DRUM ROLL PLEASE………….I have had the honor of asking questions to the author, Christine Lemmon (check out her site www.christinelemmon.com – I have it playing in the lovely sound playing at work some days!). Can you believe it? Pinch me, right? Seriously…..I am still in a state of awe.
Below are my questions and her wonderful answers. I hope you enjoy this as much I did!
1. I know you currently live on Sanibel Island, but have you always lived there? I lived in Jacksonville for 9.5 years and love(d) the ocean and all the little canals/streams that ran off from the ocean. I could picture so many of your scenes even though I have never been to Sanibel Island.
I haven’t always lived on Sanibel Island but I have been walking its beaches since I was two years old when my grandparents from Chicago bought a condo here and we would visit them. After my grandpa died, my sister and I continued visiting our grandma on the island, spending our high school and college Spring breaks on the beaches of Sanibel’s East End. My husband and I also held our wedding reception on Sanibel but then moved all over the country together, living in Atlanta, Sacramento, Nashville, and Orlando before his sales job serendipitously had us relocating so close to the Sanibel area we just had to rent a little house on stilts and find out what it might be like to actually live on an island. That was six years ago and we’re still here in our little house on stilts. It’s paradise!
2. My great-grandfather started a flower shop and greenhouse in 1902 in Grand Ledge, Michigan. My grandfather took over the business and than my mother. All three have passed away and we sold the shop to a distance cousins. My siblings and I grew up among flowers and this book just touched me so. I do not have a green thumb and I say I can kill a fake plant! Do you do a lot gardening?
I do not do a lot of gardening, however, when I was a little girl and my parents owned an ice-cream shop, there was a patch of dirt in the back of the building and I used my own money and bought packets of seeds at the local drugstore, then raked the dirt, cleared the weeds and planted a garden one summer as my parents worked our family businesses. And things grew! I will never forget the experience and the joy. I long to plant a garden with my children and my nine-year-old son has a passion for growing things. He wants to plant orange trees and grow pineapples. The problem is, there are snakes in our yard and strange-looking spiders. Oh, and fire ant mounds, and hungry bobcats, and even alligators. Maybe this explains why tropical islands aren’t exactly known for their gardens. Also, it is frowned upon to plant anything that is not native to the island. Sadly, my children will have to continue growing Chia Pets inside.
3. A follow-up to the above question...How did you learn so much about all the flowers in the book? I was so amazed at the connection of the flowers to story and characters. I absolutely loved it.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would take a five-mile ride around the island each morning after my boys went to school. Some mornings, if bothered by something happening in the world, or overwhelmed by something on my mind, I would notice the daisies growing alongside dumpsters and think to myself, always spot the wildflowers hidden within the weeds. Daisies are everywhere and so is beauty in the world, if we look for it. I knew then I had to write a story about flowers and I became hypersensitive to them and how they made me feel when I saw them during my daily bike ride. There were morning glories and I knew very little about them, only that they open for one day and then die and I thought we do not know the number of our days so we may as well make each day spectacular. There happens to be a rose bush on the side of my house (on the brink of death) and it is odd for a rose bush to be on the island, but it’s there and strangely, every few months the most amazing pink blooms appear. I sit on my front porch drinking coffee, thinking, women, like roses need nonproductive periods of rest in order to prepare for their next bloom. Much of my knowledge of flowers is purely inspiration, the way they make me feel when I see them and the thoughts that come to mind. I did, however, do a little research, especially regarding orchids and how finicky they are.
4. Was or is there a special elderly person (or neighbor) in your life? I have always wished for a neighbor like Fedelina. I have had great neighbors and they have been a wonderful support system, but we all tend to be at the same stage of life. The advice Fedelina gave Anna is so true. There were several parts of the book that I could have stepped right into Anna shoes. I felt like you saw inside my soul.
