Celebrating Texas Writers Month with us today is Jane Roberts Wood (Argyle).
Comment by June 2 to win a signed copy of Out the Summerhill Road (read Jane’s remarks about the book below).
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Jane Roberts Wood is a Fellow of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is the author of a bestselling trilogy that began in 1987 with The Train to Estelline, and continued with A Place Called Sweet Shrub and Dance a Little Longer. In 1998, Wood was the recipient of the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Short Story.
Q. Are you a native Texan or did you get here as soon as you could?
A I am a third generation Texan. Although I sometimes wonder, for example, in August, why I stay in Texas, I do love this state. I’ve lived in West Texas and East Texas and despite its warts I love this place.
Q. How did you end up writing fiction?
A. I lived in a small community in west Texas the first eight years of my life. Those early impressions—the smell of a dust storm, the keening of the wind, the headlights of a car disappearing into a canyon and reappearing again and again long before I could hear the car’s motor—all this has lasted. My mother taught school one year on the Matador Ranch. She was a wonderful story teller and I remembered her stories when I wrote my first novel, The Train to Estelline.
Q. What book marketing activities made you a bestselling author?
A. When Train was published I accepted every invitation to talk about the book. I talked to Brownie troops and men’s business organizations, most times without selling a single book. I went anywhere and everywhere for a year. Then, too, I had a wonderful publisher, Ellen Temple, and she was right in there every step of the way. I also wrote the president of the Burlington National Railroad to ask if he would hitch a passenger car onto one of his freight trains going through Estelline so that I might attend a book signing there. He gave me a whole train with a dining car, a bedroom car, and a kitchen. I invited Jean Stapleton, of “All in the Family” television fame and a friend, and she came along. Molly Ivins came too, and mayors of towns between Fort Worth and Dallas. Two thousand people converged on Estelline. CBS covered it.
Then when Dance A Little Longer came out, I wrote Anson, Texas and asked if we could come to their Cowboys’ Christmas Ball. They seemed glad to have us except that there was to be no line dancing from “you Dallas Folks” and the men had to check their hats at the door. All this was so much fun for everybody involved. And great publicity.
Q. Tell us about your latest release. Is it set in Texas?
A. Ah, Out the Summerhill Road. I always knew I’d write this book when I could. The catalyst was the murder of a fifteen-year-old high school friend of mine. She and a young boy were killed in Spring Lake Park in Texarkana and their murder was never solved. There are four characters here, in a novel that was supposed to be a murder mystery. Although the murder is solved, the book morphed into a story of friendship between four very different women. I think of Virginia Woolf’s telling us that until women began to write about women they were seen as either vixens or saints. There was none of the all-for-one, or band of brothers or Robin Hood and his merry men written about women. But it was always there. The women in Summerhill are incredibly kind and supportive and courageous with each other. Then, too, I believe that, as the French say, “A woman is not truly interesting until she is at least fifty.” These women, around fifty, are also vibrant and sexy and smart. Gerald Saxon, the director of the UT Arlington library read it and said, “Getting a little racy there, Jane?”
Q. Where can we pay you a virtual visit?
A. At University of North Texas Press.