Three friends, two secrets, one lie, and the summer that changed their lives.
Debut novel Atomic Summer explodes onto this summer’s must read book list June 21, 2012
In 1953, three teenage girls’ innocent conversations about what each of them would do if the end of the world were imminent, coupled with a friend’s obsession, become the catalyst for a prank that spins wildly beyond control and draws in an entire town. Left behind in the wake of that summer’s events are their unrealized dreams and open wounds. In 1973, a reunion trip to the small town of their youths returns them to the summer of 1953 and the passion and betrayal that changed their lives.
The world is ripe for destruction in 1953. The Korean War drags on and the Rosenbergs are executed as spies. Senator Joseph McCarthy convinces the country communists are infiltrating the government, and the threat of nuclear war festered in the collective consciousness of the nation. While Americans constructed backyard bomb shelters, the government conducted nuclear tests in the desert.
Women’s Fiction Author, Elaine D. Walsh, captures the anxiety of the times and draws the reader in with rich characters that linger longer after the story ends.
Today I'm pleased to introduce Women’s Fiction Author Elaine D. Walsh. Elaine grew up in upstate New York. She earned a degree in English from the State University of New York at Geneseo and enjoys a successful business career at a Fortune 100 company where her practical application of human performance technology has earned her professional awards and accolades. She resides in Florida and has called the Tampa Bay area home for over 20 years.
I'll turn it over to Elaine.
What was your inspiration for Atomic Summer?
The story came together kind of like the nostalgic commercial where someone with chocolate bumps into a person with a jar of peanut butter. In the commercial, each person tastes the chocolate-peanut butter collision, their light bulbs go off, and “Viola” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are born.
I was working on a short story set in a small town where a mysterious man who claims to be a preacher develops a hold over the community. I was struggling with the story. Filed away in my mind was a story my mother relayed to me about a conversation she had with two of her girlfriends when she was a teenager. It centered around what they would do if it were the end of the world. I was so amused by their answers. I would tell friends about it and it was always good for a few laughs. I wanted to do something with these girls and their conversation in a story. In the creative part of my brain, the small town preacher story and these girls collided and “Viola” Atomic Summer was born. It went from short story to full-length novel with the girls becoming the main characters.
Do you have a favorite scene?
There is scene where the three main characters are at the house of Savannah Vaughn, one of the girl’s mother. Savannah carries herself as if she were a southern belle, which is why she calls herself Savannah, named after the southern city. She is instructing the three main characters in the parts they will play in the homecoming celebration she is orchestrating. It is both playful and sad and gives the reader rich insight to the character’s motivations and their complex relationships.
How does history influence your writing?
The three main characters have conversations about what they would do if the end of the world were imminent. For the story to be believable, I needed to set it in a period in history where American’s were anxious. As I researched, I settled on 1953 during the Korean War. The Rosenbergs are executed as spies. The “red scare” is in full swing courtesy of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The government conducts nuclear tests. American’s are genuinely fearful of nuclear war with the Soviets to the point many build bomb shelters in their backyards and basements. June and July of 1953 is an “atomic summer”.
What do you like to read and why?
I love to read character driven and relationship-based stories and biographies. I typically have two books I’m reading at one time, a fiction and non-fiction book. Lately I find myself reading more works by Indie Authors. There is such rich talent out there not sitting on the best sellers list, and you don’t have to look far to find it.
Why did you decide to publish via the Indie writer path?
I had an agent for a while who was very excited about the prospects for this book, but with scarce marketing dollars, publishing houses were hesitant to take on an unknown author. I decided to walk away from the agent-to-publishing house route and learn from other successful Indie Authors. They are a true community that is supportive and helpful, an incredible network. I am humbled by their willingness to help their fellow writers. I have learned so much from them and I want to “pay forward” so to speak, and help other writers who choose this path.
Now for something fun... Name two things within arm’s reach.
My iPad and a glass of red wine. Of course, my iPad has the books I am reading on it as well as the newspaper, Facebook, blogs, pictures, videos, email, and Twitter. It is an amazing portal into the world best explored with a nice malbec, or syrah, or cabernet…oh heck, anything red.
Is there anything else about your book or yourself you would like people to know?
As a way to honor my mother, I am donating 100% of the profits from the book’s sale in 2012 to cancer related causes and charities. This book is dedicated her memory. She passed away in 2008 at the age of sixty-three after battling primary peritoneal cancer. It is a rare and aggressive cancer with few warning signs. She had already beat breast cancer when she was thirty-eight. Facing cancer once is bad enough. She faced it twice and each time with such grace.
It was her story about her and her friends' conversations that was the creative spark for Atomic Summer. I am thankful that before she passed, she was able to read it and enjoy it. Shortly after she read it, her two girlfriends who were part of that conversation visited her and I had the chance to meet them. When she introduced them to me, she called them “the atomic summer girls”. She was a proud mother at that moment. I will never forget it.
What does the future hold? Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
Hopefully, I will be spending a great deal of time writing checks to charity. In addition, I have another novel I will publish next summer. It is also a women’s fiction novel. I think the same readers who pick up a copy of Atomic Summer and enjoy it will enjoy my next novel too.
Before we end this interview, I would like to say thank you to the many “teachers” out there in the Indie Author community and on Goodreads, Facebook, various bloghops and Twitter, just to name a few, and to you, Melissa, for hosting me.
You're quite welcome. I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and learning about such an interesting book!
Nimitz Highway and River Street is an intersection on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. This is where she impatiently came out of the womb ready to start on her personal history. She grew up in upstate New York against the backdrop of the flowering women’s rights movement with different ideas from her mother as to what her life as a woman should be. In college, she majored in psychology with the intent of being a “death & dying” counselor. This would be her paying job while she wrote the next great American novel. Plan B kicked in and she graduated with a B.A. in English, packed her car, and upset her parents by moving to Florida in search of her destiny.
Without ever having taken one business course, she created her own brand and became a successful business executive by day and women’s fiction writer by night. So far, she has lived a Lifetime Movie Network life, a mixture of extraordinary, ordinary, mundane, and terrifying, providing her great inspiration and fanning her creative flame.
Her father imbued in her a strong sense of family. He brought to life the words unconditional love. From her mother, she gained an appreciation for the complexities of relationships and richness in life one finds exploring and experiencing everything from a recipe, to a historical site, to lunch with friends, or a glass of wine. Her mother was a collector of experiences. They journeyed together and grew as individuals and as mother-daughter. Elaine shared her mother’s journeys battling cancer, as her mother survived one and succumbed to another. In one of their last soulful conversations before her mother died, she told Elaine she was glad Elaine also had a daughter and hoped she would enjoy her own daughter as much as her mother enjoyed Elaine.
To purchase Atomic Summer, click here.