Happy Wednesday! We’re halfway through the week!!! Today we have a fab interview on Meet the Author with Phyllis H. Moore who talk to us about retiring twice(!), which book everyone should read (and its a good one!) and her most recent book, Pelican Beach Murder.….
Phyllis H. Moore
Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Cozy Mystery
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Phyllis is a retired social worker, native Texan, former avid gardener and cook. She used to like to garden and cook before she started writing at the age of 62. However, she will take time from writing to travel. She’s retired twice: once from thirty years in the social work field, and later from owning and operating a bed and breakfast for seven years. She likes southern gothic novels, quirky characters who find redemption, and rural settings. Some of her favorite authors are Rick Bragg, Pat Conroy, Alice Hoffman, Fannie Flagg, Sarah Addison Allen, Kathleen Stockett, and Rebecca Wells
What inspired you to start writing?
After my second retirement, I had time on my hands. My years of social work and operating the bed and breakfast introduced me to a variety of characters and they all had a story. I would think about the people, where they came from, and what they might be doing now. Those characters have combined and ruminated in my mind to inspire fictional stories, places and events. Once I started writing, more inspiration came and now, I can’t stop.
How many books have you written and published?
I’ve published 17 books, including one novella, an anthology of short stories, and one nonfiction.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
My favorite story to write was Birdie & Jude. I live on an island, Galveston Island. We pay attention to the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season. In August, 2017, Hurricane Harvey skirted us, but did tremendous damage to the Texas coast from north of Corpus Christi to the Louisiana border. The flooding in Houston broke all records and many people lost their homes. As I watched the news reports, I wondered what it would be like if a young woman was involved in a fatal accident, one killing her only friend. If she were released from the emergency room and the island’s only exit was closed due to the storm. Birdie, an older woman, discovers Jude, the young woman, on the beach. As she’s walking her dog before she shelters in place, Birdie notices Jude’s injuries and discombobulation. She encourages Jude to shelter with her and a friendship begins. However, it’s more than a friendship, because their souls recognize each other from another time, a time of turmoil for Birdie. It’s set on Galveston Island, a place with a rich history, Mardi Gras celebrations, traditions, and a diverse of culture. The social climate of the 1960s, Birdie’s high school years, plays a role, as does the financial standing of her family. The story touches on all the social issues in my coming of age, and many of them exist to this day. I dedicated the book to my high school friends, Sammy and Ronnie. They endured an instance of intimidation and racial discrimination in 1968 that haunted them their entire lives.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
That’s a challenge, deciding what to name a character. So I do what lots of mothers and fathers do, look at the obituaries, and I use Pinterest posts about baby names. In my novel, Opal’s Story, the main character’s name is Opal. That was my paternal grandmother’s name. It’s set in West Texas, where I visited her often. The character is an older woman, inspired by my grandmother, but the main story takes place in 1948 when she was a young woman. In the Ember Months, one of the characters, Bessie, is named for the real woman I knew in the 1970s. She was an inspirational woman taking care of relatives who were terminally ill. I haven’t seen Bessie since the 1970s and she was an older woman at that time, so I’m certain she is no longer alive.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Definitely Sabine would be great to be stranded with, because she’s resourceful, positive, and has a sense of humor. She’s also used to being out in nature, able to communicate with animals, and knows her plants.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
I love Pat Conroy. My favorite of all his books is Prince of Tidesthen The Great Santini. Both are classic southern gothic with a dysfunctional family at the center. Each one focuses on the children who are at the mercy of their dysfunctional parents. Both of these books have been made into classic movies. The settings and the families are haunting.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I can remember writing stories in the classroom in school, but I can remember the topics of the editorials I wrote for the school newspapers in Junior High and High School.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
I’ve been a secretary, in the days before they were called administrative assistants, a social worker and a social work administrator, and the operator of a bed and breakfast.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
I think backwards, because I would know what I was getting into. My favorite historical fiction writer is Phillipa Gregory. I think going to one of her settings in Tudor England would be great. I’d also like to visit Cleopatra and float down the Nile on one of her ships with scented sails. I have concerns about our future. I want to be a fly on the wall to see how the problems are resolved, but I’m not so sure I want to be present for the Apocalypse.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d like to talk to my grandmother, Opal Rogers Henry. I’d like to chat with her like we used to do on hot summer days. I’d smell her Skin so Soft lotion in the air and ask her for her cornbread recipe. She could show me how to tatt and tell me how she managed to live in the racist south without arguing with the bigoted white men around her.
What are your favourite things to do?
I like to travel. I love the river cruises in Europe and traveling by train there. I like to play Mah Jonggwith my friends once a week and catch up on their lives. I enjoy refinishing furniture, painting and decorating. When I was younger I enjoyed those things more. Now, I do it in my stories, and I fill the attics with everything I need so I don’t have to go out and buy the antiques. I like to go out to eat at the great seafood restaurants on Galveston Island. In cool crisp weather, I like to garden, but there’s not much of that kind of weather on an island off Texas. I like to visit family and old friends. At home I like to crochet and read.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
My husband and I were in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with my sister’s family. The first day, we took a private walking tour with a guide named Archie. He went to lunch with us and talked about San Miguel being a city of coincidences. He said it several times. On our way back to our villa, we stopped at Casa Sierra Nevada hotel, a place known for the fabulous margaritas. I hadn’t seen my college roommate in over twenty years and she walked in, eyeing the preferred table we occupied by the courtyard. We rekindled our friendship and now visit. She only lives an hour away from me in Houston.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
I would definitely tell my younger self to begin writing earlier, even if it was a hobby in addition to a paying job. I firmly believe the more a person writes, the better and more proficient they become.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My most recent book is the second in a cozy series, Pelican Beach Murder.
It was released in the spring of 2019. The third book in the series, Mystery on Inheritance Ranchwill come out later this year. The first book in the series is A Dickens of a Crime. All of my books are available on Amazon.comin Kindle and paperback editions
Thanks so much to Phyllis for this fab interview. To Kill A Mockingbird is a book I read in school and is one of my favourites – definitely a must read for everyone! I also love that you retired twice – I’m looking forward to my one retirement in many years time!
If you have any questions/comments for Phyllis then get in touch!
Have a great evening