Today I want to welcome Debra Coleman Jeter to my blog. Debra’s debut novel The Ticket has been tagged as a # 1 release by Amazon. Its release date was June 9th and it continues to receive 5 star reviews. Not bad for a newbie, Debra. Take a seat on my slightly lumpy couch and help yourself to some chai tea. While you get settled let me share the book blurb on your book.
Tray Dunaway longs to be part of the popular set at school, but she’s growing too fast and her clothes no longer fit. The only person who understands Tray’s need for acceptance is her grandmother, but when Tray wears Gram’s hand-sewn clothes to school, the kids make fun of her tall, boney appearance. Tray’s luck improves when Pee Wee Johnson, a down-and-out friend of her father’s, buys two lottery tickets and gives one to Mr. Dunaway as a thank-you for driving him to Hazard, Illinois. When her father’s ticket turns out to be the winner, Johnson demands his cut of the proceeds, but Tray’s dad refuses. What seems like a stroke of good fortune suddenly becomes a disturbing turn of events as Johnson threatens to cause problems for the family and Tray.
Check out the book trailer for The Ticket at: vimeo.com/50187275.
Debbie, what prompted you to write this novel?
That tea’s delicious! Cindy, first, I want to thank you for having me on your blog. As a newbie, I’ve just started one of my own, but I’m not sure anyone has found it yet. http://www.debracolemanjeter.com/blog.
I think the idea for this novel came to me in stages. First, I wanted to write something to show how little importance wealth really is, though we often spend way too much time thinking about money. Once I decided to write about a family with financial troubles winning the lottery, then I thought it might be interesting if someone else bought the ticket and gave it to them … which leads to a lot of the twists in my plot.
I’m admitting my age here but I was a teen in the early 70s. The setting resonated with me. Why the 1970s? Why not present day?
I wanted to pick a time when a fourteen year old was more naïve than today’s teens typically are. Also, I wanted a time before cell phones and social media. Finally, I chose a period when the states of Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where I’ve spent most of my life) did not yet have a lottery, and so the idea of winning a lottery was particularly novel. You had to cross into another state just to buy a ticket.
There are some edgy scenes in The Ticket. One in particular caught some flak from some readers. As a YA book many parents may read it before their teens. Tell me why you felt the scenes needed to be there.
First, it provides an opportunity to round out the character of Pee Wee, the man who buys the ticket. Up to this point in the novel, his behavior makes him seem ominous. This scene shows that he isn’t evil or beyond redemption. But, more importantly, The Ticket deals with some tough, realistic issues. The situation referred to in the controversial scene is one that arises all too often, and I think it’s important for young women or boys who might face something like this in their lives to know that it’s not their fault. They are not alone. They should not feel ashamed. Ideally, I’d like for my book to open a dialogue within families about how to handle such a situation should it arise.
How do you hope Tray’s story will impact your YA readers?
I hope they will be moved to cheer for Tray, to be alternately glad or sad with her, depending on what is going on. I hope they see the good that can come out of difficult or trying circumstances. No matter how bleak things get, there is always hope in the morrow. I want them to see a girl who, like so many of us, struggles with self-confidence and to see they too can emerge stronger and more confident in the end. Also, I hope they will figure out that Tray is making some mistakes and resolve not to make those same kinds of mistakes in their own lives.
Debbie, what’s next on your agenda? A sequel for Tray or a different direction?
A different direction. I have two adult novels almost ready to go; they are set in a small Southern beach town. I am also currently writing an ambitious saga about my grandmother’s life, which is based on the facts that I know, but fictionalized. I start when she is twelve and cover fifty years of her life.
Tell us a little about Debra Jeter. What are you up to when you are not writing?
I love to spend time with my family. My daughter has a three year old and a new baby, just a month and a half, and they are incredibly precious. I also teach and do academic research at Vanderbilt University. I find my way to water every chance I get—to the ocean or to Kentucky Lake, especially in these hot, humid days of summer. I start to dry out like a fish if I am away from water too long. There is nothing quite like the ocean to show us God’s power and to teach us we cannot rely on our own. I also love to collaborate with my son on film projects (when he will let me)!
One last question. The one I love to ask every writer I interview. What words of wisdom would you give new writers?
I have a colleague at Vanderbilt whose signature on his emails reads “Never, never, never give up.” I think this is what I would tell writers. That, and write what you care deeply about, rather than what you think the market is ripe for.
Before you go let’s do a give-away. Commenter’s names will be put in a drawing. The winner will receive a copy of The Ticket. I’ll give everyone until the end of the week to comment. The winner will be announced in the comment section on Saturday. If you have any questions about Debra’s book or her writing journey Debra would love to answer them. As an extra incentive each commenter will be sent a link for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Include your email to receive the link.
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