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  • From my Garden...

    Anna visits with fans at Lemuria books, Jackson, MS

    Anna, doing a reading at Square Books, Oxford, MS

    Anna doing a reading at Barnes & Noble in Tupelo, MS

    Did you know?
    • Anna loves to play blues on her piano
    • She is a Master Gardener
    • She designed and planted her own gardens
    • Her most famous ancestor is Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine
    • She wishes she could wear her tiara while she tells people what to do

    Fun Facts about Anna
    • Favorite place - my front porch swing
    • Age Ė Youíve got to be kidding!
    • Favorite food - lobster with butter
    • Height - Iím five feet, five and a half inches, but you can picture me as somebody who looks like Julia Roberts.
    • Favorite drink Ė hot chocolate made from scratch
    • Favorite city to visit - Huntsville, Alabama, for many reasons
    • Biggest Secret Ė It wouldnít be a secret if I told you
    • Age Ė Okay, Iíll admit to being older than Julia, but I insist that you picture me that way.
    • Favorite person Ė Oh, come on now. You know I canít name names. I might forget somebody, and then theyíd never speak to me again. Letís just say I have lots of favorite people! Who knows, you might be one of them!

    Conversation with Anna Michaels

    Q. The Tender Mercy of Roses is set in Huntsville, Alabama. Why there?

    A. The town fascinates me. The Saturn Five rocket dominates the skyline and says that amazing things are happening in the city. I wanted to tap into that feeling with my novel. I wanted the physical terrain to be as monumental as the emotional terrain.

    Q. Who is your favorite character in the novel?

    A. All of them. I love all my characters and donít want to hurt feelings by playing favorites.

    Q. Come on. Give it a shot. Iím sure your characters will understand.

    A. Iíll have to admit that every time Pony Jones came onstage, my fingers fairly flew across the keyboard. I ADORE her. Sheís sassy without being smart-mouthed and wise without being overbearing. I love her never-give-up attitude, and I love that she had dreams which she kept secret, even from her beloved father. It was very easy for me to fall into Ponyís voice.

    Q. What are your connections to rodeo? Was Pony based on a real rodeo cowgirl?

    A. I grew up around horses and remember the excitement of going to rodeos as a child. One of my nephews is a weekend cowboy who occasionally enters rodeo competitions. After Pony came onto the scene wearing red cowgirl boots, I researched rodeo and discovered that in 2001 a Native American cowgirl had broken the men-only barrier to saddle bronco riding. At that time, it was considered too dangerous for women to compete in the event against men in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit. It seemed to me that the next step for women would be breaking the barrier to bull riding in the PRCA, and so my rodeo cowgirl was born!

    Q. You use magical realism in this novel, primarily through the Cherokee rose. Why did you choose the Cherokee rose?

    A. The rose chose me. Though I like to think Iím in charge of my story, Iíve discovered that the most remarkable elements simply find me. I had no plan to use the Cherokee rose or any other rose in this novel. But in Ponyís first monologue, the Cherokee rose burst into bloom. Once the idea took root, I simply let it grow. I know all that sounds mystical and slightly woo woo; but the fact is, the best parts of a novel are created in the unconscious mind. When I show up to work, place my hands on the keyboard and lose myself in the writing zone (the right side of the brain), magic happens.

    Q. Do you have a writing ritual, something you do to prepare yourself for a dayís work?

    A. Absolutely! I have to have music, a cup of hot chocolate made from scratch and a view of my gardens. Iím like Pavlovís dog; these three things trigger my creative juices. I wrote The Tender Mercy of Roses to the music of Marina Rayeís Native American flute. I make the hot chocolate with seventy percent dark cocao, a dash of cinnamon and hot pepper, two percent milk and Splenda.

    Q. Where did you get idea for this book?

    A. I donít know. Itís magic.

    Q. Come on. There must be more to it than that. The Tender Mercy is unique, both in story and form. How did that happen?

    A. Actually, the book started with Jo Beth Dawson and her two best friends going to the rodeo. The writing flowed, the story was fun, but something was missing, something I couldnít identify. Enter the Great Unconscious Mind! I literally dreamed Pony. She awakened me from sound sleep, talking a mile a minute. I raced to my office to take dictation. The next morning, all my notes were there. Pony changed everything Ė the story, the form, even the characters. She brought with her a Native American heritage, a host of characters I had to get to know, magical realism, murder and one of the most unique voices in American fiction. I can say that, I hope, because she is pure magic. It seemed that I had very little to do with who she was or what she said. Every time Pony appeared on the pages, I took dictation.

    Q. I agree. Pony is magic, but I love Titus Jones, too. What about him?

    A. You caught me. Titus was like Pony. When he was onstage, he just took over and I took notes. He presented himself on the top of Doe Mountain in Tennessee, listening to the silence and watching the miracle of roses unfold.

    Q. And Jo Beth?

    A. Same thing. Listen, if I hadnít gained six pounds drinking hot chocolate while I wrote The Tender Mercy of Roses, Iíd think I had nothing to do with this book, that my characters did all the writing.

    Q. Hmmm. Maybe thatís what makes these characters seem so real, like people youíd want to sit down with and have Ė well, a cup of hot chocolate. Do you have a writing schedule?

    A. I hate schedules. Do I have to have one?

    Q. Not if you donít want to. But tell us how you did it. Conceived this story and then wrote it? Did you reward yourself when you finished?

    A. Letís talk about rewards first. I like them, and yes, I rewarded myself with small pleasures for every milestone Ė a chapter completed, a weekly page quota met. And sometimes, just because. Iíd sit on the front porch a while and listen to birds, or Iíd go to see a movie and have a big bag of buttered popcorn, or Iíd slip off for lunch with girlfriends.

    Q. You forgot about the schedule.

    A. Okay. Usually the writing sang across the pages and I didnít have to create a schedule. Sometimes, though, Iíd hit a blank wall, and so I realized I had to have some form of discipline. So I set weekly page quotas.

    Q. Whatís next for Anna Michaels? Are you writing another book?

    A. Yes, Iím writing. Dozens of characters are running around in my mind, clamoring to be heard. Currently, Iím hearing the voices of some characters youíre going to love, but I canít talk about them yet.

    Q. Why not?

    A. In the creation of book, the energy between author and character is very high. If I talk about it too much, the energy dissipates. I can tell you this, though. Iím extraordinarily excited about my next novel. It will be filled with the same combination of magic and wonder as The Tender Mercy of Roses. Itís going to knock your socks off!

    Q. Wow! You know that already?

    A. Absolutely! I think Ponyís positive attitude has rubbed off on me.