Ever heard of a little book/movie called THE HELP?
Well, Augusta Scattergood's lovely novel GLORY BE is also set in 1960s Mississippi and addresses race issues. The main character, almost-12-year-old Glory, brings a fresh, young perspective to the era and the issues. I'm excited to share with you today some behind-the-scenes information from Augusta Scattergood herself.
Weclome, Augusta! First off, and in keeping with our April theme: Did you experience any "April showers" during your journey to publication that eventually led to May flowers?
Yes! When I speak to school kids and ask if any of them were born in 2001, not all the hands go up. When I tell them that's when my novel was born, so to speak, they are astounded. My first thoughts about writing GLORY BE came to me while I was still a school librarian in New Jersey, the spring of 2001. I worked on other things, but I kept coming back to this story. So thinking about waiting for those May flowers? Yes, it can take a while for them to really blossom!
Emma is a black house maid working for a white family in GLORY BE. Was there an Emma in your life?
There absolutely was. Her name was Alice. She worked for our family all my life, and we shared our much loved Nancy Drew books. There was another woman who worked for my best friend's family, and her name was actually Emma. My fictional black house maid is a combination of several people I knew.
The new girl Laura Lampert lifts a black child to a white drinking fountain, which, at the time, was a daring thing to do. Tell us about a brave moment in your life.
When you think about it, at least in my novel, for Laura it seemed a perfectly normal thing to do. She'd never seen black water fountains and whites only fountains. For Glory it was unheard of.
One of the reasons I wanted to write this story was that I didn't have those kinds of brave moments. Growing up in the Deep South in the 50s and early 60s, I would never have done the things Glory does. I hoped to make her braver than I ever was. I was adventurous in many ways, outspoken in some, but not truly brave as a young girl. I did what I was told. At least when I was Glory's age.
I love that Glory's birthday is July 4. Do you have a 4th of July birthday (or know someone who does)?
I don't! But I do have a summer birthday, and swimming parties at our local pool were always a favorite. I understood how upset a child might be if her pool were to close in the summer, especially if it interfered with her birthday. I struggled with the idea that Glory was so unaware of the situation and would rant against the closing of the pool merely because she'd miss her 12th birthday party. That seemed like such a trite reaction in that very serious time. So I tried to make her begin to realize, as the days before her birthday passed, that there was more to closing a pool than cancelling birthday plans.
In your acknowledgments you mention Eudora Welty as a favorite writer. If you had to recommend one of her titles to readers unfamiliar with her work, which book would it be and why?
When I was much younger and about to be married, I read Delta Wedding more than once! I lived in the Mississippi Delta and married a Yankee. I recommended it to quite a few friends and family coming to Mississippi for the first time. But I really love her short stories, and my favorite story of Miss Welty's is Why I Live at the P.O. I can hear her characters speak. I love what they say.
Many writers struggle with fear along the writing/publishing journey. Is there a particularly fearful moment in your journey writing/publishing GLORY BE?
Having been a school librarian most of my career, I wanted to make the story believable and did a lot of research at the beginning of my writing process. I've always read a lot about the 60s in the South. I found some terrific oral history documents on the website of the Library of Congress and the archives of the University of North Carolina's archives. (I have a particular fondness for both libraries and especially UNC- my alma mater.) While I was writing this novel, I heard the voices so clearly, but I wanted verification that not only the sounds I heard but also the content was true.
Near the end, while editing, I literally called/ emailed/ spoke to almost everybody in my circle of friends and family about specifics of growing up in Mississippi and the South. My brother-in-law about football, my sister about Junk Poker and everything else, my friends about words like doodlebug and Pure-D, a friend who lives in the town where I grew up about whether there's still a taxi business there and if my memory of their being one in the 60s was true.
I asked my college roommate whether this could have happened in the South, when I worried that no white girl in 1964 would have been as brave as Glory. I asked my former neighbor, a Preacher's Kid herself, whether her church would have produced such an outspoken kid.
Then I struggled some more. Thought a lot. Worried, revised, rewrote. In the end, I decided to give Glory a lot more of what my grandmother called gumption than we all had ourselves.
Anything else you would like readers to know?
True confessions? I was in the Pep Squad myself but did not wear tasseled boots. I had a college roommate who knew how to twirl a fire baton. While I wasn't exactly envious, I did think that was pretty cool.
I love pimento cheese.
I had a huge crush on Elvis, and—believe it or not—I once was an Elvis impersonator. Fortunately, no pictures survived the experience.
Thank you, Augusta!
Readers: GLORY BE is Augusta's first novel. But you might have seen her book reviews in Delta Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and various blogs and websites. She's also written for Highlights Magazine, Skirt! Magazine, and Mississippi Magazine.
If you have any further questions for Augusta, please leave them in comments!