BLOG TOUR: An interview with Andra Watkins

to-live-foreverTo Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis has been described as a genre-bending novel. How would you describe it and on which bookshop shelf would you place it?
I call it a genre-bending novel. It’s a mix of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense/adventure fiction. Some readers have described it as magical realism and as young adult. At the end of the day, I fear we are too hung up on categories. I just tried to write a book I’d always wanted to read, and I hope other readers will feel the same way.

The novel is a great concept – what first gave you the spark of an idea to write the story, and what was your greatest inspiration when writing it?
Thank you! I first thought about writing the book when I was working in Nashville. I was rushing to a meeting in the West End. When I looked to my right, there was the Parthenon, this historic end of the Natchez Trace. I looked to my left, and there was a tiny road sign that read “Natchez Tr.” I started thinking about how Meriwether Lewis died on the Trace, and my imagination took it from there.

Research is a large part of a writer’s work. How long did you spend on research for this novel, and do you enjoy that side of writing? What do you enjoy best of all when writing?
I read academic works and biographies for several months as research for this novel. I also drove the entire Natchez Trace over two separate trips, and I spent time in New Orleans, both touring sites for the book and interviewing people who’d lived there for decades. I’ve always been a history geek, but I never wanted to write straight historical fiction. A book like To Live Forever gives me the ability to dive into research and still make up a new story, which is the kind of writing I enjoy best of all.

Do you enjoy the promotional side of things, such as public readings and signings? If so, which has been your most enjoyable experience?
I’m a former stage actress (Ooh, me too! How exciting!), so promotional things are really fun for me. Parnassus Books in Nashville hosted me for an author event and book signing, and I was honored that they chose me. I loved meeting readers and hearing their stories. That’s the best thing about writing: meeting the people whose lives are touched by my words.

Can you tell us a little about what other work you have in the pipeline?
To launch To Live Forever, I was the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. I did it in 34 days. Because my novel is about a girl’s relationship with her father, I took my almost-80-year-old father along on the trip. I’m writing a memoir called Not Without My Father, about the importance of taking the time to have a five-week adventure with my father at the end of his life. It will be available Fall 2014. I’m also working on a sequel to To Live Forever, which will be available Spring 2015.

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