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Corinda Pitts Marsh Author Interview

by Kathryn Bax

Like most people, I don’t really like talking about myself, so I always find a way to explain myself by talking about my writing. I am a seventy-one year old Florida Cracker, a real one. My daddy herded cattle through the swamp cracking a whip when he was twelve years old, so that must qualify me as the real thing. I love my Southern heritage, but I’m old enough to know everything about my heritage isn’t as I would like it to be. I try through my books to explain life as I see it with the hope that some of my readers might come to see their own hearts more clearly. I stand up for what I see as right even when it gets me in hot water, which it definitely does sometimes.

Who is the real Corinda Pitts Marsh?

I suppose I am just an old hippie who still believes in right and wrong and sometimes likes rubbing people the wrong way if I think they need rubbing. I am a grandmother of three perfect grandsons and one amazing granddaughter. That’s the real heart of me.

More than several decades ago you went back to college at the age of 44 and then went on to study literature emerging with a doctorate. What made you go back to college at that age, and what life changing experience was it for you embarking on this new path?

I had been a cosmetologist for 20 years and had injured my shoulder so I could no longer do that, so I decided it was time to return to college. I went to college one year when I graduated from high school, but I knew everything then, so I more or less flunked out. When I finally decided it was time to learn, I managed to graduate from the University of Central Florida Suma Cum Laude with a BA in English. I loved the experience so much I decide I wanted to be one of those professors who got to talk about literature every day. That decision was one of the best I ever made. I loved every minute of it (with the possible exception of taking French and Italian—that was horrifying, but I survived thanks to an old professor who took pity on me). Teaching literature taught me more about the books than I ever learned from classes, so it was natural for me to start writing when I retired.

You were raised in the deep South. How has that influenced how and what you write?

My Southern heritage influences every word I write. Being a Southerner is so much more than most people realize. Southern women are strong, independent women who do what needs to be done—whatever that is. Most of my stories are wrapped around that heritage. I like to develop characters and use my “language” to recreate the things I know. I think it was Thomas Wolfe who said we can only write what we know. I stick to that.

You have written several books, mostly historical fiction. While doing so, you have formed a special bond with fellow author, Olafur Gunnarsson spanning more than 20 years. Tell us how you first met, and the part he has played in shaping your stories.

I owe my writing to Oli. He loves Thomas Wolfe’s stories, and my dissertation was about Wolfe and his affair with Aline Bernstein, so when I answered a student’s question on the Wolfe website, Oli saw it and the rest is history. He challenged me to write a story about the Civil War and to take the persona of a male character, preferably one very different from myself. That character is still my favourite. That book has been my best seller and has enjoyed a relatively long life of popularity. Oli has mentored me and encouraged me when I wanted to surrender to self-doubt. He demanded that I write every time I wanted to quit.

Your husband has also been hugely influential in why you write. Tell us about the part he has played in you being the writer you are today.

Oh, where to begin? Gary promised me when we got married that he would make the living if I would make the living worthwhile. We’ve been in that mode for quite some time now. He convinced me to retire, which was not an easy task. One must have tremendous faith to give up a career, but I did and I started writing, but I met failure everywhere I turned. I must have contacted more than 100 agents and publishers in an effort to get someone to publish my work. I could wallpaper my house with all the rejection letters. Gary has read the Wall Street Journal for maybe 50 years, so he handed me an article one day and insisted I read it. It was about Amazon Createspace. I saw my avenue. That is what led directly to my movie contract. The producer who is going to make my movie bought my book on Amazon and loved it. Without Createspace that would never have happened.

Do your stories spring from what you uncover via your research or do you have a kernel of an idea, and then venture off into doing the research?

I usually have the idea first then look for the research. I knew I wanted to write a Civil War story that involved two women, one black and one white, so I looked for a battle that took place near my home. That became the story. I had an imaginary playmate when I was three years old, so some things never change. I become friends with my characters and they write the stories.

You do not shy away from thorny historical societal issues that many Americans would rather forget; lynchings in Secrets of the South: The Ghost of Blackwater Creek, race riots and segregation in Holocaust in the Homeland: Black Wall Street's Last Days, and slavery in Behind the Tupelo Tree: Secrets of the South. What motivated you to speak out against issues that many have tried to sweep under the proverbial carpet?

I don’t think we can get past those things unless we talk about them. My most controversial book isn’t even about race, but that issue is one that haunts me. It hurts me to see someone treated badly because of skin pigment, but I hate injustice anywhere I see it. My most controversial book tells about a cheating scandal I learned about when I was teaching at the local community college. I was forced to keep silent, so twenty years later, when no one had a leash on me, I told it. That book has never gone anywhere because I don’t promote it, but if it ever does, I’ll probably be in some deep poo, not that I’m afraid of a little poo.

Out of all your books written to date, which character is your favorite and why?

