Genre: Short Stories / Literary Fiction / West Texas
Publisher: Midtown Publishing, Inc.
Date of Publication: May 11, 2017
Number of Pages: 206
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Characters in the eleven stories in Nowhere Near act in ways that some might call “divinest madness.” Some of them have been pushed near their limits by years of stress. Others mourn and grieve and discover feelings they can’t admit aloud. A sense of duty drives another to believe in aliens, at least for a while. Some of their behavior is simply laughable, other flirts with death, and the rest ranges from dangerous to near heroic. These characters vary widely, yet all have in common that they live in or come from West Texas, where spaces are wider and tolerance for strangeness seems just a bit greater. Whether readers agree these characters are nowhere near crazy, they may admit they all are doing what humans do—what makes sense to them at the time.
Praise for Nowhere Near:
“Teddy Jones writes about plainspoken people whose lives are entangled and wrought and marked by routine—routines they cherish, routines they wish to escape—and who glimpse, now and again, a sense of something beyond their ability to reason. The stories in Nowhere Near are deep, honest, and unsentimental, and they pierce you to the bone.—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown & The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards
“There’s so much goodness in these stories, the kind of goodness that grows out of characters who endure hard lessons leading them to revelations and deep understanding. You’ll find real people here, with real heartaches and mistakes and regrets. With language as true as music, a steady and perceptive eye, and at times a blazing humor, Teddy Jones creates fully imagined and realized worlds. Subtly, she makes strangeness ordinary and the ordinary strange. You will recognize the people in this book the way you recognize your own neighbors and friends and co-workers and family: full of annoying quirks and surprises and, finally, a saving grace.”—Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell From the Sky
"Teddy Jones is the real deal. With her characteristic wit and goodhearted characters, Jones draws a bead on West Texas life as it's currently lived. Her precise ear for the rhythms of life and language guides the reader confidently from dry land farming to the double life of dreams and secrets. These stories stuck with me and left me wanting more." –Summer Wood, author of Raising Wrecker
Author Interview 2: Teddy Jones
If you could time travel, what period would you first visit?
The 1920s in the U.S. has always fascinated me. I love the fact that there was so much change occurring, that the clothing was interesting, that women were seeking new ways of participating in society.
Who are some authors who you feel were influential in your work?
I learn something from everything I read. So I can’t say there’s a single influence. But I’ve enjoyed John Dufresne, Annie Proulx, Anne Tyler, Robert Penn Warren, Douglas Adams, Tom Robbins, John Irving’s early work, Anna Quindlen, and of course, Larry McMurtry, particularly Leaving Cheyenne. Those just came to mind immediately, but there are so many it’s difficult to say.
What are some day jobs that you have held? Have any of them impacted your writing?
My first job was working in the local drugstore in Iowa Park, Texas. I started there at thirteen, so eager to earn my own money, looking for a bit of independence. The sense of pride that earning 50 cents an hour gave me is something that I know a character of mine will feel someday.
Although I’d thought I might want to work for a newspaper, opportunity presented itself in the form of a small scholarship to attend nursing school. From that point on, regardless of the name of the position, I was always a nurse doing one of the many jobs that nurses can do. As a nurse, for decades before I gave myself permission to write fiction, I spent time learning about people and their choices and reactions at critical moments and particular health care crises. Those experiences enriched my understanding of human behavior.
So if any of my characters are well portrayed, at least part of that is because of the people I’ve met as a nurse. And I’ll admit that there’s often a nurse in the fiction I write, not necessarily as the protagonist, but frequently as someone who influences outcomes of the story.
How has your formal education influenced or impacted your writing?
Over the years, I have returned to school five different times in either degree or certificate programs seeking additional knowledge and skills, building on prior learning. The process of gaining advanced degrees in nursing and higher education taught me some important general skills at the same time I learned specifics in those fields. Not only did those educational experiences prepare me for jobs in nursing and nursing education, they gave me skills and produced attitudes I continue to use as a writer. Among those are competent observation, critical analysis, planning, project development, implementation, and evaluation. And each of those skills relies to some extent on ability to communicate clearly. Later, when I entered a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program, I felt comfortable that my background from those other programs provided a good base on which to develop as a writer. Of course, that MFA program also showed me what I didn’t know, where I had to learn more and continue to develop and it instilled an understanding that criticism and revision are at the heart of good writing.
At least as important an influence on my writing as formal education is what I think of as informal education, the things one learns incidentally by remaining curious and open to experience and by reading broadly on many topics.
How important to you are names in your books? How do you choose names?
I think that names affect the reader’s first reaction to a character. For that reason I try to fit the names of characters to the time and place of the story, and if possible to some aspect of the character. I don’t adhere to the advice of some writers that names should be memorable, even a bit outlandish so that the character stands out.
I “collect” names that I hear and read and names of people I have met, and also nicknames. When I need a new character name, I consult that list of names that I have jotted down over the years. I attempt to avoid having characters with the same name populating different stories—trying not to repeat myself can be a challenge.
What are you working on at the present?
I’m working on a third novel set in Jackson’s Pond, Texas (a fictional town). The first of those has been published and I’d love to see the second one make print, then be followed by the one I’m currently working on. The three are all related in that the family from the first is the focus of the next two as well -- a family saga.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I enjoy writing short stories, so I intend to continue adding to my file of those. One thing I enjoy about short stories is that I can find a stimulus, an inspiring incident or character, focus on it, and write it, then move to something else, rather than always involving myself in year(s) long projects required of novel length work. I also have an idea for a screenplay that I want to try my hand at. Doing a screenplay would involve more study, so that’s an interesting prospect.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
She was always curious. Her last words were, “What’s next?”
Teddy Jones has been a nurse, nurse practitioner, university professor, college dean, and occasional farmhand. She grew up in a small north Texas town, Iowa Park, and gained college degrees in nursing at Incarnate Word and University of Texas, a Ph.D. in Education at University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She held nursing, teaching, and administrative positions in Austin, Denver, and Lubbock and as a family nurse practitioner in Texas and New Mexico. Writing fiction was her “when I know enough and have the time” dream all those years. Now she and her husband live near Friona, in the Texas Panhandle, where her husband farms and she writes full time.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
One Grand Prize: Signed copies of both Nowhere Near and Jackson’s Pond, Texas, set of 10 hollyhock notecards, and a 11x15 print of the cover art from Jackson’s Pond.
1st Runner-Up: Signed copy of Nowhere Near + choice of notecards or print
Next Three Winners: choice of notecards or print
May 11-20, 2017
CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
Author Interview 1
Scrapbook Page 1
Scrapbook Page 2
Author Interview 2
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