Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interview with Author Olivia deBelle Byrd

Please join me in welcoming the author of Miss Hildreth Wore Brown, Anecdotes of a Southern Belle, Olivia deBelle Byrd to Socrates’ Book Review Blog. I recently had the extreme pleasure of reading and reviewing Ms. Byrd’s book. She has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us. So, let’s get the ball rolling…

1. What influenced you to write this book?

Like all good storytellers, I hate to waste a good story so I repeat my stories—often. Finally in exasperation one day, my husband said, “Why don’t you write this stuff down!” So I did. I actually started writing down stories for my children as a Christmas gift. Before I knew it, I had a book!

2. Do you have plans to write other genres?

Though I do have some ideas bouncing around in my head, my main goal right now is marketing Miss Hildreth.

3. How did you feel when you learned Miss. Hildreth was going to be published?

After all the rejection letters, my first reaction was disbelief. When I realized the gentleman was serious, I acted quite professional until I hung up the phone. Then I did a cartwheel, a somersault, and a double backflip ending with a split :)

4. Was your family supportive or did they give you a hard time about publishing a book?

My family was very instrumental in the writing of this book. I distinctly remember the day I read the first story to my daughter and husband. They had these amazed looks on their faces and said, “Mom/Honey, that is really funny!” My husband has been unwavering in his support and I think is quite proud of me. My daughter was my first reader, editor, and biggest cheerleader. My son designed my entire web site and continues to update it for me.

5. What goes into your process in writing a book? Making an outline? Research? Talking to people?

Writing down oral stories is very difficult. You tend to write like you talk and it often comes out confusing and opaque. There is an art to telling stories and an art to conveying those stories into the written word. I do make an outline and research anything I am not sure. I am continually writing down thoughts and phrases as they come to me even if it is the middle of the night. I keep pencil and pad by my bed, in the car, in my bathroom! I listen to people and am always alert for a funny story.

6. Where do you do your writing? Do you have a special room in your house set up? Or do you have someplace outside the house you go to?

I can write in different settings as long as it is QUIET! I can not deal with noise, not even low background noise. A great deal of Miss Hildreth was written at a beach house. That worked very well because I was away from the every day interruptions and could concentrate totally on writing.

7. Of the anecdotes in your book, do you have a favorite? Are there any that still make you giggle?

My favorites are “Weddings,” “Robert Redford,” “We-Know-Mom’s-Crazy Rule,” and “Names.” I still giggle when I think about my husband’s pants in a pile around his ankles while trying to discipline our son, or Mrs. Brewton and her neighbor speaking to her deceased husband on the elevator, or my 94-year-old neighbor going into the Marines!

8. The cover is lovely and perfect. Did you have any input in choosing it? If so, how did you make your decision?

I am so glad you asked this question! The idea for the cover came to me before I ever knew the book would be published. I described it to my daughter and she agreed that it sounded perfect. After I found out Miss Hildreth was going to be published, my daughter had an artist friend draw my cover idea as a surprise birthday gift. When I saw it drawn, it was even more perfect than I envisioned. My publisher asked for my input on the cover and loved it. The only change they made was the font. I have given my daughter’s artist friend credit for the cover. I do speaking engagements for Miss Hildreth and I dress like the cover of the book!

9. Do you read much? Do you have any favorite authors or books?

I read as much as possible. I LOVE to read. My most loved book is A Tale of Two Cities—I love all of Charles Dickens’ works. My other favorite English author is Daphne du Maurier. William Faulkner, Taylor Caldwell, and John Steinbeck are all favorites. Pat Conroy is my favorite modern day author. The Prince of Tides is one of my favorite books. I have read and loved all of Pat Conroy’s books. He is a master of words and descriptions. You can sense and feel his settings and his characters become a part of you. Ann Rivers Siddons has especially strong women characters. As a Southern humorist, Fannie Flagg can not be beat.

10. Are there any plans for a sequel? I’m sure you have many more stories to share.

There are no plans for a sequel right now. But I have heard so many funny and clever stories from my readers since Miss Hildreth was published. My funniest comment came from Bill Duncan, a reviewer for The News-Review in Roseburg, Oregon. The title of the review was “If you accidentally cross into Alabama, have clean underwear.” Wouldn’t that be a great title for a book!

A very big thank you to Olivia deBelle Byrd for taking the time to talk to us and writing such a fun book.


  1. Very nice interview Yvonne. I read this book and did find myself laughing out loud. I thought that this book would be a great gift for those "just because occasions like visiting someone in the hospital, a thank you, etc etc. I hope she does write more books.

  2. Lovely interview.
    I have this on my wishlist.

    Looking forward to it.


  3. I am another fan of this book. I have since given it as a gift. Loved the story about the cover.


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