One of the joys of the writing life is in the lasting friendships formed with other writers. Judy Christie is as good as they come. This interview was originally for Judy’s column in the Shreveport Times. I thought you might like to pull of a chair and sit on in on the conversation, too. — Lisa
Judy Christie: Like you, I enjoy writing about characters who meet the challenges in front of them. And, the idea of home and family is important to me, and I wanted to explore those themes with my character Wreath Willis in Wreath, a Girl. Wreath is just a few years older than Rill Foss in your story and–much like the children in Before We Were Yours—she finds herself in dire circumstances. When Wreath’s mother dies, she must survive alone in a junkyard until she can graduate from high school. In Before We Were Yours, Rill Foss must find a way to survive and protect her siblings after they’re taken from their family and placed in one of Georgia Tann’s notorious orphanages. I loved Rill’s determination, her strength, and her deep goodness.
Why did you decide to tell the story through Rill’s voice, Lisa? Did she just come to you or did you have to search for her?
Lisa Wingate: After researching the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal, my first question was, Whose story is this, really? Is it a story of parents––both biological and adoptive? Of greed, falsified records, and political corruption? Of one woman’s unconscionable actions in taking thousands of children from poverty-stricken families and brokering them in adoptions-for-profit?
In the end, though, the voices that whispered through my mind where the voices of the children. What was it like, I wondered, to be taken from everything you knew, with no explanation or understanding of what was happening, and placed in the care of someone like Georgia Tann?
That question and historical images like the page above from a Tennessee Children’s Home Society advertising brochure gave life to twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four young siblings, Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion. Growing up on their family’s tiny Mississippi River shanty boat, the Foss children live an almost magical life, until, as was so often the case in reality, a random twist of fate causes their path to intersect with Georgia Tann’s. Rill’s story is like the stories of so many children who fought not only to survive and adapt, but to reclaim their lives, their family bonds, and their stolen identities. What I admired and treasured most about Rill in the end was her grit, her enduring love for her siblings, and her ability, against all odds, to cling to her sense of who she was.
(Images are courtesy of Preservation and Special Collections Department, University Libraries, University of Memphis and may not be reproduced or posted elsewhere without permission)
To learn more about Before We Were Yours, read an excerpt, or to order the book CLICK HERE
Author Judy Christie has had 17 books published, including 10 novels, and her fiction has received praise from such publications as Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Romantic Times. “Wreath, A Girl,” the first novel in Judy’s coming-of-age series, has been optioned for film/TV. For more information, see www.judychristie.com or connect with her on her author page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JudyChristieAuthor/.