Thursday, June 14, 2007

GCC Tour: Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

Order the book!

Congrats to Joshilyn -- the current GCC tourer!
Jackson won GEORGIA AUTHOR OF THE YEAR for this book. How cool is that?

More, Jackson read the audio version herself and won a Publisher’s Weekly Listen Up award, a starred review in PW, and made AudioFile’s best of 2006 list!

But, wait ... there's more!

Between, Georgia was a #1 BookSense pick, making Jackson the first author in BookSense history to achieve #1 status is back-to-back years.

Here's some quotes:

"One of this decade's most commendable novels. Every now and then a remarkable writer, following in the footsteps of great authors, comes along to reenergize American fiction. So it is with Joshilyn Jackson. ...overflows with gut-wrenching sadness and laugh-out-loud humor. Jackson's novel brilliantly explores abstractions - redemption, love and grace - through the most compelling characterizations to be found in contemporary fiction. Between, Georgia is an exemplary novel by a singular writer who is in full command of the art of story telling. Don't miss it!"
- Bookpage

"Between, Georgia is a small miracle, and Nonny Frett is the most engaging woman who ever lived in the pages of a book. Joshilyn Jackson is an enormously talented writer."
- Anne Rivers Siddons, New York Times bestselling author of Sweetwater Creek

Want to hear more? Here's a summary of the book:

There's always been bad blood between the Fretts and the Crabtrees. After all, the Fretts practically own the tiny town of Between, Georgia, while the Crabtrees only rent space in its jail cells.

Stacia Frett is a deaf artist with a genetic condition that is causing her to slowly go blind. She's lost the love of her life, and when her vision goes, she'll lose her career as well. She's asking God why He keeps her breathing in and out, until the night fifteen year old Hazel Crabtree shows up on her doorstep brandishing a stomach swollen with a pregnancy she'd hidden for nine months. Stacia thinks Hazel's unwanted baby might be God's answer, and so the Fretts decide to steal it...

Thirty years later, Nonny Frett is a successful interpreter living in Athens, Georgia. She understands the meanings of "rock" and "hard place" better than any woman ever born. She's got two mothers, "one deaf-blind and the other four baby steps from flat crazy." She's got two men; Her husband is easing out the back door and her best friend is laying siege to her heart in her front yard. She has a job that holds her in the city, and she's addicted to a little girl who's stuck deep in the country. And she has two families; The Fretts, who stole her and raised her right, and the Crabtrees, who lost her and can't forget that they've been done wrong.

In Between, Georgia, population 90, the feud that began before Nonny was born is escalating, and a random act of violence will set the torch to a thirty-year old stash of highly flammable secrets. This might be just what the town needs, if only Nonny wasn't sitting in the middle of it...

Here are Joshilyn's answers to my GCC questions:


I don’t have one. I have two kids instead. I don’t have time for the luxury of ritual. Oh how I wish I did! It would be romantic and fun to say, “I can only write a pink room…” or “I can’t work if there’s a black cat within a mile of me…” But the truth is much more pragmatic and dull: If I get an hour or more with no kids in the house, I work. My husband takes them out of town for long weekends when I need to draft. If I get desperate I leave and check into a hotel.


About 15 years ago, I was attending UGA in Athens, and I had friends in Atlanta, so I drove back and forth quite a bit. On the old route 78, I used to see this sign---I don’t know if it’s still there. It said something like, “Exit here to see Between, Georgia, Population 97.”

One day, I saw someone had snuck over and crossed out the “97” and written in “96.” That tickled me to death. I started wondering who would do such a thing. I was young, so of course my first thought was that it was some kid near my age who was born and bred in that tiniest of towns. He had always sworn he would get out and have a bigger life. As he headed off to college or New York or someplace that felt “big” to him, he stopped to lower the number as a triumphant farewell.

I thought about that kid for a few years, but he never gelled for me. I’m more interested in someone who can live a huge life in a town of 90 people than someone who tries to find significance externally. I never forgot Between, though. I started imagining the town layout, created families who lived there, and gave it its own specific and odd economy. Sadly, I never had a story that fit there. All I had was a strong sense of place.

About ten years later, maybe I had grown up a little, and I realized a kid had not changed that sign. It was an old southern lady, tough as nails, someone with her thumb ground down on that town. Earlier that day, the preacher had laid her greatest rival in the ground. She stood at the church in her best black dress and pressed a hanky to her mouth, but her eyes were alive with triumph and she had on a thick coat of monkey butt red victory lipstick. Later that same night, she’d crept out of her house, driven to the highway, and changed the sign in a gesture of small-minded and terrible victory.

That scene never happens in the novel, but the idea of a character who would do such a thing, of a rivalry between Southern Matriarchs that strong and virulent, began a story in my head. The sign changer became Bernese Frett, and I pulled her rival from the grave and let her grow into a crafty, drunken criminal named Ona Crabtree. Nonny Frett, the narrator, is by birth one of those trashy Crabtrees, but she is stolen and raised by the unbendingly respectable Frett clan.

I started to get a strong feel for Nonny, bravery, her desire to be loved, her good, good heart, and the way she hesitates, hopeful and cautious. I felt she was a character who lived “in between” on any number of levels, so the town itself, that strong sense of place I’d been growing for almost fifteen years, became a character as I started playing around with ideas about identity and nature v/s nurture, and what makes someone a mother.


My main character, Nonny Jane Frett, is a bit of a waffler. She’s Between on a lot of levels, and over the course of the book I think she grows into her own big voice…I am not sure I have yet. I am STILL a bit of a waffler. Her waffling irritated me no end, and I was so glad when she started standing up and making decisions and saying DAMMIT and fighting for what matters to her. I keep waiting for me to do that…


I’m a pragmatist. I’d rather have fresh water and limitless supply of Lean Cuisines with a solar powered microwave…Hrm. I think the books. I have to read!

I could write in my head and memorize it --- I came out of theatre and I often think of writing in terms of performance. I’d perform each chapter as a monolog and when the boat came for me I’d write it down.

BEER OR WINE? Wine. Or a dirty martini. OH! Or wait, a Blueberry Smash made with Jack and POM wonderful. Or.okay, why not! Beer. You got Rolling rock? Or no, I’ll have what your having. Make mine a double. ßSee! I waffle!

CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA? Chocolate. The darker the better!


Oh Hrm. Can I have a tie? From childhood, it is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I still reread that probably more than any other book. But the book that spoke to me loudest since I (allegedly) became an adult is THE SOLACE OF LEAVING EARLY. I love everything Kimmel has ever written, but her first novel, about finding all kinds of love in the ruins of broken families, remains my favorite. It’s hard to find a book this elegant, precise, and intelligent that has such a warm heart.

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