Bobbie Faye Sumrall is a dead-broke Cajun living in a broken-down
trailer in Lake Charles, Louisiana. When criminals demand
Bobbie Faye’s Contraband Queen tiara in exchange for
her good-for-nothing brother, Bobbie Faye has to outwit
the police, organized crime, former boyfriends, and a hostage
she never intended to take in order to rescue her brother,
keep custody of her niece, and get back in time to take
her place as Queen in the Lake Charles Contraband Festival.
Luckily, she knows how to handle guns, outwit angry mama
bears, drive a speedboat, and get herself out of (and into)
almost every kind of trouble. If only that pesky state police
detective (who also happens to be a pissed off ex-boyfriend)
would stay out of her way ...
A Louisiana native (and Cajun), Toni McGee Causey lives
in Baton Rouge with her husband and two sons. She’s
placed in top tier screenwriting contests, published many
non-fiction articles and edited a popular regional magazine.
BOBBIE FAYE’S VERY (very very very) BAD DAY is the
first in a three-book deal with St. Martin’s and will
be released in May.
Toni is a member of the Killer Year Class of 2007 and blogs
with the group at killeryear.wordpress.com.
She also has her own blog, tonimcgeecausey.wordpress.com.
Her new website (with book “trailers”) is www.tonimcgeecausey.com..
What is it about this “kick-ass, pissed off Cajun
beauty queen” that made you want to tell her story?
TONI: I think the pissed-off, tenacious, take-no-prisoners,
crazy-woman part of society is seriously under-represented
Seriously, I love strong women, and I think so many of us
go through so much just to make it through each day in our
chaotic lives. A lot of the books and movies I happened
to be reading and watching at the time were focused on single
issues (will I find the right guy? solve the mystery? survive
the bad guy?) – our lives aren’t like that.
At least, mine never has been. I wanted to write about a
woman facing multiple problems, who thinks of herself as
ordinary and yet steps up to do this extraordinary thing – try
to save her brother’s life – when it means putting
herself in jeopardy. I wanted to tap into the notion that
there’s a little hero in all of us, especially when
we’re trying to help the ones we love. I wanted to
write someone who isn’t bitter in spite of the incredibly
bad stuff life dumps on her – she’s realistic,
snarky, sees the absurdity in her situations, but ultimately,
determined that she’ll go forward or die trying. For
Bobbie Faye, there’s no choice but to keep trying.
I love that about her.
JB: After being a screenwriter, magazine editor and non-fiction
writer, was it easy to transition into fiction writing?
TONI: Although I’d originally gone to college for
fiction, after marriage, kids, and a non-fiction career,
I’d gone back and through (most of) an MFA in screenwriting,
which worked for me because I think of story via images,
not words. I learned a tremendous amount from having to
create a full story, with depth, in 120 pages. Transitioning
back to prose was difficult, in that I had to re-learn how
to show the interiority of a character instead of just what
the ‘camera’ could see.
JB: How did you transpose your own “trouble-shooting,
disaster-prevention and survival” experiences into
Bobbie Faye’s world?
TONI: When you own a small company, you tend to eat adrenaline
for breakfast. Thousands of dollars can be at risk. Someone
ends up having to be the person who brainstorms a solution
or makes the tough phone calls. You just deal; find a back-up
plan and if that fails, find another. There’s no time
to feel sorry for yourself because the next day is going
to bring its own set of problems.
I suppose I transposed this into Bobbie Faye’s world
because this “solve the problem” attitude is
deeply ingrained. Problems often turn out to be opportunities,
if you look at them right. If there’s a wall, find
a door, if there’s no door, find a window. No window?
See if the wall can be scaled. Failing that, borrow a bulldozer.
JB: You’ve “nearly completed” a double
masters at LSU. Will it affect your writing?
TONI: I’m about six hours away from completing the
MFA in Creative Writing and nine hours away from an MA in
Philosophy – and I doubt I’ll finish them now.
The original intention was to have an academic career so
that I could write. I love academics and could probably
go on to get another degree or two, but my first love has
always been writing. Now that I have the dream of writing
and being published, this is most definitely my priority.
JB: You’ve recently finished the second book. What’s
in store for Bobbie Faye next?
TONI: Waaaaay more chaos and some gut-wrenching emotional
choices. A couple of shocks that I hope the readers don’t
kill me over. And of course, more laughs.
JB: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done
and lived to tell about it?
TONI: Geez, there are so many to choose from. Okay, I’m
focusing on the ‘and lived to tell about it’ aspect
of that question for this answer.
We had a large construction project where the concrete finisher
(new to the sub-contractor) copped an attitude and decided
he wasn’t going to finish the concrete (the trucks
were on their way) because he wanted a raise or something.
We couldn’t afford to lose that job or have a delay,
and I went ... er, ballistic.
Now, Otis was a big man – easily over 6’2” and
probably closing in on 280 or more. I’m 5’3” and
petite. I remember standing nose-to-chest with this man
with arms the size of my waist and informing him (quite
vehemently) that he was, indeed, going to finish that concrete.
Have you ever seen a tiny spit of a dog go nose-to-nose
with something huge and fierce and think it ought to have ‘stupid’ tattooed
on its forehead? Yep, that was me. He argued a bit and I
just got more emphatic. There was a weird point when he
looked like he would break me in half, and I just stared
up at him, furious, and suddenly he smiled this big gap-toothed
smile and agreed to finish the concrete.
When I later explained to my husband what happened, he went
pale. Turns out that Otis had been in prison for murder,
and it had been because someone was bossing him around.
Later, Otis told my husband that he liked me, that I had
stood up for myself but that I had treated him with respect.
He also told Carl if I ever needed anyone to disappear,
to let him know because he ‘had my back.’ I’m
not quite sure what to think about that.
JB: What three adjectives best describe you?
TONI: That’s incredibly difficult. Tenacious would
be the obvious first choice. Creative. And I hope, nurturing,
because bold, un-checked tenacity could be harmful without
nurturing in the mix.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
J.B. Thompson holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Indiana University.
She writes crime fiction, book and movie reviews, and conducts author
interviews. J.B. blogs at “Let’s Do Lunch – The
World According to J.B.” (http://jbtauthor.blogspot.com). She
lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and three teenagers.
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