Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Interview with Beth Hoffman, Author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

What is the backstory behind Saving CeeCee Honeycutt?

I’m fascinated by mother/daughter relationships, especially those that are peculiar or strained. The intricate frailties and strengths of my own gender have always been a source of great interest to me—we women love and laugh and hurt and heal and forgive in remarkable ways. Plus, I’m enamored with the culture, architecture, and history of the American South. I wanted these elements to be the foundation of my story.

Though I was too young to know it at the time, the seed for my novel was planted when I was nine years old. I had taken a train from Ohio to visit my Great Aunt Mildred Caldwell who lived in a lovely old Greek revival home in Danville, Kentucky. From the moment of my arrival, it was culture shock of the best kind. There I was, a shy little farm girl who had stepped into a world of such beauty and refinement that I was awestruck. The genteel manners, the elaborate meal preparations, and the lively conversations that I witnessed during my stay in Kentucky made quite an impression on me. By the time my visit had come to an end, I promised myself that one day I’d move to the South. And though it took a while, I finally made it.

What was your road to publication like?

It was like the unexpected explosion of a bottle rocket. Within hours of sending my e-query to Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management in New York, she asked me for the first three chapters. The next day she requested the entire manuscript. Less than 48 hours later (a Sunday evening) my email dinged and there was a message from Catherine. Knowing there was no way she had read the entire manuscript over a weekend, I was certain the email was a rejection. Oh, how I didn’t want to open it! But when I did, I was delighted—Catherine loved my novel.

She called me shortly thereafter, and we laughed and chattered for nearly an hour. It was as if we’d known each other for years. I didn’t even need to take a day or two to think about it—I accepted Catherine’s offer of representation on the spot. She explained that the publishers were at the Frankfurt Book Fair and that she’d send my manuscript to a few selected editors when they returned to their offices the following Monday. Catherine said we might hear something within a week or two.

Well, on Tuesday Catherine called to tell me that several publishers were already interested, and then wham, she called back within the hour with a staggering pre-emptive offer from Pamela Dorman. I felt like I was dreaming.

Who are your literary influences?

I grew up enthralled with the stories by E. B. White and Mark Twain. And I don’t know if I’d say if they’ve influenced me per se, but I’ve always admired the writings of Laurie Lee, Reynolds Price, and Carol Shields. The first time I read Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee, I got depressed. Depressed because I felt like a turtle watching a graceful deer jump over a hedge. His prose was so extraordinary and lyrical that it made me feel like I could never be a bona fide writer.

Your book is actually launching an imprint. Very exciting. Can you tell us about that?

Oh, yes, it is exciting. When Pam Dorman told me that she’d chosen Saving CeeCee Honeycutt to be her lead debut novel for her new imprint, I was gobsmacked. But shortly thereafter, when the weight of what those words meant had finally sunk in, I was terrified! I’d wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like I’d been plunked into a pressure cooker. I knew the bar had been dramatically raised and it took me several months, and a lot of inner dialog, to calm down.

What's your best advice for writers?

I feel a writer should keep herself out of the story and allow her characters to fully live their lives—that’s when true creative alchemy can occur.
And there’s one thing I’ve discovered that, above all else, makes an enormous difference in the final polishing stage of a manuscript: read it out loud as if you’re standing in front of an audience. By hearing your story, you’ll pick up any bumps that need smoothing, and, you’ll know if the dialog rings true. In my opinion, nothing can help a writer edit a manuscript better than reading it aloud.

What books are on your nightstand (or Kindle) right now?

My “To Be Read” pile is out of control. But at the top of the stack I have Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle, Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, and A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball.

As a debut author, what's the most surprising thing you've learned about publishing?

Every day brings something surprising, so my answer to this question is quite different than it would have been during the first months. Most recently I’ve been surprised by how intense everything becomes just before a book’s release date. Once publicity begins, it’s like the entire publishing universe gets ratcheted up until the air crackles. It’s exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking—there are so many phone calls, emails, and last minute details that require immediate attention.

In my former life, I was as the co-owner and president of an interior design studio. Though I’ve been writing for over twenty years, it wasn’t until I had the proverbial near-death experience that I decided to pursue my dream. After selling my portion of the design business, I kicked of my high-heels and began writing full-time.

I live in a quiet historic district in Northern Kentucky with my husband and several fuzzy, four-legged children.

Personal interests include the rescue and care of abandoned/abused animals, reading, gardening, and historic building preservation. Visit me at


Viagra Online said...

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is the book of my preference mostly because it was written for a person who I admire very much, of course I'm talking about Beth.

Anonymous said...

Hi Beth, I just finished reading, "Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt;" one of the best books I have read in a long time. I loved the characters, story plot, descriptions. I couldn't wait to find a minute in my day to read a chapter; however, on the other hand, I wanted to savor every word slowly so the book would not end. Now that I have finished the book, I really miss it. I am from Ohio and know Willoughby and Newport, Ky. I can't wait to read your next book and hope you are working on one. You are a great author in my book!!! Dee

Anonymous said...

I loved "Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt" and I'm anxious to read your next book!

Anonymous said...

I hope you are writing a new book, and will continue to write for a long time. Loved CeeCee---one of the best books, ever!

Anonymous said...

Just finished Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and had to go online and find out about you and what else you had written - amazing for a first book! Can't wait for what's next. You go girl!

Anonymous said...

I get almost teary eyed just thinking of the best book ever!! Ididnt want it to end; Please write another book about CeCe. J

Anonymous said...

Beth, my book club chose Ceecee for our next read. It so thoroughly tore at my heart strings, that I read Looking for Me right away. I finished it today, but was sad to see it end. Both Teddi and Ceecee were such amazing characters.....thanks, Beth. I look forward to whatever comes next from you. said...

Beth, I have been enjoying Saving CeeCee Honeycutt as I rest at home with shingles.
The funniest thing happened! Cee Cee just got to the beach (page 150) and the next page was 183!
The book is perfectly bound, and nothing has been ripped out.
Have you heard of this happening?
As soon as I am well, I will get another book although I am tempted to just continue from 183.
BTW... I loved the Secret Life of bees!

Alison Hertz