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Interview with Author Keziah Frost

On a recent Saturday morning in May, members of the Bastrop book club gathered at the Tough Cookie Bakery for our monthly meeting. We ordered cinnamon rolls, scones, and oatmeal before settling at a table. We would be discussing The Reluctant Fortune-Teller by Keziah Frost.

 

From the Good Fortune Café in the fictional town of Gibbons Corner, NY, author Keziah Frost graciously supplied answers to the questions we posed to her.

 

Frost holds Master's degrees in English and counseling, but has longed to write novels ever since her fifth-grade teacher told her she would. Mrs. Kean told her not to worry about her failing grades in math, because when she grew up, she would write books that would make people happy. She shares her life with five little dogs, one audacious cat, and her encouraging human family. The Reluctant Fortune-Teller is her first novel, and Getting Rid of Mabel is her second novel. 

 

Our book club members loved The Reluctant Fortune-Teller. Addressing Frost in a later Facebook comment, member Cheryl Cato said, "I'm always pleased when the characters are of a certain age . . . my age . . . and it's a real plus when I totally enjoy the book.  The Reluctant Fortune-Teller was a fun read, but it also addressed issues of people over the age of 65. It is difficult finding a new purpose in life, and your characters strive to do that as they support one another."

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

 

Here's what book club members Yvonne Yeoman and I asked Keziah Frost about the novel and her writing process, along with her answers:

 

Question from Linda: Seventy-three-year-old Norbert Zelenka believes he's hiding his poverty from the members of "Carlotta's Club" with whom he takes art classes. He's wrong. We probably all know men and women over sixty who quietly live with food insecurity, forced to choose between paying for medications or buying food. This issue provides depth to a novel that can be read as a fun story or a deeper narrative, depending on the reader. What prompted you to choose this as Norbert's motivation?

 

Frost's Answer: Thank you for saying that The Reluctant Fortune-Teller "can be read as either a fun story or a deeper narrative." That's what I was going for! 

 

I am a therapist in my "day job." This means I think a lot about people's problems in general. I knew that in my story, I needed to see my protagonist act in a way he normally wouldn't. I needed to give him motivation to do something totally out of character. It would be no fun if he'd always dabbled in card reading and then made a second career out of it. For drama, I needed him to take a path that would be unnatural for him, and to see how he would handle it.

 

Question from Linda: At a pivotal moment early in the novel, Norbert believed "he was stepping away from one kind of life and into another."  That statement can apply equally to high-school students about to walk across the stage or a seventy-year-old sitting in a waiting room, waiting for results of his MRI. What audience did you envision for your book?

 

Frost's Answer: Rather than envision a typical reader (and I am still not sure who my typical reader is!), I followed the injunction to "write the book you would wish to find on the shelf." 

 

Question from the Yvonne Yeoman: What research did you do for this book?

 

Frost's Answer: Norbert has a life-threatening incident. I had to research how someone would attempt to save himself in such a harrowing situation!

 

Question from Yvonne Yeoman: How do you stay motivated to write?

 

Frost's Answer: Writing is my joy--the inventive, first-draft part of the writing. I don't need motivation. I hurry to my desk first thing in the morning. My characters talk to me in my head as I write and they surprise me. It's the best feeling. I will say that I find revisions hard work, though.

 

Keziah Frost is so motivated that she's written a second book, Getting Rid of Mabel. Cheryl Cato mentioned in her review that she's looking forward to reading Getting Rid of Mabel. She won't have long to wait, as its release is set for June 3. 

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY

 

I'm offering blog readers the opportunity win a copy of Getting Rid of Mabel in either e-book or paperback format. I'll choose one winner at random from among those readers leaving comments on this blog post.  Comments are moderated to filter out spam. Your comment won't appear immediately, but I'll be checking them at least once a day.  I'll choose the winner on June 2.

 

If you were having your fortune told, what question would you have for the fortune teller? 

 

Find Keziah Frost on the Internet:

 

Click on Frost's photo to be taken to her website or find it here.

 

She's on Facebook, too, as well as Instagram!

 

Keziah Frost invites you to subscribe to her newsletter so she can stay in touch with fans. 

 

The Reluctant Fortune-Teller and Getting Rid of Mabel can be ordered by your local bookstore!  Or, order one or both of them at Anderson's Bookshop.

 

After you've ordered a copy of one of Frost's books, or perhaps been the lucky winner of this giveaway, perhaps you'd like to visit the Tough Cookie Bakery to sit and read.  They're on Facebook, too. 

 

MOST OF ALL, REMEMBER TO LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE INCLUDED IN A DRAWING FOR A FREE COPY OF GETTING RID OF MABEL!

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Mother's Day Tribute

Engagement Photo

My mother died March 7, 1975, on her 45th birthday. She died a month before the arrival of my oldest daughter. 

 

Mother's death and my daughter's birth created a sharp before-and-after demarcation in my life. Before was when Mother was still alive. After, I had my baby to take up all my thoughts and provide motivation to move forward.  I loved to imagine what Mother would have thought of her, but I had no sad images in my mind of my declining mother holding my baby, connecting that before life with the after one.

