Saturday, April 14, 2012

Redneck Ex by Claire Croxton: Character Interview, Excerpt

Contemporary Romance

With one twang of a banjo string, Summer Leigh Johnson's tidy, organized life in Barrow, Alaska is jolted back to the Ozarks. When her coon-hunting, tobacco-chewing, bull-riding, redneck ex-husband asks for her help, she has two options: turn her back on him like he did to her eleven years ago, or help. Burdened with the curse of every southern woman--What Would Mama Do?--she goes to his aid. And what does she find? The man she fell in love with all those years ago and a second chance at love and family. The last time she gave her heart to Dwight, he flicked it aside like an empty can of Skoal. This time he's cradling it as gently as he would a speckled pup. But, it will take a lot more than Dwight's southern charm and good looks to convince Summer Leigh to stay.

“You’re going to Germany?”

“Yeah.” I stepped into the bathroom and grabbed some Tylenol before taking my original seat. The pills stuck in my throat and I washed them downwith lukewarm coffee.

“Why the hell would you go see your ex-husband?” Her red face clearly indicated her anger.

“His parents were always good to me,” I tried to explain. “Generous and kind. Always made me feel like a part of the family.”

“Screw that!” Janice interjected herself into the conversation in her usual gentle manner. “Any debt to them was paid when their ass-of-a-son left you.”

“We didn’t even know you’d been married.”Bernice sounded tentative and worried. “How much can this man mean to you if your best friends don’t even know about him?” She took my hands, rubbed them softly and asked, “Why would you go to him? Especially after all these years?”

“For God’s sake. I’d never go see my ex!” Janice exclaimed.

“We all know you wouldn’t piss on your ex if he were on fire...” Stephanie said.

“I would if I peed gasoline!”

We laughed.

“Not everyone abhors their ex,” I said.

“You might not detest your ex, but God knows you don’t like the guy,” Janice said. “Never. Once. In the eight years I’ve known you have you even mentioned him. Never! How can you go to him now?”

“Because if I refuse to go and something happened to him, I’d never be able to forgive myself.”

Stephanie and Candy nodded in understanding, but I could tell, Janice and Bernice needed more convincing.
“Look at it this way, how can I be a martyr if I don’t go?” I joked.

Interview, Dr. Summer Leigh Johnson, Barrow, Alaska. (Redneck Ex, The Wild Rose Press)

Hi there, I’m Dr. Summer Leigh Johnson. I’m an anthropologist living in Barrow, Alaska—the northernmost community in North America. My life was wonderful—great job, good salary, lots of travel opportunities, and great friends. Then, boom! Out of nowhere, my bull-riding, tobacco-chewing, banjo-picking, coon-hunting ex-husband, Dwight Sullivan, asks for my help. Eleven years ago, after our divorce, I moved as far away from him as I could manage. Had absolutely no contact with the guy. Then, I’m notified that he’s been injured in Iraq and is being transported to a hospital in Germany and I’m listed as his next-of-kin. For heaven’s sake. He has four other ex-wives, seven brothers, numerous cousins and a plethora of redneck friends to choose from and he lists me as next-of-kin? Can you believe this guy?

Sure, I can rant and rave all I want, but you know I went to Germany to check on him. Yes, I do have sucker tattooed on my forehead. Seriously though, I’d never be able to forgive myself if he died and I wasn’t there to witness it!

I apologize, Laurie, I got sidetracked. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and your blog readers. Please continue with your questions.

No, no, not at all….I am spellbound! So much more exciting than my ordinary life! Lol.  Besides, I love that you can open up to me so easily. It’s refreshing! What about your family? Are they supportive?

Oh, good heavens. My family? What a bunch of nuts. I have four older brothers, Ralph, Dudley, Ray John and Douglas, none of whom were happy with my choice of husband. They were thrilled with my choice of ex-husband though. My parents have been married over 50 years and are the most wonderful example of a loving relationship I’ve ever seen. They live on a farm in the Ozarks and raise fruits and veggies for local farmers’ markets.

It’s great that you have parents who seem to be such a steadying influence in your life.  It must have been hard separating from them when you moved to Alaska eleven years ago. Would you consider that the scariest moment of your life?

Oh Wow! I thought getting divorced and moving 4,000 miles away from home was the scariest moment in my life. That all changed the morning that police officer knocked on my door and notified me that Dwight had been injured in Iraq. Facing him for the first time after our divorce was the scariest thing I had to do. I just knew that with one look, he’d know I never stopped loving him. That wasn’t something I was willing to admit to anyone, not even myself.

Yep….let’s move on to a happier subject now.  Must be sort of lonely up there in Alaska.  Do you have any pets to keep you company? What about favorite TV shows? Do you even get TV that far north? {whispers to self…are the channels in Russian?}

Ha! Laurie, you’re so funny. Let me introduce you to my cats, Goren and Sipowicz. Obviously, I like cop-drama, in particular NYPD Blue and Law and Order Criminal Intent—but, I stopped watching that when Goren left. I’m also a huge fan of British mysteries. I used to have cats named Sherlock and Mycroft.

Alright….you got me.  Our cats act like the bed is theirs during prime time!  Going back in time, what group did you hang out with in high school?

Oh my goodness, high school. That’s where it all started. Summer Leigh Johnson, queen of the rednecks. I was in the Future Farmers of America and hung out with the “ropers”—the kids in FFA and who were into rodeos and what have you. I met Dwight at the Arkansas State FFA Convention in Hot Springs when I was sixteen. I hate to admit it, but I can still close my eyes and see him, all tan and sexy, sitting on the veranda, playing his banjo and singing.

Earth to Summer……golly, girl, thought I’d lost you for sure in that daydream… I can see what got you all in a tizzy back then, what are you passionate about these days?

The Arctic Research Observation Center (A-Roc) is working with the Ukpeagivk Inupiat Corporation and scientists around the world to excavate the Nuvuk site—and ancient village at the northernmost point of the continent. The original goal was to protect the cemetery from rapidly eroding gravel that threatened to dump the bodies into the ocean. We thought we were dealing with remains that were a couple of hundred years old, but our excavation discovered much older remains. The earliest remains date back to 875 and 1005 A.D.

It’s been an exciting and rewarding experience.

Thank you so much for having me, Laurie. I love your blog and really appreciate all you do to promote authors and their books.

Thanks for taking time out to chat with me, Summer.  I’ve enjoyed finding out more about you. Thanks to your author, also, for allowing us this time together.

After spending over a decade as a technical writer in Northern Alaska, Claire Croxton chucked aside her mukluks, loaded up her cats and relocated to a farm in Japton, Arkansas to pursue a career in writing fiction. She had no idea there were places more remote than tiny, Iñupiaq villages with no road access, yet she managed to find one.  The woods of Madison County are inspirational and Claire has written several short stories that have been published in anthologies.  Her novels, which she refers to as soul-searching snark, are filled with unique characters—strong, bold women and knock-your-bloomers-off hot men.  Sure they’re flawed, but who cares? Have you seen their abs?

If she ever runs out of story ideas, all she has to do is go to the local feed store, sit on the porch with the tobacco-chewing farmers and soak up the country. Somehow along the way, this cat lady acquired three dogs, eleven ducks and too many chickens to count.  She lives with her extremely tolerant husband and not so understanding cats.  When she’s not writing, she’s gardening, baking or thinking about making another quilt.

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Anonymous said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing it :)

Claire said...

Thanks Madison. I didn't realize Summer Leigh was that snarky.