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May 4, 2014

Eva Marie Everson: The Scent of My Mother

Posted by emily

Eva Marie Everson is a multiple award-winning, bestselling novelist whose latest work, THE ROAD TO TESTAMENT, was born out of her many getaways to North Carolina and the writer’s favorite question, “What if…?” It wasn’t until she turned 40 that the writing bug bit, but the seeds had been planted at a young age, when her mother would allow a restless Eva Marie to read instead of nap. Through the years, both her parents enthusiastically encouraged her writing; her mother’s faith in her was so firm that she offered to “hold her extra pen at book signings” even before Eva Marie had sold her first manuscript. When Eva Marie needed details for a story about a 1950s housewife, she knew exactly who to ask: her mother. That book, THIS FINE LIFE, remains to this day Eva Marie’s favorite, because it reminds her of her mother and this fine life she willed for her.

When I was a little girl, my mother believed in afternoon naps. After becoming a mother myself, I don't believe it was so that my brother and I could rest as much as it was that Mother needed a nap herself.

We had a fairly decent library in our sleepy Mayberry-esque town, one with a bookmobile that came around to the school during the academic year and offered reading clubs and contests during the summer. Although my mother wasn't "big" on reading herself, she encouraged my brother and me to "do better at it" than she had. Thus, when it came naptime and I moaned, "But I'm not sleeeeep-y," she'd respond with, "Then read a book."

Which is what I did, pulling the top book I’d gotten from the library from the “not-yet-read” pile.

My father and I were the only readers in the family, and Daddy's was nearly always work-oriented. But me? My reading was about joy! You'd find me with a book before you'd find me with a friend...and I had a lot of friends. As the years rolled by and my talent for penning words became obvious, both my parents encouraged me to "keep reading" and to "keep writing." Somehow they knew this was the right combination to being a good writer.

I turned 40 before the writing bug bit so hard I could no longer ignore it. I did what writers did back then --- I opened the Writers Market Guide and sent my work to every editor who I thought might be interested. My father said, “You can do this,” and my mother told me she'd "hold my extra pen at book signings." I guess she thought there’d be such a line of fans that the pen I started out with would run slap out of ink.

I remember the day I received a letter from a Senior Acquisitions Editor from one of the "big boy" publishing houses, telling me he’d received my manuscript (the kind you put in the manila envelope with a SASE), and he was both intrigued and interested. I jumped up and down and then called my mother. As soon as she answered the phone I asked, "Are you ready to hold my pen?"

Over the years my mother has "held my pen" quite often at book signings. Or collected the money at craft fairs. Or stood on the sidelines telling folks she "always knew I'd do something special one day.” Came as no surprise to her.

In 2009, I signed my umpteenth contract for a novel set in the 1950s, titled THIS FINE LIFE, which tells the story of Mariette, a young girl who falls madly in love, marries too quickly, and then discovers it takes more for a marriage to survive than passion. Every evening, after I'd typed out as many words as I could for the day, I'd call my mother and ask her questions about the everyday housewife of the 1950s, knowing she had been one. She reminded me about "wash day" and hanging laundry on the line. About bringing the clothes in, sprinkling them with water, rolling them up and putting them in the refrigerator to be ironed the next day. She explained to me how, in the late 1950s, an Irish Catholic senator from Massachusetts grew in popularity in the Protestant South. She drew me in with her words, and then I took those words and turned them into Mariette's story.

The book released May 1, 2010, and I made sure my mother received the first copy. The one “hot off the press.” Now, she called me every night, telling me how far she had gotten in the book and how she remembered telling me this and that, and how well I'd incorporated her stories into Mariette's. 

Before the month was out, Mother and I enjoyed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (she was there to relax; I was on faculty). One minute she and I were laughing, and the next...or perhaps the one after that...she was gone. A few days later, my brother and I laid our mother to rest for her final nap. I tucked her copy of THIS FINE LIFE in the casket beside her.

I get two questions a lot: 1) Where did you get your talent (answer: my father, who passed away in 2006); and 2) which book, out of all those you have seen published, is your favorite? The answer will always be THIS FINE LIFE, because this is the one I can open and catch the scent of my mother.