Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Olivia deBelle Byrd whose book Save My Place entertained and compelled me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love historical but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Olivia deBelle Byrd, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Olivia deBelle Byrd will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Olivia deBelle Byrd!
Olivia deBelle Byrd knows what it is like to grow up amid Southern traditions, and her most recent book, Save My Place, is a coming-of-age story that earned the 2015 Gold Medal for Florida Fiction from the Florida Publishers Association and a second Gold Medal for Cover Design. Olivia’s first book of humorous anecdotes, Miss Hildreth Wore Brown—Anecdotes of a Southern Belle, was awarded two Silver Medals from the Florida Publishers Association. Olivia has delighted audiences across the South with her humorous vignettes and tales of classic Southern personalities you are sure to appreciate. The daughter of one of the first Pepsi bottlers in the South, Olivia is a longtime resident of Panama City, where she lives with her husband Tommy, and today, in addition to writing, she enjoys visiting family (including three grandchildren) in Austin, Texas.
Now, how wonderful does Olivia deBelle Byrd sound?! Olivia deBelle Byrd is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of Olivia deBelle Byrd work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and Olivia deBelle Byrd, I hope that you enjoy Olivia deBelle Byrd’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
My new book, Save My Place, was published by Mercer University Press. It is a sweet, old-fashioned love story taking place in the South in the 1960s and 70s against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. It is the love story of Elisabeth Belle Sterling and Kincaid Patterson who search deep within their souls to save each other through their faith and devotion. The 1960s and 70s were my “coming of age” era—high school, college, marriage, children—and I have wonderful memories of that time and thoroughly enjoyed writing about it. Baby boomers will love the pop culture found in this book of that era—the music, books, TV shows, movies, dress, the social and sexual mores that are so different now. The Vietnam War was a very pivotal and impressionable time for my generation so I set the book around that time. I like to say this book is for the love story in all of us
My writing is what I know best—humor and the South. Since I was raised by a Southern father and grandmother of uncommon wit, the fabric of my childhood was laced with humor. I grew up surrounded by marvelous tales of Southern grande dames and eccentric Southern gentlemen. I have loved the art of storytelling as long as I can remember. I was well into midlife before I became a serious writer. When I finally put pen to paper, the stories poured forth as though an age-old tap had been discovered and turned on. I loved the gush of warm and euphoric remembrances and seeing those memories transposed into the written word.
Lives have many forks in the road, but becoming a published author was a U-turn in mine. The world of publishing has taken me down many new paths. My readers have been my inspiration. They have made the lost sleep, uncertainty, and long hours worth it all. I have made new friends and renewed old friendships. I have found family I never knew existed. I have been in love with the written word as long as I can remember and to use it to bring pleasure to others is the greatest pleasure of all.
There are no shortcuts and no replacement for hard work and discipline. The publishing business is extremely tough and competitive. Grow a thick skin and develop tenacity. If you believe in your writing, do not give up.
I was born and bred in Panama City, Florida, on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle. My grandfather, Wyatt Oates Byrd, moved to Panama City in 1930 to open a Nehi Bottling Company. I graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, am a former elementary school teacher and was a stay-at-home mom for my children, Tommy Jr and Elizabeth. My husband, Tommy, and I still reside in Panama City.
Being raised by a Southern father and grandmother of uncommon wit, humor flowed as freely as water from a faucet in our household. When I finally put pen to paper, the stories poured forth as though an age-old tap had been discovered and turned on. I loved the gush of warm and euphoric remembrances and seeing these memories transposed into the written word.
The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan. It is a wonderful love story of two Harvard students who fall in love on the eve of World War I and face a world at war on opposing sides. At a recent trade show, I was on a war panel with Allegra. She is a delight and the book is brilliant. Now, why a Southern humorist and self-proclaimed Southern belle like myself was on a WAR panel is another story!
I only read one book at a time from beginning to end and I read for details. I want it all! Once I start a good book, I am lost to the world. When my children were young, I did not dare start a book until they went to bed or they might end up playing in traffic!
My first book was what I like to call ‘real life’ fiction—things that really happened—but I embellished them with anecdotes. With this first novel, Save My Place, I started with the main character, who actually began talking to me and telling me about her life. Eventually, I had to get her story on paper, and that’s when I got up in the middle of the night and wrote about her first, with a lot of character development.
I don’t believe writers are ever sure as to how things actually come about in a story. The college and teaching experiences contain some true stories, but with the introduction of Kincaid, it definitely becomes completely fiction.
Panama City Beach is definitely part of my history. We used to have house parties here, and my descriptions of the motels were spot on, because those experiences were really true.
Vietnam was very pivotal for me when I was in college. The draft was unsettling for everyone, but men were able to get deferments in some cases. Even though I lived through the war, I did a great deal of research, because the timeline was very important. I researched battles and interviewed someone who served, twice, in Vietnam. I also talked to a West Point graduate, because it’s the little details that made the story more true to life.
Along those same lines, in SAVE MY PLACE the experience of losing a child to leukemia was very sad but eventually brought your characters to a deeper faith. What was your motivation with this part of the story line?
A friend had a portrait of her daughter, who had died, and she talked so beautifully, and handled it with such grace, I never forget her, her story, and how she handled it. Before I included this part in the book, I found my friend on the Internet; we renewed our friendship; and, she gave me permission to use her experience. I also interviewed a physician from M.D. Anderson who was able to share the appropriate protocols, and walked me through what would have been done in the 70s.
And, yes, the experience was what turned Kincaid to God. I wanted to impart that it was a child who brought him to seek God and an understanding of faith.
There was also an extremely poignant chapter about a teacher. Is that part of your history as well, or did you pick it out of the headlines?
Having the character shave her head was complete fiction. However, I did teach school for seven years, and actually made the dress I mentioned and had the kids decorate it. We did make the newspaper!
I didn’t make it up, because it’s my actual maiden name, and was too good to waste! I really liked what Melinda Rainey Thompson, author of SWAG: SOUTHERN WOMEN AGING GRACEFULLY said about the name: ‘The first thing I liked about SAVE MY PLACE was the author’s name: Olivia deBelle Byrd. If you can’t make it as a writer in the South with a name like that, well, you’re not really trying, are you?’
Learn more about Olivia at www.oliviadebellebyrd.com
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Olivia deBelle Byrd! If you have liked what you have read about Olivia deBelle Byrd and are interested in learning more about Olivia deBelle Byrd and reading Olivia deBelle Byrd’s work, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the previews too! You will not regret it.
Olivia deBelle Byrd: Website