Hi, I'm Jill
I'm a mom, an award-winning author of 3 books, and an avid outdoor adventurer, who married a performance artist and addiction counselor renown for the best risotto on the planet.
I grew up as an Army brat, traveling the world. Now, I'm psyched to live in Spokane and adventure around the Pacific Northwest.
Wednesday, October 15th
1:00 p.m. Group reading in the Madeira Room at the Vixen with a book signing afterwards at Now Voyager.
Thursday, October 16th
2:00 p.m. Bywater Group Book signing at Womencrafts with Cynn Chadwick, Jill Malone, Marianne K. Martin, Val McDermid and Mari SanGiovanni
4:00 p.m. Bywater Group Book signing at Now Voyager with Cynn Chadwick, Jill Malone, Marianne K. Martin, Val McDermid and Mari SanGiovanni
5:00 p.m. Jill Malone will read from Red Audrey and the Roping at the Cabo Lounge at the Vixen
6:00 p.m. Wine and Cheese Opening Celebration of Big Lesbian Read at Womencrafts
Friday, October 17th
Bywater Books Celebrates Lesbian Lit
This is a fundraiser for HOW (Helping Our Women) Admission is $5.00
Held upstairs in the Unitarian Universalist Church
An afternoon of discussion and readings with lesbian writers Val McDermid, Marianne K. Martin, Cynn Chadwick, Jill Malone, and Mari SanGiovanni
2:00 p.m. Internationally acclaimed author Val McDermid talks about lesbian lit
3:00 p.m. Bywater authors discuss what 20th century books rocked them!
4:00 p.m. An Iowa-caucus style meet-up where book affectionados speechify and stomp for their favorite books and we can all vote (with our bodies!) for the books (and speakers) who move us most.
1) First, congratulations on a wonderful book. What is your writing process like? Do you work from an outline of ideas or scenes, a roadmap of sorts? Do you let the characters pull you forward through the narrative? (BN)
Thank you. “Red Audrey” started as a short story that I wrote in graduate school. The short story was, in its way, quite complete: four of the five main characters from the book are in the short story, and the Latin and UPS, and the roping and accident are in the short story too. To a certain extent, the short story worked as a guideline for the novel. For the proper writing of the novel, however, I just wrote scenes and put the whole thing together afterward. I would take long hikes and think about place and conversation, and then the characters did all the work once I sat down to write. The characters had their own minds and tones and decided exactly how the novel would play. The writing part was almost improbably easy, the thinking part took years. (JM)
2) Red Audrey and the Roping is full of flashbacks, flash forwards. It is not told in a linear fashion. How did you decide on this style? (BN)
Since I wrote in scenes, I printed all the scenes out, spread them on my bed, and put them together in what seemed like the most accurate timeline. That was the first draft, and it was linear except for the hospital scenes. At that time the novel was divided into three sections: Emily, Nick, and Audrey. My first readers thought that Audrey came into the book much too late. In my first re-write I worked to get Audrey into the hospital scenes, and that single revision altered the form of the novel. That revision allowed me to jump through time at will because all the characters had been introduced from the beginning, and I could make reference to them throughout the narrative rather than allocating them a rigid place in the chronology. The time hops create another layer of tension to the narrative, and they are textually representative of Jane’s nonlinear thinking as a result of the accident. (JM)
3) Describe what this past year has been like, winning the Bywater Prize, getting your book in print. (BN)
This year has been an absolute thrill. I have been little-kid excited through the entire process. I wrote the short story ten years ago, and even after it sprawled into a novel, I wasn’t completely convinced it would ever become a book. Bywater changed all of that for me. (JM)
4) What was the editing process like? Did you enjoy it? (BN)
The editing process was fascinating. I hate punctuation; it’s superfluous so often. We had a lot of fun putting quotes around all the dialogue and adding a million commas. More than anything, my editor, Kelly Smith, made me more mindful of inconsistencies in the text, and overuse of certain words. She also restrained me in those areas where I was playing a bit too hard with the language. The best part of the process was her conviction for the story. (JM)
5) Any advice for aspiring writers? (BN)
Write a blog. I find a blog to be the best exercise for keeping my writing concise and innovative. It is amazing how much exposure a blog will bring for a writer. (JM)
6) What’s next after Red Audrey? (BN)
I have another novel in the works. So far it’s darkish, but I think I may have finally stumbled upon a way to edge the dark with humor. Without humor I don’t think there’s much point to writing. Red Audrey never would have worked without Grey. Once I found Grey, the story became funnier and more human. Otherwise you’re just Thomas Hardy, and no one needs that much grim. (JM)
This interview was published in the Lambda Book Report. Bett Norris is the author of Miss McGhee, and the soon-to-be-released What’s Best for Jane.
Bett Norris, born and raised in Alabama a few short miles from the place where Harper Lee did the same, followed in the footsteps of her idol and inspiration by attending the University of Alabama, somehow managing to graduate with a degree in history and a burning desire to write. Real life intruded, but many years later, her first novel, Miss McGhee, a runnerup for the first annual Bywater prize for fiction, was published, a story set in the south during the decades of the civil rights movement.
Norris continues to write using the South as source material and setting. “Almost everybody’s got a story about crazy relatives, mad dogs, good trucks, fishing, deer hunting, drinking, cussing, fighting, football, running around barefoot in the summers, better times in the past, and where the bootleggers live.”
She now lives in Florida with her partner, and gets up every morning at an insanely early hour to write.
First person is a tricky thing sometimes. It makes the story more immediate and direct, more story-like. But, depending on the character, the reader may begin to see the narrator and the writer as the same creature. Confessional poetry lends itself to this blur. Sylvia Plath is the classic confessional writer. Her own experience, her own voice, herself as protagonist. But it’s really not that clear, is it? Or, at least, it’s not that clear indefinitely. But experimentation with this method is fascinating. How vulnerable is the I, of first person? How much harder to read an intimate revelation that is not hearsay, not distilled into the distance of she?