 

In an odd way, that demarcation eased my grief. At least, I thought it did. 

 

I smiled when I remembered the way Mother would get the giggles at the most inappropriate times. One of those times was sitting in our accustomed pew at Seventh Street Baptist Church during the only communion service I could remember us celebrating. All of us were agog at the ceremony of it, a little unsure of what we were supposed to do. Just as the communion tray of purple grape juice was passed down our pew, a child in a nearby pew burped.

 

That burp in the midst of the solemn ceremony startled Mother into a fit of giggling. The harder she tried to stop, the more she giggled. We filled an entire pew with giggling people, with the possible exception of my brother Mike, who was the epitome of decorous behavior.  Mother was laughing about the burp just as the grape juice arrived. The rest of us were laughing at her helpless laughter.

 

I remember Mother singing. She sang "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess. I remember her laughing with her six siblings, especially her beloved younger sister. 

 

We had no money for entertainment, but she and Dad found entertainment on their own. Dad would put "Little Brown Jug" on the stereo and entice her into jitterbugging. Dad and Mom packed all four of us into the back seat and drove to Dryden's in downtown Groves to people watch. They gossiped about the people walking past the car, which infuriated me. Laughing at other people, even in the privacy of our car, scandalized me. 

 

Mother baked chocolate cake in the middle of the night, when she was guaranteed that she could eat in peace, drinking her coffee and perhaps reading. I learned to wake to the smell of chocolate baking. She sometimes let me, the oldest and probably the quietest, join her.  I'm still a chocoholic.

 

No, Mother was not always the sick and solemn version of herself, dealing with her impending death with as much faith and grace as she could muster. I remembered those earlier times, glad that I could recall for my younger siblings the real person she was before her cancer diagnosis, a person with quirks and foibles.

 

However, I sometimes wondered why I wasn't grieving as much as I thought I ought to be. Was I deficient in feeling somehow, too quick to relegate Mother to funny or wistful stories? I always consoled myself that it was just that clean demarcation that had made my adjustment easier. 

 

A second daughter followed our first. Two decades passed. My daughters grew into young women. I finally got my degree and started writing books.

 

It was about my third book, I think, when I made a startling realization. My female protagonists almost always had absent mothers, mothers not there mentally or physically. Sometimes, their mothers were depressed and unavailable.

 

Most often, their mothers had died.

 

Yes, Mother, I did feel your absence in my life. I kept writing your absence into my books. I'm still doing it. In the book I've just finished writing, both the protagonist and her stepdaughter have lost their mothers. I can't seem to write a present mother into my books.

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Family Secrets and Family History

Image of sycamore leaves by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay. 

 

In my novel-in-progress, Sycamore Dawn, Gloria Rodgers confronts family secrets. Those family secrets undo everything she thought she knew about her family and challenge the premise that has governed her writing life. 

 

In addition to writing, I study genetic genealogy.  Through DNA tests, many people uncover family secrets that also upend their lives.  Happily, family history sometimes reinforces our dreams for ourselves rather than tears them apart.  

 

In 1992, Aunt Laverne died in Louisiana. She was my mother's older sister. The funeral was the first family funeral I'd attended since my mother's, after she died on her 45th birthday.  I dreaded the emotional toll. Uncle Alton, a former band member turned pastor, was to preach her funeral. I imagined much weeping and gnashing of teeth. I should have known better. I'd listened to my uncles tell stories for my entire childhood, and they always ended in one of two manners.  Either the crowd erupted into uproarious laughter or my uncles leaped up to chase shrieking children around my grandparents' house.  

 

That funeral turned out to be vastly different from my mother's service. My uncle told hilarious stories about his older sister, stories that humanized my rather forbidding aunt of the elegant clothing, upright posture, and immaculate house. I understood more about my family history. I saw Aunt Laverne as the harried oldest daughter in a household of seven living children, a second mother to the youngest siblings.  As I listened to aunts, uncles, and many cousins laughing along with me, I realized something that I had always known but never formally acknowledged: my family history included a long list of storytellers.  I was surrounded by men, women and children who innately understood how to pace stories.  They knew when to pause for dramatic effect and when to lower their voices so that everyone leaned in, only to be surprised by something so funny or scary that they burst into simultaneous laughter or frightened shrieks.  I don't think I'd ever felt so at home with my mother's family or grateful to them for all I'd gained from listening to their stories.   

 

I'd just sold my first two young-adult thrillers at that time, but I was still struggling with the feeling that selling those books to publishers in the U.S. and Germany might somehow have been a fluke.  Sitting among those people at my aunt's funeral in Louisiana where generations of my family had settled, I decided that my having sold books wasn't a fluke and that I was on the right track.  The ability to tell scary stories was part of my anatomy and my family history.  Being the introvert I am, I transformed that oral storytelling family history into writing thrillers. I hope the ability to pace stories helps in my current book, too. It's a scary book, but there's nothing supernatural about it.  The story it tells is based on a real event, although the characters in the book are invented.

 

Has the discovery of a family secret or family history changed your life or your understanding of yourself?  

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