See that sign that reads BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT . . . fully equipped, inquire within? Stop in the shop. You'll be glad that you came. ( Read my book review. ) I highly recommend this book to teens and adults.
Today, while her debut novel hits bookstores, Laura Bowers visits Bildungsroman. We discuss family, second chances, and the true definition of success . . . as well as rude pigs, good music, and favorite books.
Which came first, the setting or the characters? Had you established the family storyline prior to selecting the beauty shop backdrop?
The setting came first, after I was inspired by a rusted sign that was posted in front of a charming old house. For years, I would pass this sign and wonder what the owner was like. Is she longing to retire? Is she cranky because no one wants to rent her old-fashioned beauty shop? I knew I had a story when I imagined what would happen if a young girl was left on the woman's doorstop and if someone was finally interested in her shop.
Others have likened your story to STEEL MAGNOLIAS, while I see it more like THE GOLDEN GIRLS (and their great-granddaughter). The multi-generational storyline makes this book as enticing to adults as it is to teens. Did you plan for this book to be categorized as teen fiction?
I always saw this as a young adult novel from the start, even though Granny Po and the rest of the Gray Widows are so dynamic. It's Abbey's story and her relationship with her mother that really pulled at my heartstrings and I felt the most compelled to tell. But I would be thrilled if adults enjoyed it as well, since there are elements in my book that all of us can relate to, regardless of age.
Abbey and her great-grandmother enjoy Wheel of Fortune, while Abbey's friend Mitch loves old Westerns. What do you watch?
I'm a total Grey's Anatomy, American Idol, and America's Next Top Model junky, but my guiltiest TV pleasure is Trick My Truck on CMT. (It's like a Pimp My Ride for down on their luck truck drivers!) I love how the Chrome Shop Mafia always goof off at the beginning of each show, the burly Demolition Man and the Boss Man's two-finger wave. And, okay, I've been known to shed a few tears at the emotional endings!
Gena got points from me for having a Jonatha Brooke CD because I have ALL of Jonatha's albums.* Who are your favorite musicians and bands?
While Gena's character is based on my husband and his never-ending optimism, she does not have his taste in music! She got that from me. I love The Corrs, Alison Krauss, Aerosmith, Enya, Nora Jones, Charlie Pride, Bob Seger, Frou Frou, Shania Twain and John Mellencamp, to name a few.
*In fact, Jonatha's brand-new CD, Careful What You Wish For, came out on the same day that I read your book. Talk about timing!
I discovered her music while doing final edits and had to include. LOVE her, and her new album! "Hearsay" is my favorite so far.
Agreed. I love the word play, and I love the 6/8 signature.
Back to the book! At one point, the entire group attends the local fair, and one character was a Queen in her heyday. If I had a nickel for every county and state fair at which I sang and danced, I'd be rich! What's your most memorable or embarrassing county fair moment?
The fair scene is my favorite! It was inspired by our local 4-H & FFA Fair that I've been a part of for thirty years and yes, they really do have the best fries! While I was never a farm queen like Caddie, the bit about her being peed on while showing her pig? Yeah, that happened to me. I've also been dumped several times by my horse, I've lost a bra strap while riding a Dressage pattern, and at the Maryland State Fair, my horse freaked out from the midway rides one year and knocked over the farm queen. My most memorable experience? Taking my own boys to the fair and watching them show!
Speaking of riches, from the first page, readers know of Abbey's plan to make a million dollars by the time she is thirty-five. For her, this is about being successful, not filthy rich. What is your personal definition of success?
When I was a teenager, I would have told you success was defined by whether or not you were famous. If you weren't a celebrity of some sort, why bother? In my twenties, a successful person had a great house and a cool car, but now that I'm in my late thirties? My definition of success is whether or not you are happy. I have a great husband, great kids, and a family who loves me, so I feel very successful and blessed.
Along the same lines, where do you see Abbey in ten years, when she's twenty-five?
When I close my eyes and imagine Abbey in ten years, I picture a successful, confident young woman driving up her small town's Main Street with the truck windows down, smiling at the locals who wave as she passes. I see someone who owns her own business, who wears jeans to her office, and makes it a priority to spend time with family and friends. She's still going to reach her goal, but her views on marriage will lighten up! And, of course, she'll always get her nails done at the beauty shop so she can catch up on the gossip!
You are an avid horsewoman, and you casually snuck horses into the story. What sort of work do you do with horses and other critters?
Oy. I must confess that there hasn't been much time for riding for me lately. My oldest son competes in some local shows and at the 4-H Fair, but I've put my own show plans on hold for a while. But, I've gotten a lot of story ideas and figured out many a stubborn plot line while cleaning stalls and there's nothing more relaxing than going horseback riding with my husband. Once the kids are in college, I'd love to hit the show circuit again.
Why do you think Abbey gives her mother a second chance - and a third, and a fourth?
Bottom line? Because she's her mom, no matter what's happened. And, Abbey feels obligated to take care of her . . . even if she doesn't deserve it.
What are your ten favorite books?
This list always changes! For now, I'm going with:
HOPE WAS HERE, by Joan Bauer, which made me fall in love with young
SEABISCUIT, by Lauren Hillenbrand
THE HORSE MASTERS, by Don Stanford, my favorite book as a teen
CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, Jean Auel
THE KILLER ANGELS, Michael Shaara
BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, Kate DiCamillo
JANE EYRE, Charlotte Bronte
THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD, Rebecca Wells
A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, Richard Peck
EAST OF EDEN, John Steinbeck