Today we're talking with Carol June Stover, author of Surviving 26th Street
FQ: In reading your biography, I was impressed to learn of your background in the hotel industry. Were any of your career encounters inspirational in developing any of your characters in Surviving 26th Street?
STOVER: I specialized in hotel advertising and marketing, and my favorite part of that work was writing brochures, press releases, etc. To attract guests, I had to put myself in their place so I could answer questions like, “What does the prospective guest want to know about this hotel? What are they looking for and why are they visiting?” So that aspect of hotel work served to peak my imagination about people and lead to my writing in general, rather than leading to a specific character.
FQ: "Justice" seemed like the antithesis of the character "Winton." How did you decide on using it as the family name?
STOVER: I wanted daughter Jane Justice be the one seeking truth in all matters and her father Winton Justice to be the one who was truly unjust. I thought the contrast was ironic, as was the fact that these two opposites shared the last name of Justice.
FQ: After a successful career in the hotel industry, was there a particular moment (or series of incidents) that redirected you toward pursuing your writing career and would you please share?
STOVER: I always wanted to spend my days doing what I liked best...writing. So when I remarried and moved to Chicago in 1994, it seemed like a good time to make the change. I started writing non fiction books about my hobby of doll collecting...my childhood doll was Ginny created by the Vogue Dolls Inc., so I wrote about her and her many competitors in Small Dolls of the ‘40s and ‘50s, and co authored two editions of The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Vogue Dolls, and also Doll Values: Antique to Modern, Eighth Edition. After that I decided to work on my first novel, Current River Redemption,www.currentriverredemption.com, a story I borrowed from my Grandmother’s family of pioneer preachers. Next I borrowed the story for Surviving 26th Street,www.surviving26thstreet.com from growing up in New Jersey with my wacky family. Both novels are also e books as well as hard copy.
FQ: Laura Justice’s character is bright, positive and she is motivated. Yet, she joins forces with Winton and assumes subservience in many aspects. Do you think women have become too independent and self-sufficient in today’s society? If so, what example would you site toward such premise?
STOVER: I think it’s great if a woman today can be independent and self-sufficient when need be, but not to the point of “ruling the roost.” I think marriage should be a partnership of two equals who can give and take and appreciate each other for who they truly are. I site my own second marriage as a good example of that.
FQ: Without too much of a spoiler, why was Laura’s discovery of Winton’s antics with the neighbor somewhat down-played?
STOVER: In the end, Laura realized what she’d known all along...that there was something wrong with her relationship with Winton and that despite her best efforts, she couldn’t fix it. However 1950 taboos and expectations kept her tied to the relationship, and her own mother told her to stick it out. However, when she finally found out about Winton’s games, she had to admit what she already knew. His antics were just another example of the truth--she had an unloving husband. There was no shock, just resignation. That's why she didn’t launch yet another round of fighting or shouting to straighten Winton out. She’d already done that trying to keep him in line and she’d had enough. It was time for her to just walk away. Smart lady.
FQ: Am I naïve in saying I found it difficult to believe a woman in the 50’s with young children worked outside of the home? I found this to be a bit of a disconnect (i.e., did mom’s work outside the home in the 50’s)? Was this intentional and if so, why?
STOVER: Like many authors, I used my own family experience growing up in the 50s to create the Justice family. My mother was the only mother on the street that was not at home baking cookies. She went back to night school to take courses to get her teaching certificate and was a teacher in the local Junior High School to support my father’s small business efforts. That left me and my brother alone after school when she stayed late to tutor, roaming the neighborhood and latching on to kind neighbors for support, just like Jane Justice did. My best friend lived on the street next to ours and she was also the only kid on her street whose mother went off to work every morning. We did a lot of bike riding and roaming together. So yes, mothers with young children did work in the 1950s, but it was the exception in my neighborhood. I tried to show that reality in my tale.
FQ: Were there any parts ofSurviving 26th Street that were difficult to write and if so, what did you do to overcome the discomfort of writing it?
STOVER: I’m not one to write romance novels, so I found it hard to write about Rachel Christian and Winton’s affair. However, I made the woman so bizarre, it was actually funny to write it. I got through it that way.
FQ: What words of wisdom would you impart on todays up and coming women to the working world to enlighten them?
STOVER: Competence is important, but being good on the job isn’t the only key to success. Don’t forget to think positive, listen to others with an open mind, always lend a helping hand, and volunteer often. You learn a lot this way and it doesn’t hurt when promotion time comes around.
FQ: Who has been the most positive influence for your writing and what makes him or her “the one”?
STOVER: On a personal level, my husband Frank had been so very encouraging about my writing. However, he’s also not one to mince words or to give out unwarranted compliments, so when he says something “works” I know it’s good. I always count on his read. My daughter in law Marie Summerfield has also been a trooper about reading my chapters and gives great feedback on scenes. On a professional level, Sue Roupp (www.sueroupp.com), a fellow writer, and also a superb lecturer, seminar leader, editor and all else creative has been so very encouraging and instructive. She is also a TV host and a stage actor, so she has helped me to understand how critical it is to include a character’s movement and actions in my writing and to creatively stage in my scenes.
FQ: Are you currently working on a new project? If so, would you mind providing a sneak preview?
STOVER: I am just completing the manuscript for my novel entitled Kenmore Square. It is set in Boston in the 1960s, the tale of a ner-do-well son of a notorious bookie who is raising his daughter as a single father in the Kenmore Square rooming house he owns. His biggest problem? His daughter is convinced that on her tenth birthday he murdered her mother. When his daughter turns eighteen, she sets out with one of his boarders (a has-been nightclub chanteuse!) to discover the truth once and for all. I'm looking for a publisher now. Wish me luck!