Interview: Bonnie J. Glover

by Rachel Baker on September 24, 2008

bonnie gloverBonnie Glover is the author of The Middle Sister, published by Ballantine/OneWorld in May 2005. It was longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award.  Her second novel, Going Down South, is an inspirational story about second chances at realizing the unparalleled love exists between mothers and daughters.

Bonnie was born on October 10 in Florence, Alabama, though raised in Brooklyn, New York.  She attended Florida A & M University School of Business and Industry (SBI) in Tallahassee, Florida. Bonnie was accepted to Stetson University College of Law and she graduated with a Juris Doctorate degree.  She is currently an attorney/mediator and lives in Florida with her husband and two sons.

On top of everything going on in her life, she also finds time to sit for interviews. Without further ado, I give you Bonnie Glover – mother, mediator, screamer of inspirational pick-me-ups at soccer games, and author.

OMB: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

BJG: At the moment I really love Ha Jin and some of his older works like WAITING and IN THE POND.  He has a great sense of humor and is writing with English as his second language and yet is able to craft wonderful novels. I also love Dorothy Allison, Octavia Butler and Toni Cade Bambara.  I’m a pretty eclectic reader.

OMB: What inspired you to write your first book?

BJG: I had written a short story and an editor I hired to help me work through what might be publishable gave me some interesting critical feedback, suggesting that the story might be novel material.  It was closely related to a theme I wanted to explore: how being fatherless might impact girls and a book I read by Dorothy Allison, BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA.  I sat down and started to write one day, to expand the short story and I liked the feeling.  It was like putting together a big puzzle, especially since I didn’t have a sense of how or even whether I should write in a linear fashion.  It seemed easier to me to think of the scenes, write them and then piece everything together.

OMB: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

BJG: For me, the hardest part of completing any book related task is to assure myself that I am a writer and that although I love, love and love again, my family, I have to have my space.  That means saying to myself that I can’t do all and be all for them all the time.  I must work on my writing and saying “no” every once in a while won’t hurt or make my children hate me.

OMB: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

BJG: Patience is a key to any relationship, even the relationship between an author and her characters.  It takes time to develop the proper setting, the proper dialog, etc.  You might not get it right the first time, the second or even third.  But it is important to keep on until you get it as right as you can.  I think if I ever wrote what I thought to be a perfect paragraph or even a perfect sentence, I’d give it all up and go fold clothes.  Then I’d probably look to make the perfect crease. Ha!

OMB: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

BJG: I’d change  a few things because as a writer, I am a  mental perfectionist and when a scene doesn’t ring true I obsess over it.  So, yes, I’d change something but I’m not going to tell what!

OMB: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

BJG: I suffer from life happening and being a mother sometimes.  When I can get my family all down for the night, I’m usually all right.  Those nights that I can’t quite get things to work the way I want them to, I’ll write a few lines and then I’ll read.  That helps.  And then, I’ll meditate.

OMB: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

BJG: Good writing depends heavily on good reading habits, the ability to take in criticism, translate it and then transform it to something meaningful in your writing.

OMB: How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

BJG: I wish I did have a formula.  My inspiration generally starts as this feeling in my stomach that I just have to put something down on paper about a topic.  It grows from there.  In GOING DOWN SOUTH,  the theme was teenage pregnancy, family, motherhood.  I started to see scenes in my head and they blossomed on paper.

OMB: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

BJG: For me it is quiet space and time.  Other than that, I love paper, the feel and smell of it.

OMB: What do you do to unwind and relax?

BJG: I go to soccer games and have a good time hollering and screaming; not bad things, but encouraging things.  I just do it very loudly.  I also listen to music and I have been going to the gym more.  Writing on your bottom all day produces a bigger bottom.

OMB: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing? Any special memories that you would like to share?

BJG: I haven’t made my first million yet, so I can’t share that fond memory.  But I do remember being invited to speak to a group of high school students.  That was wonderful.  A young girl approached me after the program and talked to me about writing.  I was very gratified then and inspired because (according to her), I inspired her to keep on.  What could feel better than that?

OMB: If you could leave your readers with one legacy, what would you want it to be?

BJG: Perhaps I’d leave them with the thought of how important family is and that if you don’t have one, create one.  It is within your power.  And, contrary to what some people believe, family can transcend the traditional.  Love can make it happen for you.

OMB: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

BJG: At night, I write fresh material and during the day, I play editor.  It also depends on deadlines, etc.

OMB: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

BJG: While I’m writing a sentence, if I misspell a word and notice it, I have to go back  immediately and correct it or else I’m no good for the next sentence.

OMB: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

BJG: Information can be found on the internet or, if not, from names of people on the internet.  My ideas are very personal and sometimes fleeting.  I begin to see a scene my head.  The scenes are vivid and seems as if they stay with me until I commit them to paper.

OMB: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

BJG: Fold clothes, mop, dust, clean, wash dishes, sweep, grocery shop, etc.  Oh, you said what do I like to do?  Read other writers.  I love to read.

OMB: How has your environment/upbringing influenced your writing?

BJG: My first book, THE MIDDLE SISTER, was right to the point.  I lived the Brooklyn life depicted in it – maybe not some of the wilder things that Pam and her sisters did but I rode the Pitkin Avenue bus, I sat in the guidance counselor’s office at school and felt he didn’t know me or where I was coming from.  In GOING DOWN SOUTH,  there is a scene where Birdie is held with Daisy at the local police station because she had been caught selling moon shine.  That happened to me with my mother, who was notorious for selling moon shine and beer in the county.
While a lot of fiction is totally made up, there is always (in my work, at least), that  portion which is partly autobiographical.  But, an author will most likely be hard pressed to admit it.  The illusion is always so much more glamorous than reality.

OMB: What do you think makes a good story?

BJG: I’d have to say that I have to identify with the character and understand what makes her tick.  If you get me there, I will cry when she cries, love when she loves and hate when she hates.  But an author has got to get me to share the same skin first.  Sometimes that is a very difficult thing to do.  We (authors) struggle with that on a daily basis.

OMB: Why did you choose to write your first book?

BJG: I was out of work for a few months having relocated from Florida to New Jersey and it was cold as hell outside.  I got a space heater, put it at my feet and started writing.  I had an area about as big as half of a small bathroom behind a sofa in the living room.  So, to answer your question, I was out of work, bored and didn’t have any friends that I could talk to anymore.  They were tired of my complaints about the New Jersey weather.  Come to think of it, I might be in the same boat  now.  Some things never, ever change.

OMB: What was the hardest part about writing this book?

BJG: Revisions.  Sometimes I thought if I looked at the novel one more time I’d throw it out.

OMB: Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

BJG: I have two short story collections that I beginning to work myself through – Tricia Dower’s SILENT GIRL and Susan O’Neil’s DON’T MEAN NOTHNG.

OMB: Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why?

BJG: Look out for Chimamanda Adichie, Carleen Brice and Preston Allen.  Their work is fresh and vivid.  For a more relaxing, funny read, I really enjoy N. M. Kelby.  In detective fiction, I love R. N. Morris.

OMB: When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?

BJG: First, I hope to write until they take the pen (computer) out of my hand.  I would like them to say that I was able to make people think and to transport minds to other places.  That would be a great honor for me – someone to say that I took them away from where they were and they came back better for their journey.

Bonnie, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!

You can find Bonnie and excerpts from Going Down South and The Middle Sister at her official website

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