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today 6/2/16 on aobibliosphere™ [aobibliospotlight™: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart]

Friday, September 21, 2012

guest post & excerpt: the secret sense of wildflower by Susan Gabriel

book summary:

Set in 1940s Appalachia, The Secret Sense of Wildflower tells the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister whose life has been shaped around the recent death of her beloved father in a sawmill accident. While her mother hardens in her grief, Wildflower and her three sisters must cope with their loss themselves, as well as with the demands of daily survival. Despite these hardships, Wildflower has a resilience that is forged with humor, a love of the land, and an endless supply of questions to God, who she’s not so sure she believes in anymore. When Johnny Monroe, the town’s teenage ne’er-do-well, sets his sights on Wildflower, she must draw on the strength of her relations, both living and dead, to deal with his threat.

“...astute observations and wonderfully turned phrases, with nary a cliché to be found. She could be an adolescent Scout Finch...A quietly powerful story, at times harrowing but ultimately a joy to read.”
- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

*to read the entire Kirkus review go HERE

“Isn’t it about time for you to get ready for bed?” Mama asks.
I glance at the clock and it’s at least an hour before bed, so I figure she just wants me out of her hair. I leave Mama and Meg in the kitchen and sit in the rocker in the living room near the wood stove  Daddy bought from the Sears & Roebuck catalog when I was seven. Daddy’s banjo—missing one string he never got to replace—leans  against the wall nearby. He used to sing country songs that told stories about people. His voice was deep and rich and it wrapped around you like one of Mama’s softest quilts.
In the shadows, I pick up Daddy’s old banjo and return to the  rocker where he used to sit and play. I wrap his memory around  me  to try to feel safe. I am quiet, so Meg and Mama won’t hear,  and pretend to pick at some of the strings while I hum the words of Down in the valley, valley so low. At that moment the ache I felt earlier in my stomach moves to my chest. Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.
After I finish the song I get up from the rocking chair, being careful not to let it creak on the wooden floor. So Mama won’t know  I’ve touched it, I place Daddy’s banjo back in its spot where the dust keeps the shape of it. It would be just like her to put it away if she knew I wanted to keep it out.
“What are you doing here in the dark?” Mama asks.
Speak of the devil, I start to say, but then think better of it. Most of  the things Mama says to me are either orders or 

questions, neither of which ever require an answer. I shrug and shuffle to the bedroom I share with Meg, who has already sunk into a loud snore. I get undressed and put on my nightgown and try  not  to think about the noise I heard earlier in the woods behind  the  house. When I walk down the hall toward Mama’s room, I find her sitting on the edge of the bed brushing her hair, which reaches  almost to her waist. Her hair is much prettier down, instead of up in the tight bun she wears during the day.

“Can I sleep with you?” I ask her. She looks at me surprised, 
like when I told her I was changing my name to Wildflower.

For a split second her face softens, but then she says, “Don’t be silly, Louisa May. You’re grown up now.”
Her words sting like a bee stepped on barefooted in a patch of  clover, and I want to kick myself for even asking. In my weakness,   I  imagined  Mama  opening  the  covers  wide  on Daddy’s side of the bed while I get in.
Instead, she says, “Let me get at some of those tangles, 
Louisa May.” She motions me over so she can brush my hair.
She starts and I say, “Ouch! Mama, stop!”
“Be still,” she tells me, “you’re just making my job harder.”
While she attacks the tangles in my hair, I refuse to give her the pleasure of knowing how bad she’s hurting me. Mama knows I’m tender-headed and I know she knows it. But it’s as though I need her to touch me more than I need my pride, so I let her do it. In the meantime, I silently curse the tears that squeeze out of my eyes and  promise myself that I’ll be tougher once I turn thirteen.
After a while, Mama gives up and declares my tangles a battle  she cannot win. Our eyes meet briefly before she turns away, as if the tangled emotions between us are also a losing battle.
I return to the bed I share with Meg. Lying there in the dark, I count backwards from a hundred by threes and try not to think about what’s lurking in the woods or the fact that my father will never be coming home. Or my deepest, darkest, secret wish: that Mama had died instead of him.

Copyright © 2012 by Susan Gabriel

where to purchase the book:
Many readers want to know how I get the ideas for my novels and the origin of The Secret Sense of Wildflower is especially intriguing to me - and I hope to your readers. It's a bit of a ghost story.

How I Got the Idea for
The Secret Sense of Wildflower

Eleven years ago, at four in the morning, I awoke with a clear, resounding voice in my head. It was the voice of a girl who began to tell me her story: There are two things I’m afraid of, she said. One is dying young. The other is Johnny Monroe. A day or two before, I had visited the small cemetery located in the southern Appalachian Mountains where many of my family were buried. I spent an afternoon walking among the final resting places of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as ancestors I had never known. Had I accidentally brought one of them home with me, who needed her story told?

Rest assured, mental illness does not run in my family. But for a fiction writer, to get the “voice” of a character so clearly is really good news. I, however, wanted to go back to sleep. Who wouldn’t, at 4 o’clock in the morning? For a time, I debated whether or not to get up. I ultimately decided that if I didn’t claim this moment, the “voice” might find someone else to write her story.

Needless to say, I turned on the light, picked up a pen and a pad of paper and began to write the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister. It took days and weeks of listening to her and seeing the scenes of her life play out in my imagination. Then it took years of revising and revisiting the story to polish it and get it ready. Not to mention the tremendous amount of faith I had to generate to keep going all those years—faith in myself as a writer and faith in Wildflower’s story. Now I’ve entered into the next phase of the life of this book and Wildflower’s story, where I give her a kiss on the forehead and release her into the world of readers.
It took eleven years and many revisions to get this book out into the world. I will miss walking around in the beautiful southern Appalachian mountains with these characters. I love the McAllister family and to this day I have compassion for Johnny Monroe. His life may have been different if his mother had lived. Just as Wildflower’s life may have been different if her father were still around. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. We lose people, we grieve, we love, we carry on. To me, the story is ultimately about resilience and it is my hope that everyone who reads the book claims a little bit of that resilience for themselves.
about the author:
Susan Gabriel
over a decade ago, Susan Gabriel gave up her successful psychotherapy practice in Charleston, South Carolina to simplify her life and pursue writing. she writes with passion, humor and insight about Southerners, as well as a wide variety of other ordinary, odd and interesting characters, young and old. her first novel, Seeking Sara Summers, has attracted international attention. she lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina.

follow her on the web:

i would like to say thank you to author Susan Gabriel for guest posting today and to you as well for stopping by! 


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