Monday, June 01, 2009


Mindy Friddle, Author of Secret Keepers, Launches her Blog Tour!

& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Mindy Friddle is a native of South Carolina, where her family has lived for more than two centuries. Her people were lintheads who toiled in textile mills and hardy farmers with poems in their hearts. After earning a BA from Furman University, Mindy worked as a newspaper reporter for several newspapers before enrolling in graduate school at the University of South Carolina, where she studied with James Dickey and William Price Fox. She later earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. Her first novel, The Garden Angel (St. Martin’s Press/Picador), a SIBA bestseller, was selected for Barnes and Noble's Discover Great New Writers program in 2004, and was a National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition summer reading pick.

Mindy was awarded a 2008-2009 Artist Fellowship in Prose from the South Carolina Arts Commission. She is a two-time winner of the South Carolina Fiction Prize and the Piccolo Spoleto Fiction Open. As a Walter E. Dakin Fellow in Fiction at the 2005 Sewanee Writers' Conference in Sewanee, Tennessee, she worked with Alice McDermott and Mark Winegardner. She was awarded a residency at Ragdale in 2003 and attended Bread Loaf in 2000.

Her book reviews have appeared in the Charlotte Observer and her column, “Author to Author,” featuring interviews with authors, have been published in the Greenville Journal. A Master Gardener , she lives in Greenville, South Carolina where she directs the Writing Room, a community-based nonprofit program she founded in 2006 to bring writers to Greenville for paid seminars and readings. Secret Keepers is her second novel.

But her father was in the service, so she did get to see the world in her formative years. She moved in the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth grades—such a childhood encourages one to observe peer groups from a remove, cultivating the narrator within. As an Army Brat she lived in Germany, Virginia, and Washington D.C. before returning to South Carolina as a teen.

As a reporter she covered tobacco auctions, town council meetings, “grip and grin” check donations; she wrote obituaries, interviewed quasi-celebrities (Pat Boone, remember him?) and failed university presidents accused of embezzling (try to forget that one), and, eventually, wrote features on people who did interesting things (such as growing gourds that resemble world leaders.)

Her yard is a certified wildlife habitat. She composts and grows vegetables in her front yard. In the city limits. She is considering adding a few chickens.

Find out more about Mindy by visiting her website,, and her blog,

About her novel:

Secret Keepers

By Mindy Friddle

At age seventy-two, Emma Hanley plans to escape small-town Palmetto, South Carolina, and travel the globe. But when her fickle husband dies in undignified circumstances, Emma finds herself juggling the needs of her adult children. Her once free-spirited daughter Dora turns to compulsive shopping and a controlling husband to forget her wayward past. Her son Bobby still lives with her, afflicted with an illness that robbed him of his childhood promise.

When Dora's old flame Jake Cary returns to Palmetto with a broken heart and a gift for gardening, the town becomes filled with mysterious, potent botanicals and memories long forgotten. Soon enough, Jake and his ragtag group of helpers begin to unearth the secrets that have divided the Hanleys for decades.

Written with the warmth of Lee Smith and the magical touch of Alice Hoffman, Secret Keepers is a beguiling second novel by the acclaimed author of The Garden Angel.

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are
holding a contest to win a copy of Mindy's book, Secret Keepers, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Mindy. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, Secret Keepers. As soon as I finished reading Secret Keepers I knew I had to read your first novel The Garden Angel. Could you tell us if the publishing road of these two books was entwined? Did you receive the coveted "two-book deal"?

Mindy: I started writing Secret Keepers shortly before The Garden Angel was published. That's late in the process, but I'm a late bloomer in most things anyway.

A few months before St. Martin's Press published The Garden Angel, I went to Ragdale--an artists' retreat outside of Chicago-- for three weeks. The purpose was to start on Novel 2, and at that time, I had no idea what that looked like yet. I read A LOT there, and started writing--taking notes, really--about an image I was thinking about: an older woman who was looking down at a family portrait with a sense of regret and nostalgia. That turned out to be Emma Hanley, a lead character in Secret Keepers. I began writing Secret Keepers, though I didn't have the title yet. The next year, as I was finishing up my MFA at Warren Wilson, the opening pages of Secret Keepers was part of my "thesis." I called it Palmetto. It took me--from first draft, through revised drafts, to book--about four years.

