A Letter to My Ten-Years Ago Self…
Dear Hope Gibbs,
I know I’m addressing you by your maiden name. Don’t panic. You’re not in the midst of a divorce. Your marriage is strong, even with the craziness of trying to wrangle five children, but in ten years, this is the name you will be using hundreds of times a week. There’s a good reason for it, one that I’m sure will shock you, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Recently, you celebrated a big milestone—turning forty. I know it sounds old right now, but this is the best decade of your life. Some big changes are coming your way, and you’re about to accomplish something you didn’t realize or even know you wanted to do.
Your thirties were a rollercoaster. You were a bundle of nervous energy. A third pregnancy, the loss of beloved family members, a painful divorce, falling in love all over again, another marriage, and becoming a stepmother to two small children. But good news, you have a full and happy nest, though the decade is a blur of soccer games, carpool runs, homework, and never-ending trips to the grocery store. Feeding a household of seven can be exhausting. But you will start changing in your forties. Don’t get me wrong, you will still do all those things, but know this. Those little birds will fly away. Sooner than you think, and your realization of that fact sets you on a path that will change your life.
Now here’s another “don’t panic” moment, around forty-five, you’re going to have a little mid-life crisis. Don’t freak out. You won’t buy an expensive car or alter your appearance, though you will be going to the salon more often because your hair color will betray you, and you’ll start to question your choices.
What have I accomplished with my life other than being a wife and mother? When my children are gone, who will I be?
This will be on a continuous loop in your mind, and on your worst days, you’ll start regretting your decision to leave that corporate job to raise those wonderful, infuriating children. Most people would say to ignore that inner voice, but I’m telling you to listen to it because it will propel you into something unimaginable.
After reevaluating your life, you’ll start journaling. That lasts about a week because you’ll hate it. Then, you’ll do something extraordinary —you’ll develop a character, getting to know her through your imagination. You’ll spend countless hours with her, developing her backstory, creating her world, and fleshing out her fears. You’ll laugh, cry, and grow with her, and before you know it, you’ll type the words…THE END. Hope, you write a book! I know you’ve not written anything longer than an email since college, but somehow, you turned that mini-midlife crisis into a novel that will be published by Red Adept, with the audio rights being sold to Blackstone. Oh. And they make you change your name, but that’s okay because Cummiskey is hard to spell and Gibbs was your name first.
Now in your fifties, your days are filled with writing, and it’s wonderful. You need it as much as you need tennis. Don’t worry, you still play multiple times a week even though you’ll have three knee surgeries in the next ten years. It’s okay, you have a great orthopedist. Every day you’re surrounded by a warm and welcoming community of writers and readers. You’ll also be the host of a monthly Facebook Live program for over 5,000 bibliophiles and start a podcast. I’ll explain what that is later.
The next ten years will define you. Enjoy every second of it. And remember, you’re never too old to follow your dreams.
P.S. Your two stepchildren will ask you to officially adopt them on Christmas morning in 2020. You’ll cry your eyes out.
Synopsis (from Amazon):
Penny Crenshaw’s divorce and her husband’s swift remarriage to a much younger woman have been hot topics around Atlanta’s social circles. After a year of enduring the cruel gossip, Penny leaps from the frying pan into the fire by heading back to Kentucky to settle her grandmother’s estate.
Reluctantly, Penny travels to her hometown of Camden, knowing she will be stirring up all the ghosts from her turbulent childhood. But not all her problems stem from a dysfunctional family.
One of Penny’s greatest sources of pain lives just down the street: Bradley Hitchens, her childhood best friend, the keeper of her darkest secrets, and the boy who shattered her heart.
As Penny struggles with sorting through her grandmother’s house and her own memories, a colorful group of friends drifts back into her life, reminding her of the unique warmth, fellowship, and romance that only the Bluegrass state can provide. Now that fate has forced Penny back, she must either let go of the scars of her past or risk losing a second chance at love.a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js
Hope Gibbs grew up in rural Scottsville, Kentucky. As the daughter of an English teacher, she was raised to value the importance of good storytelling from an early age. Today, she’s an avid reader of women’s fiction. Drawn to multi-generational family sagas, relationship issues, and the complexities of being a woman, she translates those themes into her own writing.
Hope lives in Tennessee with her husband and her persnickety Shih Tzu, Harley. She is also the mother of five. In her downtime, she loves playing tennis, poring over old church cookbooks, singing karaoke, curling up on her favorite chair with a book, and playing board games.
Hope has a B.A. from Western Kentucky University and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.
