Miss You Once Again came about because of several converging events. First, my own dear Nana, who the Nana in this book is loosely based upon, passed away during the fall of 2010.
During the many family gatherings that happened after her death it was interesting to hear remembrances of Nana’s younger years. The memories most familiar to me were those of an older Nana, but these stories reminded me that she’d had this exciting, interesting life decades before I met her. I so wished that I could have met this younger Nana face to face and talked with her about the realities of young adulthood during World War II.
Second, my sister and her family relocated to Mississippi around this time and the level of “culture shock” she experienced as a Colorado girl living in the South intrigued me. It also served to unlock many forgotten memories from my childhood when my family would visit my mother’s relatives in the southern states. Fireflies, small towns (where everyone knew everyone), sweet tea and humidity fascinated me, being so different from my own Western upbringing.
Lastly, in the midst of raising my own daughter I continue to marvel at the interplay of nurture versus nature. It shocks me to see so many traits (both good and bad!) in my daughter that I saw in both Nana and myself. The three of us grew up in very different environments, yet we all seem to have similar strengths and Achilles heels. This reality made me wonder how much of personality lies in our genetic code.
Finish this sentence: My favorite thing about the South is:
watching fireflies on spring evenings on the front porch (with a glass of sweet tea, of course!)
Can you share a little about your writing process for the book?
The rough draft of this story came from a NaNoWriMo project (National Novel Writing Month). The thing I absolutely love about NaNoWriMo is that you have just one short month to churn out 50,000 words. Because of this time constraint, I really had to silence my inner editor and felt a complete freedom to write whatever popped into my brain, no matter how random. I think this is where a lot of the Southern flavor of the book came in. Normally I might edit out some of those details, but because I needed to hit my word limit each day, I could be very descriptive and flowery with the setting and dialogue. With Miss You Once Again, I wasn’t entirely sure of where the story was going, so I did not outline it. That, combined with my NaNoWriMo “flamboyance” meant that the rough draft took A LOT of editing to get publish ready. It was a great experience, but very time consuming. I now outline all my new manuscript ideas because of how long it took!
What is a favorite scene from the book and why?
My favorite scene is where John Hunter walks Lee home from her first dinner at Granny Bob’s house and Lee discovers the fireflies. There is something very visceral and sensual about this scene. To me fireflies evoke childhood memories of forbidden pleasures–staying up past bedtime and catching mysterious glowing bugs in a mason jar. At the same time watching fireflies glow in the summer twilight is an incredibly romantic setting, one I can instantly picture myself in with my own Romeo. It’s a perfect juxtaposition of childhood innocence and adult romantic love, a place where John Hunter and Lee are tangled up for most of the novel.
What do you hope readers get from your book?
I hope readers are able to immerse themselves in a sweet, slow-moving Southern town, one that might inspire them to savor small pleasures and take breaks from life’s frantic pace. I also hope that readers come away with a sense of purpose and hope. Purpose–that we should never take the treasure of day-to-day life for granted. And hope–that it’s never to late to mend a broken relationship, to put yourself out there (even if you fail!) and to live your best life.
Anything else you want to add?
This book forced me to put myself in another generation’s shoes (my grandmother’s), something that made me appreciate both her and the blessings of my own life even more. It has challenged me to ask more people from older generations about their stories–there is so much to learn from and enjoy in their experiences. I encourage you to do the same; the stories of their journeys can help ground all of us in the things of life that really matter.
Kelly is also the author of Granny Bob’s Homestyle Cooking, a fun tribute to the south and her Nana and is written from the point of view of a character in Miss You Once Again.