Author of the Week: Georgia Saunders, Home Street Home – The Virginia Beach Chronicles

This week author of the week is Georgia Saunders author of Home Street Home – The Virginia Beach Chronicles
Please also make sure to visit previous authors of the week if you didn’t do that yet.
Living in NY I see many homeless people in the streets. Sometimes I stop for a second to give them some change. Sometimes I feel sorry for them, especially when the weather is really bad. But until recently I didn’t know their story; until I read Home Street Home – The Virginia Beach Chronicles. In rich language, Saunders gives us the story of different people, that many times had normal lives, until unfortunate circumstances took them to live in the street.
One of my favorite things in the book was seeing reality from different point of views, while learning the sad history of each one of the many characters.
Another thing, was the writing. For example: “The rain music changed pitch, going an octave higher as water beat the window with
new intensity.”
Or this paragraph:”There was nothing Ella liked better than to start the day quietly with coffee and a good book. She reached over for the tome. A spider ran out from under it and scurried down the side of the mildewed basket. Ella stooped to have a closer look. It was about half an inch long with long legs and had a distinctive violin shaped marking on its cephalothoraxes. Was this the spider that Olivia had told her about? – the one whose bite was supposedly so dangerous?”
Once you read this story, you’ll never look at homeless the same way. I highly recommend it!

I asked Georgia a few questions:

Georgia Saunders How would you convince someone to read your book in 140 characters or less?
How would you fare if you suddenly became homeless?  Take a virtual journey into the parallel universe of life in the vicious streets and find out.

What life experiences made you write your book?
During my own three years of homelessness, I often despaired of finding a means of income that would allow me to become housed.  That’s when I thought of writing about homelessness.  I also found writing a way of blocking out much of the extreme unpleasantness of being cooped up with too many people in too small a space, like a commercial chicken in a wire cage full of birds. People tend to start pecking at each other when their personal space is too small – just like the poultry does.

How close are the events and characters in your story to real events and characters?
The characters in my book are fictional representations of the types of people I found in the homeless community.  Often I took the personality of one type and put it into the body of another – keeping all of the characters from being based on any real individual, and at the same time, reminding readers familiar with the community, of several different people my character represents.  I used the same technique with events.  A good example is the beating in the woods that opens the novel.  While similar beatings are a regular occurrence in the community, you would not find that particular beating on the police roster for that date.  However, my fictional beating scene was real enough for a homeless man with a web of scars across his face to tell me with emotion in his voice, that I was telling “his” story.  I felt really fulfilled as a writer when I heard that.

What was your happiest moment as an author?
Not one, but many instances such as the one above, where a homeless person who’d read or heard me read portions of the book thanked me for writing about the horrors they’d felt no one would ever hear or care about.  That is what makes the whole project worthwhile for me. 

What can you tell me about your ideal reader?
Really anyone who still has a heart is going to be my ideal reader.  I love when readers tell me the book has opened their eyes to what really goes on in the streets and they are energized to help end the horror of homelessness. 

When did you know you were going to be an author?
I kept telling myself that I knew I was a great author as soon as I started plans for the book.  It was part of my self-hypnosis schpiel that I modeled after books in the library by famous hypnotists.  In addition, I made a daily written conversation with my “supportive self” in my writer’s journal part of my writing routine and would continually tell myself I was a great author who insisted on the highest standards.  But I didn’t really know (“for real, for real”, as we say here in the streets) until I held that first beautiful proof in my hand. 

If you could talk to your readers while they are reading your book, what would you tell them?
I don’t think I would want to talk to them while they were reading.  I think my characters say it all much better than I can. 

Which author influenced you the most?
If I must choose only one, I will say Charles Dickens.  But I studied the art and technique in many famous writers’ works as I wrote.

Tell me one unique thing about yourself that no other author in the world (as far as you know) shares.
Oh Gosh, that’s a hard one.  That I went to the Oceanfront boardwalk one winter day and King Neptune noticed me and allowed the ghosts of the past to come up from his realm and tell me the history of Chesapeake Bay?  The resulting illustrated poem The Oceanfront is Mine Today is HERE: http://homestreethome.yolasite.com/the-oceanfront-was-mine-today.php
Or that I would shamelessly plug my poem about Virginia Beach during an interview with a nice gentleman?  No,…Almost any one of us will do that.  Smile.

What’s the funniest line you ever wrote?
I don’t have a funniest line.  But one of my favorite passages from volume I of Home Street Home occurs when Ella, my heroine from the middle class just learning to live on the streets, goes to the shelter to take a shower.  She’s describing the people in there, and New Jersey Louie is pretty funny (dry humor).  It got a big laugh when I read it to some homeless women one night in the winter shelter.  They said it was “spot on”.

