Author discusses new novel at Blue Ridge Books

By Rachel Robles Guide contributor | Mar 26, 2014

Local author J.C. Walkup will talk about her new novel "Partners" at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville. Walkup recently took the time to answer a few questions about herself and her book.

Q: Where in Texas are you from and how did you end up in North Carolina? How long have you lived in the area?

A: I lived and worked in Dallas for 49 years, a couple of years in California and three years in Georgia. The move to Georgia was for my last three of 34 years with an aircraft company. My husband retired when we moved to Perry, Georgia. Our agreement was that he would be a househusband those last years if he could pick our retirement location. He eventually found Waynesville. When he called me that night, he said, "I've found the perfect town. It has two wine stores and a bakery." That was 15 years go.


Q: What inspired you to write "Partners?"

A: Texas history has fascinated me since grade school. Many different kinds of people found their way to this sprawling state. Most of them were leaving behind lives they didn't want to continue living or identities that needed to change for safety reasons. It was considered rude to ask a man where he came from back then. For many, Texas was a fresh start, a version of a do over.


Q: What was your writing process like?

A: It was a backward evolutionary process. It's true that "Partners" is the first of a series of four books to see publication. The last book of this series was finished first in 2006. I made no effort to publish it then, put it in a box and vowed to never inflict it on the reading public. But it served to birth characters and a family dynasty that begins in 1868. I did enjoy the research. It was like following a trail of twists and turns never knowing exactly where it led.

It is hard to pin a number of drafts on the completed work. A few chapters wrote themselves and have hardly been touched. Most have undergone more revisions than I can count. As a Texas friend once cautioned, "Don't polish the shine off it!"


Q: Is there a person or persons who helped you along the way?

A: There are so many! The ones who helped with research include the library staff in Waynesville and Canton. Archivists in the Fort Worth Library, the staff of the LBJ Library in Austin, the archivist in Glasgow, Scotland, and Robin and Mary Courtvriend who live here in Waynesville. Then there are other writers who offered help and encouragement. Strange, since some are competitors, but that is a characteristic unique to writers.


Q: What has the publication process been like? Has it been easy? Hard?

A: "Partners" is my first effort to move through the entire process. It is intimidating. There is a language to learn if you want to communicate your preferences, and patience is, above all, the hardest thing to learn.


Q: "Partners" has an interesting cast of characters — Scottish men, a French-Indian orphan, Texans, Mexicans, and everything in between it seems. What can you tell us about your characters and their diversity?

A: There are many other characters important in the development of this state that I don't introduce. I feel guilty about focusing on these few. If I had another lifetime, maybe I could tell all their stories. For example, there is a large German population in and around Fredericksburg. How they came to be and how they have kept their identity begs many more stories although the historical facts are well documented.


Q: Finally, what did you hope to accomplish in writing "Partners?"

A: There is a rich depth to stories of how Texas and Texans relate to each other. The land is a player in any story just as it is here in the mountains. From that starting point, the different nations, states and aboriginals contribute their flavor to a magnificent, larger-than-life history of Texas. Other writers such as Larry McMurtry and James Michner have detailed far more than I can ever hope to show of this wonderful mix and the rich depth of cultures that exist side by side even today. I want to bring readers to feel the lifestyle of the period — how they survived, the foods they ate, the clothes they wore and how they reacted to harsh situations that made some prosper and some fail.