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Melanie_Murray
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May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

[ Edited ]

And now for something completely different:

 

The Goddess of Fried Okra 

 

 

This is such a charming story from author Jean Brashear, and a complete departure from our other two features. The story is about a woman on the road searching for the reincarnation of her recently deceased sister. I don't want to give too much away, but this is whimsical, heartwarming, quirky, and engrossing.

 

I'm really excited to see what you guys think of this book.

 

 

Why is it that "road trip" books are so appealing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Janga
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

I reviewed The Goddess of Fried Okra at Just Janga last month and raved about it. It's a wonderful book, filled with endearing, eccentric characters and scenes that seem so real I swear I'd been there. The year's not yet half gone, but I'm persuaded that this is going to be one of my top ten for 2010.

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Melanie_Murray
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Can you add the link to your review? I'd love to read it...

 

I agree with everything you said. This book is just a gem; I feel so invested in Pea's story and the whole thing just crackles. It's one of those books that get your emotions going.

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Melanie_Murray
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Read what Eloisa has to say about this book here. She's the one who brought this beautiful story to my attention, and I'm so glad she did.

 

Jean will be here the week of the 17th!

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Janga
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

I'll be sure to visit when Jean is here. I'll post the link to my review then. It will give me a chance to use a "high concept" line I used in my review that Jean really likes. :smileyhappy:

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Carrie_Weaver
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

I can't wait to read The Goddess of Fried Okra!  I always love Jean Brashear's characters and I'm sure Sweat Pea will capture my heart from the very beginning. :womanhappy:

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becke_davis
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Jean is wonderful and I hope she has HUGE success with this book!

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JeanBrashear
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

"Really likes" is an understatement, Janga!!!  Your wonderful, wonderful review makes me swoon!

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
Author
JeanBrashear
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

And I can't wait, Melanie!  Thanks SO much for the invite!

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
Author
JeanBrashear
Posts: 41
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

There were several fun experiences about writing this book, and one of them was selecting the roadside historical markers that head each chapter.  I first began trying to follow Pea's journey, but I kept running across more interesting markers, so I switched to the most colorful ones. In the end, I decided to stay with the theme of strong women as much as possible and tried to show the women who formed Texas as surely as the more high-profile men did.  (I did include Robert E. Howard's marker--only fair, since his sword-wielding Dark Agnes plays such a big role in the book as one of Pea's spirit guides.)

 

But I had to leave out one of my favorites, about C.W. Post, of Post Toasties fame.  He was also a philanthropist and colonized what became the town of Post, thirty miles from Lubbock, as a social experiment in creating diversified income for farmers.  I won't get into all that, but here's the marker at Post that really tickled my fancy:

 

C.W. Post Rain Battles

Site of 1911-1914 dynamiting to produce rain, carried on by C.W. Post, Texas farm colonizer and cereal foods millionaire. After reading that rain often accompanies cannonading in war, Post planned "battles" to relieve drouths. (sic) He thought vertical air currents would condense vapor in atmosphere and cause rain. He first used dynamite airborne by kites, but soon replaced this dangerous method by setting off explosions on the edge of caprock. Post's experiments were said to have been 40% effective, and cost $5000. He battled drouth (sic) of farms until his death, 1914.

 

Kites sailing into the skies, loaded with dynamite--that image just cracks me up!

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
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Melanie_Murray
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Welcome, Jean! I know you've been here all month, but I'm happy to have you discussing this amazing book with us!

 

First of all, those markers were all real? Stranger than fiction indeed...

 

So tell us about the book, about your inspirations for it, and how you've taken the response to it.

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Janga
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Hi, Jean! You know how much I loved Goddess. I've reread it once already, and it's one of those books I know I'll read again and again, discovering something new each time. Thank you for giving us such a rich, rewarding reading experience.

 

Do you have plans to write more women's fiction with a Southern accent?

 

Here's the link to my review of TGOFO: 

http://justjanga.blogspot.com/2010/04/goddess-of-fried-okra-review.html

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JeanBrashear
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

First of all, let me apologize--natch that as soon as Melanie asked me a question, I lost my internet!  Repair is underway, but I raced down to get a wi-fi connection, and we'll hope that by the time I get back, all is well (pleeeeeeease, internet gods!)

 

Janga, I am absolutely bowled over to hear you say that!  Yes, I would love to do another book.  People have been asking me for a sequel because they're not through with Pea, apparently, but...I don't know.  That's not where my head is right now, but who's to say what the future holds?   

 

At the moment I'm in another story I'm trying to make as much headway with as possible before I have to meet my next Harlequin deadline.  I'm a little superstitious about trying to say what the new story is about because it's too fragile yet...I'm still finding out about these characters and hoping I can do justice to them.

 

What would you think about another book set in Jewel?  (And maybe we shouldn't be having this discussion in front of folks who haven't read Goddess yet?)

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
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JeanBrashear
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Melanie, yes, the markers are real.  In some cases, like the opening one, I had to cut it down or it would have taken up two pages, but most are complete as they stand.  I started out looking for them (the book was originally called Roadside Markers as a metaphor for Pea's journey) and one day found a book called Why Stop? that actually contains the text of all the markers in Texas, along with their locations--a real boon to my gasoline bill!

 

 

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
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Janga
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

I'd love another story set in Jewel--whether it put periods to some question marks or introduced new characters. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers here.). 

 

Jewel seems quite real to me. "The Texaco Man" was one of my favorite chapters because it struck what Faulkner calls the "resonant strings of remembering." I <b>knew</b> that service station/store/cafe and the Cashwells. 

