Today I’m excited to welcome author Jo Huddleston as she conducts a character interview with Ruth Stewart from her latest release, With Good Intentions. Jo will also share the first page of her book with us, and she’ll answer some tough questions.
ME: I’m in Conroy, Alabama, and am stopping at the Stewart’s Ice Cream Shop located downtown.
RUTH: May I help you?
ME: Yes, I’d like a single-dip cone of vanilla, please. Are you the owner of this shop?
RUTH: My daughter, Jean, and I own the shop.
ME: (I give Ruth money that she rings up and puts in the cash register.) You don’t have other customers now, could we talk?
RUTH: Of course. Are you new in town?”
ME: Yes, I’m Juanita Baker. I’m doing an article about Conroy, Alabama, for a Birmingham magazine.
RUTH: Oh, when I hear Birmingham, I tend to be careful with what I say. Jean and I have been warding off visits from a development company in Birmingham. They’re trying to buy out the businesses on this block. They want to build an apartment building and bookstore here.
ME: And y’all don’t want to sell your shop?
RUTH: That’s right. Jean is more adamant about not selling than I am. You see, this ice cream shop was a dream of her daddy’s and she’s determined not to sell. Her daddy, my husband, died ten years ago. Anyway, Jean has high hopes for the business. She wants to save up enough money to buy a Baskin-Robbins franchise. I keep telling her she’ll never save up enough money to do that. She’s like her daddy, always dreaming of something she doesn’t have. Jean went to Conroy College here and has a degree in accounting. She planned to become a CPA and move to a big city. She’d worked here at the ice cream shop through high school and college, and when her daddy died, she taught me about the business. She gave up her plans so she could continue her daddy’s dream for this business.
ME: That’s a very unselfish thing for her to do.
RUTH: I guess. But it’s also a little foolish to dream so big, when all the facts point to the dream never coming true. What’s going to happen is this: every other business on the block except us, has signed a sales contract with the developer. The contracts said no one would be paid until all the businesses had agreed to sell. I expect the other business owners on this block will put pressure on us to sell our shop as well.
ME: You’re probably right. Have you discussed this possibility with Jean?
RUTH: No. I keep hoping she’ll come to the conclusion on her own that we should sell. She’ll have to quit dreaming and face reality to reach that conclusion. She’s a smart girl, just sentimental where this shop is concerned because it was her daddy’s dream.
ME: I hope things work out for you and Jean in a way that will be good for everyone. I’ve enjoyed my ice cream and talking with you.
RUTH: Come back in anytime you’re in town.
Bio: Jo Huddleston is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories. Novels in her West Virginia Mountains series, her Caney Creek series, and her standalone novel, Tidewater Summer, are sweet Southern historical romances. Jo is a member of ACFW and the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN). Learn more at www.johuddleston.com where you can read first chapters of her novels and novellas and also sign up for her mailing list.
Book’s Purchase Link:
Links to Huddleston Online:
Website and blog (Read novel first chapters here): http://www.johuddleston.com
Sign up for Jo’s mailing list: http://bit.ly/1ZFaZwG
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2cfSroU
Facebook author page: http://bit.ly/2aqFEeT
Inspirational blog: http://bit.ly/2gttKVr
BookBub Profile: http://bit.ly/2liB0G3
Giveaway: an eBook copy of With Good Intentions
First page of novella:
October 1959—Birmingham, Alabama
William Wainworth shifted in his chair, stretched his long legs beneath the massive conference table, and braced for the impending reprimand from the CEO. This regular Monday morning meeting of Wainworth Development sales staff had gone on longer than he’d expected.
He would loosen his necktie but doing so would violate the expectations Wainworth’s CEO held for his male employees: wear a coat and tie when representing Wainworth Development. His daddy being the CEO of Wainworth Development, William had that rule ingrained in him from an early age.
Among other stellar traits, his daddy dressed immaculately, and he expected his workforce to follow his example. His appearance had favorably impressed many clients who sat with him in his Birmingham office. Every weekday, he never ventured outside his home without the requisite coat and necktie. William had never seen him wear wrinkled pants or curled-up shirt collars.
Now, Oscar Wainworth stood tall, slender, and good-looking between the head of the table and an easel, his index finger tapping on a sketch positioned there. William moved his attention from his daddy to the sketch, a street-level drawing of storefronts along a sidewalk in Conroy, Alabama.
Wainworth Development sought to purchase that entire block of businesses, demolish the buildings, and replace them with an apartment complex having a bookstore on the first floor. Sitting across the street from a growing college, the location proved ideal for Wainworth’s purpose.
The building plans had received the city’s approval. Wainworth representatives had successfully gained signatures on real estate contracts to acquire all the properties except one. The smallest business on the block refused to sell, despite repeated overtures from Wainworth Development.
Oscar Wainworth faced the dozen or so men seated around the table in chairs upholstered in rich, brown leather. He put his palms on the gleaming tabletop and leaned forward. “Gentlemen, this one small store is the monkey wrench in this whole deal. We’ve bought up all the properties on the block, yet here’s this little hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop smack-dab in the middle that you’ve not convinced to sell. Why is that? Why this one store?”
Mumbled reasons and comments circulated around the massive table. William and Oscar had heard them all before. Oscar Wainworth stood straight, his six-foot-four height menacing, and met the eyes of each salesman. “Yes, the owners are females, and you’ve all probably tried to be gentlemanly in your contacts with them. That’s commendable and appropriate.
“But, men, you need to work with these ladies just as you would any other client. Wainworth Development is a business, and you must conduct yourselves accordingly—doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a man or a woman. However, it’s time to get tough with these women. Understood?”
What genre(s) do you write in and why?
I write Christian/Inspirational Historical Romances. The sub-genre for my writing is Sweet Southern Romances. Many readers are tired of the graphic language and bedroom scenes in books available today. They look for clean, wholesome stories with happy endings and that’s what I try to give them. My novels and novellas are sweet Southern romances set in the 1950s and very early 1960s, in the American southeast. I have lived in this area—Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama—and have traveled extensively over the other states. I know the people there and their culture. The 1950s was a time when the pace was slower and folks still felt safe in their homes and towns.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I don’t plot or outline my stories before I begin a book. In my mind I do know the main characters, the problems they’re up against, and the ending. Throughout my story, my characters often take over and steer the story in a surprising direction. That’s when I follow them and am usually happy with where they take me.
I write in scenes, not chapters. When I finish the story, then my favorite part of writing happens—I get to put the scenes together, in sensible order to make a story. I’ve always loved putting picture puzzles together and this is what I do in this part of my writing. Sometimes I jot down on 3×5 cards one sentence describing each scene, then have fun putting them in the proper sequence.
Tell us about your next book & when is it being published? Why do you write the kind of books you do?
My next book will, of course, be a sweet Southern romance set in the 1950s. The story’s theme will be “Fibers of Faith” and will be about how a couple’s faith finally becomes the only permanent thing in their life, all they have to hold onto. I don’t have a title yet. The novella will be out later this year.