It always gives me a kind of emotional ache when I read about people's almost-success ending in death before achieving it. Not being able to grab your true dreams in life lingers in everybody's mind as if they affected them too in a way.
If you like immersive, action-packed stories that turn pages, with a focus on the relationships between well-drawn characters, put To Live Forever at the top of your reading list. Reviewers consistently say they couldn’t put this book down. New York Times Bestselling Author Cassandra King endorsed it as a book unlike any other.
2 What is the best thing of writing about life after death?
I can write with an unfettered imagination. We don’t know what happens after we die, making anything I create a possibility. It removes some of the restrictions of life and allows me to imagine without boundaries.
3 Name three surprising aspects of this novel.
1. It doesn’t follow a conventional formula, making many of the twists true surprises for the reader. 2. I’ve read the end hundreds of times, and I still cry, not because it’s sad. It’s the happiest ending I could have imagined. 3. I’ve been surprised by the number of people who loved To Live Forever when they thought they’d hate it.
4 What's the most unusual thing you discovered when researching for this novel?
In initial drafts, the Judge was a caricature villain. I really struggled to bring him to life. It was only when I searched for Meriwether Lewis’ true enemies in life that I uncovered a person for the Judge to be, someone from history who was abominable, yet managed to work for the first five Presidents of the United States. He even led the United States Army and simultaneously took over a million dollars as a spy for the Spanish crown. The man who became the Judge lived life with delicious perniciousness. Beyond history geeks, he’s a man who’s been totally forgotten. I hope my novel has given him new life, because we can only live forever if we’re remembered by the living.
5 How did you become a writer?
My consulting practice virtually dried up in the economic downturn. I was bored, frustrated and forty, a lethal combination. :) I started writing a blog to give myself a creative outlet. While I never got my break that turned me into The Bloggess, I built a respectable following. I used my blog as a daily writing exercise and finally saw a way to write a novel: a piece at a time.
I still have difficulty calling myself a writer, by the way. I’ve taken a total of one creative writing class in my life. I don’t have an MFA. I don’t hang out with other writers, unless one counts my online community. I don’t know how to do many of the things that are standards for writing school. But several literary people have told me that’s what makes my voice stand out. I don’t do what writers would be taught to do in specific situations, because I don’t know those rules. My ignorance forces unexpected combinations of words and evolutions of plot. I hope some of it works.
6 What is one of your best experiences with fans?
Gosh, I’ve already had so many. But I think I would have to say when readers were willing to spend money and travel hundreds of miles to walk part of the Natchez Trace with me.
That answer requires an explanation.
To launch To Live Forever, I became the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. I walked 15 miles a day, 6 days a week, for 34 days, dodging vehicular traffic at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour. (Note: There is no walking trail. The Trace is a highway today.)
To Live Forever is set on the Trace, a 10,000-year-old road and one of the oldest things we have as Americans. I thought it might be fun to walk the Trace and take readers into the world of the book.
Fun. Ha. Shows how stupid I am. I almost died on my walk.
Several readers read To Live Forever and wanted to walk portions of the Trace with me. People came to Tennessee from as far away as Massachusetts and New York, and I even entertained the possibility of having a reader from Canada. It was moving to realize that To Live Forever made people enthusiastic enough about the Trace to want to experience it for themselves.
7 What are your writing goals for the rest of 2014?
I am writing a memoir about my Natchez Trace walk. It’s called Not Without My Father, because my eighty-year-old dad went with me for five weeks. We had an unforgettable adventure together in the twilight of his life.
Not Without My Father is about my walk, but it’s also about taking the time to make memories with the people who are important to us before it’s too late. I almost didn’t have that opportunity.
Advance reader copies of Not Without My Father will be available October 1, 2014. If any reader is interested in obtaining an ARC for advance review, contact my publisher at publisher(at)wordhermitpress(dot)com. Click here to see Word Hermit Press’ ARC guidelines:
Thanks so much for hosting me on Literaria. Your questions were a fun challenge.
Thank you for your wonderful words! :o)
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Publisher: World Hermit Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: General Fiction/Paranormal
Genre: General Fiction/Paranormal
Is remembrance immortality?
Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.
Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.
Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another. An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.
Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.
It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.
Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.
To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?
After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.
About the Author
Hey. I’m Andra Watkins. I’m a native of Tennessee, but I’m lucky to call Charleston, South Carolina, home for 23 years. I’m the author of ‘To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis’, coming March 1, 2014. It’s a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.
eating (A lot; Italian food is my favorite.)
traveling (I never met a destination I didn’t like.)
reading (My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.)
coffee (the caffeinated version) and COFFEE (sex)
performing (theater, singing, public speaking, playing piano)
time with my friends
Sirius XM Chill
yoga (No, I can’t stand on my head.)
writing in bed
I don’t like:
getting up in the morning
cilantro (It is the devil weed.)
surprises (For me or for anyone else.)
Natchez Trace Walk
The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.
To launch To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I am the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did since the rise of steam power in the 1820′s. From March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014, I walked fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I spent each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.
Do you like paranormal adventures bases on true characters, book buddies?