Lander, Alabama, 1904. When young Emma Scott claims she has been raped by a ‘black hobo’, a chain of events is triggered that will affect generations to come.
In modern-day Lander, Canaan Phillips has fled her abusive husband and returned to Lander and her fierce Southern Baptist grandmother, who brought her up after her mother’s suicide. Canaan’s one friend during her childhood was her grandmother’s simple brother, Luke. Now frail and elderly, Luke is still living in the corncrib shack that has been his home for thirty years.
In early-twentieth-century Lander, Emma Scott has taken an instant and violent dislike to her new child – a white-skinned boy named Luke. Abused and neglected, Luke eventually befriends Squeaky, a black boy whose family farms nearby. When tragedy strikes, Luke takes to the railroad, and as he enters manhood on the rails, we begin to discover the truth behind the events that led to his birth.
In the twentieth century, Canaan, too, is slowly coming to terms with her painful past. And, with the help of her adored Uncle Luke, she is learning to love again.
This is a heart-rending and luminous story about loyalty, hardship, love and friendship. It is also a reminder that goodness can prevail even through the cruellest hardships.
Hi, Terri. Tell us a little about your novel, Carry Me Home.
It’s a story about coming to terms with who we are and where we come from. It’s also about the affect that a single incident can have on several generations of one family. There are two time lines in the book, alternating with each chapter.
How did you and Macmillan New Writing "meet"?
Carry Me Home first started taking shape in my mid-twenties. For ten years I told everyone I was going to write a novel. Finally, in my late 30’s, I decided I’d done all the “research” I could do and started writing. It took me eighteen months to write, then another twelve years to get it published! Soon after I finished the book, I sold the film option, which tied up the book for seven years. When the option was up I sent it out again but after 30+ refusals I put it away and gave up. A little over a year ago, my partner read an article about Macmillan New Writing and suggested I send it out one more time, so I did. I think I’ll keep him.
What is your typical writing day?
Unloading the dishwasher, putting a load of laundry on, re-grouting the shower…. Oh no wait… did I say that out loud?
Actually when I’m in the flow (getting there is the difficult part!), I’m like a demon possessed and I forget to eat or drink (unless my partner brings me cups of tea) and I couldn’t care less if the bin was overflowing or the front garden needed weeding.
I’m an early riser and my creative energy is at its peak in the morning, so I usually get straight up and straight at it. I’ve never used an alarm clock. I tend to wake up automatically, fully alert and revoltingly cheerful about 6am. My university roommates hated me!
I usually hit a wall about 2pm and the creative side of my brain takes a hike. When I’ve had deadlines to meet, I’ve tried to work in the evening, but I usually end up deleting most of it and starting again the next morning.
Can we please have the traditional Four Random Facts?
- I did three seasons of the TV series “Dallas”. I usually played a waitress (I’m very talented when it comes to pouring coffee and chewing gum at the same time)
- I run a corporate role-play company in South Wales. I have 25 actors who work for me in training and assessment centres all over the country.
- I paid my way through University by singing back-up vocals and commercial jingles for a local recording studio.
- My partner is a Richard Gere look-a-like and we have many friends in the “industry”. Our dinner parties include Pierce Brosnan, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz
Do you have a writing mantra?
Do it right, do it wrong, but DO it!
Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?
Keyboard. I taught myself to ten-finger type when I was in college to save paying someone to type up all my research papers. I’m a very fast typist and when I try to write with a pen 1) my hand can’t keep up with my brain and 2) I can’t read my writing.
There’s also something very freeing about deleting big chunks of text or moving it around the page to find a better rhythm.
Will you share the greatest influences on your writing?
- John Steinbeck for his gritty earthiness and willingness to show ugliness without censorship and still, somehow, creating a sense of dignity.
- Eudora Welty for her sense of humour and eccentric characters.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder for her simple context of time, place and history.
- Stephen King for his ability to make you feel like you’re cosied up around a fire listening to a friend spinning a great yarn.
And, the last question: What would you rank as the most ludicrous moment in your life?
Oh my… so many to choose from-
The time I was working as a news presenter for an NBC regional television station and a moth flew into my mouth. I spewed a half-digested bagel and cream cheese onto the news desk during a live broadcast.
The time I was playing a seduction scene on stage, accidentally fell into a pickle barrel and got stuck.
Terri, thanks for sharing - especially about the pickle barrel - and good luck with Carry Me Home.