Guest Author Interview – Violetta Armour

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Title: I’ll Always Be with You

Genre: Contemporary/Coming of Age

Synopsis: Since the horrific night a drunk driver slammed into their car during his driving lesson, young Teddy has had to live with the memory of seeing his beloved father, Stan, die. Now just sixteen, he carries both sorrow and survivor’s guilt. Concerned for her grieving son, Mary decides to put as much distance as she can between Teddy and the nightmarish Phoenix intersection that claimed Stan’s life. She moves the family to Stan’s small Indiana hometown, a place of peace in which she hopes they can build new memories. There, Teddy finds inspiration in an old book his great-grandfather carried with him to America, a book Bulgarian fathers have always read to their sons. Is Stan reaching out to his son from the grave? Mary also makes an equally life-changing discovery in the small town-Rosetta, Stan’s high school sweetheart. The deeper Mary digs, the more she learns of the forbidden love Stan and Rosetta shared. During the Civil Rights Movement, they dared to reach out for love across racial lines. Now as their three lives intertwine, Teddy, Mary, and Rosetta must make difficult choices. Will they choose happiness? Or will old pains cause them to live as victims of circumstances? Beginning in 1912 on Ellis Island and told in three voices over four generations, I’ll Always Be with You is a profound celebration of the power of family.

Violetta Armour, Author

CH:  Today’s Guest Author is Violetta Armour. Violetta is a first-generation American who cherishes her Bulgarian/Macedonian heritage. Her grandfather immigrated to America in the 1920’s and settled in Gary, Indiana where she was raised. Welcome to my blog, Violetta.

CH: Some of my followers may know that I was also raised in Gary, Indiana. This book is about generations in a family and loss. Why should we read this book?

VA: I’ll Always Be with You will appeal to readers who might have experienced a loss and how the love of family and friends can guide them through this difficult journey. It is also about the wisdom the older generation can impart to the younger ones. Although it starts with a tragic event, readers tell me it is an uplifting story.

CH: How did you come up with the premise for this book?

VA: My initial idea was a story along the lines of pay it forward and how random acts of kindness can eventually come back full circle to the very person who started the chain.  Some call it good karma.  I strayed a bit from that initial idea although there are many good deeds performed by the characters as they face their unique challenges.

CH: I love the pay it forward concept. Did you have to do any special research to write this book or is it all imagination?

VA: The book is mostly my imagination, although I did research the process of coming through Ellis Island in the early 1900’s, as my parents did.  I also researched the turbulent decade of the sixties in our country. There was a wealth of material to choose from in both times. The book takes place in 1999 with a flashback to the 60’s. I placed it in 1999 because I wanted to close with a scene I liked from my first draft-a New Year’s Eve celebration at the millennium.

CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your writing style?

VA: My readers have told me they like seeing the same situation from three different voices and viewpoints—a teen-ager, his mother and his dead father’s high school girlfriend. They also like the short chapters. It’s been dubbed an easy read and I often heard what became my five new favorite words in the English language:  “I couldn’t put it down.”

CH: Those five words are every author’s favorite. Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life and elaborate?

VA: I think the situations are believable because everyone has experienced teen angst, young love, uncertainty, jealousy and insecurity. These are some of the issues my characters are faced with. Anyone who has had to start over in life could relate—be it a new school, a move across the country or any unfamiliar situation.  It is also about forgiveness—both of self and others.

CH: Which character was hardest to write?

VA: The character who was hardest to write was Mary, Teddy’s mother. I say that because at that point in my life I had not experienced the loss of a husband, so I could only imagine her grief, as it might be.   Her particular challenge was that she had to be cautious in displaying her grief, because Teddy was suffering from survivor guilt, as well as feeling that he was to blame for his father’s death. Mary often had to choose between being a grieving widow or a compassionate mother.  Her further challenge was to come to terms with the secret, she later discovered about her husband’s past.

CH: Which character was your favorite to write?

VA: Of course, I love the main character, sixteen-year old Teddy. It is mainly his story. But the most fun to write was his new-found friend Mindy. She’s a quirky, nerdy Brainiac, who gradually helps Teddy come out of his despair and learn to laugh again. It was fun to come up with unusual facts she knows and remembers and then blurts out usually at the most inappropriate time.

CH: Was it hard developing characters/voices from a previous generation?

VA: Developing voices from a previous generation was not difficult, because I am a first-generation American and grew up in an ethnic community, surrounded by these voices. They were ingrained in me at an early age.

