I know I’ve mentioned my BFF, Annie, a few times on the blog (here and here are the posts I remember). But one thing I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned is that Annie is a writer. Always has been. I mean, she’s a teacher, too; that’s her day job. But dang, she’s a writer.
I’ve been reading her short stories and creative nonfiction pieces for years. But until a few years ago, she’d never written a novel. But when she finally did…well, she did it good.
She wrote Sit! Stay! Speak!, a novel about Adelaide Andrews, a young woman who moves from Chicago to the delta of Arkansas in order to escape her tragic past. Once there, she accidentally discovers a discarded Pit Bull puppy. She names him Felix, nurses him back to health, and sets out to uncover the circumstances that led him to be thrown away like a piece of trash. And of course, she gets in over her head in more ways than one.
Because I’m lucky enough to have been friends with Annie since the summer before my freshman year in high school (as I mentioned in one of the previously linked posts, we have Hanson to thank for our relationship), I got to read each chapter of Sit! Stay! Speak! as she finished them. And then I got to read each subsequent draft. And the more I read, the more I fell in love with the story and the characters. So, apparently, did the editors at William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, who acquired the novel and are publishing it.
As if that weren’t cool enough, the book has also earned a blurb from Laurie Notaro, an awesome New York Times #1 bestselling author (whom I met once at a book signing in Chicago, and who instantly became one of my favorite people because as she signed my book, she told me I looked like Kyra Sedgwick, a comparison that struck me as just random enough to be genuine).
So, in celebration of Annie’s upcoming book, I proudly present to you an interview with the author herself. And after the interview, you’ll find out how you can get your hands on an advance copy of Sit! Stay! Speak!
Okay, so folks already know that you and I go way back, but introduce yourself, anyway. Tell us all about you. Don’t hold back.
Okay, um…I’m 33. I teach English and Speech for Arkansas State University. I’ve been there about 5 years. I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but I grew up in a tiny town (the same as Nicole) in the Missouri Ozarks. There were 15 people in my graduating class! I have a master’s degree in Creative Writing, and my dad really thought with that kind of a degree that I’d be living with him and my mother forever, but to be fair—I haven’t lived at home since I was 20!
My graduating class had 29 kids, and that was a huge class. There was some kind of baby boom in 1983. Okay, so what inspired you to write Sit! Stay! Speak!?
I moved to the delta of Arkansas in 2008 to teach for the University of Arkansas. Although it wasn’t my first experience living alone, it was my first experience living alone so far away from my family. I lived in a little house at the end of a cul-de-sac, just me and my four dogs. Although the town where I lived had an insanely high crime rate for its size (15,000 people), and there were many socio-economical issues, I absolutely loved living there. Many of the people and places within the book are fictionalized versions of people I met and places I went. Adelaide’s house, in my mind, looks exactly like the house in which I lived. I was working in animal rescue, and the town had a massive feral dog problem. Although I didn’t experience the same things that Adelaide experiences, her experiences might be typical of the area. The idea for the story didn’t come to me until 2010, when I was married and living in St. Louis. I didn’t actually begin writing the book until 2012.
I think you’re probably the first person in the history of ever to write a heartwarming, romantic novel that centers around the decidedly awful practice of dog fighting. How did you learn so much about it?
I’ve been working in animal rescue for about a decade. Many of the dogs I work with have been abused or neglected by their owners. In the Delta, dog fighting is a serious problem. Truly, it is a serious problem everywhere. I remember one time, the rescue I was working with got a dog that had been seized on an abuse case—she was a female Pit Bull, and she was absolute skin and bones. She had a prolapsed rectum, scars all over her body, and her teeth had been filed down (so she couldn’t fight back when she was being forced to breed). It was just awful. I wanted to take her home so badly, but she ended up being sent back to her owners. I never found out why. Although I don’t have any proof, I can tell you without a doubt that she had been used as a breeding bitch for a dog fighting ring. That’s just something you don’t forget. Pit Bulls are a terribly misunderstood animal, and they have a special place in my heart. I hope that my book will help people see them for what they really are—a beautiful, intelligent, gentle, and often misused dog.
