HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE TO ALL OUR READERS!
We’re so happy to close this year with a lovely guest and a special giveaway.
I give a warm welcome to…
Peggy is the award-winning, best-selling author of THE PROMISE KITCHEN and THE WELCOME HOME DINER, both published by Lake Union Publishing.
Q. Describe yourself with three adjectives.
A. Determined. Fun-loving. Sentimental.
Q. Choose three adjectives for your last novel, The Welcome Home Diner.
A. Empathetic. Dramatic. Redemptive.
Q. What inspired you to write The Welcome Home Diner?
A. If you’re the last person to leave Detroit, don’t forget to turn off the lights. This is the first sentence of my new release, THE WELCOME HOME DINER, and contemporary Detroit was the primary inspiration behind writing this book. There were other motivating factors—insight into the food business, personal intimacies—but I’ll get to those later.
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and am the only member of my Rebel-yell family who saw fit to defect, leaving home to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. My Aunt Jane deems any place north of South Carolina as Yankee Land, and my family was—and continue to be—amazed that I live happily in territory with snow, hail and ice storms that can whip out power for days.
My first job after graduating was writing spin for a Manhattan public relations firm, the largest in the world at that time. On a pauper’s salary, day-to-day beat me down and eventually I moved back to the tranquility of Ann Arbor, known to locals as The Bubble. Typical of most large university towns I’d imagine, it’s a city where all races, denominations and sexual orientations are welcome. Small businesses and fast-growing tech companies thrive on university trickle-down and the city attracts and embraces an eclectic cultural mélange.
Ann Arbor is only a forty-five minute drive from inner city Detroit. One may as well, however, be tunneling from Oz into a war zone when making the trek to explore some of its more downtrodden communities—neighborhoods, for instance, where THE WELCOME HOME DINER is set.
Detroit’s roadmap to economic desolation is old news: the riots in the sixties followed by the frantic white exodus to the suburbs, incalculable wealth and future tax dollars in hand.; crack decimating forgotten neighborhoods, turning them into crime-infested ghettos; city schools and infrastructure nose-diving into third-world chaos, culminating in Detroit having the dubious distinction of being the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.
But these days the tide is shifting, mirroring the plot of my story. Detroit, like a phoenix, is rising from the ashes. I’m prone to cheerlead the underdogs in my fiction. People are generally my target, but Detroit—a city in the mist of reinvention—is worth championing
A vintage diner situated in a depressed neighborhood in Detroit, once owned by my former daughter-in-law, was also a tremendous influence on the story. Hanging out at her diner, I got to know the neighborhood and put faces on the folks whose issues are written about in the news.
For this book, as well as for my debut novel, THE PROMISE KITCHEN, the writing process began with my camera. A visual person, I took dozens of photographs capturing an emotion, which I channeled into words. I also drew on my own experiences having owning a specialty food shop in Ann Arbor for twenty years.
Q. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
A. Braydon—because his life experiences have been the polar opposite of mine. It was enlightening to read books by contemporary African-American writers, such as Ta-Nehisi Reading about the world through the eyes of young black men living in contemporary America, was a critical journey to take before penning my words.
Q. What inspires you to write?
A. THE PROMISE KITCHEN reflects my interest in the American South (where I was raised) in all of her beauties and incongruities. In THE PROMISE KITCHEN, I drew tremendous inspiration from folks that I’ve come to love, and appreciate their giving me license to become intimate with their landscape. (See #3 for the inspiration behind THE WELCOME HOME DINER.)
Q. What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A. It saves money on therapy (-: Seriously, I love the sanctity of drilling deep into my characters and uncovering their truths. It’s a way of digging at the roots of pain, and pulling them out. Secondly, I love the fact that showing up to work in pajamas is perfectly acceptable.
Q. If you could be one of your characters for a day, who would it be and why?
A. Braydon! See #4.
Q. What author/s has/have most influenced your writing?
A. I enjoy reading literary fiction, particularly fiction set in the American South, and this has inspired my writing. Think authors like Sue Monk Kidd, Pat Conroy and Rebecca Wells. I also love Ann Patchett and Donna Tart. My favorite memoir is Patti Smith’s, “Just Kids” and I’m currently reading her book “Woolgathers”. I loved Jonathan Franzen’s, “Purity”. It’s filled with psychotic twists and turns and I was intrigued with the quirky mother-daughter relationship. Daniel Woodrell’s work, particularly “Winter’s Bone” that was turned into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, is quite inspiring. Ree’s character reminds me of Shelby in “The Promise Kitchen”.
Q. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
A. That my books are an entertaining read; that they give insight into other people and cultures and have been, thus, inspirational.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m currently writing a book, the project called, THE MAIDEN TOWER. It’s set in Key West, Florida, a colorful landscape where I’ve spent a great deal of time. Centered around a historic family lighthouse that a family converted into a B&B, it’s a story of the love and complex bonding that entwines a mother and her daughters, and pulls them out of the most primal of despairs.
Q. Could you share with us a habit Peggy really enjoys in her daily life?
A. The enjoyable daily habit that’s good for me—hiking—which I do most days. The enjoyable daily habit that’s questionable is my evening glass or two of wine (-:
Q. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
A. I see myself in the same place that I am right now. I love my town, family and friends, lifestyle. And I’m passionate about my vocation—as long as I can write and keep posting food adventure stories on my dinnerfeed.com, I’m a happy girl.
Thank you, Peggy!
To celebrate New Year’s Eve, Peggy has THREE e-books of THE WELCOME HOME DINER to give away.