CH: Where did you get the inspiration for the characters?

VA: Inspiration for the characters evolved as the story unfolded. My first draft (1999-yes, that long ago) was just Teddy’s voice.  I wanted to tell a story of a young boy who had to experience change and how to come out a better person for it. When I had difficulty finding a publisher for that first story, I became discouraged and put it away until 2013. (It was really a pretty awful attempt at that point, so I am not surprised that no one wanted it.) But I kept thinking about Teddy through the years and finally decided that he did have a meaningful message. I just had to make it more interesting. That’s when I added the voices (viewpoints) of his mother, Mary, and Rosetta, his dead father’s high school girlfriend.  I thought this would not only make it more interesting, but give it wider audience appeal to adults. The irony of this is that the two awards the book received in 2016 were both for young adult fiction.

CH: Do you enjoy writing about family history?

VA: I did enjoy writing about family history, because let’s face it, our history is who we are and often greatly affects who we become, as an adult. It seems people either embrace their heritage or disown it. Today, with all the sources available to us to research our ancestry, it seems more people are seeking their roots. I never appreciated my rich cultural background (Bulgarian), while I was growing up. Only in my later years, did I realize what a treasure my parents had instilled in me. Their love for America and the freedoms it offered seeped into the novel through the character Baba, (the grandmother) although, I did not set out to do this initially.

CH: Is there a message in your novel that you want the readers to grasp?

VA: The message I would hope readers might grasp from the novel is the awareness that life and our circumstances can often change in an instant and how we deal with that change is a choice. We can become stronger and grow from the experience or become a victim. As Teddy, who finds an old Bulgarian book in Baba’s attic that becomes a guide and inspiration to him, discovers The past cannot be changed, but the future is in your hands.

CH: This book was written a few years ago, but you have a lot of reviews. What kind of feedback are you getting from readers of this book?

VA: Feedback from my readers is the most rewarding thing I have experienced in the publication of my book—and far beyond my expectations. I think when you spend so much time with a story, you lose your objectivity and by the end you are not sure if you have created something worthy at all. When readers said “I loved your book,” my initial reaction was one of relief.  (Oh, thank goodness it wasn’t terrible.)  In the beginning, I often cried when they told me this. As it happened more frequently, I felt a deep satisfaction that I had taken the risk to put myself out there. And when comments like, “I laughed, I cried, I couldn’t put it down,” came it was both joyous and humbling. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing your words have touched another life in a meaningful way. One of my favorite fan mails was from an 8th grader who said, “Most adults don’t get teen romance right. You were spot on.”

CH: Do you plan on writing another book soon?

VA: Yes, I’m writing the sequel to I’ll Always be With You, because so many people have asked for it. They want to know when…whoops…that would be a plot spoiler, so I’ll just say I left one situation unresolved, not with the intention of writing a sequel, but because I felt it was more realistic as real life is often not wrapped up in a big pink bow. I must say, however, the sequel is a bit daunting as I don’t know how much of the first story to recap in order to make new readers aware of how they evolved to this point. In other words, for the readers to care about the characters, as if they had read the first book. I also wrote a cozy mystery entitled Mahjongg Murder that is in the process of seeking a publisher. Four old ladies play Mahjongg and when one dies, mysteriously, another one tries to solve the crime. Of course, she botches it completely, while falling in love with the widowed detective. It was fun and a totally different genre.

CH: How to Find Violetta Armour:

CH: Where is your book sold?

VA: I’ll Always Be with You is sold on Amazon.com in all formats—hardcover, paper, eBook and audible. It can also be purchased or ordered from any retail bookstore.

CH: Any closing remarks?

VA: I’ve been so fortunate that the book has appealed to many book clubs and I have joined over twenty of them for their discussions in Arizona. I have also skyped with those in other states and would be happy to do so with any book club who choses to read it.  I will close with one of Teddy’s quotes:  Life is a song. Find your melody and play it. Although, it took me many years, I feel so fortunate to have found my melody. Thanks again for the opportunity to be on your blog, Cheryl.

CH: Thank you so much, Violetta Armour, for taking time out of your very busy writing schedule to join me and my blog followers.  It has been a real pleasure discussing your book with my audience.  And readers, if you’re like me and would enjoy this book.  I suggest you pick up a copy at your earliest convenience. 

Note: Photos/Clip art are compliments of the Internet, Violetta Armour and Cheryl Holloway.

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