Thursday, August 23, 2012

Live from the Road by Patricia Zick : Interview, Excerpt



 

Live from the Road takes the reader on an often humorous, yet harrowing, journey as Meg Newton and Sally Sutton seek a change in the mundane routine of their lives. “Is this all there is?” Sally asks Meg after visiting a dying friend in the hospital. That’s when Meg suggests they take a journey to discover the answer. Joined by their daughters, they set off on a journey of salvation enhanced by the glories of the Mother Road. Along the way, they are joined by a Chicago bluesman, a Pakistani liquor storeowner from Illinois, a Marine from Missouri, a gun-toting momma from Oklahoma, and a motel clerk from New Mexico. Meg, mourning for her dead son, learns to share her pain with her daughter CC. When Sally’s husband of almost thirty years leaves a voice mail telling her he’s leaving, both Sally and her daughter Ramona discover some truths about love and independence.

Death, divorce and deception help to reveal the inner journey taking place under the blazing desert sun as a Route 66 motel owner reads the Bhagavad-Gita and an eagle provides the sign they’ve all been seeking. Enlightenment comes tiptoeing in at dawn in a Tucumcari laundromat, while singing karaoke at a bar in Gallup, New Mexico, and during dinner at the Roadkill Café in Seligman, Arizona. The four women’s lives will never be the same after the road leads them to their hearts – the true destination for these road warriors.
 



Chapter 1 - Lake Michigan to the Pacific
 
Route 66 – just the name conjures up visions of flashing neon motel signs, convertibles filled with carefree travelers, Jack Kerouac-like adventures and John Steinbeck writing odes to a dog. Route 66 connotes movement toward unparalleled scenery, unexpected miracles and dreams come true.
My best friend Sally and I heaped all those expectations on our own personal journey down Route 66 – the road Steinbeck dubbed the “mother road.” I’m sure the author never envisioned “mothers” such as us hitting the road to discover our own meanings of life. When our grown daughters decided they wanted to join us on our journey, we welcomed them aboard. From the beginning, I heaped plenty of expectations on that glory road. I’d been numb for five years, and I suspected my daughter lived in the same limbo. With Sally and her daughter, Ramona, as our companions, I hoped CC and I would be able to peer into the abyss of our sadness created when my son Sean died five years earlier. Whatever happened, I knew with a certainty my life would change during and after this trip. I never predicted it would turn all four lives upside down. It’s probably not surprising – the path Route 66 followed carried many lost and broken souls from the displaced Native Americans on the Trail of Tears to the Dust Bowl victims of the 1930s. Even Jack Kerouac faced his share of demons while traveling the Mother Road.
The road’s original goal – to link Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean 2,400 miles away – still remains, even though most of the original road does not. The four of us raced toward the charm of Route 66. We yearned to discover its magic as the glory road leading to salvation and the Shangri-La of America – California. We found the road paved, not in gold, but in broken pieces of asphalt and towns killed by the interstate. But amid the actual reality of the road, we found moments of inspiration and serendipity.
After months of planning, we flew from our homes in Florida to Chicago in early June 2007. When we landed at O’Hare Airport, I looked at my daughter CC with her backpack and sleeping bag on her back, torn black T-shirt advertising Eraserhead, dyed-red and spiked hair, and I knew the years had sped by faster than I ever knew possible. Recently divorced from her father, I was beginning a new era in my life as a 50-year-old single woman. I stared at CC, attempting to put it all together in my mind. Even though I didn’t look it, I felt as if I was the same age as my 25-year-old daughter waiting for her luggage to appear on the carousel. Was this really the baby I nestled at my breast all those years ago?
“Mom, watch out,” CC said as I almost backed into a stroller being pushed by a toddler. I looked down into the face of a tiny baby sleeping peacefully as the older sibling attempted to maneuver around the people waiting for the bags.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the mother walking behind the stroller and watching both her children carefully. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“That’s all right,” she said. “I really shouldn’t let her do it, but she insists on doing everything herself.”
“Really? I wonder what it would be like to have a child like that,” I said as I pointed my thumb at CC. “This one has always done exactly what I have said.” I rolled my eyes.
The mother smiled at me, and then took in CC’s hair and torn shirt. She quickly looked down at her own daughter and then at the baby sleeping in the stroller.
“Enjoy them now,” I said. “They grow up so fast you won’t believe it, and then they’re gone.”
I turned away quickly so she wouldn’t notice the sudden tears forming. The words slipped out of my mouth without thinking much about them. Only when I heard them out loud did I realize what I’d said. CC was right next to me, but her brother Sean was not and never would be there again. I wanted to chase after that mother and tell her not only to enjoy, but also to hold onto them for as long as she could. It could be over in the time it took to tie their shoes.
“You OK, Mom?” CC asked. She was looking at me intently.
“Fine, fine. I was just remembering you and Sean at that age. It’s over so quickly.” I was fighting to keep control there in the middle of the airport.
“This trip is going to be good for all of us,” she said.
She gave me a quick hug, unusual for my daughter who usually abhorred physical displays of emotion. Luckily one of our bags appeared right then, and the moment passed.
Sally and her daughter Ramona stood on the other side of the carousal. I saw Sally’s bag with the pink ribbons on the handle go by. It was a gorilla of a suitcase – very hard to miss. Sally said she’d rather have one large suitcase rather than the smaller two or three bags the rest of us carried. Problem was she couldn’t get it off the carousal, so Ramona was left to recover it while her two bags passed by unnoticed. Thank goodness the gorilla had wheels.
Once we picked up our rental, a red mini-van, we loaded all of our belongings in the back. CC was the packer in the crew, and she told Sally that her bag would always have to go in first because it was too big to go on top of any of the other bags.
Sally took the driver’s seat – she always drove, and I never argued. It was her way of maintaining control. I took shotgun with the maps and directions and Route 66 books. It actually worked out better this way. I liked giving directions as much as Sally liked driving the engine. Ramona would be our tour guide as she read from the Route 66 books we’d been collecting over the past year of planning for this adventure.
“First stop is Wal-Mart for a cooler and two tents,” Sally announced. “Everyone keep your eyes peeled for a good exit.”
Ramona and CC settled in the back seats, and we headed downtown to our hotel on State Street. American Pie blasted out of the speakers from the CD player. The four of us sang so loudly, we could not hear the music.