Author Marketing Experts:
“In Where the Grass Grows Blue, Hope Gibbs examines Penny Crenshaw’s journey to pick up the pieces and begin again after divorce. But this mother of three sons soon learns that if she wants to move forward, she’ll have to first go back to the start. Readers will enjoy this fast-paced southern story about second-chances, lifelong friendships, and the healing power of forgiveness.”–Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
“Where The Grass Grows Blue hit me in all the right places. Young lovers separated by a misunderstanding reunite twenty years later, only to discover that although their love never
faded, their choices are insurmountable. Or are they?
Gibbs skillfully weaves the dark side of life with the beauty of a love that has only grown stronger over time. Keep an eye on this author–she is one to watch!”–Barbara Conrey, USA Today
Bestselling Author of Nowhere Near Goodbye
“Hope Gibbs’ debut, Where the Grass Grows Blue, is worthy of taking its place among true Southern fiction novels where the banter is witty and the women are true steel magnolias. It’s a delightful, engaging story about following your heart.”–Grace Sammon, Award-Winning Author ofThe Eves, and host of
“Where the Grass Grows Blue is the most authentic and endearing book I’ve read in ages. Penny’s difficult and heartbreaking rural background in Kentucky (the Bluegrass state) and her high society life in Atlanta could not be more different. But when she can’t hide from her past anymore, her life comes full circle. I think Penny is my new fictional best friend. There were times I wanted to read quickly to see
how everything unfolds, but this story is to be savored. Don’t rush this Southern gem.”–Cindy Dorminy, author of
The Foster Wife and In a Jam
“Hope Gibbs drops the reader into a colorful, southern, small-town setting where Penny Crenshaw—a divorced mother with a tumultuous childhood—is desperate to outrun her past. Where The Grass Grows Blue is one woman’s story of perseverance despite her painful past. A story of small-town living and second chances, romance and resilience, friendship and forgiveness. One you’ll think of long after you turn the last page.”–Jill Hannah Anderson, Author of A Life Unraveled, The To-Hell-And-Back Club, and Crazy Little Town Called Love
“Where The Grass Grows Blue is an evocative story with a Southern flair about going back to the place that brought so much pain for a second chance at love and redefining oneself. This is one you’ll fall in love with.”–Donna Norman-Carbone, Author of All That Is Sacred
How did you do research for your book?
Where the Grass Grows Blue is set in Kentucky, where I was born and raised, so I was comfortable with most topics—food, dialogue, and setting. But I did write in flashbacks and had to study pop culture during those decades so as to not get the year wrong. I also had to do some serious research into genetic diseases, as they are a plot point for my protagonist.
Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?
The hardest to write by far was the main character, Penny. She is a complicated and sometimes frustrating character by design.
The easiest was Bradley, her love interest. I might have developed a literary crush on him while writing.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
I want to bring the charm of the South to a wider community of readers. It’s my goal to immerse them in the culture, food, and characters, so I look around my surroundings or dig back to my upbringing to find inspiration.
What advice would you give budding writers?
In the words of Nike, “Just do it!” You’ll never know unless you try. Of course, there are going to be bumps, sometimes mountains, along the way, but if you believe in yourself, your voice, and find the right support system, you can make it happen too.
Your book is set in Kentucky. Have you ever been there?
I was born and raised in the Bluegrass State. I still consider it home, though I’ve been gone for decades.
If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?
Penny’s best friend, Dakota. She is a truth-teller and doesn’t worry about what anyone thinks of her. She’s also fiercely loyal.
Do you have another profession besides writing?
I was a stay-at-home mother of five for twenty-five years. A few years ago, I started re-evaluating my life. At that point, it hit me. My children would soon be leaving for college. So I started “journaling” on a laptop. That lasted about a week before I noticed I wasn’t writing about my feelings or goals—I was creating a character. Now that my children are grown, I’m writing full-time. But that’s only one part of my “writing life.” I’m also a tour guide for Bookish Road Trip, an upbeat community of book lovers, authors, and bibliophiles. You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and on their website. I’m in charge of the Author Take the Wheel program.
How long have you been writing?
I started about five years ago. It’s been a wonderful creative outlet.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
Of course. Music has been a huge part of my creative process. It really inspires me and allows my mind to go places, creating new worlds. Also, running and exercise helps. Some of my best ideas happen when I work out.
What is your next project?
I’m almost finished with my second book, Ashes to Ashes. It’s an upmarket fiction book, set in the South, of course, that focuses on a tight-knit group of women whose world is rocked after the unexpected death of their dear friend, Ellen, under mysterious circumstances. But before they can even process their grief, they stumble across a web of secrets and lies, unraveling Ellen’s perfect life—the one she tried so hard to project to the outside world. Now they must rely on each other to find out who the real Ellen Foster was while grappling with the idea that they never really knew her at all.
What genre do you write in?
Women’s fiction and contemporary romance. But my third book will be historical fiction because it’s set in the early 1970s. I don’t want to be boxed into one genre.
