Saturday, September 3, 2022

Bobi Conn

Bobi Conn is the author of the memoir In the Shadow of the Valley. Born in Morehead, Kentucky, and raised in a nearby holler, Conn developed a deep connection with the land and her Appalachian roots. She obtained her bachelor’s degree at Berea College, the first school in the American South to integrate racially and to teach men and women in the same classrooms. Conn attended graduate school, where she earned a master’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. In addition to writing, she loves playing pool, telling jokes, cooking, being in the woods, attempting to grow a garden, and spending time with her incredible children.

Conn's new novel is A Woman in Time.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My title creates a little mystery rather than pulling readers into the story. From the title, the reader doesn’t know what time period might be referenced (though the cover image provides some clues). However, I chose this title because it relates to the story in three different ways, which the reader cannot understand until they finish the book. I won’t be giving anything away by telling readers here that on one level, the title refers to the protagonist’s existence during a specific era and the novel explores the constraints and possibilities for women of that era. This story also follows a girl through into young adulthood so the title would be written “a woman, in time” to reflect that arc. And finally, this story seeks to illuminate the relationships that exist between one generation and the next, and therefore, this main character is a woman who lives for a specific time (a lifetime, like all of us) but there are aspects of her that are timeless.

What's in a name?

Most of my characters have names that I chose based on their root meanings and/or Biblical meanings. I love the idea that names tell us a lot about a person (when they fit that person) so I made this choice as a kind of Easter egg for readers who are interested in delving into deeper layers of the story. The protagonist, however, is named Rosalee after the name I picked for my daughter (Rose) when I wrote about her in my memoir. I also love how “Rosalee” sounds like a character in a ballad. There are a couple of other female characters who I named after my grandmother and a beloved teacher. Since the women in this story all represent women in my own family, I sometimes picked female names that reflected my actual relations.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I think my teenager reader self would be thrilled that I have a new novel, and I hope she would also recognize the hints of magical realism in it. I fell in love with magical realism when I was sixteen, so I think that version of my self would be enthralled with that aspect of the novel, though it could also hit a little close to home since it is based on some of the stories I grew up hearing about my family.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I suspect some of my characters – and maybe all – have some aspect of me in them. I feel like I sink into a new character and am able to occupy that imaginary life when I’m writing about them, but in the end, I think we see the world as we are. That is to say, our psychology is inextricable from our perceptions and creations, so I think my characters represent my personality at times, or my hopes, fears, and beliefs at others. I do hope I’m nothing like the couple of cruel characters who show up in this book.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

As I mentioned earlier, some of this story is based on stories I grew up hearing and namely, about my great-grandfather who was a moonshiner during Prohibition (and long after). I grew up in Eastern Kentucky and oral storytelling is a rich aspect of Appalachian culture. I suspect that, and the 70s- and 80s-era country music I grew up on, helped inspire my love of stories. And while I’m not part of it now, I grew up in an evangelical Christian church, so the King James Bible first introduced me to language, symbolism, and other elements of writing that I appreciate so much. My grandest aspiration in writing is to illuminate those aspects of our human experiences that bind us together and make our individual lives so meaningful. For that, I have a lot of non-literary inspirations to credit, but growing up surrounded by nature was my first influence and in many ways, the most important.
Visit Bobi Conn's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Woman in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue