I don't usually appreciate books set in Louisiana. Most of them make us look like idiots and exaggerate anything and everything that has to do with Louisiana culture. Not so with The Rhythm of Secrets. Patti Lacy had me wishing I could walk the streets of 1940s New Orleans. Two of my favorite books set in our state are Night Jasmine by Mary Lou Widmer and Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. I'll add The Rhythm of Secrets as the third.
Lacy is a master storyteller. And she takes her own sweet time telling every intricate detail of the story, rounding out her characters until we readers could pick them out of a police line-up. I'd like to fault her for that because I like a faster pace, but honestly, I believe I took every breath her characters took, sighed every sigh, shared every tear. Lacy's characters aren't cardboard people--they're real. They're the kind we recognize on the streets, in the grocery stores, we think about them long after we've put her book away.
Patti Lacy is a top-notch writer. I became so fascinated by her skills, the rhythm of her story, that I had to know more about how she pulled it together. Read about the author and the book, then scroll all the way to the bottom to learn more about how Patti Lacy writes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Patti Lacy, Baylor graduate, taught community college humanities until God called her to span seas and secrets in her novels, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw. She has two grown children and a dog named Laura. She and her husband can be seen jog-walking the streets of Normal, Illinois, an amazing place to live for a woman born in a car. For more information, visit Patti's website at http://www.pattilacy.com/, her blog at www.pattilacy.com/blog , and her Facebook daily Artbites.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame.
After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions.
Inspired by a true story, The Rhythm of Secrets intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.
If you would like to read an excerpt of Rhythm of Secrets, go HERE. If you want to read an interview with Patti Lacy, keep reading.
1) Patti, how long did it take you to write The Rhythm of Secrets? Rough draft, from beginning to end?
Well, I can tell you EXACTLY, Jessica. This question is DOCUMENTED! I mean, I could TESTIFY IN COURT!!!
On the morning of July 8, 2007, I opened the Chicago Tribune. Coffee (yeah, I’m an addict of this substance. Also tea and chocolate) sloshed onto the table…and I didn’t care. Gail Rosenblum’s article about a mother giving up…and then reclaiming…a child caught my heart and wouldn’t let go. The idea for my third story rustled right there in the newspaper pages, begging to be SET FREE!
This third literary adventure ended, I guess, when I turned in my FINAL galley proofs sometime in November, I believe. Will you keep a secret? I was allowed not the usual ONE, but TWO have-at-its at the galley proofs. There were just so many rhythms to try to get in sync.
2) If you will, please tell me a little something about how you pull a story together--outline it completely, seat of the pants plotting or what? I know you say your stories begin when a mental image grabs hold of your imagination and when that image begins to haunt you, you commit it to a computer file. Can you elaborate a little about your writing/plotting process.
I use a modified snowflake process. Capture the story in a couple of sentences. Then I write a summary paragraph. The part I AGONIZE over is that long synopsis that encapsulates all the plot elements, the character. UGH!!! Then I do the old-fashioned Roman numeral scene outline.
As I am wildly emotional and flexible and let the Spirit whisper scenes, there’s much room in all my writing for seat-of-the-pants!
Getting the first draft on paper for me is ALWAYS like drawing blood from a collapsed vein. That is when one of my few writing rules SAVES me. DO THREE PAGES A DAY. No. Matter. WHAT. Three pages a day (yes, I get weekends off most of the time) is WELL over a novel in a year.
3) I know this is based on a true event--have you received any feedback from Sandy?
Yes!!! I sent parts of the manuscript to Sandy, who said they were SO hard to read, how did I KNOW HOW SHE FELT? That conversation SO rocked!!
4) Your sentences literally sing. How did you reach this point of writing perfection? Do you have a critique group? Beta readers? A husband who looks over your chapters? A fantastic editor who doesn't let you get away with sloppiness or is it God's gift to you?
Oh, Jessica, you are talking to the woman who was granted TWO galley proof reads because of such messy writing. Only God knows how many hours I spend editing, printing, reading, and then doing the whole thing again. I REALLY believe in reading aloud. I know, it’s a pain. But for me it helps find a rhythm.
I am gifted with TWO AMAZING critique partners whom I believe care as much about my work as I do. They intuit what my characters need and what needs to be slashed and burned. LOVE THEM! My agent is the same way, as are the fantastic editors I’ve so far worked with, both at Kregel and now at Bethany House.
Um, my shelves sag with writing books. I judge contests and see what works. EVERY BOOK I READ (well, now that I have a Kindle, there’s a few exceptions) I mark, make comments in the margins, line edit. It is WORK, all the time! So every one of these books is tax-deductible. I inhale books. In fact, most nights, I read myself to sleep.
5) You take stories you've heard and weave them into stories that entertain readers but also, that readers can identify with. Do people approach you and say, "I have a story you can write--" What's your response? You probably also have friends say, "Patti, I don't want to see that in a book!" :)
I’m getting more and more of that and am actually looking at two such stories right now. It’s really fun to see if I can puzzle-piece things from real life into a novel. My two critique partners are actually RIGHT NOW helping me evaluate a story from the 1940s Wisconsin!!! There’s also two I’m considering from Normal, Illinois (my town) and one about a Hispanic girl, torn at the border of Mexico and the U.S.
6) Your writing is perfect. It does make me wonder at, and admire (and envy) your very obvious God-given talent. But tell me about your editor and your relationship with her/him. Does s/he ask for revision? for fleshing out? for changes? You have to be every editor’s dream author.
Oh, my, would you post that on all the negative reviews? Isn’t that why freedom of speech is so great? One reader’s Les Miserables is another reader’s slush pile.
Let me assure you, though I did want to bask in the glimmery light of your compliment for just a moment, that my writing is EONS from perfect. I hammer away at this craft CONSTANTLY. Yes, my editors play a HUGE role in getting the writing right. (Did you like that little play on words?) Also throw another bouquet of roses or chocolate, in these women’s case, to those critique partners.
Oh, wait! I didn’t mention Natasha Kern, my AMAZING agent. Talk about a tough critic. She reads our proposals and rips them to shreds. Then we redo. Rip. Check out the dedication in Rhythms. Yep. That’s my Natasha.
Get the picture? By the time Natasha quizzes and questions and rearranges, the next step seems like an easy breath!
Another thing, my strength is prose. A weakness? Plot. Novel structure. Moral premise type thingies. Da-da-da-da. Here comes the cavalry. Oh, no! It’s just those great crit partners, again to the rescue. Yep. Those are their strong points!!! It so works!!!
Patti, I can hear God saying in his booming voice from the heavens: Patti, you will write stories for ME and about ME. They will be perfect. You will hear the perfect rhythm of my voice and heart.
Wow. Thank you. As I write, I DO feel the Spirit whisper. I am so grateful for that and LOVE those times. When I was rushing for my fourth baby’s deadline, just recently, God POURED ideas into my heart. My crit partners were on call, one even driving hard copies of the manuscript to my house. It truly was one of the most wonderful times of my life.
And there you have it, folks. Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy and a few of her writing secrets. Another Lacy book set in Louisiana is What The Bayou Saw. Read about it HERE.