Last month our book club was fortunate enough to have author Beth Hoffman call in for a phone interview! I had chosen Saving CeeCee Honeycutt for our book club to read and Beth graciously agreed to be part of our conversation that evening. Prior to our evening I had asked everyone to come prepared with a question or two for Beth. We had quite a lively discussion as Beth responded to all of our queries. It’s one thing to converse with your own book club over a book but when you bring the author into the mix you’ve taken the discussion to a new level! It was fantastic and very enlightening!
Our book club also took a “field trip” to Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL, on Tuesday, November 2nd to meet Beth. We were decked out in our “pale pink sweaters and pearls” – if you continue reading my post you’ll discover the importance of this gesture. Beth was welcomed by many fans of CeeCee! It was such a delight to finally meet her in person and hear more about “her story.”
If you haven’t had a chance to read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, please put it on your list of “Must Read Books.” You won’t be disappointed! Check my February 2010 archives where you can read what I had to say about CeeCee’s story.
Now, onto our interview with Beth!
Was the title, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, the original title?
I had the title on the very first day I began writing the story.
Where did you get the idea for Saving CeeCee Honeycutt?
The novel was going to be based on my experiences as a child and then the character of CeeCee came to me. I kept hearing the voice of a young girl who eventually turned out to be the character of CeeCee. When I was a child I lived on a farm and I would visit my great Aunt Mildred periodically. I would take the train and my Aunt Mildred would pick me up in her “Big Black Buick.” She would be dressed so nicely along with her hat and gloves. Aunt Mildred would say, “Here we are, Sugar,” when we reached her huge home with trees, gardens, antiques, and a library in the house. There was a very educated historical presence about her home.
The experience was so profound that Beth saved money and eventually bought a historical home and restored it to be like her Aunt Mildred’s.
Where did you get your “Southernisms” for the book?
The “Southernisms,” in the book were the words of wisdom which came through the character Oletta. Oletta was such an important character that she had to be authentic such as with the dialect.
Beth wanted Oletta to be wise enough to say what she had to say to the young CeeCee.
What was the significance of the pale pink sweater and the pearls?
Pearls are a sign of loveliness and femininity. It was memorable to CeeCee because her mother wore a pale pink sweater and pearls.
Did Camille actually commit suicide or was it truly an accident?
Not certain. Camille was out of touch with reality for much of the time and she just stepped out in front of the truck. Didn’t see it as suicide but I suppose if others think it was, then maybe so.
Where did you get the idea for the “Life Book?”
The idea for the “Life Book” came from when I was a little girl. A friend of the family had died and my Mom was hanging laundry. I couldn’t comprehend the idea of death as a young girl. She told me when we are born there’s a book with our name and our birthday written on the 1st page and our date of death is written on the last page. All the pages in between are blank. It bothered me. It was disturbing to me because I wondered who would fill out my “Life Book.” I gave this idea to Mrs. Odell to share with CeeCee.
Who is your favorite character?
There isn’t just one. I love Oletta, Aunt Tootie, and Thelma Ray Goodpepper. Probably though, I would have say – Oletta Jones. So many kids can’t be kids today because of many factors and in CeeCee’s case she was able to bloom as a child when Oletta turned up in her life. CeeCee had no opportunity to be bad or devilish like most young girls her age. CeeCee was brought out of her shell and showed genuine love for Oletta.
Is Saving CeeCee Honeycutt a book to be shared by all?
Yes! I was careful with the language so CeeCee could be shared and enjoyed by grandmothers, mothers, and daughters.
Where did you get the idea for using the perfume fragrance Shalimar in the story? As a book club we notice fragrances mentioned in books and Shalimar is found in many books.
A college friend of mine always wore it.
Where did your passion for writing come from?
I always wanted to write. Growing up in rural Ohio I had imaginary friends in a shoebox that I kept under my bed. I would cut out objects from the Sears catalog to decorate the shoebox. I would also write stories about my shoe box characters. When I grew up and was thinking of a career, my mother said to do something that would pay the bills. Writing wasn’t on the map so I put it on the backburner. When I eventually had my own business I would write stories for the furniture ads. It was an ad I wrote about a beautiful ornate desk that I heard from an elderly man. He called my store and said I should write a book. I contracted the “Jim Henson” disease in 1998 and almost died and in result this changed my view of life. I finally had time to think. I was a home decorator and wondered is there more than decorating? I was able to get everything in order and I began to write. I began writing CeeCee in 2004. Four years later I wrote “The End” for Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I probably wouldn’t have changed careers without the “near death” experience.
Beth left us with this thought: “Find YOUR Passion,” — she did and we’re grateful for her gift!!