I didn't have a two-book deal with SMP, but they did have the "first-see option" clause--where they get an exclusive look at the manuscript of the next novel. Although the editor for my first book had left, I was delighted when George Witte at SMP acquired Secret Keepers.

WOW: You wrote The Garden Angel as a weekend novelist--any advice for all the other weekend novelists out there?

Mindy: The Garden Angel took 8 years from the idea--an image of a crumbling, beautiful homestead-- to publication. I didn't work on it every day in those years--I was learning HOW to write a novel, and that took patience. I would finish a draft and put it aside for a while, or have readers give some feedback, then revise. Figuring out the structure--how to tell the story--that I pondered, worked on, revised.

I wrote on weekends because I was a single mom for a number of those years, and I worked full time. I found that by writing 5 or 6 hours on both Saturday and Sunday, and one weekday morning or evening, I could keep a momentum going. A novel is a marathon. Someone once told me that, and it's true. So, when people ask my advice about writing and finishing novels, I tell them I find it helpful to do a couple of things:
  1. Set up a schedule. Write at least three times a week for two hours or more each session. Commit to a schedule.
  2. Have a daily word count goal--1,000 words, for example. For the first draft: Don't get up from your desk until you've met that goal. Even if it's wild sentences, or you find yourself on a tangent, write your 1,000 words, and don't judge just yet. You'll develop a habit of writing on schedule, and you'll at least have something to revise down the road. After 4 or 6 months, you'll have a big, baggy monster of a first draft...and you can put it aside for a while, and then jump back in to figure out what the story is, and cut away and revise, revise, revise. Think FLOW with your first draft. Keep the portal open.
  3. Save polishing for later. Resist the temptation to re-read and polish those opening pages. Some writers may work this way, but I think for many of us pushing through to the end is the best way to handle a first draft. You will be resistant to changing the opening if you invest too much time and energy in it. That first chapter or two will be reading better and better, but the fact is, the opening may eventually need to be discarded or moved.

WOW: You mentioned Secret Keepers took about four years from start to finish. Is it easier the second time around?

Mindy: I'm hoping the next one will take two years. Half-life, you know, like nuclear physics. [Now that's a subject I know a lot about!] Seriously, I didn't have a deadline, just a general sense of, "gotta make hay when the sun shines." My agent is terrific about not pressuring, and also being available to read drafts. It did help that my circumstances changed as far as work--I started freelance writing and teaching, which gave me a little more time. But most of all, I knew a little more about the process of writing a novel, the tenacity and discipline it takes, but most of all the pleasure as it starts to come together--as the characters reveal themselves through their actions.

WOW: Both of your books take place in a very distinct area. How did you capture the uniqueness of the South?

Mindy: Setting is important--I love setting. A sense of place often tells you loads about characters, and not just in the South, of course. Take William Kennedy's Albany in Ironweed, for example, and Steinbeck's California, Richard Russo's decaying textile towns in Maine, Annie Proulx's Wyoming, Stuart Dybek's Chicago. The characters have relationships and conflicts with PLACE as well as each other. The particular is universal--I think Eudora Welty said that. It's the common thread--that both snarls and binds--between human beings you try to capture.

WOW: How did you handle speech patterns? Did you attempt to recreate Southern speech or just trust that your readers' minds would fill in the Southern drawl?

Mindy: I write dialogue and conversations the way I hear them in my head. I probably don't always get them right, but I have fun doing it. I get to talk to myself and call it work. Syntax, the order and choice of words, is pretty powerful. "I was fixing to run up to the house" is what my grandmother says, instead of "I was about to go home."

I was born in the South, as were my parents and grandparents, but my father was in the Army, so we moved around some in my childhood. Lived in Germany for three years, then DC, then came back, plunk, in the middle of tenth grade. I'd been away long enough--and heard all sorts of regional speech patterns--that I was really hearing the southern accents with a stranger's ear. My first day back, in Homeroom, there was an announcement over the intercom and I laughed. I thought it was somebody doing an imitation or comedy routine. "Hey, Ya'll? There's gonna be a meetin' here real soon." But, after a while, I adjusted...picked up the Heys and Ya'lls all over again.

WOW: Did you learn anything the first time around that made you change how you publicized Secret Keepers? Aside from the wise choice of booking a WOW Blog Tour of course! ;)

Mindy: I learned to do everything I can to help readers know my book is out there. Because they can't read it if they haven't heard of it. Book touring, blog touring, book clubbing...I'm game. Publicity goes with the job description. It takes a whole different set of muscles from toiling in isolation at your desk with your gin & tonic.

