Today we're talking with Suzanne Mays, author of The Man Inside the Mountain.
FQ: I am a history buff, especially early American and the WWII era. I realize that your book is fiction but you write as if you are close friends with your characters. Did you fashion them after folks who you know?
I'm drawn to stories in the past, too, especially the Civil War time. And, yes, I feel very close to Essie. I based her on my Aunt Ginnie who's had great sorrow in her life but found a way through it by feeding everybody with love. She's a wonderful cook. She bakes pies and cookies. When you leave her house you get a bag full.
FQ: You said you have been writing Essie's story for sixteen years which means a high emotional attachment was made with your characters. Was it hard to find the right publisher?
It was extremely hard to let Essie go. It got to the point where I was just changing words back and forth to stay with her. I tried for over a year to get an agent then I started searching on my own for smaller publishers.
FQ: Regarding the second question - I'm very happy that you did get published as the reading public would have missed a very good book. I ask because my daughter is a published writer and we both know it's extremely difficult in today's market. How did you finally happen upon Mountain Girl Press?
I went to Preditors & Editors on the web. There's a lot of good information there, and they have lists of smaller publishers. I read down the list of what each publisher wanted and when I got to Mountain Girl Press they wanted strong family stories about women in the mountains. This book fit right into that. I'll never forget the day I clicked onto their e-mail saying they wanted to read it. After about ninety rejections I thought it was an illusion.
FQ: The cover art for The Man Inside the Mountain is wonderful. How did you find such a genius? You make a good pair.
Tammy Robinson Smith, who was publisher at Mountain Girl Press, asked Elizabeth Johns to paint the cover. When I first saw the view of the man looking down from the cave onto the farm, I knew she got the story. Quite a few people buy the book for the cover.
FQ: One of the best parts in the story was Essie's faithful dog Ruf who was always there when needed. I have to ask if you have any pets? One of my favorite questions.
When my husband and I lost our dear cat several years ago, we said no more pets. Then, last year, two tiny kittens came and another one strayed in the yard. Now we have teenager cats all over the place.
FQ: What were the easiest and hardest parts of writing The Man Inside the Mountain?
The hardest part was cutting it down. It was way too long with everyone's stories and I sent it to Michael Garrett, a book doctor. He gave me the good advice that this was Essie's story and I had to pull her out. This was my first experience with - Let go and let God - in the writing sense. Every night I'd say, "Tell me where to start in the morning." The next day I'd delete a whole chapter, maybe two. It was gut wrenching.
The easiest part was writing Essie's hopes and fears. I knew them.
FQ: Why did you locate Essie's farm right in the Union Zone and her brother and sister-in-law lived in the Confederate Zone? This is not a complaint, I thought it was great plotting.
When life is good for Essie, when she believes her son is hiding inside the mountain, she believes in a God of love. When she believes it isn't him, she believes in a God of fear. She's always back and forth across this battle line in her life. In the end she goes back to the God of love. For me, having her farm just inside the Union represented how she freed herself by returning again to the oneness of love.
FQ: I loved your book and am looking forward to reading more of Suzanne Mays. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.