What is the last great book you’ve read?
On Gin Lane by Brooke Lea Foster. I can’t tell you how much I loved that book.
What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
“The author’s writing was like paint on a canvas, creating a vibrant picture of life in Kentucky, so much so that I was easily transported there.” Reader Views review.
If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?
This is fun! Because it has dual timelines (flashbacks to the 70s and 80s and a “current” timeline set in 2009), I would have to cast young and older actors.
For the adult Penny, Elizabeth Olsen would be the perfect choice and for the younger version, circa 1985–89, it would absolutely be Sadie Sink. The adult Bradley? It’s Henry Cavill all the way with Tanner Buchanan taking the younger role.
As for Ruby Ray, Penny’s beloved grandmother, she would be played by Laura Dern (in the 1970s flashback) and Diane Ladd as the older Ruby Ray. They are two of my favorite actresses of all time and they are mother and daughter.
And finally, Dakota, Penny’s best friend with a salty tongue, would be played by Rashida Jones while Margo Martindale would make a fine Miss Paulette, Camden, Kentucky’s premier town gossip.
Maybe I should be a casting agent!
If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?
It’s funny you should ask. I literally made a playlist for this book as I was writing it. Whenever I was in the car or exercising, I listened to it over and over again.
Name by Goo Goo Dolls
American Girl by Tom Petty
Heaven by Brian Adams
When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by Johnny Cash
Cruel Summer by Bananarama
Let It Be Me by Ray LaMontagne
Feels Like Home by Edwina Hayes
The Promise by Tracy Chapman
Fix You by Coldplay
All That You Are by Goo Goo Dolls
What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?
The biggest challenge was deciding where to start. To be honest with you, I had no idea what I was doing. I spent about three and a half years writing, rewriting, and editing my novel, Where the Grass Grows Blue completely by myself. This was the first book I had ever written, so there was a lot of trial and error involved.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?
Write, write, write. It’s the only way to get better. Also, I suggest joining writing groups. I’m a member of the WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association). It’s been a wealth of knowledge and has connected me to so many authors and aspiring writers, who are the most generous people on the planet with their time and advice.
Which authors inspired you to write?
Elin Hilderbrand. She’s the reason I started writing in the first place. I adore her. I even traveled to Nantucket last fall with a group of girlfriends to have the Elin “experience.” It was an absolute blast, plus I met her! On my website, you can find a blog post I wrote about that trip.
Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?
Since I can write anywhere, I grab whatever is available, but I am partial to milk chocolate and coffee. If I’m craving salt, Pringles and popcorn are my go-to foods.
Where do you write?
When I started writing, I was a busy mother with four children at home and one in college. Every free moment, I wrote when I had the chance. In the beginning, it was usually after dinner, when my children were busy with homework and my kitchen was clean. But that only got me so far. With a house full of active children who played multiple sports, I took every “free” opportunity I could get. I started toting around my laptop to basketball, football, lacrosse, and soccer games when there was a break in the action in case something struck me.
Do you write every day?
What is your writing schedule?
I don’t have a “schedule” per se. I write whenever I can find the time.
In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?
Not for Where the Grass Grows Blue, but for my third book, Tobacco Road, I plotted it out by hand.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I’d rather be transported to the future instead.
Favorite travel spot?
Sea Island, Georgia. It’s my happy place.
That’s so hard! I have an incorrigible sweet tooth. I love crème brulee, but I’m also a sucker for a good old-fashioned peach cobbler with tons of ice cream.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you?
- The Age of Innocence
- Gone Girl
- Any book on how to survive on a deserted island. If nothing else, I am practical.
What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you?
A car literally ran into my house, missing me by inches. There were skid marks in my foyer. That was certainly a weird day.
I’m a tennis player. I’m currently on seven teams. Wait, did you ask if I had an obsession?
If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
I’m proof that it’s never too late to follow a dream.
What TV series are you currently binge watching?
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story on Netflix.
What is your theme song?
My Life by Billy Joel or the Theme Song to Rudy…I’m short but determined.
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Easy. Making my grandmother’s bunny cakes every Easter. She taught me, and now I’ve passed it down to my daughter. I’ve made hundreds of them since I was a little girl.
What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?
The Promise by Tracy Chapman. It reminds me of Penny and Bradley’s story.
What is your go-to breakfast item?
One scrambled egg, black coffee, and skim milk. I LOVE milk.
What is the oldest item of clothing you own?
My navy blue Kentucky sweatshirt that’s over three decades old…but it’s still holding up. I wear it weekly, no matter the season.
Tell us about your longest friendship.
I met her on the first day of first grade. She’s still one of my dearest friends, after forty-six years.
Who was your childhood celebrity crush?
Jason Bateman, hands down. Still not a bad choice today.