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JeanBrashear
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

I sure appreciate your efforts to avoid any spoilers!  I, too, would love to revisit Jewel, and I do think that both more could be done with these characters plus there's fertile ground for others.  The characters I'm working with right now don't have a definite geographical setting yet, and I have mused over whether or not Jewel would be right for them.  Heaven knows I'm sure attached to the folks I already know there!

 

Your Faulkner reference, just like your review, is like sunshine and chocolate and a big warm hug all mixed together!

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
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JeanBrashear
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Melanie, you asked about the inspiration for this book. It actually came out of a down time in my life, when I was dealing with a lot of family illness while also meeting back to back book deadlines for several years (not that I'm complaining--so very glad to have the contracts!)  But the reality was that I feared I'd lost the joy of writing, that I was too aware of all the business aspects of writing, marketing, what do readers want, so many dos and donts that were drowning out that excitement and optimism and can't-wait-to-get-to-my computer I'd had when I started.

 

So I pushed to finish one deadline early and pushed back starting another one to carve out three weeks to just play again, to write for the fun of it, to see if I could remember that innocent pleasure of just letting a story pour from me.  I sat out on my deck under my live oaks in a wicker rocker with my alphasmart and a killer glass of Mexican iced coffee, and I just let it come. 

 

And here appeared this woman in an old junker car with everything she owned, in search of the reincarnated soul of her dead sister.  (And no, I never thought it was a paranormal. I don't know how to explain that yes, Pea would take off to do something so harebrained but still be the most real person I'd ever met.)

 

It wasn't easy to stave off the "where is this going? what elements should be in here? who would publish this? who are the readers for this? yadda yadda" voices clamoring for my attention.  I'd also never written in first person, and heaven knows there were a million reasons not to keep going...but there was one powerful one to close my ears to the racket and just dive in:

 

I was having fun.  I didn't know everything about Pea, not by a long shot, but I loved her from the first second.  I consider her one of life's kindest gifts to me.

 

After those three weeks, I had to go back to my contracted writing, but every chance I got, I'd work on Pea--but because I immerse myself so much in each story, I couldn't work on Goddess concurrently with anything else--so this book has been years in the making.  And yes, eventually I had to deal with all those business questions, as well as the process of analysis that's needed for revisions.

 

I've been through a lot of ups and downs, hearing a lot of "Well, it's very fresh and original BUT.." (We don't know what to do with it. We don't know how to market it. It's so different. Selling it would be easier if you'd...fill in the blank.)  So just simply keeping the faith was a challenge.

 

I didn't reject all the advice offhand—I listened, I considered, I made some changes.  But in the end, I had to find my way to what felt truest.  To the heart of the story I'd intended to write, even if that cost me my chance at publication.

 

I was lucky enough to find the perfect home for it, at fabulous Belle Books and its imprint, Bell Bridge Books, a house that "got" it, that is publishing it with a respect and care that is truly a writer's dream...but I have to admit there were a lot of dark nights on the road to finding that home, a lot of doubts to overcome, both those of others and my own.

 

So when someone so respected as Janga says it's "Eudora Welty meets Sue Monk Kidd and they lunch with Fannie Flagg"...swooooooon!  Or when Eloisa James decides that it's worthy of being in her B&N column, when I get all these amazing quotes and fabulous reviews, well...those dark nights just vanish from my memory, and I'm left with a heart overflowing with gratitude that a book that means so much to me is resonating with so many others.

 

And I don't have to just remember the joy anymore...because I get to live it.

 

 

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
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Marisa-ONeill
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

HI Jean! 

 

It's great to have you visiting with us. I happened to have read Janga's review and thought - this is a book I need to be reading. Well, I'm right in the middle of reading it and loving it. Although I haven't finished the book (damn, wish I didn't have to work for a living), I am in particular awe of all the different 'voices' - they all ring so true. And so I was wondering, as an author do you find yourself getting lost in your characters? Do they speak to you?  What was it like to live with Eudora/Pea inside your head?  

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JeanBrashear
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Marisa, thank you!  (I know...why is it exactly we have to have money?)  I'm so happy you're enjoying the book!  (And I think maybe I need to go wash dishes at Janga's or something, just as a little way to say thank you for that review!)

 

My characters do tend to have minds of their own in all my books, but this one...well, I guess you can see that's the case.   My husband would tell you that I do seem to have a wee bit of trouble remembering these people are imaginary. :smileywink:  Well, that's because they're not, right?

 

Seriously, though, one of the reasons I can't write on two books at the same time, like one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, much as I'd like to, is that I submerge myself deeply in the characters and feel what they feel.  That's been the case with my Harlequins, but Pea...even more so.  Pea really...I don't exactly know how to describe it, except that something about her really spoke to me unlike any other character I've ever written. 

 

I know Eloisa called her ditzy, and I can see how she would feel that because clearly Pea's mission is anything but logical...but to me, Pea is more an innocent, even though she's theoretically too old for that.  I love how she's had this really hard life but she never feels sorry for herself and just keeps trucking on, relentlessly looking at the bright side, even though life has handed her precious little to generate optimism.  There's a sort of indomitable cheer about her and a...valor, I think I want to say, that whatever comes at her, she forges ahead and, as Val says, takes that big heart of hers and keeps laying it on the line, regardless that it's just as likely to get broken.

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com
Author
JeanBrashear
Posts: 41
Registered: ‎03-02-2009
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Re: May Feature #3: THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA by Jean Brashear

Marisa, I just re-read my reply to you and realized I should have added at the end that that's what I think of Pea...but I should have asked if that's how she's coming across to you!

THE CHOICE - Jean's multi-award-winning first book (aka The Bodyguard's Bride)newly revised and with a new ending!
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA
Bell Bridge Books
www.jeanbrashear.com