 

Did you write the book of love,

And do you have faith in God above,

If the Bible tells you so?

Do you believe in rock and roll,

Can music save your mortal soul,

And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
 
“I love that song,” CC said. “I have no idea what it means, but I love that song.”
After settling in our hotel, we decided we would walk toward Lake Michigan and find a place for dinner and whatever else might grab our attention.
The full moon directed us downtown. We crossed over the Chicago River, reveling in Chicago’s architecture. Some dubbed it the capital of architecture and the birthplace of the skyscraper. Studs Terkel called it a “city of men.” And as I looked up at the dizzying heights of the buildings surrounding us, I could see why. We stopped often for pictures, asking people we passed on the sidewalk to snap a shot or two.
We didn’t know where we were headed until Ramona spotted a banner waving in the breeze over a balcony railing, advertising “Rooftop Dining.”
“That looks like the perfect place,” Ramona said as she pointed to the sign. “It’s even got a view of the Sears Tower.”
A small elevator meant for two people opened up in the lobby.
“Come on, Mom,” Ramona said when Sally hesitated to crowd into the small cubicle. “It’s just a short ride to the rooftop.”
“All right, but I’m finding stairs for the trip down,” Sally said.
Sally hated small confined places, but we crowded around her and exchanged one-liners until we spewed out to the rooftop, where a waiter stood ready for the energy of four females set loose on the road for several weeks of freedom. Freedom is just another word for doing whatever we pleased.
“I’d like to hear some blues or jazz tonight,” I told Sally as we waited to be seated. The full moon began its ascent over Chicago’s skyscrapers, providing a soft glow over our already glowing faces. “Johnny and I came here twice, but he never liked going to clubs.”
“Then we’ll do it tonight,” Sally said. “Anything is possible.”
“Do you really believe that?” I asked. Sally’s perpetual optimism never failed to amaze me.
“I have no choice but to believe it,” Sally said. “It’s the only way I can get up every morning and remain positive.”


