Friday, May 22, 2015

The Forty Watt Flowers by CM Subasic - Virtual Tour and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The author has opted to share five things about her we might not guess ... she's a brave, brave person!

I have something to confess and you have to promise to keep it quiet.

(leans in close and whispers in your ear) I’m Canadian.

So, how did I end up writing a story about a band in the Deep South?

Love, of course! My man of the time went to Athens, GA to do research at UGA and I followed.

There I was, a Capital “C” Canadian playwright. I’d just finished serving as Chair of the Women’s Caucus for the Playwrights Union of Canada. I was working on a play about Marshall McLuhan (and it wasn’t going well).

At the time in Canada, writers wrote about “Canadian issues” whatever those are. We were convinced that we had to “protect our culture”! But in Athens, GA the concept of a Canadian playwright was… well… quaint. In other words, not very marketable.

I had served on the judging panel for the 3-day novel competition, and enjoyed it. So, when I learned about Hill Street Press (HSP), a publishing house that had recently opened in Athens, publishing stories about the New South, I approached the editor and offered my services as a reader of their slushpile.

What an adventure that was! I was given piles of manuscripts and would do the first read, write a brief synopsis and review. That is when I became an addict of reading diamonds in the rough.

Reading an unpolished masterpiece is a true privilege. I always feel like an audience of one, a midwife of sorts, responsible for this child of the imagination. I enjoyed the puzzle of how to make the story work. For one manuscript I recommended for publication, Kirby Gann’s Barbarian Parade I was also involved in the substantive editing. I recall sitting on the train from New Orleans puzzling over the first chapter, suggesting cuts and selecting the opening line, "The day the freight train hit my father . . ." (This book is great read for a soccer enthusiast, with writing that is sensual, characters that are vivid and surprising, and a story that feels so real.)

One of HSP’s publications was a reprint of Fatal Flowers: On Sin, Sex, and Suicide in the Deep South, by Rosemarie Daniell, which won the 1999 Palimpsest Prize. This book is a roadmap for Southern women, exploding stereotypes and exploring sensuality, it is about the power of women, their strengths and challenges. It was an important message for me to hear.

At the time I wasn’t a comfortable feminist. I’d always thought of myself as a human first, not a woman first. And yet, I couldn’t help but notice how the media would talk about a woman’s looks or style first, her ideas second. How a man with a goal wasn’t seen as messy person if he didn’t do the dishes.

Meanwhile, being in the South, all around us were those flowers. It is a place where people talk about the flowers the way we in the North talk about the weather. The pansies are a bit of “winter color.” Southern spring progresses through her cycle of cherry blossoms, tulip petal trees, lilacs, azaleas, wisteria, dogwoods and on until the summering air of June brings Kudzu and Magnolia blossoms as big as your head. It’s a heady mix.

So, when I came up with the idea of writing the story of a band in the funky, eclectic music town of Athens, GA, I knew I couldn’t write about just any band. I had to write about an all-girl band. The band also had to have the word “flowers” in their name. The book had to explore how being a woman with a creative goal is a challenging experience. How the world sets the hoops higher for women and sometimes we set them high for ourselves, too.

Do I feel guilty for not writing about an all-girl hockey team? (winks) What do you think?

Here’s four other brief confessions:

i. I have a girl cat named Henry and a boy cat named Cato (originally Kate) because I got their sex wrong. In my defense, they came from a feral colony and wouldn’t let me touch them for two years.

ii. I may write about music, but I’ve never been in a band.

iii. I was a cheerleader in high school because it was the activity that guaranteed more time off school than any other.

iv. In cheerleading I discovered my leadership and organizational ability, and soon became “head” cheerleader. My first stab at “writing” was developing new cheers.

All Trisha wants to do is create something meaningful. Since she's living in Athens, GA, she brings four other women together and the rock band The Forty Watt Flowers is formed. But making good music isn't as easy as it sounds. From the jock atmosphere of the garage where they rehearse to the beer-soaked bars when they gig, these five young women struggle to find beauty in the mess of notes they try to play and the chaos of their lives.

