Thursday, November 15, 2012

Insight: An Interview with Jeannie Mobley

Getting the backstory on a novel and its author is always fascinating to me. Here is a little of that backstory on Katerina's Wish and debut author Jeannie Mobley.

Jeannie, what is it like -- having your debut novel out in the big, big world?

In some ways it is underwhelming. Of course I'm excited to have gotten published, but the deal came two years ago, and nothing really big changed on my release day. Many people had already read the ARC, and it had already been reviewed several places. I was already setting up signings, a blog tour, a release party. So the day it hit the shelves was almost an imperceptible change, and that was a bit weird. There have been great moments since that day, though. Friends in other parts of the country have sent me cell phone pictures of my book on the shelves at bookstores and libraries. And the most gratifying moment was when a total stranger wrote on Amazon, "I stumbled on this book when I desperately needed a reminder to believe in my own dream and I am so glad that I did." To think my book had a profound impact on someone blew me away, and made every painful moment in the process completely worth it!

That is such a neat story! And speaking of stories, in Katerina's Wish, Katerina's neighbor Old Jan is a storyteller. Did you make up his stories or are they based in Bohemian (Czechy) tradition?

All of the stories are traditional folk tales. I love the eastern European parallels to the western tradition we are all more used to in the US. I did change some of them a little, though. I  shortened some of them to make them fit in the flow of the book better, and I wrote them in a way that sounded like an old man telling them, rather than a reading from a book.

Of all the tales in the book, the one that has been modified the most is the magic carp story that provides the premise. Usually, the wish-granter in that story is an elf in a tree that doesn't want its tree cut down. I have heard the story as a fish, though, and I found that fit the setting better, so I went with that version, even though I think it is less authentic.


Fiction gives you the right to do such things. :-) From where or from what did the idea of Katerina's Wish grow?

I had a dream that my family's farm had been taken away, and I was standing on a bridge, looking into the water, when a fish rose to the surface and offered to grant me a wish to get the farm back. As you can see, this isn't quite the story in Katerina's Wish. I woke from the dream thinking there was a good story there, but more than the story, I wanted to capture the feeling of the dream, that was both real and unreal at the same time.

Ah. I like that--how a dream can be real yet unreal, all at the same time. With your background in anthropology would you say an immigrant today experiences many of the same conflicts as Katerina's family?

I'm so glad you asked this question, because one thing I hope my book does, is create opportunities for a discussion of these issues that remain so important today.

I think immigration have remained at the heart of the American experience throughout our history, and so I tried to make Katerina's story, while true to a historical time and place, a struggle with some of the issues that all immigrants face in all times--including today.  Coming to America for a better life and finding prejudice, exploitation, danger, and a severe language barrier have always been part of the immigrant experience. At the same time, I think the willingness to keep striving, and hoping, and reaching for the dream has also been a part of it, that has often led to a better life for the children of immigrants. The American dream has always been hard won, but many have won it all the same.

I'm thankful for my own immigrant background, those generations before me who dreamed, pursued, and persevered so my family and I can be where we are today. Many people envision writers writing all day, dressed in their pajamas, with a cup of coffee by their side. Does this describe you?

At this precise moment, yes. I am writing this in my bathrobe, with a cup of coffee at my side (in my favorite pirate mug, reserved for my writing time.) In my defense, however, it is well before noon. The way I have balanced my writing with my day job and family obligations is to be an early morning writer, who writes while the family is still in bed. So I don't ever get the all day part. But I can still dream, can't I?

You certainly can! Jeannie, I think chocolate is the most perfect food. Which food fits that bill for you?

I cannot think of a single thing to add to this statement. Is there any other answer?

For you and me, I guess not. :-) For my readers, what do you think: Which food would you describe as perfect? And don't forget to enter the giveaway of Katerina's Wish, just scroll to the post below.

Jeannie, thank you so much for sharing with us today.

17 comments:

  1. Chocolate pretty much sums it up for me. The only thing that might beat it is some really good bread. I LOVE bread. Yum.

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  2. Awesome interview. I loved learning more about Jeannie and why she wrote this book. Also what it felt like as a debut author. Good luck with it! It sounds great.

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  3. Lovely interview! And OF COURSE chocolate is the most perfect food. :) Throw some fresh peaches on the side and I'm in heaven!

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  4. Ah, fresh peaches. When Colorado peach season arrives my household goes through two big boxes in no time. And by household, I think that's about 90 percent me. You are a woman after my own heart, Faith!

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  5. Having just eaten some after lunch-chocolate, I will now go and get dressed. So nice to know I am in good company!
    Thanks for this great interview!

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  6. Nice interview. Thanks for posting it. I think chocolate dipped strawberries might be pretty perfect for me.

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  7. I loved this interview, especially the part about immigration.
    Congratulations on the debut novel release! :)

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  8. Enjoyed the interview. I've been reading the sample pages on Amazon. It's definitely a book I want to read. :)

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  9. Great interview... thanks Barbara and Jeannie for sharing. Chocolate is a good "staple" but I think my "perfect" treat would be a butterscotch square from See's Candies; and what do you know, there is still chocolate there!

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  10. I can image that after all that build up, the book release might be anti-climatic.

    So I'm not the only one who writes in her bathrobe. :D

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  11. Oh, I JUST finished this book and I adored it! Thank you both for this interview.

    The perfect food is fruit of all kinds. But I'll have some chocolate, too. And ice cream. :)

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  12. I've been wanting to read this! I wonder how underwhelming my release day will be. :)

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  13. Dark chocolate. I loved this interview. I'd never thought of release day as being anti-climatic, but her explanation made sense. And don't we all hope that our stories will impact others for good? Thanks! I'll have to add this one to my TBR pile. :o)

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  14. Great interview! I enjoy hearing the successes of other writers and this book really appealed to me since you reviewed it. Hope I win it- but I'll have to mark it as a to-read even if I don't.
    As far as favorite foods- ice cream, no question about it. Preferably fruit flavors.

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  15. Again, huge thanks to Jeannie for answering my questions and sharing some of your writing story with us.

    Myrna, dark chocolate is my chocolate preference too. So, so yummy.

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  16. Fantastic interview! I'm a fan of folktales, so it made me happy to hear that real ones were utilized for the storyteller character. :)

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  17. This sounds really interesting. i love stories related to immigration.

    Oh, and apple crisp, the way I make it with extra crumbly stuff on top.

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Comments. Yay! They're almost as good as chocolate. Almost.