Friday, April 10, 2015

Interview With Author Phyllis Gobbell by Jacqueline Seewald

Like me, Phyllis Gobbell writes a little of everything – books, short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She has received awards in both fiction and nonfiction, including Tennessee's Individual Artist Literary Award. An associate professor of English at Nashville State Community College, she teaches writing and literature. After co-authoring two true-crime books based on high-profile murders in Nashville, she has turned to fiction. Her first in the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series has just been published by Five Star/Cengage. Booklist gave it a Starred Review, and it was also well-reviewed by Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Phyllis, let me congratulate you on the spectacular reviews your first novel has received. We’re excited to welcome you to Author Expressions.

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer:   Pursuit in ProvenceTraditional mystery/amateur sleuth

Pursuit in Provence is the kind of book I have been reading for my own pleasure since I discovered Agatha Christie many decades ago! I thought the title sounded like a traditional mystery, and I’m hoping the idea of Provence attracts readers.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer:  I traveled in Provence on two occasions, some years ago, and the setting – all of those historic sites – inspired me. I actually had a draft of the mystery before I co-authored my first true crime book. The two true crimes took about six years, all in all, and they were not only time- and work-intensive, but also emotionally draining. I went back to Pursuit in Provence to do something fun.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Jordan Mayfair is an American architect who has just turned fifty. She raised five children as a single mother, and the youngest ones, twins, have just gone to college, leaving her an empty nest. When her uncle, travel writer Alexander Carlyle, asks her to accompany him to Provence so he can work on his first full-length travel guide, she is under the impression that his doctor won’t let him travel alone and his book deal hinges on the trip. Besides, she thinks, she’s due an adventure. She has visions of the exquisite landscape, the magical light, incredible food and wine, and perhaps an alluring Frenchman. Ah, yes, she experiences all of those things, but she did not count on being pursued through the French countryside for something she doesn’t have in her possession, and she doesn’t count on murder. A former sorority sister, her prospective son-in-law, and a charming patron of the arts are all part of the cast of characters, and Jordan is trying to figure out if she can trust any of them.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:   For many years now, I’ve published short works – stories, creative nonfiction, and a few poems. But two high-profile cold-case murders in Nashville were solved in 2006 and 2009, and these were stories that I wanted to tell.

I worked with co-writer Michael Glasgow to write An Unfinished Canvas, the story of Janet March, who disappeared in 1996. She was a young mother and artist from a prominent Nashville family; she and her attorney-husband, Perry, had built a beautiful dream house and had two young children. Suddenly, Janet vanished. Perry March was under suspicion from the beginning. He took the children, moved to Mexico, and started a new life. But Janet’s parents were tenacious in their quest to gain custody of their daughter’s children and prove that Perry murdered her. An Unfinished Canvas is the story of the ten-year investigation into Janet’s murder and the final arrest and conviction of Perry March, even though her body has never been found.

A nine-year-old girl’s murder was the subject of A Season of Darkness, which I wrote with Doug Jones. Marcia Trimble went across the street to deliver Girl Scout cookies in 1975 and never returned. Her body was found in the neighborhood a month later, and a teenage boy from the neighborhood was the prime suspect. For more than three decades police tried to gather evidence to convict him, but in 2006, new evidence came to light, and a man who had “slipped through the cracks” in 1975 was arrested and convicted of the murder. A Season of Darkness is about the thirty-three-year investigation, with a focus on how Marcia Trimble’s murder changed Nashville.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’ve finished the second book in the Jordan Mayfair Mystery Series. In Secrets and Shamrocks, she travels to Ireland. I am expecting to have the edits on this one soon, and I’ll start a third book, probably set in Italy because I’m traveling to Florence in June.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I can’t remember when I didn’t write. There’s just something about “story.” When I first began to print words in first grade, I took the Sunday comics, cut out what the characters were saying in the “speech bubbles,” and substituted my own story. I tried to write a novel in the sixth grade. My friends thought it was great, but when I read it again, I was so embarrassed that I threw it away.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Writing teachers say, “Write what you know,” and that’s fine, but I say also, “Write what you like to write.” Chances are, someone else will like it, too. Don’t underestimate the importance of improving your craft. Go to workshops and conferences, not just to meet agents and editors, but to learn everything you can that will improve your skills. Writing groups with other writers you respect are great for getting good feedback on your work. When a publishing opportunity comes, be ready with a manuscript that is as perfect as possible in every way.   

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: The pub date was March 18. The book is available in hardback and e-book on Amazon and in bookstores. ISBN 13: 9781432830267 - Author Page on Amazon

Note: Phyllis is available for comments and questions. Don’t be shy!


Susan Oleksiw said...

Congratulations on your first mystery. It sounds very intriguing, and I'll look for it in my area.

Jan Christensen said...

What an inspiring story. Lots of hard work involved, and smart decisions about setting and charracter for the novel. Thanks, Jacqueline, for interviewing Phyllis.

Bonnie D Tharp said...

Congratulations on your novel, Phyllis. A great interview, Jacqui. Thank you both for sharing it with us.

Gail Farrelly said...

The book sounds terrific. Lots of luck with it, Phyllis. I ordered a copy for my sister.

Madeline McEwen said...

Great interview, thank you, although I shall not thank you for the Amazon link which unfortunately worked perfectly as did the buy with one click : )

Phyllis Gobbell said...

Thanks, everyone, and a special thank you to Jacqueline. I will be excited to see what's next on Author Expressions!

Maris said...

Congratulations on the wonderful reviews you've received on your first fiction mystery. The series sounds as though it's going to be interesting with the settings being in various countries.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent interview, Jacqueline. And thanks, Phyllis for sharing all this good info. My copy of Pursuit in Provence arrived in my last Amazon order and sits on my coffee table now, begging me to make it my next choice to read. :D

Susan said...

Thanks for a great interview, and congratulations, Phyllis!

Alana White said...

Nice interview, Phyllis and Jacqueline....

Maggie Toussaint said...

Great reviews, Phyllis! You are totally on your way!

Nice interview, Jacquie.

June Shaw said...

Congratulations, Phyllis! What terrific reviews! I need to read your book!