Let us all please Welcome author San Dee Crabtree.
Welcome San Dee!
Sylvia: What started you on your writing journey?
San Dee: Frustration! I kept thinking of old stories about various family members or old stories about my life and wanted to share this information with my children. However, every time I phoned they were too busy to talk and the stories never got told. Due to this frustration, I joined a writer’s group and wrote a book for my family and presented them all with it as a Christmas present. Some have still not read it and quite possibly won’t until I’m long gone. However, I feel better knowing the things I wanted to tell them is in print and on their bookshelves and maybe someday it will be important. From that frustrating experience, I really got into telling stories and soon realized that I needed a lot of help in order to make these stories better. Then I went back to school. The only classes I found that sounded like writing were journalism and I got my Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication and journalism in 2013 at the ripe old age of 66. I thought I was done but later decided to go on and get my master’s degree so that I could possibly teach creative writing classes online. I then discovered SNHU and their creative writing program.
Sylvia: What can you tell us about your book Never Poor?
San Dee: This story is about two cousins. They are both in England as young children and one of the cousins comes to the US early and the other cousin took nearly a lifetime to find her way back to her cousin and best friend. The book is about her hardships and how both families endured many things with faith and dignity. It didn’t necessarily start off as a Christian story, but I’m a Christian and I think it came through my characters as well. These people reminded me of many of my country relatives but is not about any one person that I know. As much as it is the two cousin’s story, they had children, and those children also have some back stories going on. This is especially true for Robert who suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, but in the 1920s it was not understood by that name. His father’s wise counsel helped him and Robert’s way of praying (although unorthodox) might help others going through difficult times as well. Also, I have to say that I love history and everything I write ends up having some real historical moments in it in some way. I also love to cook and food is a consistent part of all my stories. There are a few recipes in the back of this book.
Sylvia: How did you come up with the name of the book?
San Dee: I feel it was God given. One day I just knew that in spite of the fact that I was low on money, and many times felt broke, that I was never poor. I was blessed richly with friends and people who care about me, and me meeting two people within a couple of days who truly could not say that and had no idea what a life of a Christian family looked like inspired me to show a family living out their faith and show a life of riches that go beyond any bank account.
Sylvia: I know Faith plays a big part in this book?
SanDee: My faith, in general, plays a big part in my life so the two go hand in hand. I knew especially when I got to the back story about Robert and his troubles after the war, that there were many people out there struggling and had no idea how to talk to God and what that might look like if they even tried. I was of the Vietnam era and lost many friends and had a marriage end due to post-traumatic stress issues. It was some of the saddest days of my life and still feel like I failed him because I didn’t understand how to help. I was placed in an impossible situation where the safety of my children meant that I could no longer live with him regardless of knowing that he had no idea what he was doing. To him, he was fighting the Viet Cong. I really have a big heart for all veterans but especially the Vietnam vets who were treated so badly when they returned. It is horrible that our country could act like they did. My husband was spit on when he reached American soil and anti-war protestors were calling him a baby killer. He was already messed up from the experience and that was the icing on the cake. He was not alone in receiving that kind of welcome home.
Sylvia: What can you tell us about writing this story?
San Dee: The book took two years and I rewrote it so many times that I long ago lost count. The whole process was a learning experience. There were a couple of times that I wanted to toss it and forget the whole thing. Those moments I would do something else, and come back later and rewrite some more. I knew from day one how I wanted it to end, but the rest was as I went. I don’t do outlines or much of a plan. I find my story in the process of writing. My second book is not the writing nightmare that this first novel was.
Sylvia: Tell us about the characters in this book?
San Dee: Georgia and Sue are the two cousins. Sue had it easier, married a great guy, and her family had moved to the states when she was young. Georgia was the opposite, she was married to a drunk and she had nothing but struggles for most of her life and had to work harder than two men most of the time. Georgia early on in the book made a tough decision that most think is horrible and most believe they would have never made the choice she made, but I wanted people to consider what they would do with impossible options in front of them. I have already mentioned Robert and his struggles were important to me, and his transformation something I hope others can emulate. Beatrice was one of the daughters of Georgia, and possibly because her father was a drunk, she had no use for men. She decided to write news when she was a very young girl. Her mother and sister and her mother’s first cousin Sue and her husband Robert Henry all supported Beatrice and helped her make her dream a reality. This was the 1920s so a woman doing this type of work was not unheard of, but there were only a few. Everyone that read the book kept asking questions about Beatrice and seemed to want to hear more, so her life is the second book.
Sylvia: Is this book a part of a series?
San Dee: Yes, Never Poor is first which as I mentioned earlier I feel is about prayer. The second, Beatrice, is about making choices. She like many of us did not always pick the best friends. The last book is Georgia. In Never Poor, it starts with her very young and then it jumps a head to her older and married. The lost years that are not explained in Never Poor are the subject of the third. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Georgia made a difficult decision and the idea that we should not be so harsh in judging others and that we cannot possibly know everything going on in their lives, and what may have happened to make them make the choices they did. Also, no character is all bad and this book will give a glimpse into the life of the drunken husband before he was a drunk.
Sylvia: What are you working on now?
San Dee: Beatrice. First draft done and at editors. Rewrites already beginning and I feel this will be a much better book than Never Poor and I liked that story a lot. Beatrice is better written. I learned a lot from the process of the first, and hope that each book continues to be a little better than the last. I’m big on always trying to improve my skills.
Sylvia: What is the best advice you have for writers?
San Dee: No one writes the perfect book at first sitting. The best way to get better is to keep writing. For me, I say it is like breathing. I have to write; I want to write. Everything I write is not golden, but regardless penning the written word is necessary for my wellbeing. Also, I have to mention that I do not believe in writer’s block. I think that is a cop out. If you asked a plumber to come fix your leaky pipes, you would never expect him to say, sorry I’m having plumber’s block today. Writers write, you give it your best. Tomorrow you might write it again. Next week you might be proofreading and rewriting some more. But, every day you are writing.
What is something we do not know about you?
San Dee: Lots, but one of the things that most are shocked to discover because I’m a little ole lady who some have nicknamed “the church lady” is that I have certificates from the coroner’s office where I studied serial killers and blood splatters. When I attended those classes, everyone else was either a detective or a medical person. On day one, the coroner had everyone go around and introduce themselves and explain why they were there. He saved me for last. The whole class was listening. I told him my name and that I was a writer. I felt no other explanation was needed, but evidently he didn’t feel that way. I went on to explain that I am a nice little old lady, and that I have nice friends, a friendly church, good neighbors, and loving family. What I didn’t know much about was evil people and in writing stories everyone couldn’t be sweet and nice because the books would be boring and feel unrealistic. They bet on how long I would last. It was a gruesome class with things that I saw that I can never un-see; but I never quit. I hung in there and proved them all wrong.
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