Your novel also features a lot of really great Southern food; there are a whole bunch of amazing recipes in the back of the book. Which one is your favorite, and why?
I don’t think I have a favorite, but if I had to pick, I guess it would be the recipe for cheese grits. I love grits! When I was a kid, I used to eat them for breakfast every single morning. We lived in Mississippi until I was about three, and some of my earliest memories are of my mother fixing me grits (with TONS of butter) for breakfast. That tradition continued even after we moved back to Missouri. I always assumed that everyone knew what grits were, and I was absolutely appalled when I realized that most people even as far down as the Ozarks don’t eat grits on a regular basis. They really and truly are a southern thang!
I love grits, too…I remember that I was pregnant with Lavender when you were writing the book, and you were sending me chapters as you finished them. When I got to the chapter that featured grits, I got this insane craving for them and I had to have my mom ship some to Riyadh for me so I could cook cheese grits! But anyway, now tell us about your writing process. What are you working on now? Is the process turning out to be similar or very different than for Sit! Stay! Speak!?
I’m currently working on my second novel. It’s called Just Fine With Caroline, and I hope to have it finished by summer’s end. This novel is set in the Missouri Ozarks. I really thought writing my second novel would be easier, especially since I didn’t really start writing it until after I’d sold Sit! Stay! Speak! I have to tell you, that assumption was the dumbest assumption I’ve ever made. I’ve had SUCH a hard time with this book. I don’t know what draft I’m on, but it is at least draft five. I’m just now to a point where I feel good about what I’m writing. I tend to be a mess in every aspect of my life except when it comes to writing. I’m a total perfectionist when I write, and it can be a real hindrance to the process. I rarely let people read what I’ve written, and I’m often paralyzed with fear that what I’ve produced is terrible.
As far as process goes—I don’t really have one. I write whenever and wherever I can. I have a four year old, a husband, and a bunch of dogs. I have to take it where I can get it! I often make notes in my phone if I think of something when I can’t get to my computer. I have notebooks and pens in my purse all the time, and if all else fails, I’ve been known to write on my hand! I think lots of people spend too much time waiting for the perfect opportunity to create, and when you’re a mom, that opportunity just doesn’t exist!
Amen to that, sister. Okay, so finally, when and where can folks buy your awesome book?
It will be out September 8th! You’ll be able to buy it at most bookstores, as well as places like Walmart and Target. You’ll also be able to purchase online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks. You can also order directly through HarperCollins!
If you want to pre-order Sit! Stay! Speak!, you can do so now through Amazon. Or if you can’t wait until September to read it and are dying to get your hands on it before the general public does…well, we understand.
Here on the blog, Annie and I are giving away a galley proof copy of Sit! Stay! Speak!…and if you win, she will sign it for you before we ship it out to you, just in time for you to have it for an addictive summer read. The giveaway will run until 11:59 p.m. next Friday, May 15, and in order to enter, you have to do three things: visit and like Annie’s Facebook page (if you haven’t liked it already; if you have, no need to do it again), visit and like The Same Rainbow’s End’s Facebook page (again, if you haven’t already), and share this post! Be sure to use the giveaway form below, so your entries are counted, and once you’ve finished those steps, you’ll be entered in the giveaway 3 times.
But wait, there’s more! (Please imagine me saying that in my best infomercial voice.) Once you’ve completed the 3 required tasks, you will unlock opportunities to earn more entries. You can pin the giveaway post, follow Annie and me on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest, refer friends to the giveaway via your own unique share link (and for every friend that enters through your link, you earn yet another entry)…you get the picture. Woot! Now go forth and win!enter to win a signed galley proof copy of annie england noblin's debut novel, sit! stay! speak!