Friday, September 27, 2013

Interview with Viola Russell

Viola Russell is the pen name for Susan Weaver, a native New Orleanian. She loves creating fiction with her dog by her side and is happiest at her computer. Welcome back Viola, good to see you again.

Do tell us which part of the writing process you most love? 

I love it when the energy is really pulsing—when I have a great idea and it all comes together. Dialogue flows and description is effortless. My writing was like that when I wrote sections of Love at War and the new book From Ice Wagon to Club House: The Life of Jude Mooney. I’m certain that a special spirit guided my hand as I wrote sections of those books. I’d researched the eras, and I easily envisioned scenarios in which my characters would play a part. My hands raced across the keyboard. I was on fire, and I’ve had moments like this in all of my books. Some people think I’m insane, but I also love the research. The research itself gives me ideas, and even as a kid, I loved reading about different times, places, and eras. I loved researching old New Orleans for Ice Wagon and for Love at War. Reading about 1500s Ireland was enlightening and challenging for Pirate Woman, but I love a challenge.

Which of your ancestors would you most like to meet?

My ancestry is German and Irish. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t ask my grandmother and my parents more about the past—my grandmother, the original Viola Russell, in particular. Probably my most intriguing relative is one I never actually knew. My great-grandmother Katherine Eschemann Russell was a German immigrant, my grandmother’s mother. She came from Baden-Baden, Germany when she was ten-years-old. There were no child labor laws then, and Katherine went to work in a butcher shop. She was so small she had to stand on a box to wait on customers. I’d love to know about her life in Germany and what brought her family to the United States. Why did her parents leave? What brought them to New Orleans? They obviously were poor. Were they running from something? My mother said she never heard her grandmother speak German. Why? Was she afraid of discrimination?

Does your lovely dog help in your writing? 

My little mixed breed dog is now elderly but still sweet. She sits by me when I work, and I’ll miss her when she goes. She’s been my best friend and constant companion since she was a puppy. I always had dogs growing up, and a dog plays an important part in The Doctor and the War Widow. Nico saves Harley’s life in the book and is her constant companion.

Are you ever driven to write by hand?

I often write by hand. That’s how I take my research notes, and I often write monologues as one of my characters. That helps me find my character’s voice, point of view, and helps me develop back-story. I’ve posted some of my monologues on my blog,

What tricks do you have for coping when things got tough?

Things are never easy for me on a personal level. My father died when I was twelve. We had to leave our home, starting a new life in a less affluent neighborhood. Consequently, when things get tough, I channel my parents. My mother worked hard all of her life. She’d grown up in Mid-City in New Orleans, a working-class but proud area of town. She experienced many ups and downs in her fortunes, but she always carried on. My father also grew up in Mid-City. He was a young man in the Depression. (My mother was a child at that time.) When his first wife died of tuberculosis during the Depression, my father and his best friend decided to bootleg. They and their families were starving, and then they entered the world of boxing and later of booking. My father made a lot of money and lost a lot. Four wives can do that to a man. When he died, we lost everything. My mother refused to sink into self-pity. She went back to work and made me study hard. I worked my way through graduate school, but I’m still not reveling in my riches. I carry on.

Prohibition? No booze? What?

Jude Mooney, the man who began his working career on a horse, is building an empire--but at what cost to his life, soul, and love? 

Jude Mooney, the son of poor but proud Irish immigrants, is delivering ice on a horse-drawn cart to New Orleans families with his friend Pete when the novel opens in 1914. When his brother James commits suicide after a banking scandal, a devastated Jude looks for easy money and good times in the notorious Storyville, but his time there is marked by disillusionment an tragedy. When he flees Storyville and the disapproval of his parents, Jude finds himself in his family's native Ireland. It is there that he meets the fiery revolutionary Maeve, the young woman who will set him on fire and change his life. When he then flees Ireland with a young family, circumstances force Jude to enter the world of bootlegging and horse-racing. Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us today Viola, as always it was a delight. 

What a fascinating background you have Viola. We wish you continuing success with your books. Best wishes, Freda 

Find out more about Viola Russell: 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA full members only. If you are interested in an interview, please contact: 


Paula Martin said...

Lovely to learn more about you, Viola/Susan! I'm sure there's a novel waiting to be written about your great-grandmother's life!

Viola Russell said...

Thanks so much, Paula! I think I'll wrote about her once I've completed my exploration of the Irish side of the family.

Jill Barry said...

I expect many of us wish we'd asked more questions of our grandparents but mine were either not around or intimidating! Great interview, Viola/Susan. I wish you well with your writing.