Welcome Patricia!  It' s great to have you visit today. Thanks for dropping in.  How did you start your writing career?

I think I’ve always known I was a writer deep down, but I didn’t admit it until I decided to leave my career as a high school English teacher. I was badly burned out on teaching teenagers how to write. One day I asked myself, “What else can I do?” Writing was the only answer that came to me. Almost immediately, opportunities starting opening up in local publications, and within two years, I left teaching for a job as a journalist. That was twelve years ago.

Does travel play a role in the writing of your books?

 
Certainly travel is a part of my most recent novel Live from the Road because it’s the story of four women traveling on Route 66 one summer. The idea of the novel came from a journey down the Mother Road with my best friend. Travel always inspires me as a writer, and often I come up with a myriad of ideas while on the road. Not all of those ideas make their way to print. 

Tell us about Live from the Road your current release.

I finished writing the book in 2008, and it sat in a drawer because my life exploded soon after. I met my husband, which involved a move from Florida to Pennsylvania. All the while, I was working as a public relations director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. I continued in that job even after I moved to Pittsburgh and spent a good share of 2010 and 2011 “on the road” between Tallahassee and Pittsburgh. Once things settled down, my husband and I decided I should pursue writing fiction full time. One of the first things I did was pull Live out from the drawer. I reread it (it had been previously edited) and did my own editing. Then I hired a second editor. Three months later, I published it on Kindle. I like the story because it explores relationships and communication between mothers and daughters, best friends, lovers, and strangers. And I very much enjoyed creating the characters encountered on Route 66 and putting a little bit of the mystical and magical nature of the open road into the mix.

Tell us about your next release.

Currently, I’m working on the second draft of Trails in the Sand, a story about redemption and recovery of both love in broken families and in the environment after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The main character is a writer pursuing a story about the relocation of sea turtle nests as the oil threatens the Florida coast. The family’s troubled past going back several generations begins to unravel and explode just as the oil rig is gushing forth its oil.

What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?

My husband is very proud of me. He’s an engineer so the literary world is unfamiliar to him, but he loves what I do, and he supports my quest to see what I can do as an author of fiction despite my lack of income at this point. My daughter Anna is an artist – she paints – and she was my earliest cheerleader for leaving teaching and pursuing what I love. She’s one of my trusted beta readers because she’s honest and interested in seeing that I put out my very best work. The rest of my family pretty much ignores it.

Does your husband read your stuff?

He does, and I’m flattered because he’s not a reader of fiction. We took a vacation in March, and I wanted to go out and do something, but he was reading my second novel A Lethal Legacy for the first time. At first, I was annoyed and then I realized what a wonderful thing. He’s engrossed in reading a story I wrote! I sat back down in amazement and left him alone.

Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?

 
A little bit of me is probably in every one of my major characters, even the males. Any writer that tells you differently probably isn’t being quite honest. How can we not put ourselves in our characters? It’s what we know. As far as strictly  modeling, I think I write the protagonists as the way I’d like to be in a perfect world.
 

Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?
 

Writers write. It’s as simple – and as complicated – as that.
 
P.C. Zick was born in Michigan in 1954. She moved to Florida in 1980. Her career as a writer began in 1998 when her first column was published in a local paper. By day, she was a high school English teacher, but at night and on vacations, she began writing novels. By 2001, she left teaching and began pursuing a full time gig as a writer. She’s been a journalist, editor, and publisher. She describes herself as a “storyteller” no matter the genre. She has three published books under her former name of Patricia C. Behnke. She has won numerous awards for her writing.
She now resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert.
Her fiction contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.
“This is one of the most exciting times to be an author,” Ms. Zick says. “I’m honored to be a part of the revolution in publishing.”


 
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Giveaway ends September 22nd  11:59 PM Central Time.
 
 

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