Character Interview #The Red Dress

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

My protagonist, Eve Barry Sawyer, is a best-selling author, married with three children, living in Colorado Springs. During one fateful summer, she must come to terms with her past in order to face the future. I sat down with her recently, and we had an interesting chat.

***

Me: Eve, I’m so glad you could take time away from your busy schedule to talk to me. Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born and raised?

Eve: Well, I grew up in Fowler, but since the little town had no hospital, Dad had to drive Mother twenty-five miles to Pueblo. I was slow in coming, but Dad didn’t realize this. He told me later that he was afraid I’d be born in the car. Mother said that he drove so fast that she thought they would be killed before I could be born.

Me: You have no siblings, right?

Eve: No, Mother and Dad tried a few years after I was born. But she miscarried, and the doctor advised them not to try again.

Me: Your father ran a bookstore, and your mother was a librarian. So, did you develop an interest in books at an early age?

Eve: Oh, yes. Even before I learned to read, my parents took turns reading to me. My earliest memory is of Dad reading from A. A. Milne’s collections of Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Mother read me books like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I didn’t find that type of book nearly as exciting as animal stories. Later, much to Mother’s consternation, I read The Wizard of Oz and loved it! And of course, I was a Nancy Drew fan, and Mother didn’t like that, either. In my teen years, I read a lot of books by Judy Blume, and that’s how I became interested in writing young adult novels.

Me: It sounds like you were a regular customer at the bookstore and library.

Eve” Yes I was, especially when I was younger and couldn’t be left at home alone after school and on Saturdays. My parents took turns bringing me to work with them. Dad filled an old bathtub with pillows and put it in one corner of the store for children to lie in and read. That was my favorite spot. Of course, homework was a priority. But when that was done, I could lie in the tub and read all I wanted. The children’s section at the library, where Mother worked, wasn’t nearly as appealing. Finally, Mother let me go to the bookstore all the time when I wasn’t in school or with friends.

Me: Were you still a bookworm when you went to your high-school senior prom?

Eve: Yes. In fact, Trent and I were taking a science fiction class that year.

Me: Trent, the boy with whom you went to the prom, right?

Eve: Yes.

Me: Trent was into music, but he must have also liked science fiction.

Eve: He liked Star Wars and Star Trek, but when it came to reading books like Brave New World and 1984, the symbolism and other concepts our teacher wanted us to understand were over his head. Since the class met right before lunch, we usually walked to the cafeteria and ate together afterward, and I explained those things to him. Adelle often met us there, and we formed a threesome.

Me: So, was Adelle there when Trent asked you to go with him to the prom?

Eve: No. She was home with a bad cold that day. In the cafeteria, Trent and I found an empty table in the corner, and he asked me.

Me: Did you know right away you wanted to go with him, or did you have to think about it?

Eve: I liked Trent, despite his lack of understanding or appreciation of literature, and he was great on the football field and played the guitar and sang pretty well. I didn’t think anyone else would ask me, so I said yes right away. Then a few days later, Kent asked me. I felt sorry for him. He was shy back then. I suggested he ask Adelle, but I don’t think he did.

Me: Apparently not, since Adelle didn’t seem to have a date for the prom.

Eve: No. She came by herself. She said she was fine with it and that she loved watching Trent and me dance to “Lady in Red.” Maybe I should have seen it coming, but Adelle and I had been best friends since first grade. I never dreamed she would do what she did later. That’s why it was such a shock when I found them together in the back seat of Trent’s car.

Me: And you didn’t speak to Adelle again until twenty-five years later after you received that invitation to your high-school class reunion?

Eve: No. She got pregnant that night, and she and Trent eloped to Los Vegas.

Me: What about Charlene, the roommate who bullied you into giving her the dress your mother made for your senior prom. Did you know her before you two were in college together?

Eve: No, she came from Sheridan, Wyoming. She was only there one semester. She got pregnant the night she wore my dress to the homecoming dance.

Me: That’s too bad. So, how did you meet your husband Greg?

Eve: I was teaching a creative writing class at the college in Colorado Springs. He was teaching English at the Colorado State School for the Blind and needed ideas for a similar class.

Me: Was it love at first sight?

Eve: I wouldn’t say that, but when he walked into the classroom, I was so distracted by his tall figure that the only thing I could think to say was, “Are you descended from Tom Sawyer in Mark Twain’s book?” It’s been a joke between us ever since.

Me: So, naturally, you named your only son Tom.

