Kim Taylor Blakemore
Genre: Romance, Historical
Date of Publication: August 4, 2014
Word Count: 20,535 pick-your-path story
Ruby dreams of Hollywood. A chance encounter with The Harmoneers, an all-female jazz group, offers the opportunity of a lifetime. Follow the gang as they scheme and double-cross.
Well, it don’t mean a thing.
Sycamore Grove, California
“I’m not marrying you, Audie McCardle. I most certainly am not.” Ruby Banks crossed her arms, pressed her lips tight, and gave a definitive shake of her head. She leaned toward the mirror over her hand-me-down vanity and stabbed a pin into her blonde curls. She twisted her head left and right, and fluffed the back of her hair. A strange tint of pink ran loose through the strands and waves. Maybe she should have been more careful with the mixture of peroxide and ammonia she’d used the previous night.
But between her mother running up the stairs and hugging her close, her father taking his pipe from his mouth long enough to yell that the hair potion was causing him an onset of lung disorder, and her little sister, Charlotte, jumping around and squawking nonsense about weddings weddings weddings, Ruby botched the dye job.
Never mind, she thought. If anyone asked, she’d say it was exactly the color she was hoping for.
Or she wouldn’t say anything at all. Jean Harlow wouldn’t say anything. Of that Ruby Banks was sure.
She snatched her apron from the end of her bed, bounded down the narrow stairs, and ignored her mother calling from the kitchen. Ruby pushed open the front gate and darted down the sidewalk. She was late (as usual) for her morning shift at the diner, and she still had to pick up the pies from Mrs. Jensen on the next block.
The early morning sun promised another day of horrible Central California heat. The sky would soon brown with the upturned soils of the fields, and the air already stank from the cows.
A beat-up Model T stake-bed truck rolled past Ruby. She heard the tires slow on the hard-packed soil of the street. Gears ground, and the truck reversed and pulled next to her.
John Mayer shifted his stub of a cigar to the other side of his mouth, tilted back his fedora, and smiled. His skin was bronze and wrinkled. He rubbed a weathered thumb across his chin. “Guess congratulations are in order.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Ruby lifted her head and continued walking. John Mayer kept the truck rolling slowly in reverse.
“Fine boy, Audie is.”
“So everyone says.”
“You make a sweet couple.”
“We’re not a couple.”
He scratched the shirt on his chest. “You don’t say.”
“He can buy any house he pleases in the Sears Roebuck catalog, but that doesn’t mean we’re a couple. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to marry him.”
“You don’t say.”
“I do say. I have plans of my own.” She blew back a curl that had come loose. “Don’t you have some hogs to tie or something like that?”
“I don’t have hogs.”
“You know what I’m saying.”
He chewed his cigar then shifted the gears. The truck took a jump and shimmied. “You got a mean streak, Ruby. Yes, miss, you do.” With that, he was off down the road in a swirl of dirt.
Ruby wiped her mouth with her handkerchief. She patted her hair and strode up the wood steps to Mrs. Jensen’s porch. She knocked three times on the screen door frame and stepped back. Mrs. Jensen shuffled to the door, balancing five boxes of peach pies.
Only the top of half of her face was visible above the stack. She passed the boxes to Ruby and wiped her hands on a flour-coated apron. “I hear congratulations are in order.”
Ruby’s heels cracked against the pavement. She passed the Esso station and VFW Hall and drew near the two blocks that made up Sycamore Grove’s downtown. The neon spire of the Odeon dwarfed the squat brick of its neighbors. She glared up, worried that this upcoming non-wedding would be splattered in black and white across the marquee. Luckily not. It remained safely Gable and Harlow in Red Dust.
Maud Riley stood under the awning of Rexall Drugs, waiting, as she always did, for Ruby. Her gray felt cloche sat low on her head, the nutmeg tufts of her bob feathered under the soft rim. She shifted from foot to foot, tapping her fingers against her black-and mustard-checked skirt. As Ruby neared, Maud narrowed her eyes and blinked fast before shaking her head. She pursed her lips and twisted them into a strained smile.
“What’s wrong with you?” Ruby asked.
Maud’s eyebrows met in a frown. “Nothing. Not a thing.” She waved her hand for no reason that Ruby could ascertain and fell in step beside her. “I guess I have to wish —”
“Don’t you start.” She shifted the pies to her hip. “I can tolerate all the little gifts he gives me. I mean, a girl does need emery boards and cologne. But buying a house? That’s called unbounded impudence.”
“I think it was just a down payment.”
“It’s still a lot of cheek. What does he think? I’m going to roll over like a, like a starving dog and do whatever he commands?” Ruby stopped in front of the diner, set the boxes on the cement and faced Maud. “He hasn’t even asked me to marry him. And you know what? When he does, I’m going to laugh like this — HA-ha. Because I’ve got all that money Aunt Caroline left me, and come September, I’m going to take the bus to Merced and then the train to Hollywood. And in neither of those vehicles can you fit a Sears and Roebuck house and an ego the size of Audie McCardle’s. And when he comes in for breakfast, I’m going to tell him so.”
