Mama Reads: Save My Place by Olivia deBelle Byrd with an exclusive author interview!

Today it is my pleasure to bring your attention to Save My Place, debut novel by Olivia deBelle Byrd

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About the book:
Save My Place by Olivia deBelle Byrd (Historical Romance)
ISBN: 978-0-88146-501-3
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Date of publish: September 1, 2014
Pages: 154
S.R.P.: $15.00

Synopsis:
A love story set in the South during the 1960s and 70s against the backdrop of the Vietnam War

Panama City, FL — Save My Place is a rare find, the kind of inspirational, old-fashioned novel you can’t wait to recommend to your friends, says Cassandra King, best-selling novelist and author of Same Sweet Girls Guide to Life. Gracefully, tenderly, Olivia Byrd has penned an uplifting story of love, loss, and the courage to carry on despite the inevitable heartbreaks life brings our way.

Blessed with an innate optimism and a magical childhood, Elisabeth Belle Sterling discovers that the path to happily-ever-after love is not as easily obtained as she had always imagined. The Camelot-like love she longs for seems like only a dream until she meets the handsome Kincaid Patterson, a West Point graduate who carries a dark secret from his past.

Theirs is a passionate and unconditional love that has to confront a painful past, heart-searing separation, and the greatest of all tragedies. But the biggest obstacle is the loss of faith that threatens to undermine all that they have.

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Mama’s Thoughts:

It is rare than someone can garner so much delight within little more than 150 pages, but Olivia deBelle Byrd manages a striking amount of emotion none the less.  I fell in love with her lilting way of writing much the way Elisabeth falls in love with her Kincaid- swiftly and irrevocably.  Moving chronologically through the main character’s life we find ourselves amidst international turmoil and internal struggle.  I was not for a second unattached or disengaged from the story and only wished I had prepared myself with a better stash of tissues and fuzzy slippers.  This is the sort of book that I would want my younger sister to have before going off to college, as well as my mother who likes a decent sweet romance.  Though the author definitely has religious ties you never feel as if you are being told you have to believe any particular thing.  You keenly feel the emotions coming off the page and have to remind yourself it’s not your life- Elisabeth was so utterly charismatic yet imperfect enough to capture my heart completely.  It is my sincere pleasure to have read a review copy of this book thanks to the author, and I can honestly give it 5 stars without remorse or hesitancy.

Interview with Olivia deBelle Byrd

Tell us a little about yourself.

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.

What was your favorite part of the writing process?

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.

What are you currently reading?

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!

How many books do you normally read at a time?

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!

Your new book, SAVE MY PLACE, is so very different from your first book, MISS HILDRETH WORE BROWN. How did this story begin to germinate?

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.

In SAVE MY PLACE you wrote, very convincingly, about “Old Panama City Beach”, which is where you are from, and the Vietnam era.  Did you write from personal experience?

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.

 

There was 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!

Why the nom de plume?

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

About the author:
Olivia deBelle Byrd is a humorist and sought-after speaker who delights audiences with hilarious stories of her beloved South by turning ordinary happenings into entertainment. Her first book of humorous essays, Miss Hildreth Wore Brown: Anecdotes of a Southern Belle, was the winner of the Florida Publishers Association Book Awards. Byrd is the third generation of her family
to call Panama City, Florida, where she resides with her husband, Tommy.

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