A Chance to Say Yes is the first book in a trilogy. I may not realize all I plan to incorporate in the three books yet. Well, maybe I'll single out one: the transience of life in all its aspects and opposites, and how our society tries to shield us or blind us from the reality of our ephemeral nature.
Is book two in the works and if so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Tina: Yes, it is in the works. No, I cannot tell you too much about it because the story grows out of what happens in the first book. I will say that "...the saga continues.” I love working on it. I love writing.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Tina: I try to cope as best I can with the practical, everyday realities of life. I'm not so good at the daily stuff. I enjoy interacting with my friends. I hope to return to learning T'ai Chi. I have a lot of new activities I wish to try as my life begins to smooth out after this terrible rough patch. Obviously, I love movies and the arts, reading. I enjoy most things. As long as I am in control of what I think about, I'm okay. I'm not okay in situations that require my focus and then numb me into zombie-ness. The mind can be both a playpen and a prison cell.
Who is your favorite author?
Tina: Sorry, I can't answer this one. I don't do favorites often. I usually disclaim by saying that I prefer to keep my opinions fluid. I'm not big on commitment.
What are you reading now?
Tina: Right now, I am reading The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and the fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods by fellow-ArcheBooks author Sandy Lender.
Do you have any book signings scheduled?
Tina: I will be signing books at the Florida Voices Book Fair in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, August 16, 2008. I hope to be signing my books at a charity event to be held during the national conference of the Romance Writers of America in San Francisco, July 28-August 2, 2008. A week from now, I will begin to schedule book signings in the Southwest Florida area. I will post the locations of these signings on my blog at http://tinamurray.blogspot.com until I have a website developed.
Where can readers purchase your novel?
Tina: Readers can purchase my novel right now from my publisher's website, http://www.archebooks.com/ and from http://www.amazon.com/. By the second week in July, 2008, my book should be available for purchase from other online booksellers. By that time, also, A Chance to Say Yes will be in the distribution warehouses and may be ordered through any bookstore. The ISBN is 978-159507-183-5 or 1-59507-183-0 (for hardback copies) or 1-59507-184-9 (for electronic copyies). Thank you, Jane, for asking. Good luck to you with your forthcoming ArcheBooks novel, The Ride.
Thanks Tina and thanks for agreeing to the interview. I wish you much success.
To find out more about Tina, visit her blog at http://tinamurray.blogspot.com. If you have questions, please send your inquiries to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear from readers.
Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.
Jane Kennedy Sutton
Author of The Ride (to be released by ArcheBooks Publishing)
Tags: The Ride, Archebooks, Tina Murray, A Chance to Say Yes, Naples, Sandy Lender, Choices Meant for Gods, Frugal Book Promoter , Carolyn Howard-Johnson