Eve: Well, we called him Thomas at first, but after Greg read him and his sisters the book, he decided he liked the name Tom better.

Me: Tom was really into baseball. Did he or his sisters, like you, ever take an interest in reading?

Eve: Ashely, my middle child did, but for Julie, the oldest, it was about having fun and being with friends until, of course, the summer I went to my twenty-fifth high-school class reunion.

Me: Well, this is quite a story. Thank you again for taking time to share it with me.

Eve: Oh, don’t thank me. Thank the woman in the memoir writing workshop you attended, who had a similar story about a red blouse.

Me: Unfortunately, I can’t. Like your mother, she’s in a nursing home with dementia. She probably doesn’t remember participating in the workshop.

***

Do you have a question for Eve. If so, please leave it in the comment field, and she’ll answer it as soon as she can. We both look forward to hearing from you.

 

New! The Red Dress: A Novel

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

 

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Saturday Song: Joy to the World by Three Dog Night

When I was in the fourth grade, I fell in love with a third grader named Brett Claytor. You can read more here. As I mentioned in that post, Brett and I performed for a school talent show. This is the song we sang together while he accompanied us on the piano. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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In the Moment (Fiction)

I sat in the classroom, not knowing what to write. The only sounds were heavy breathing from the guy next to me and the scratch of pencil against paper. The blank sheet stared me in the face.

I stared back, as time dragged on. Another student walked in late, whispering an apology. Footsteps sounded in the hall, as others walked by the open door.

I stared out the open window that overlooked the courtyard. Birds sang. Students laughed, as they passed the building, no inspiration there.

I looked around at other students sitting at tables set up in a u-shape format, the blackboard, the professor’s laptop on the lectern at the front of the room. I turned and stared at the computers lining the wall behind me. At the beginning of class, the instructor said we could use them if we didn’t want to write the old-fashioned way. I stood up and made my way to one of the terminals.

Sitting down, I pushed a button, and the screen came to life with Facebook in all its glory. Without thinking, I typed my log-in information and went straight to my home newsfeed page. There, on my timeline, were his words. “Emma Sawyer, you’re nothing but a goody two-shoes. Go to Hell!”

Others gasped, and a few tittered. I turned to see projected on the screen above the blackboard my Facebook timeline with Jeremy’s ugly words. Other screens were lit up, probably displaying the same information. I opened my mouth but couldn’t say anything.

Someone was shaking me. “Emma, wake up.” It was my roommate Shelley. The bland classroom walls dissolved into the walls of my dorm room, decorated with my photos and Shelley’s rock star posters.

“Oh, what is it?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.

“It’s after nine. Didn’t you hear your alarm? Your creative writing class starts at ten. Oh, and Jeremy called.”

“Shit,” I said, sitting up and reaching for my cell. “You didn’t talk to him, did you?”

”           “Of course not, silly, I just saw who it was on your caller ID. I’m glad you finally got rid of that bozo.”

“Yeah, he’s a real jerk. He’s here on a football scholarship so all he can think about are football, football, and football. He just wants to have fun, and he can’t understand that there are times when I need to study. Oh well….”

I picked up my phone and, with the push of a few buttons, blocked his calls and deleted him from my contacts. I then reached for my lap top.

“Emma, it’s after nine. You’re going to be late,” said Shelley, putting on her coat.

“I know, but if I don’t do this now, he’ll ruin my day.”

“And if you don’t eat breakfast, you’ll ruin your health, but that’s not my problem, is it?” said Shelley, sounding disgusted, as she slung her back pack over her shoulders. “I’m off to the cafeteria and then to my music therapy class. See you later.”

I waited for the computer to boot up, then went straight to Facebook where I un-friended Jeremy and blocked him from contacting me. For good measure, I deleted my Facebook account, figuring I could create another one later. I also blocked him from e-mailing me and removed his address.

I showered, dressed, and dashed to my class, grabbing a Hostess Twinkie and a can of Dr. Pepper on the way. I made it just in time. After roll call, the instructor, a woman who looked to be in her twenties said, “Okay, for the next fifteen minutes, I want you to write about being in the moment.”

THE END

***

The above story appears in the fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders at http://www.magnetsandladders.org . It was inspired by a memoir writing workshop I took last fall, held in a classroom similar to that in the story, with computers along the walls that students could use. The instructor, also a young woman in her twenties, gave us a similar prompt, to write about being in the moment.

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