Big Earl, hands down! Earl has my heart. He is the character Oli encouraged me to create. He is six feet six inches tall and weighs nearly 300 pounds. He’s a slave who winds up killing the bad guy. He did my dirty work for me. He’s loyal to his family and afraid of nothing.

This week in the Author’s Resource Group you announced that you had been approached by a third party who would like to buy the film rights to Holocaust in the Homeland: Black Wall Street's Last Days, possibly also Behind the Tupelo Tree: Secrets of the South. This is a wonderful opportunity and sincere congratulations! Tell us more about your first contact with Mark Holder of Zero Gravity Management , how things are progressing and the actors lined up for the various parts.

I have the contract in hand and will most likely sign it next week. My attorney is looking it over, but I don’t see any hitches. Mark wanted to do a movie on the Black Wall Street riot in 1921, so he began to research the available books on the topic. He chose my book. I told the story through the eyes of a fictional newspaper reporter, so it lends itself well to a movie. When I write, I always try to see the story as if it is a movie. That helps me to describe the characters and the scene, so I think that must have been what Mark saw. The movie will be directed by Tim Story, and it is my understanding that Idris Elba will star in it. This is a sad story, but people need to know about it. We are repeating some of the same mistakes today, so I hope the movie will help us to realize what we are doing. Mark has been fabulous to work with. He is very personable and easy to talk to, so I look forward very much to working with him. He intends to start the movie as soon as possible. I understand the screenwriter will be working on it as soon as I sign on the dotted line, and Mark has asked me to collaborate with him. I love a new challenge, so this is really exciting to me.

What are you writing about at the moment or is all the excitement of the film preventing you from cracking on with the next one?

I always have a story cooking in my head, and this time I am seeing a Southern country girl named Jolene. She’s a mess. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten. I just finished a novel last week, and I promised myself I would rest before I start a new novel, but Jolene is calling. I just finished Finding Ann, a novel about a woman who lived with an abusive husband for more than four decades. This story was stimulated by something that happened to a relative. I wanted to shoot her husband when I heard her story, but since I don’t look good in orange, I decided to write about him and kill him in the story. I shot him point blank in the chest with a .357 magnum! Now I feel better, and I don’t have to wear an orange jumpsuit. Unfortunately, the real man is still alive and well, but that was the best I could do to get even.

Books

Holocaust in the Homeland: Black Wall Street's Last Days

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

Soon to be in movie theaters, Holocaust in the Homeland tells the story of one of the darkest days in US history. Envious locals in Tulsa dubbed the Greenwood section "Black Wall Street" because of its economic success, but that success was obliterated by a riot in 1921. The riot completely razed Greenwood, destroying the lives of its 10,000 residents. This account sees the events through the eyes of a fictional reporter. It offers perspective and hope. The events of Memorial Day, 1921 were hidden for the better part of a century, but knowing the truth about that day is critical to understanding ourselves and our motives and will ultimately make us all safer in an unsafe world. Today, just as in 1921, media hype too often obscures truth and embraces hype because hype is more interesting. The truth about this event must no longer be kept secret. Follow Sam Stackhouse, an old man remembering, as he discovers truth and wisdom.

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Behind the Tupelo Tree: Secrets of the South Vols. I and II

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$3.99

Two strong Southern women, one a slave and the other a slave owner, forge a family dynasty with the men they love. These women must brave turbulent times and decide right and wrong in a hostile world too often based on color and gender. They form an alliance that lasts for generations. Pivotal in the lives of these women, big Earl loves them both and protects them, risking his own life. Coming to them from the block in New Orleans with heavy iron chains on his ankles, Earl changes their lives forever. Later he does the same for a third woman from another world. His legacy carries him into the next century as his son stands behind the Tupelo tree watching helplessly as an innocent man is lynched. The intertwining of these lives tells the story Behind the Tupelo Tree. To see more books by this author, see Behind the Tupelo Tree Facebook page.

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Finding Ann: The Silent Journey

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

Why do women stay with abusers? Ann lost herself in the silence of denial. She stumbled through life being kicked and abused, but she hid it from people who loved her. She protected one man by allowing another to harm her. She had made her bed. Now she must lie in it as society demanded. Only when forced to do so, did she end the horror. Ann's story is dedicated to her sisters throughout the world, who endure the silent horrors of domestic abuse.

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Thomas Wolfe: Aline Bernstein's Dark Brooding Flower

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

Aline Bernstein referred to Thomas Wolfe as a dark, brooding flower. She saw the darkest side of him and loved him in spite of the darkness. She supported him financially and emotionally while he wrote Of Time and the River, The Web and the Rock, and Look Homeward, Angel. She was Esther Jack, his most believable character. She provided raw material for his novels and contributed to his theme of illusions versus reality.