The only one who didn’t laugh at Wilson’s joke was the
hard-eyed heavy white man sitting across from him; a
former hit man of fine professional prospects gone wrong
in life due to drink. Before his fall into debasement he’d
had a promising career as a leg-breaker. His face, set on a
big mutton head, was a cross between a Bowery bum and a
Mafia soldier. It had begun to sag in every point that
should have been firm and was topped off with thick wavy
hair gone to slate gray. He was a man running off
reputation. Where he’d once been a terror to some criminal
heavy weights, he was now reduced to pulling a few
desperate folks into hustles as worn out as the heels of his
fake alligator shoes. That’s what drink does to a man. His
street name was New Jersey; some added his Christian
name to it and called him New Jersey Louie.

If you could choose one super power, what would it be and why?
Well, I used to play at being Super Girl, and at that time I rescued many Barbie Dolls and small plastic green soldiers from certain death at my brother’s hand; but then, she had so many super powers.  I guess I’ll choose the flying.  That was always so much fun – to run down the long hallway with my red cape flying behind me.  LOL   Yes, I’d like to be able to fly.  Think of the gas savings – and no more tickets!

What’s next?
My next project might actually be a non-fiction – the biography of a woman on the beach who has spent many years giving out clothes and food to the poor without asking for a thing in return.  I painted a portrait of her already. I admire truly unselfish people who do things for others without going around tooting their horns about it (as so many will do). Then I have a novel set in the Black Hills stewing, but that is still under wraps.

ORANGEBERRY TOUR STOPS FOR HOME STREET HOME
Nov 12, 2011 Saturday Half of the first chapter of Home Street Home
http://nikolpurviswriter.blogspot.com/2011/11/weekend-author-spotlight-georgia.html
Nov 13, 2011 Sunday Pandora’s Reading Room
http://bookblogs.ning.com/group/pandoras-reading-room/page/orangeberry-book-tours-home-street-home
11/20/11 Sunday Review of Home Street Home and a Tell All interview
http://kptoz.blogspot.com/2011/11/book-review-home-street-home-virginia.html
http://steepedinbooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/georgia-saunders-opens-up.html
11/27/11 Sunday Review of Home Street Home and a Short Interview
CLOCKWORK Nancy Cudis’ Review of Home Street Home and Guest Post…My Secret? Talking to Myself.
http://www.nancycudis.com/2011/11/book-tour-review-guest-post-home-street.html

NOT ORANGEBERRY TOUR
Interviewed on DTTLA by James Wallace Birch. http://dttla.posterous.com/author-interview-georgia-saunders
Guest Post on SHILPA MUDRAGANTI’s Blog – Reality Can be Stranger Than Fiction http://smmirza.blogspot.com/2011/11/reality-can-be-stranger-than-fantasy.html

Follow Georgia Saunders at:
Website – http://homestreethome.yolasite.com
Facebook Fan Page – http://facebook.com/homestreethomebooks
Twitter – http://Twitter.com/HomeStreetHomeY
Blog – http://steepedinbooks.blogspot.com
Purchase Page at Amazon Subsidiary Company for Volume I – https://www.createspace.com/3595544
Purchase Page at Amazon Subsidiary Company for Volume II – https://www.createspace.com/3615068
Purchase page at Amazon Subsidiary Company for Volume III – https://www.createspace.com/3615115

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About joeyavniel

Author of the book "One-Legged Seagull, A Warrior's Journey to Inner Peace" - A fable that will transform your life to be at peace.

Posted on December 5, 2011, in Author of the Week. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thank you, Joey, for your lovely review and interview. You did a real nice job on it.

  2. Love the interview! Sharing and caring :D. Georgia, all the best of luck, and Joey, so nicely done! Happy holidays!

  3. What an important and meaningful book! Thank you for sharing this interview.

  4. Georgia, I so enjoy reading your interviews, your gift to me is as you stated in the interview, is putting a face on homelessness. Thinking that I’m reminded of an incredible encounter I had on a Philadelphia street with a panhandling homeless man: It was the midst of winter and I jokingly asked the man if he any change to spare. He handed me the container and told me to take what I needed. I’ll never forget his expression, it was incredibly sincere. Evoking that memory is another example of the power of Georgia’s writing. Keep up the good work!

  5. Thanks to Collete, Jenny and John for your kind words of encouragement. John, your example is a beautiful one. There are some in the street like that who will share whatever little they have with another in need. It almost makes you want to cry to hear of such unselfishness from a man out in the cold probably saving up for his lunch or maybe his daily bottle to help him block out the awful reality. Just like Little Bear…but you’ll see…

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