Or, for another vantage, what about Joan Didion: her essays, and her beautiful memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” She is the dispassionate, logical observer. The journalist of her own life. And what is most troubling about “The Year of Magical Thinking” is her acknowledgment of her own coldness, while she struggles with her personal, specific, crushing grief. The I as foil.
Consider Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” Tim O’Brien is the name of the book’s protagonist, and the character shares some of the writer, Tim O’Brien’s experiences, but they are not interchangeable. The writer and the subject have a veil between them. The factual incidents, and the fictional incidents are not synonymous.
Some part of me is never the I, even as some part of me always is.
And this question of identity is bound with another question: how much of this story is true?
Well, how much do you believe? And, isn’t truth more than what happened? To represent the experience, we need the flexibility of first person—the evolving representation of storyteller. The mask of I.Read More
I’m contemplating a murder. I can see it: the body, and two teenagers. And part of me is concerned that as a writer, I’m becoming ghoulish, and part of me is intrigued by this notion. In Alice Munro’s short stories, the characters are frequently informed by violence, but the violence is usually outside the scope of the story—it happens off-stage.
I don’t have any interest in writing thrillers. I think I’m much more interested in character-motivated stories. Distilled and human—my characters are people I would hang out with—flawed and seeking. So, why the murder? I’m not entirely sure I can do it, which is appealing. And I’m scared of it, scared of having to walk that path to wherever it leads. My fear, I think, is the thing that is most compelling to me, and the thing that in the end, will press me forward.
Joss Whedon (I’m a major fan of this brilliant guy — creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.) said that conviction is what makes evil different. Conviction is why fringe groups are so dangerous: they cannot see the other side. This is interesting to me because I’ve been thinking, lately, about obsession. I struggle with obsession. I can’t play video games because I used to play non–stop for two days—all through the night, calling in sick for work—until I’d beaten the game. I don’t have a television, because I’ll watch Law & Order marathons and forego sleep. I used to play sports this way too. An entire weekend of beach volleyball. I write like this as well—forgetting to eat or talk to humans.
My family is like this about their hobbies (and their religion). Cycling, and house projects, and knitting, whatever it is, we’ll do it to the exclusion of everything else, until we’ve exhausted the entire endeavor and must find the next thing to do to the exclusion of everything else. It may be about intensity, or anyway, intensity is an element of it. But I think obsession also has to do with seeking, with the search for fulfillment. Obsession is part of the endeavor, a piece of the experience, and the high. Obsession is part of what gives the experience so much worth, what separates it from little old ladies collecting knickknacks.
And it may be that I’m actually talking about passion. But have named it obsession because I’m troubled. Troubled by this restlessness within me. Troubled by my sudden desire for something new to immerse myself in.
Take a moment to vote for the best lesbian book of the 20th Century at http://www.bywaterbooks.com/xcart/pages.php?pageid=9Read More
Oh, this is mad exciting. Bywater Books has organized a number of stellar events in Provincetown, Massachusetts during Women’s Week. I’ll be there from Tuesday, October 14th until Saturday, October 18th.
On Wednesday, October 15th, I’ll be reading at the Vixen with several other authors from 1-3 p.m. Signings afterward at Now Voyager.
Thurday, October 16th, I’ll be reading in the Vixen’s wine bar at 5 p.m.
Check out Now Voyager and Womencrafts bookstores for more information about signings and readings, and to support local independents.
Take a moment to vote for your favorite lesbian book of the 20th Century at www.bywaterbooks.comRead More
I used to burn everything. Photographs, letters, any memento from a relationship, once that relationship was over. I had to use lighter fluid a couple of times because the clothes wouldn’t catch fire.
For a while, after graduate school, people had a reprieve. They wrote so beautifully that I couldn’t bring myself to burn their letters. Two years ago, I read through the stack and one group of them had been written to a girl who never existed. Not the girl I used to be, but some girl I never was. They didn’t even warrant burning, but were torn to pieces instead.
However, on going through my files this weekend, I realized I have every draft of my thesis, and my first novel. Dozens and dozens of variations for a single poem. I have versions on floppy, and versions on CD, and paper copies. I have boxes of my own work, but no love letters.
I’m of severals minds about this. I know my relationships happened, and what they meant, the same way I know that I went to San Gimignano on a painfully beautiful day when I was twenty-one. I don’t need a record of my past to remember it. But that isn’t necessarily the point, memory.
The truth is, documentation is harsh. My reflections now are kinder to my past lovers, because no record exists to contradict the past as I write it. Don’t you see? Now we might be anything.
Next Saturday, the 23rd, I’m reading at In Other Words Bookstore in Portland. Portland is the place I live in my alternate version of my life. After grad school, I had plans to move there, but something always happened that made me extend those plans—-push them just beyond reach.
Seven and a half years ago, I got married there. Tax day, 2001. I love Portland. The clean smell, the biking lanes, the neighborhood quality of the quarters. Four and a half years ago, I was at the Kennedy School House, up half the night peeing, and would find out, a week later, that I was pregnant. Some part of me had known that night, had felt the root of it already.
Two winters ago, I rode a glass elevator up and down in a hotel at a booksellers’ conference, talking on the phone for hours and hours—-all night, several nights in a row—-high on her voice, her stories, her, watching the sky lighten until it glared at me, until it shouted: listen, listen. Your life has changed. Portland.
A city of watershed moments. We’re taking my son with us next week, to see the zoo, the Chinese dinosaur exhibit, the Saturday market. My partner is from Portland, tied, inextricably to the city I adore. The city I stretch toward. The version of myself I aspire to.Read More