Maud crossed her arms over her thin frame and swayed back and forth.
“You got something to say, just say it.”
Maud bit her lip and shrugged.
“What does that mean?”
“It means nothing.” Maud swung her gaze around the street and up at the Odeon spire and then stared over her shoulder at the empty diner. “You like my skirt?”
“I wore it just for you. So you could see how the pattern came out. And such.” She gave that funny wave again, as if she were swatting a big bug. “Never mind. I’ve got an early piano lesson to give.”
“Well, don’t let me keep you.” Ruby bent to pick up the pies. “Would you mind opening the door for me? I mean, if you have time.”
“I always have time for you.”
“Are you all right?”
“Of course I’m all right. Why?”
“You’re red as a beet.”
Maud put the flats of her palms against her cheeks, turned on her heel, and rushed away, the bell of her skirt flapping against her knees.
“But the door, Maud … ”
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I was always a voracious reader, and thank my parents for giving me that lovely obsessive habit! But no, I was enthralled to the theatre and being an actor and director. I tired of that very quickly in the harsh world of Los Angeles. Whether I was a good, bad or indifferent, it was the wrong place to be a theatre actor.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I think it was with the sale of that first book, Side Dish. It was a light and silly romantic comedy, now out of print and the company that published it defunct.
Wait, now that I think about it, it was the writing of the first book that made me feel like a writer. Because I sat down every day and worked with words. It was the writing of the second book, Cissy Funk, which confirmed it.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
I chose, with “Side Dish”, to submit to small presses that accepted manuscripts without agents. I think it was about 2-3 months. And a year plus to publication.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
I do, and I am very blessed to have it. I teach at a small private college (yes, for-profit, but we’ve been around 150 years). I love my students. I love how hungry they are to learn, how much they teach me. And the whole time I’ve been teaching there (16 years!) I have never had a day where I was not excited to go to work.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
My historical novel “Bowery Girl”, set in the Bowery in 1883, was just re-released in January.
20 word summary: Two young women, a pickpocket and a prostitute, struggle for survival and a better life in 19th century New York.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
I do a mix. My last three novels were traditionally published, my stories with Silkwords are a hybrid of traditional/new media, and my upcoming novel, Under the Pale Moon, will be indie-published.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
I haven’t figured out a plan or system for this, as much as I want. My first novel, Side Dish, was written in 8 weeks. Cissy Funk took a year. Bowery Girl took a year and a half. The stories for Silkwords took 6 weeks. My upcoming is taking forever! It began as a completely different novel, and I wasn’t happy with it once it was completed. I chose to tear it apart and just take certain elements of it for Under the Pale Moon: a couple characters, the time period and setting, the post-War mood.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I define my fiction as Women’s Historical Fiction, which is a broad category but keeps the focus on stories about women and women’s experiences – this also allows the stories to be romance or fiction, about women who are straight or gay or somewhere in between. Besides that focus, my milieu is 1870 to the 1950s.
What genre would you place your books into?
Women’s Historical Fiction and Romance
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
It allows me to write about women and their experiences at different period in history. I am drawn to the topsy-turvy world in the U.S. from 1870 to the 1950s. It also allows a wide range of future books that can explore the relationships of women and men, women and women, children, families. And how they navigate and live in their worlds, whether on the streets of the Bowery in 1883 to a small town in California in the 1930s, the difficult post-war period, and everything in between. I wanted to combine the genres that call to me: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, LesFic, Romance (sweet).
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
I have a few:
Mollie Flynn (Bowery Girl) – she’s sharp as a tack, tough, loyal, and a very good pickpocket.
Ida Lemperer Waite (It Don’t Mean a Thing) – leader of the All-Girl band, The Harmoneers. She’s talented, conniving, a schemer, and doesn’t let obstacles get in the way.
Kath Walker (Under the Pale Moon) – she’s full of contradictions, a nurse who has lost her compassion, a talented artist, an outcast, someone with huge love for the outcasts of the world, and not afraid to be different from what society in the 1940s-50s expects.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing seriously since 1996, although have had long spates of time where work and other life problems and opportunities got in the way. Hm…1996…that’s a while ago.
