Please welcome this week’s guest to the Showcase.
From the desk of Kay Castaneda:
The title of my first novel is Emmie of Indianapolis. The idea for this book came about when my nieces were visiting me. They were teasing me about living in the last century. Casey, who was eight at the time, wanted to know if refrigerators had been invented yet and did I have one way back then. Ten-year-old Frankie asked me about vacuum cleaners and stoves. Jamie, thirteen, wondered how I did my hair. Did they have hairdryers and even shampoo? The list went on and on until the subject of popcorn came up. Microwaves weren’t invented yet, so my mom, their grandmother, cooked popcorn on top of the stove in an old metal pot. Their eyes became very big and were so amazed as I demonstrated with my hands how you had to shake and keep the pot moving over the flame or the popcorn would burn. The girls were thrilled that they caught me with evidence of being old.
I told them other stories about when I was a young girl in Indianapolis. Even though they lived in the suburbs of Indianapolis, they’d only been downtown a few times for football games and Christmas shopping. I think it’s important for people to know their family history and the place where they live. I began by writing down a list of names, birthdates and other information of our immediate family members. As I created the list, the idea of turning the list into a book became something I felt called to do.
I always wanted to write a book, but I never had a clear idea what it would be about. The character of Emmie came to mind as a way to tell stories in a novel format. There were some memories that were painful to recall, but I wanted to tell the truth so I could be faithful to the times and family history. I knew I couldn’t write very personal details, but I could convey a general idea.
The 1960s was a historic and unique era in Indianapolis and the country. All eras are historic, but I felt it was crucial to preserve some of the times gone by as experienced by a real person, not just as in a textbook. Emmie, the protagonist, is a twelve-year-old girl which is the age I was in the novel’s time period. I used ‘poetic license” to add fictional elements to the story. Many of the characters are modelled after friends and people from my neighbourhood back then. I also wrote detailed descriptions of landmarks in the inner city and the way people interacted with each other then. I plan to continue Emmie’s story as a series that will take place in the same time period in Indianapolis. Emmie will be a teenager and have various adventures with the same friends in the city plus I will explain how it was for young people in that time.
I think I’ve changed in many ways since I wrote this book. I’m not nervous now to let people know I’m a writer. Before, it embarrassed me to let anyone find out about my writing because I was not certain about my abilities. Now that I completed a novel, at least I can believe in myself and my writing. It’s one thing to tell people that you plan to write a book, and another to actually do it. I always had doubts about wanting to be a writer. Now I know that I can write a book with all the research and planning that it takes.
Being an author doesn’t involve just creativity, it takes practical business skills. I am really thankful that I was able to see it to the end.
Kay Castaneda is retired from a career as a college writing instructor and special education tutor. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in English at Indiana University. Her publications include poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction in literary journals plus articles about education for reference books. She published a novel based on her experiences growing up in the Midwest, Emmie of Indianapolis. Kay also contributed two stories to Death Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories which was published July, 2019. She is currently researching the history of Ireland for a novel based on her ancestors. Her work in progress is a mystery novel with an amateur female sleuth. Her hobbies include reading, especially Russian novels, biographies, watching crime shows on TV and genealogy. Kay’s talents include daydreaming, inventing characters for future writing and baking. She loves to eat at Mom and Pop diners and browse in antique stores and flea markets. Kay lives in Mexico with her husband Tony, son Richard and dog Buddy.
Emmie of Indianapolis blurb
In 1963, a young teenage girl moves with her mother and sisters from the suburbs to the downtown of a Midwestern city after her parents get a divorce. Emmie, a naïve, curious and intelligent girl, wants the security of her suburban life but has always dreamed of adventure in faraway places. She must take risks, meet new people and become independent. The change is difficult for all because of her mother’s alcoholism and lack of a steady income. When Emmie’s mother takes a job, she cares for her sisters at night. In her new neighbourhood, Emmie meets people from different cultures and who are both good and evil. She defends her sisters and herself each day by confronting the evil, thus awakening her courage and inner strength. But she never gives up.
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