Now enjoy an excerpt:

Drums Oh, the feeling of pounding the drums. Juanita allowed herself to disappear into the rough-and-tumble consistency of arms and feet. Flam paradiddle with accent. A long double stroke roll. Drag paradiddle followed by a ratatat pattern with just her weak, right stick. She became those jungle rhythms: The gentle shimmering of cymbal. The soldier march of snare. The boom boom boom, coming up the back-end with bass. A concert of percussion, erasing an erratic world. Here, passion made sense.

Juanita completed an extra hard rolling tumble and pulled the sticks to her lap, the abrupt silence jarring. She became aware of the gap-toothed barn around her, the absolute blackness settled around it, red pines hunched close by, cicadas trilling in chorus.

With a quick move of her forearm she wiped the sweat from her brow, squinted at her arm as if measuring for volume. Not enough. Then she looked up and noticed Tommy's slouched form by the welding equipment.

Colleen is award-winning editor who started her writing life as a playwright. She has had 7 plays produced across Canada and worked with the likes of Samantha Bee (yes, from The Daily Show) and Leah Cherniak.

Her plays include Back Alley Boys about the hardcore punk scene in Toronto, Eye am Hear which tells the tale of a luddite teenage squatters at some undetermined punkish time in the future, A Brief Case of Crack Addicted Cockroaches about the relationship between the media and politics featuring a city councillor who smokes crack (which was never produced because it was too off the wall) and Interbastation about the beauty in ugliness and the ugliness in beauty. Her novel Public Image tied for second in the Anvil Press International 3-day Novel competition.

In addition to her work as a playwright, Colleen puts on the dramaturgy, editor and script doctor hats for a range of publishers, producers and writer clients. She has a Master in Creative Writing from the prestigious UBC Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Writing and has taught play writing at the university level. She's also done the Board of Directors thing with the Playwrights Guild of Canada, The Playwrights Theatre Centre in Vancouver and other arts organizations.

She was managing editor of Taking the Stage: Selections from plays by Canadian Women which was selected as the "most saleable dramatic publication of the year" by the Canadian Booksellers' Association. She has also been awarded Arts Council grants by the province of Ontario and Nova Scotia. She has served on the judging panel of several internationl novel awards. Her one-person play Interbastation was selected as one of the top-10 best shows by CBC Winnipeg in 1998.

She lived in Athens from 1999 to 2001 and, while there, reviewed and edited manuscripts for Hill Street Press.

Colleen currently resides in her birthplace, Toronto, with three grey cats and a drawer full of lint brushes.


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  1. Thank you for hosting, It's Raining Books! I look forward to meeting your readers. If anyone out there has a question, reach on out. I'll be dropping in throughout the day.

  2. When did you first, without hesitation, call yourself a writer?

    1. Hi, Mai T. thanks for your question.

      I'd say it was the first day of my first substantial writing grant. I got dressed up, pulled together my writing pads and computer, went to a coffee shop, ready to write!

      Well, the coffee shop was full of loud children running back and forth and I thought to myself, "This is your come-uppance for thinking you've "arrived." You're still the same person, Colleen. Write harder!"

      I learned that the writer I was in my dreams was based on romantic notions, not reality. That the words never spill onto the page with the freedom you imagine. That it is a craft and as such, takes application, sweat, tears, trial and loads of error.

  3. I look forward to reading this :D

    1. Hi, DanieX; Good to hear! Good luck with the giveaway!

  4. Sounds great, I can't wait to read it.

    1. Glad to hear! Good luck with the giveaway!

  5. I have enjoyed learning about the book. Thanks for sharing it.

  6. Sounds like a great book, thanks for sharing it with me.

  7. Thank you for sharing about yourself and your book!

  8. I love your "confessions"! Thank you for sharing!


So... inquiring minds want to know: what do you think?