Today, we’re spending some time with author Kathy Gilbert Maresca. She’s the author of Porch Music, an intriguing novel about a family with Seminole ancestry.
Q: Tell us about your book and why you wrote it.
A: Porch Music arose from my desire to recapture Old Florida, the culture of my home state before Disney arrived when it was rural and before most people had air conditioning. Florida was primarily agricultural then, and it had a rigid Southern moral code. Few women had careers and their options were quite limited.
Q: What was your initial concept for Porch Music?
A: My mother’s family descended from the Seminole Tribe. The first person to turn to Jesus was my grandmother. Soon, her mother and her siblings became Christians. I don’t have many details about my grandmother’s conversion and how her family was influenced, but my curiosity led me to write a fictional story. One person in a family can influence many others, and it is important to remember how faith can bring light into darkness.
Q: How did you develop the idea for Porch Music?
A: I used things that are historically appropriate to 1952 when Porch Music takes place: old houses that were poorly constructed, songs that birthed country music in the United States, and the consequences of being an unwed mother.
I wanted to write from several different points of view. I made a chart with expressions unique to each of the characters. I listed their grammar foibles, too. I made notes about each narrator’s view of their world and included their goals.
Q: Plotter or pantser? Share a bit of your writing process.
A: My experience as a counselor helps me create a fictional character’s head and heart. Because my stories are deeply character-driven, I ask myself how one character responds to another. With a few plot ideas in my head, the one that seems most authentic to the characters is what I choose.
Q: What genre do you write in?
A: I call my work “Southern with a twist of faith.”
Q: Why do you write this genre?
A: When I read Southern fiction, I feel as though the author knows me. Has he or she spied on me? I want to create characters that linger with the reader after the book is finished, characters that become friends to my readers.
Q: What’s the one thing you want readers to take away from reading Porch Music?
A: Hold on to hope. We experience bleak times in our lives, but God’s plan for us will lead us to victory.
Q: If you could only eat one fruit for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
A: Pineapple would be my choice because it is so nutritious. It reduces inflammation and aids digestion. It tastes great, too.
About Porch Music
All sixteen-year-old Rose has is what she carries: a pillowcase of clothes, her boyfriend’s unborn child, and a heart full of shame. In the face of 1952’s strict moral code, Seminole matriarch Ma-Ki Ebbing embraces Rose. Ma-Ki, on the fringe of society, clings to her Native American traditions and secrets surrounding her husband’s murder while her adult children unravel from social injustice.
When Ma-Ki’s children were young, Burl Ebbing approached a wealthy, powerful man who had sexually abused his children. The villain shot Burl’s heart right out of him. Twenty years later, Ma-Ki fears that her children will avenge their father’s death and refuses to disclose the criminal’s identity. The Ebbing women band together, marching through a chorus of grit and grind to unite a family once rendered powerless by a people who invaded their land. Will another tragic death cause Ma-Ki to identify the villain and embrace Rose’s newfound faith?
About Kathy Gilbert Maresca
A native Floridian, Kathy Gilbert Maresca grew up with a grandmother of Seminole heritage. Kathy served in the Air Force, at the Academy cadet chapel and then at a special operations command. She edited for the University of Florida and taught English, journalism, and drama.
Kathy later earned a master’s degree and became credentialed as a rehabilitation counselor, helping people who have cranial nerve disorders. Kathy has been a Guardian ad Litem and a volunteer for a prison fellowship ministry. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Keith. They enjoy traveling and spending time with their dogs.
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