Seriously, it's great fun to talk and correspond with readers--it's a real pleasure. People are so generous. I'm always amazed. The letters and emails from readers are so wonderful. I put them on my website. All I have to do is read them in dark moments, and I feel a surge of gratitude. My mother reads them, too.

Of course, there are those lonely days at a bookstore signing when you're sitting at the table with your giant stack of books and someone approaches you--and you get your pen ready--and they ask the most common question authors are asked on book tours: "Excuse me, but could you tell me where the restrooms are?" That's another reason I welcome blog touring, and am doing more of it this time around. The internet is your friend! Besides, speaking here as an author, a blog tour is a great way to meet a targeted group of folks who are readers, and who are interested in topics you are.

WOW: What's next? Another novel that visits the South? Or is it a deep dark secret--we know how much you and your characters treasure secrets!

Mindy: I'm drafting a novel that looks like it may be a prequel to The Garden Angel--about the life of the grandmother, Myrtle Ann. But I've got a couple of other ideas, too, so...I'm not sure what's next.

I'll probably go out and weed the lettuce and spinach this afternoon and come up with something.

WOW: Thank you, Mindy, for taking time to chat with us today! We wish you the best of luck on your tour for Secret Keepers.

Want to join Mindy on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

JUNE 1, 2009 Monday
Mindy chats with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. One lucky commenter will win copy of Mindy's book!

JUNE 2, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy stops by librarian-turned-author Jillian Clemmon's blog for an author interview! Find out more about Secret Keepers today.

JUNE 5, 2009 Friday
Mindy stops by Donna Volkenannt's blog, Donna's Book Pub, to chat about writing and publishing. Fiction writers delight!

JUNE 9, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy takes a trip to Japan to Suzanne Kamata's wonderful blog, Gaijin Mama, to chat about the importance of her book cover. Did you know Mindy took the photographs for both her book covers? I have to say, the book cover for Secret Keepers is one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen this year. This should be a fascinating post!

JUNE 10, 2009 Wednesday
Mindy stops by Mary Jo Campbell's blog, Writers Inspired, for an author interview and book comments contest giveaway! Stop by today and learn more about the inspiration behind Secret Keepers.

JUNE 12, 2009 Friday
It's time for Stacie Connerty, a.k.a. The Divine Miss Mommy, to tell us what she thinks of Mindy Friddle's Secret Keepers. Stacie's reviews are fantastic, so be sure to check out this post!

JUNE 15, 2009 Monday
Mindy stops by Joanne DeMaio's blog, Whole Latte Life, for an inspiring chat about her book cover design. Mindy knows a thing or two about the topic--both book cover photographs were taken by her. ;) There's also a comments contest--the "Seedy Character" Seed Packet Giveaway!

JUNE 16, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy is ready for her close up! Stop by for a special treat--Mindy will be featured in a video interview today! Be sure to stop by for this exclusive.

JUNE 17, 2009 Wednesday
Mindy stops by the PaperBackSwap blog to chat about family secrets and small town living. They are also holding a book giveaway contest! Stop by for a chance to win a copy of Secret Keepers.

JUNE 18, 2009 Thursday
Mindy stops by BookPage magazine's official editors' blog, The Book Case, for a special surprise guest post! We love the mag, so be sure to stop by today for some lively conversation.

JUNE 19, 2009 Friday
Mindy stops by one of our favorite sites, WordHustler, to chat with co-founder Anne Walls about the craft of writing, publishing, and freelancing! Not to miss!

JUNE 23, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy stops by Joi Sigers' blog, Self Help Daily, to chat about how she turns to nature to relieve stress. She celebrates nature with her photography and snapped the shots that became the covers of both her novels.

JUNE 24, 2009 Wednesday
Mindy stops by Blonde Blogger's blog, So a Blonde Walks Into a Review, for a surprise guest post and Seedy Character Seed Packet Giveaway Contest!

JUNE 26, 2009 Friday
When she's not writing Mindy is enjoying the outdoors. Today she gives readers ideas for establishing a backyard wildlife habitat at Fatal Foodies!

We may have more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE to keep up with the latest.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you would like to host one of our authors, or are an author looking to schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a signed copy of Mindy Friddle's hardcover novel, Secret Keepers.

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