Born in Southern California, JoDee Neathery moved to Midland, Texas at the age of five. She began her professional career in the banking industry, then began public relations executive recruiting up until the time she relocated to East Texas. There she experienced more opportunities to write and enjoys a byline, Back Porch Musings, a lighthearted view of life in general, in an area newspaper. She currently chairs and writes minutes and reviews for the community book club, Bookers She has been doing this for eighteen years. This is where she championed her novel writing journey. “They believed in me before I did.” She is the author of two novels, A Kind of Hush and Life in a Box.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My debut novel, Life in a Box, (2017) was the ultimate personal accomplishment for me as it was a cleansing of sorts – to prove I could tell a fictional story based on some members of my family in an entertaining way by unveiling my own ambitions and insecurities. Seeing it in print was a dream come true. I bolted out the door and almost tackled our UPS driver when he delivered my proof copy. He hasn’t been on the front porch since! My Nana, a born storyteller, instilled in me a sense of wonderment and endless possibilities and I credit her keen perception and sense of humor for the person I am today and for what I have been able to accomplish. The first few sentences, the profile of a young boy with wisdom beyond his years, and the ending of my latest, A Kind of Hush, came to me in the middle of the night shortly after Life in a Box was released. I didn’t know the whole story, but I knew whatever I wrote next had to include this young lad. I’m having trouble putting him to bed and I’ve teased my grandsons that he’s most likely to be in my will – which is met with wry smiles and a little eye-rolling.
Do you have a specific writing style?
It has been called lyrical and poetic. I love to create images with words and sentences that flow enabling the reader to not only visualize the scene, but to be a part of it. Novels without emotion are not novels and it’s my goal to find the extraordinary in the ordinary or discover what is universal, meaningful, and human in the uncommon. Writing with fire fuels reactions and for me that is an author’s job.
How did you come up with the title?
Originally The Whisper Room was swirling around inside my head when the first images of the story made an appearance. The novel is filled with unforgettable characters none more so than seven-year-old Gabe who retreats inside his safe imaginary world (his whisper room) when life deals him a blow. He is gifted and displays the wisdom and, according to his grandfather in the novel, “the vision of a John Rockefeller…some have strength of mind – his is of the soul.” A Google search identified numerous titles with “whisper and/or room” telling me that I needed to find something else. I am a huge music fan and feel that songwriters are the epitome of storytellers. “There’s a Kind of Hush” was recorded by many artists, but for me in the context of what I was creating, A Kind of Hush signified that gray area between right and wrong that unfolds during the story.
Do you feel like you’d be a better writer if you wore sparkly socks during your writing sessions?
How did you know what is in my sock drawer…LOL. I’ve always believed that a little sparkle goes a long way to add joy to one’s life and have been known to wear a tiara at times and have never shied away from dancing like no one is watching. Sometimes quirkiness helps with character development. Those sparkly socks might just turn up in my next novel. I’ve made a note to self!
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have two authors with completely different styles that speak to me on all levels, and I idolize both. Pat Conroy has probably influenced my style of writing more than anyone as he can make you laugh and cry in the same sentence. He was a magician setting a vivid stage for every scene showing the reader through the character’s point of view what they were seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. His words evoke pictures…if his protagonist was lolling about in the ocean, the reader might as well lather on the sunscreen. I aspire to write one sentence equal to the late Mr. Conroy’s acumen. My other favorite is Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Strout, whose style of writing is as crisp as Mr. Conroy’s is flowing, but her mastery of character development and in depth understanding of human nature is legendary. In her prize-winning novel the likes of crusty Olive Kitteridge will linger long after you turn the last page. Her encouraging words to me via email on a review I had written on “Olive” was the kick in the pants that propelled my belief that I should follow my life-long dream of writing a book. I’m forever humbled and appreciative for her encouragement.
Pat Conroy, “Four of the most powerful words in the English language are tell me a story.”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Trying not to beat myself up or over analyze a scene or scenario that just doesn’t work. I tend to hang on to it rather than putting it aside and moving on, especially if it’s a character that I’ve fallen head over heels for…figuratively speaking of course. Writing challenges me to be better, smarter, more empathetic, and grateful for the talent I’ve been blessed with.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for taking the time to read my novel! It is a privilege to connect with readers and I encourage them to reach out to me with any questions or comments they might have. It’s fascinating to hear how different readers read the same book. Any author should be open to constructive criticism as a learning tool, but I must admit some less favorable remarks sting, but it comes with the territory. The author’s best friend is one who reads their work and offers a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I would encourage everyone to share their opinions on these platforms…it is very helpful in spreading the word.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Dust in the Wind is in the incubator. The premise, Is it ever possible to forget what you have given up? It opens in Paris, France, 2014.
To the casual observer Andrew Dupont and Gretchen Cunningham might be seen as a doting father and his daughter out for a Sunday stroll along the pedestrian bridge, the Pont Des Arts, over the River Seine. A keener look unwraps a different state of affairs as their love and lust reveals itself when they lean into each other, his hand on the small of her back, her eye-crinkling smile telegraphing her passion. With the Eiffel Tower in sight, they validated their commitment to each other by affixing a metal lock engraved with their initials to the bridge’s iron grill work, tossing the key into the water below. They were the perfect couple. His wife, Constance, disagreed, unable to nonchalantly brush aside her husband’s infidelity. ©
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