Thirteen-year-old Betony has always hated going to her cranky great-grandmother’s house. It’s old and stuffy and boring and the woodstove in the kitchen is always burning too hot. But her Gram doesn’t have any other family living close by on the Kingston Peninsula, so Betony ends up being dragged along all the time.
She’d rather be pretty much anywhere…until one day Betony sits on her Gram’s favourite chair. She is suddenly transported into the past, and is experiencing her Gram’s life as if it were in her own memory. At first Betony is excited and curious, and begins to develop a close relationship with Gram, even learning to cook and quilt. But after she has experienced a few more of her great-grandmother’s memories, she realizes she is slowly uncovering a terrible, shameful family secret.
Interview with the Author
- Can you tell us a bit about your background?
My background includes being a mother, a teacher and a writer. My early memories of walking to the library and returning with an armload of hard covered books certainly instilled my love of books. I followed my dream to be a teacher when I went to university when the first of my four children was nine months old. I taught elementary school for twenty nine years before I embraced my other dream of becoming a full time writer. My first book was published in 2011 and I now take great satisfaction in being an author.
- Where and when did your writing journey begin?
I have written for as long as I can remember. I wrote stories and obsessively collected scraps of paper which my mother culled on a regular basis. I wonder what treasure trove of my early writing I would have if Mom had not been so tidy. I started several novels as far back as twenty years ago but found that raising four kids and teaching full time consumed my time and kept me from writing. I took a deferred leave from teaching to focus on writing my first published book in 2006. The Year Mrs. Montague Cried pushed its way to get written after we lost our oldest son in 1999. I decided to retire from teaching and pursue my writing in 2009 and started writing my second book, Ten Thousand Truths. I then got back to the work I had started and completed two of the previously started novels which became my third book The Sewing Basket and my recently published book The Memory Chair.
- Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
Lucy Maud Montgomery has probably influenced me the most. I devoured her books as a kid and find myself going to them regularly taking comfort and instruction from her simple yet complex art of storytelling. I have also been influenced by the writing of Stan and Jan Berenstain. I read the Berenstain Bear books over and over to my kids as they were growing up. Often considered too wordy to some of my friends who wanted a quick bedtime read I loved the cadence of the words and the deep connection we made to the stories. I became even more aware of my attachment to their writing style when I began reading them again this time to my granddaughters.
- What does a typical day in your life look like? How does your writing routine fit into your day?
My ‘retirement ‘ life is now focused on being a full time writer while participating in my husband’s ‘retirement ‘ life as a full time farmer. We balance these two vocations with our job of being grandparents. From September to May I try to write four days a week. My day usually starts around 8:30 with coffee and breakfast while I write in my journal. I usually get to my office by 9:30, check my e-mail , sometimes write on my blog and then write in my writing journal setting my plan for my days’ writing. I have my lunch in my office and continue working until about 4:00. I stop and go for a walk (snowshoe in the winter) up the wood road behind my house. Often during that walk I get some clarity or see where the story is headed. I jot down any ideas and thoughts I had and then get back to work until 6:00.
- How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
My novel The Memory Chair began with the recorded memories I wrote when I interviewed my grandmother in 1991 when she was in her late eighties. I began the novel shortly after. The premise was that a 13 year old girl who hated to visit her great grandmother sat on a chair at her great grandmother’s one day and was transported back to a day in her great grandmother’s past. After having a few of these time travel experiences she starts to see Gram in a much different light. When I started this book I only completed the first two chapters. I was not sure at that time what the secret was that my character uncovers as she sees glimpses of Gram’s past. I knew that the conflict would cause a family member to be estranged. When I got back to the writing of this story years later a situation in our family shaped my thinking and created the story line.
- What do you think sets your novel apart from others current on the shelves?
I can’t say what sets it apart from others on the shelf but I can say what sets it apart as an important book in its own right. It shows honest interaction between four generations and in doing that also shows the ways in which society has changed in positive and negative ways. This look at a century of change is a powerful starting point for thought and discussion on many levels.
- Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
My favorite character is Gram. She is strong, feisty, independent and opinionated. She has built a wall to hide her feelings of deep sorrow and regret. I see myself in the character of Gram and also in Betony. Possibly I see myself a bit in a character from each generation as I now find myself in the grandparent stage, have been the thirteen year old questioning everything, the young parent trying to guide my kids and bridge the gap between generations that often have had very different perspectives and values.
- Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?
I really enjoyed writing the memory scenes. I loved putting myself back in the year they were set. Writing them gave me the feeling that I had my grandmother back and took me back to the hours we spent together as she told me about her early life. My grandmother died in her 102nd year but the Gram I knew and loved had not been with us for her last few years.
- What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
I hope my readers see their own families and make connections with their elders. I also hope discussion takes place regarding changes in our society, our tolerance and respect for one another and the importance of seeing a person beyond the color of their skin, their religion or sexual orientation.
- What are your hopes for this novel?
I hope this novel reaches many readers and of course selling a lot would be nice.
- What do you have in store next for your readers?
My next novel which will be released in Spring 2016 is the sequel to my second book Ten Thousand Truths. Shame the Devil continues the story of Rachel, Amelia, Raymond, Chrystal. Jodie and Zac and introduces some new characters. The story takes place fifteen years later and the reader is taken back to Amelia Walton’s farm. Some things are the same but there have been many changes. The characters must again face some difficult challenges and rely on the wisdom and love Amelia has always attempted to provide to the foster children that come to her Walton Lake farm.
About the Author
Sue White was born in New Brunswick and moved from one New Brunswick city to another. As a teenager her family moved to the Kingston Peninsula and she only left long enough to earn her BA and BEd at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. Settling on the peninsula, she and her husband raised four children and ran a small farm while she taught elementary school. Since retiring she is grateful to now have the time to work on her writing and the freedom to regularly visit her new granddaughter in Alberta.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
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