I can’t say I have a Fedelina in my life. I do, however, tend to create characters that help pull me through a particular stage in my life. At times, during the writing of Sand in My Eyes, it was like the older me talking to the younger me, telling me it all will pass, that one day your house will be clean and quiet and your children grown and gone and you would do anything to have your house a mess and noisy and your children little again. I do look at older women, at all the time they have and how lonely some of them are and I realize how this stage of my life—me running around my house like a chicken with her head cut off answering the demands of three little ones—is so brief. Coincidentally, after I started writing the book, I did notice an older woman out watering her grass in the little house next to mine. The house had been vacant when we moved in, but I learned the woman was up north visiting her daughter. She was definitely in Fedelina’s stage of life. Her husband passed. Her health was deteriorating. She was madly in love with Sanibel Island and didn’t want to leave it but her daughter was urging her to move back north and be by family. She would come over to my house and chat about her younger days and tell me funny stories about raising all her children and the cakes she made and the one her son knocked over. I had her over for Thanksgiving, and we became friends.
5. I have to ask, was there a Liam in your life? I thought for sure I had the ending all figured out....Fedelina would pass away and Liam and Anna would reconnect at the funeral. I was so wrong.
Nope. There has never been a Liam in my life. And it was hard writing about a husband who was not around. My husband is my best friend. He is a total homebody and hands-on-father, coaching their teams and so on. But just as an actress will play roles she might not be able to relate to, an author must also write of things she has not experienced.
6. Did you have the ending plotted out before you started writing, or did it develop as you wrote?
I did not have the ending plotted out in advance. I’ve tried in the past to write from outlines but find out that it takes the fun away for me. I like to think of writing as playing with dolls and if someone tells a little girl how her role playing with those dolls must end, it’s no longer fun. I did struggle with the ending of Sand in My Eyes and have often wondered whether I should have ended it a different way, but I did it the way I did for various reasons. I don’t want to give anything away here, but I’ll just say this: Anna wanted to be better than her husband who cheated on her.
7. Do you write daily or in blocks of time? Do you have a special place you go to and write or do you write where ever/whenever you can? I thought it was funny that Anna would write on anything she could find when something struck her. That was something my mother would do, but it was usually something she needed from the store, a story/message she needed to tell someone, a to-do list, etc.
When in the midst of writing a novel, I do write daily in two-hour chunks of time only when my children are sleeping. That means I can write from five until seven in the morning, or from around ten to midnight. I get inspiration as I’m out and about the island, wading in the water at the beach with my children, or bike riding, or sitting at the park, or on my front porch drinking a cup of coffee. I then jot my ideas down on anything and yes, that includes coloring books, scrap paper, and even a dollar bill once. I like writing at my desk in my bedroom because I need to be focused when I write and I like to enter the story to where I no longer realize where I am writing. I just like it consistent and quiet. There were times during the writing of Sand in My Eyes that my son would wake up just after I started to write and he would want to play and so I started writing in my pantry where he couldn’t find me. But then I got pregnant and would have to sneak out to the bathroom with morning sickness and I wrote scenes while in the bathroom. Writing while being a mom is not always glamorous! Whatever works!
8. Did you always want to be a writer?
When I was a little girl and got my first diary, I filled it up before the year was over and needed a new one. I then wrote feverishly in my diary all the way through college. One summer of college, I was confined to my room with mononucleosis. I slept all day but couldn’t sleep at night and so I pulled an old, noisy typewriter from my basement and started writing a novel. I felt a joy, like when I was a little girl and would open the doors to my dollhouse and pick up my dolls, ready to play. That joy was unforgettable and I knew in a roundabout way that writing is what I wanted to do. All my jobs after college were writing-related—working as a newspaper reporter, radio news producer, editor for a business magazine and so on, but never did I take a writing class. I just wrote!
9. What is your favorite thing about Sanibel Island?
My favorite thing about Sanibel is the beach at sunset. Still, after all these years, my husband and I take our three children at least once a week to a sunset at one of our favorite beaches. No matter what is going on in our lives, or how tired I may feel, after an evening of sitting there on the beach, watching my children play and the sun set, I feel revived and invigorated—inspired! It always clears my mind and reminds me of what I want in life, which is beauty. I want to savor life.
10. What are some of your favorite books/authors?
I like to read classics, like Hemingway, Tolstoy, poetry by all authors, and stories by Hans Christian Andersen, as well as contemporary authors like Jodi Piccoult.