Author Bobbi Sommer comes of age in her 70s with The Fig Rejection (part 2)

Published 3:00 am Friday, June 5, 2009

This is a continuation of the conversation with Bobbi Sommer about writing her novel The Fig Rejection. It&squo;s interesting how you discover things about the writing after you&squo;ve written it. In the final edit I always find things I hadn&squo;t discovered before. I would just wake up so excited to get coffee, bread, a short walk in, and start typing. I would sit there all day long and type. It didn&squo;t take that long to write the book but all the rewrites. When I was doing it, I had what I guess would have been a tragedy, but I thought, &dquo;Well, if that&squo;s the way it is, that&squo;s the way it is.&dquo; I was messing around with it one night and totally deleted it, the whole thing gone. I called my teacher who I was taking classes with on the computer at college. She didn&squo;t seem to know what to do. My godsend was, and it&squo;s in the acknowledgements there, Pam Stone and I had become friends. She&squo;s a comedian. She used to come from L.A. to a little place here. She happened to come in the store. I was working at a decorator&squo;s store and antique shop in Landrum. She had no makeup on and I kept looking at her and finally said, &dquo;You&squo;re the girl on Coach, aren&squo;t you?&dquo; She said, &dquo;Yes I am.&dquo; I said, &dquo;Well I love that and I think you&squo;re the best thing on it&dquo; because I did. She told me she had left her house in the winter and the pipes broke and it had poured water in her house for about three weeks. It took the walls, the floors, and everything but the ceiling and stick work. She had just had it redone with the insurance company. She was getting ready to move in all the stuff she had put in her barn and she had been robbed. That&squo;s how I happened to meet her and we became very good friends. Of course she writes and she has those radio programs and wrote for comedies. I would send the book to her as I was going along and I had just sent her the last total copy. I called her and she was so great she mailed it back to me. This friend, this man that used to help me with the computer, I called him right away and he said, &dquo;I have a friend that has a scanner. I&squo;ll scan it for you and get it back in a form you can work with.&dquo; When he started doing it, he couldn&squo;t get the scanner right away so he started copying it. He enjoyed it so much he copied the whole thing. He wanted to know what happened. That was great. I got my book back like that. I had just made up my mind when I realized what I had done that there was no way I could rewrite it from scratch and I wasn&squo;t even going to try. It just wasn&squo;t meant to be. I had a lot of fun doing it, and in the meantime I had met some great people at the school, Monica Jones and Gil Westmoore. We had a little writing group and that was a lot of fun. I had really recognized a lot of joy from writing the book. I just figured if it&squo;s gone it&squo;s gone. That&squo;s amazing. Still, it sat on the shelf even after you got it back. It sat on the shelf from whatever year that would have been until Charlie and I got together and one day he said, &dquo;I&squo;d like to read your book.&dquo; It was years. I think it was 1997 when I wrote that book. Do you feel like the schedule of the law firm contributed to your consistency working on this book? We&squo;re you filling that gap of time that you would have been at the computer in the office, or was this something totally different? It&squo;s very hard. I&squo;ve had a kind of traumatic life and it comes out in this book some. I think when I started with the writing, I did well. I got all A&squo;s in all those classes. I love poetry, but I like rhyming poetry. I hated school, and I know a lot if it was because I was a very unhappy child. That was just another thing I had to do. When I did this college stuff it was wonderful because I got to choose what I wanted to do. That&squo;s probably why I was good at it. I probably could have been good at school, but I was a disturbed child so I wasn&squo;t practicing good study habits. Why do you call yourself a disturbed child? Disturbed is probably not the word, unhappy or confused child maybe. My father left us when I was eight, which is in the book because Molly is me. It was just my mother and me. My mother was a very bright woman and very talented, but she did everything wrong that you do with the child when you&squo;re getting a divorce. She&squo;d show me love letters from my father&squo;s other woman. My mother and I didn&squo;t have a good relationship and I very rarely saw my dad. It was hard times. My mother had to work really hard to support us and then she married a number of times. I remember not ever feeling loved and feeling no self-esteem. It took me into my sixties to get over from that. That took forever. I just seemed to attract men that thrived on that. I was married a number of times, but I&squo;ve come out on top. I really have. I have an entirely different outlook on myself and I&squo;m sure writing