My parents taught me the love of reading; I am definitely a bookworm. And I have always made up stories in my head – letting “What-ifs” formulate and tangle and dance. I have so many beginnings to so many stories! It’s finding the ones that stick that’s harder for me.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
When I am on a roll and excited about a scene or chapter, it doesn’t matter where I write – my desk, the couch in the den, the dining room table, on a folding chair under the huge birch tree in my front yard. When I’m hesitant or scared that the whole idea of writing is a stinking waste of time, I meet with a dear friend and writer and we work and write and share our scenes and ideas together. Our literary life raft! When nothing is coming to me, or doubt crawls under my skin, or I just want to take to the couch with someone else’s book (thank you very much and leave me alone), I haul the dogs in the car to my wife’s office and lock us all in for the day. While she heals sick animals and tends to their fleas in the clinic, I drink Starbuck’s and stew and hope for a page or two.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I go back and forth on that, because I’m afraid of being judged! But who isn’t, really…I do read the reviews. I learn a lot from them, looking for patterns in the reviews that might help me, curious about how my vision of the book matches up or is changed by a reader’s or critic’s vision.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Story first, and somewhere in the middle the title will come to me. Although for “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “The Very Thought of You”, the titles came from scouring and listening to music from the time periods.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Setting is incredibly important to me, and often comes first. We are all molded by the physical spaces we live in, and the cultural mores of that location. In “Bowery Girl”, the Lower Eastside of Manhattan is a character in itself. In fact, I think setting is so important, I teach a workshop with PDX Writers called “Setting as Character”.
Once I pick the setting and time period, my next step is to brainstorm names that sound right for the main characters – and then I go on the Internet to find the popular baby names for the year they were born. It’s critical: Ida, Ruby, Audie and Maud certainly evoke a different era than Emmeline, Annabelle, Mollie and Seamus. Or Loretta, Evelyn, and Helen.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I do a mixture of both. I’ll write a lot of scenes just to see if the characters tick, and when they don’t. And then work on character questions all the way along.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
No morals, no hidden messages. It’s about walking with the people in the stories and seeing the world through their eyes.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
I love to read fiction on my Samsung Phone! It’s got a great screen, and if I’m bored with one book, I can always click on the Complete Works of Shakespeare or the Complete Works of Jane Austen and be very happy not to heft the ten pound book! I buy paperbacks and hardbacks that I know I will use for research, as I am an old-school write-in-the-margins researcher. But if I have an author I love, and the luck to meet them at a reading, it’s hardback or paperback so I can get an autograph. Those books are on their own shelf: Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, VM Whitworth and others…
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
I don’t have one favorite book, but I do have those that I love (and yes, bought the hardback/paperback!) and have read and re-read: Gone with the Wind, all of Steinbeck, all of Virginia Woolf, The Book Thief, Code Name Verity, Life and Fate, Anna Karenina, The Passion, Written on the Body…I’ll stop there. I said I was a bookworm!
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
I once posted on Facebook an image someone else had created of an iceberg (and we all know the iceberg) – the movie is what you see out of the water, the book is what is underneath the water. I truly think that it is because a movie is guided by a script and director who want you to see and feel what they want you to (Spielberg is brilliant at this), and a book allows you to have a private conversation with the language and characters and ideas.
Favorite adaptations: 1) Gone with the Wind. There is only one sentence in the script that was not the exact transcription from Margaret Mitchell’s book. You know what it is. 2) Atonement. Read the book, see the movie. The screenwriter and director were spot on with the arc of the story.
Your favorite food is?
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Your favorite singer/group is?
Big band and 1950s jazz. Wait. And anything by Sondheim. And wait again. Chopin, Debussy, and Mozart. And…Scott Joplin.
My friends keep trying to get me in touch with the times…that will be an uphill battle.
Your favorite color is?
Your favorite Author is?
Kim Taylor Blakemore writes historical fiction and romance that explores women's lives and brings their struggles and triumphs out of the shadows of history and onto the canvas of our American past. She wishes to share the stories of women whose lives are untold, who don’t exist in textbooks: the disenfranchised, the forgotten, those with double lives and huge hearts filled with weakness and courage.
Her novel Bowery Girl, set in 1883 Lower Eastside Manhattan was recently re-released in Kindle and paperback. Under the Pale Moon, is due for release in Fall 2015. Set in post-World War II Monterey, California, it explores the relationship of a married woman breaking the bonds of conformity, and a combat nurse haunted by the ghosts of war.
Her interactive historical romances The Very Thought of You and It Don't Mean a Thing, are out now on Kindle and SilkWords.com. She is also the author of the novel Cissy Funk, winner of the WILLA Literary Award for Best Young Adult Fiction.
She’s a member of the Historical Novel Society, Women Writing the West and Romance Writers of America. In addition to writing novels, she facilitates workshops for PDX Writers in Portland, Oregon.
SilkWords is the go-to source for interactive romance and erotic fiction.
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SilkWords is owned and operated by a full-time mom with a background in genetics and an RWA RITA-nominated, multi-published sci-fi romance author.
Their technology guy and site designer was the founder of Microsoft Xbox Live.
SilkWords features two formats that allow readers to choose how the stories will proceed.
Pick Your Path:
Will she or won't she? With which man (or woman) in which location? With Pick Your Path romance, you decide. Romance and branched fiction are made for each other, like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream...positions, partners, and paraphernalia, oh my!
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