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Illusions of Honor: The Truth and the Myth

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$1.99

We fool ourselves into believing the world of college athletics is honorable. Young men and women receive a college education in return for representing the college on the field or in the arena. We protest that players learn honor, sportsmanship, teamwork skills. They grow as men and women of honor. Myth--it is a myth. Most never earn an education, but they do learn to cheat and connive--anything to win. Winning isn't the most important thing; it is everything. When sports and academics clash, the winner is always the same. Basketball is business--the stakes are high. When one college president decides to have a championship regardless of the price, the dominoes begin to fall around him until he is toppled by his own game. Unfortunately, his fall brings down others who have no skin in the game. Choosing honor in a dishonorable world is a dangerous play. All the members of the president's team were not willing players, but all were losers. This is the story of one insider's observations and reactions. While the story is fiction and characters have been changed for obvious reasons, the events it is based on are not. Coaches at New Mexico State University wrote English essays for players and sent them to other colleges for basketball players they would recruit. NCAA Reports of this scandal are public record, but this is the story of one of the players who never got caught. Their secret has remained hidden for 20 years, until all threat of reprisal for revealing the truth was gone. Fingers of this corruption spread out across the country.

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Salem's Theocracy: Shattered on the Rock of Witchcraft

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

Little Dorcas Good was four years old when she was arrested for practicing witchcraft. She was chained in a dungeon jail, unable to walk about or see the light of day for months. Giles Corey was eighty years old when he was crushed to death for refusing to participate in the madness. Twenty innocent people died on Gallows Hill in Salem in 1692; more died in jail. Frightened girls accused men, women, and children of tormenting them through specters, ghosts, and witchcraft. The girls were spurred on by evil men who had hidden motives. All this was made possible by a Puritan Theocracy. Not until the theocracy smashed itself upon the rock did the tragedy end.

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Blue Butterfly Days: Dreams and Regrets

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

Can dreams predict the future--or maybe even change it? Blue Butterfly Days is a story of love and loss and one woman's journey to find peace after a tragic loss. Her first love is killed in a tragic accident on her seventeenth birthday, but she finds him in another world many years later--or does she? Sometimes the boundary between dreams and reality becomes blurred and dreams change reality. Paranormal experiences are far more common than most of us realize. Do we sense the feelings of loved ones from miles away or in another time? Or do we create in our own reality from dreams? Does time bring answers or simply more questions? Do we understand what love is when we are sixteen? Is it real only when we reach a certain age? If so, what is that age? This is the story of a woman looking for answers to those questions, but will she recognize the answers when she finds them?

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Eminent Danger

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

Why is Bruce Goodson obsessed with obtaining Stoney Parker's land? Bruce is willing to risk his wife and his money to get what he wants. As long as anyone in Mullet Cove could remember, a hermit had lived on the land beyond the lighthouse and Stoney held firmly to his grandfather's land and to his family's infamous eccentricity. Stoney was the fourth generation of Parkers born on the land but he gave it up on a hot bloody day in August. Mullet Cove sheltered secrets no one suspected until that day. Maylyn lived a short and tortured life, but she held the keys, keys that were buried with her in a dense palmetto thicket under a pile of coquina shells. Grace Goodson's beauty led her to betray her husband and force those secrets into the light of day. Ten acres of sand and palmettos tangled three families in a web that unraveled in a summer storm.

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Shooter Giggers: Diving and Spearfishing in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950's

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

The "Shooter Giggers" are a group of men who were pioneers in diving and spearfishing back in the late 1940's and 1950's. Seven of them have told their stories in their own words and have shared treasured photographs they took of their adventures.

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The Magic Dolphin: The Lady of the Lagoon (The Magic Life Book 1)

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

Brady and Lizzie Parker are struggling to grow up without their mother in 1930 in a small fishing village in North Florida. The Magic Dolphin lives in the lagoon where pirates used to camp. The dolphin follows Brady when he fishes in the Gulf of Mexico with his father and swims with the children in the lagoon near the cemetery where their mother is buried. The dolphin saves Lizzie from an attack by a savage bull shark, but when the big hurricane comes, she is nowhere to be found. A dark and beautiful lady appears to guide them to safety. When they learn the true secret of the magic dolphin, their lives are changed forever.

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B'ar Yarns: Florida Pioneer Stories

Corinda Pitts Marsh

$2.99

B'ar Yarns (Bear Yarns) is a collection of memories of a boy growing up in North Florida in the early 1900's. Eugene Pitts left these stories of pioneer life for those who follow him. He and his brothers experienced adventures children today can only dream of. He thought nothing of riding off into the swamp in the dead of night to hunt raccoons or alligators, and he didn't hesitate to jump on his Texas cow pony and take out after a 2000 pound bull armed with a 12 foot bullwhip. He loved animals and respected nature, leaving these lessons for his descendants and other children who read his story.

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