that book helped too as well as meeting some of the people that I&squo;ve met and realizing that I&squo;m a good person. You don&squo;t have to know how to spell. Some of the brightest ones I know in this town don&squo;t know how to spell. Sometimes when you step away from an unhealthy pattern you find that everything opens up in front of you. We&squo;d been married over 25 years and it was scary when that ended, but it was the best thing once I got over the anger. It brought back all that childhood stuff and all the rejection with my mother, my father and numerous other people. There was nowhere else to go. It was time to move on. It was time to get over this and it took some doing, but boy when it clicked in I was another person totally. I set my boundaries and when Charlie and I got together I told him, &dquo;No man will ever make me unhappy again.&dquo; He&squo;s been wonderful. We don&squo;t know when we&squo;re young and insecure getting into relationships. You&squo;re trying to put your best foot forward and you maybe don&squo;t say the things you ought to say. They may not take you serious if you do. You&squo;ve got to learn those hard knocks and decide when you&squo;re not going to do that anymore. I realized through the years you send out vibes. You really do. Men just honed right in on my insecurities. I&squo;m still working on being myself. That&squo;s good, you don&squo;t have to wait until you&squo;re in your 60&squo;s, believe me. I know there are people that are doing that a lot earlier, but it&squo;s tough. I know it&squo;s entirely different now with women and everything. But basically, I think women are very much the same. They&squo;re care givers, they want to nurture, and they want to be loved in return. The men have the upper hand. I still think they do. I know a lot of them have changed. I see it in my sons. What&squo;s nice is when they have themselves in control and don&squo;t want to make you unhappy, but want to have a good relationship. You have The Fig Rejection at The BookShelf in Tryon now and it&squo;s published through AuthorHouse. Is it available other places? Yes, at the publisher&squo;s website and they have a copy at the Polk Library and the Lanier Library. It&squo;s in the paperbacks at the Lanier Library. Charlie said one day, &dquo;I went down and requested your book from the Polk Library.&dquo; I said, &dquo;They don&squo;t have my book.&dquo; Do you know, it was a month later and they called up and they had it? I don&squo;t know where they got it, but we have a copy of it thanks to Charlie. I gave them the one at Lanier. It&squo;s interesting to me the men that have read it and like it. That pleases me. Jay even liked it. He said, &dquo;I want to know what happens to the rest of them.&am
p;dquo; Is there going to be a sequel? Oh, I doubt it. I don&squo;t think I could do it because I wouldn&squo;t know where to go with them. When the time came to stop, it just came. I was living over at Pine Crest at the time. I would walk around the inn a lot saying, &dquo;How am I going to put these together?&dquo; Ann and Ken Huff who own the Orchard Inn up in Saluda brought a game to a dinner called the &dquo;Ungame.&dquo; It&squo;s a great game. It&squo;s not a win-lose game. It&squo;s more to get you talking. I had only played that the one time, and I called Ann and asked if I could borrow her copy of it. She said yes, she was using it in her class. You&squo;ll see in book how the Ungame is in there. I actually played it. I never set it up or made up a question for them to answer. I just set the board up and gave every character a thing and drew their card. It worked out beautifully. It just brought so much out because of the kind of game it was. It&squo;s in there a couple times they play the game. Charlie Hall &Bobbi Sommer (photo submitted)&bsp;I would love to write some more. I started another book. I like Edward Hopper. You&squo;re probably familiar with the Nighthawks the picture of the people in the diner. I came up with a story of a girl that gets so involved with that picture that she can go into it and be there. I looked at a lot of his other pictures. I did biographies of everybody. I found in the middle of the first book that I had to stop and do profiles on everybody because I couldn&squo;t remember dates and how they fell. I just had to stop writing and do a bio on each one when they got married and everything. It made it a lot easier. I guess other writers start out that way, and I did with this other book. I had an idea of the kind of people I wanted in it. I&squo;ve given it to Corrie and others to read but it just didn&squo;t come like the first one. That one just flowed so easy. Good, we just might see another book from you on the Nighthawks. I&squo;ll be waiting for it. Please stop by The BookShelf in Tryon to find a copy of The Fig Rejection for yourself. I&squo;ve been reading it since our conversation and have enjoyed how well Bobbi transports the reader to another time and place, but in the end the words she has to share bring me back to myself.

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