I’ve come to accept that life, like the vast woodlands that surround my childhood home, is layered with mysteries. . . . We sift and search and question as we try to discover our truths and the truths of those we love, and sometimes…a mystery we never knew existed gets solved…. ~ Teddi Overman in Looking for Me
One of the reasons I love writing is because I am so introspective by nature. Sometimes, too introspective. As Teddi Overman (the main character in Beth Hoffman’s new novel, Looking for Me) says, life is full of layers, so much to be discovered and uncovered. Layers of mysteries. For me, those mysteries come clear through writing.
For Teddi Overman, her passion for restoring old antiques drives her along her journey of self-discovery and healing. As a young woman, she leaves her family farm in Kentucky for downtown Charleston to pursue her love of antiques and restoring them back to life. While she is away, her brother Josh mysteriously disappears and throws Teddi, and her family, into a state of limbo.
It is in her travels back to Kentucky–as she sorts through the pains of her past, through her strained relations with her mother, and through artifacts discovered in the barn and at the house–that Teddi not only uncovers the truth about her brother, but also the truth of her mother’s heartache and her love.
Beth Hoffman’s second novel rings of the charm, prose, and captivating story that made her first book a New York Times bestseller. And, there’s an added layer of mysticism in the story of Josh, in the connection that he and Teddi have with each other, the woods, and wildlife around them.
Beth Hoffman first stopped by the blog when I interviewed her about her debut novel. I’m thrilled to host her again for a Q&A about Looking for Me. You could win a copy of Beth’s new novel (with thanks to her publicist): enter the giveaway by dropping your name in the comments. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, May 28th–publication day!
Welcome, Beth Hoffman.
CC: In your first author interview here about your debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, you say that the character of CeeCee came to you late one night, “fully alive and her voice…so clear,” and that, in embracing that moment, her story unfolded naturally. I’d love to hear what inspired the story of Teddi Overman and her brother, Josh.
BH: After I returned home from touring with CeeCee, I didn’t know what I’d write next, and quite honestly, I was too exhausted to think about it. One day I was cleaning my writing library and began to organize old photographs. I came across an envelope containing photos of my grandparents’ farm—some dating as far back as 1883. For a long time I studied a photo of Tony and Dolly, a team of horses that were the heartbeat of the farm, and then I came across a photo of my dad standing on a hay wagon when he was just a boy.
There were probably close to a hundred photos in all, and I spent a good while reliving my childhood and yearning for those simple days on the farm. When I was about half way through the stack of photos, I grew incredibly sad. I missed the smell of freshly tilled earth and the taste of sweet corn grown on the land that had been in my family for generations. Just as I picked up a photo of my younger brother, something flashed in my periphery. I looked up as a red-tailed hawk landed in the tree outside my window. He settled on a branch and then spread his tail for a moment to reveal his full regalia. He turned his head and looked in the window, and for a moment we both quietly considered each other. And then—wham—I knew I had the soul of my story.
CC: With the success of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, I imagine it would have been easy to write a very similar second novel. However, you traveled down a different path, still giving readers a story full of Southern charm and beautiful Beth-Hoffman style prose but weaving more mystery and darker themes throughout. Can you tell us about your experience in approaching and crafting this different kind of story?
BH: Novelists can become nearly paralyzed when facing the challenge of crafting their second book. Some end up writing a story similar to their debut, or even a sequel, while others have taken ten years or longer because they’re scared out of their minds, and with good reason. Expectations are high and the pressure to produce another winner is intense.
I had to push against the proverbial second novel anxiety and constantly tell myself: Just write what you want to write. I was adamant in my desire to create something entirely different, and when the hawk landed outside my window, I knew I had the right story. What matters to me most as I maneuver through my writing life is that I keep growing and exploring new subjects, settings, and characters.
CC: One theme that drives Looking for Me is the mistreatment of animals and human disregard for their sanctuary. Knowing this is an issue close to your heart, what would you like readers to take away from this story?
BH: I’m deeply disturbed by the cruelty inflicted on our animal friends. If I had one wish for something a reader would take away from my story, it would be that they lend their voice to help bring an end the horrors committed against animals and birds (domestic and wild) and their natural habitat.
CC: When you’re not writing, what do you love to do most in your free time?
BH: My greatest joys are simple—spending time with my husband and our four-legged children, studying nature, working in my gardens, and reading. I also enjoy antiquing with girlfriends and just recently I’ve become interested in photography.
Before beginning her writing career, Beth Hoffman was president and co-owner of an interior design studio. An artist as well as an award-winning designer, her paintings are displayed in private and corporate collections in the United States, Canada, and the UK. Beth lives, along with her husband and two very smart cats, in a restored Queen Anne home in a quaint historic district in Northern Kentucky. Her interests include the rescue of abandoned and abused animals, nature conservancy, birding, historic preservation, and antiquing.
Read more about Looking for Me in this great book review by Beth Fish on Beth Fish Reads. Then, visit Beth Hoffman’s website for an excerpt, as well as places to purchase the book. You can also subscribe to Beth’s author page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. And, don’t forget to drop your name in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Looking for Me!