By Jeff Salter
It’s indeed a pleasure to welcome my friend and fellow Kentuckian, Angela Correll, as my Guest Fox on this Hound Day blog. I had the pleasure of speaking with her at length a couple of years ago when she was at a Somerset coffee shop signing copies of Grounded – her debut novel – which became an Amazon bestseller. Then, just two months ago, I had the good fortune of occupying the table adjacent hers for the Pulaski County Public Library’s annual Author Event. On that occasion, I also was able to chat with Angela’s charming mother, Betty Crouch. Imagine my surprise to learn, in our first meeting, that Angela and I have a mutual Louisiana friend in the library world! I worked up twenty rigorous questions for Angela and I’m intrigued by her answers. I’m sure you will be, too.
Angela Correll is the author of Grounded and Guarded. She lives on a farm in Central Kentucky with her husband, Jess, and an assortment of grass-fed cattle, horses, goats, and chickens. Angela created a business selling goat milk soap called Kentucky Soaps & Such that now operates as a soap-making factory and retail shop on Main Street in Stanford. She is also the concept designer for the Wilderness Road Guest Houses & Rooms, providing modern hospitality in an historic setting, and she and Jess are co-owners of the Bluebird Café, a farm-to-table restaurant, with Executive Chef William Hawkins.
- When did you start writing creatively and what type things did you first write about?
[A.C.] — I started with poems as a teenager but got serious about writing when I was in my early thirties. I have always been drawn to multi-generational stories with a strong sense of place.
- Have you ever encountered people who seem unable / unwilling to comprehend that writing is something you are driven to do?
[A.C.] — Yes, but we all have our things we can’t fathom doing. I can’t imagine being an accountant or a chemist. Some of those things make my head hurt!
- If you were not a writer, can you imagine what else you might do to express the creativity within you?
[A.C.] — I have been trying to express my creativity all my life, but when I couldn’t draw, sing or dance particularly well, I thought that was the end of the line. Then I discovered words.
- How would you describe the TYPE of fiction you write?
[A.C.] — Others have described it as inspirational or wholesome. I simply write what I need to write and let others define it if they must.
- Give us an example of someone who has contacted you and expressed how much your writing meant to them.
[A.C.] — I hear often that my books remind people of their grandmother and they feel as if they have had a visit with her and that warms my heart. I never knew either of my grandmothers, so creating the character of Beulah allowed me to spend time with what I imagined them to be.
- How did you hook up with Koehler Books? Do you have an agent? If so, how did you hook up with your agent?
[A.C.] — I was fortunate to get an agent after querying about 10 or so. Jenni Burke lives in Oregon, but connected with the farming aspect of the book. We went through three rounds of sending it out to potential publishers before we found a good fit with Koehler Books.
- You have two published novels featuring Annie Taylor and following her from NYC to KY. Are there any parallels between you and your character (besides ending up in KY)?
[A.C.] — Before I met my husband, I lived in Lexington and traveled all over the U.S. with my job. I often wondered what it would be like to be a flight attendant. And, living in Lexington is not NYC, but when I moved to the farm, I was amazed with the differences in how city people view things vs. country people.
- Was it difficult knowing where to stop Annie’s story for Grounded… and where to pick up her story for Guarded?
[A.C.] — There are two natural breaks in Annie’s story, so it was not difficult to figure out there needed to be three books. In the beginning, I felt it might be a stand alone, but it was soon obvious there should be two more.
- Are you working on any new stories now? What can you tell us about them? Will we see Annie Taylor again?
[A.C.] — I am working on the third book, Granted. After that, I have a pretty good idea of my next book, which will be set in the same place but in a different time period. I also want to work on a set of travel stories.
- How do you picture your typical reading audience?
[A.C.] — They are so different; it’s hard to put one face with my audience. Men, women and even middle school kids have read Grounded and Guarded, which is so nice. Some people connect with the sustainable farming aspects, others with the romance, and others with the southern humor and nuances.
- What would you say (about your writing) to someone who’s trying to decide whether to buy one of your books?
[A.C.] — If you’re looking for light reading with mystery, romance and humor, Grounded is a great place to start. They are also available in audio, E-book and paperback. I read most of my books on audio these days, so sometimes the format of a book helps me make a selection.
- If sales (money) and critics (reviews) were immaterial to you, what genre and length would you write?
[A.C.] — At some point, I would like to try my hand at a cozy mystery series.
- What is one writing question you’ve WISHED had been asked of you… but never has been asked? Then answer it here.
[A.C.] — Why do you believe in writing with such a strong sense of place? Because a place makes us who we are from the way we speak to the foods we eat.
- How on earth did you and your husband end up running a Central Kentucky farm? Are you nuts about animals?
[A.C.] — I do love animals, especially goats. My husband lived on the farm before our marriage. He was raised on a farm in Pulaski County, Kentucky. All of ancestors are farmers, although my parents left the farm and I grew up in Danville. So it was pretty natural for me to end up close to home on a farm.
- I understand you also own a retail shop and co-own a restaurant? When do you have time to sleep?
[A.C.] — I get plenty of sleep because we have a wonderful team of folks who lead all the businesses and manage very well. My passion is in guest experience, interior and exterior design, as well as hospitality. I am more of a creator than a manager.
- What made you decide to open your own shop in Stanford KY? How do you select what type of inventory to carry?
[A.C.] — The goats came first, then we decided to make soap with the goat milk, and then we decided to sell it. A couple years after that, we decided to sell on it Main Street along with all the other quality Kentucky products, including pottery, jewelry, household items, etc.
- I think it’s awesome that you also carry books in your store. How did you get the idea to combine books with soaps and whatevers?
[A.C.] — When we named the store Kentucky Soaps & Such, I always knew books had to be a part of it. While the Plainview Farm products are our anchor, the “& Such” gives us an opportunity to showcase all the other many wonderful things about Kentucky.
- I’m intrigued by the notion of a “farm to table” restaurant. What would a dining customer most notice about how the Bluebird Cafe differs from a conventional restaurant?
[A.C.] — They would notice the food is fresh and whole. Surprisingly, many restaurants consist of nothing more than microwaves, deep fryers and warming ovens since the food is shipped frozen and ready to heat. The Bluebird makes food from fresh ingredients where the customers can watch the preparations.
- What types of employment have you had prior to what you’re doing now?
[A.C.] — I have been a babysitter, receptionist, corn de-tasseler, UPS training clerk, college library assistant, meeting planner, association manager, and consultant.
- What question would you like to ask anyone reading this blog today?
[A.C.] — I always want to know what people are reading. Some of my readers have turned me on to other writers that I now love, so I’m always looking for that next great book.
Former New York City flight attendant Annie Taylor is adjusting to farm life when her grandmother threatens to tear down Annie’s childhood home – a quaint, historic stone house – unable to finance a restoration after a summer fire. Annie’s boyfriend, Jake, has severed his corporate life in Cincinnati and is jumping headlong into sustainable farming on the land next door. Their new relationship is wonderful — but can it last? As Annie works to save her old stone house, she finds letters written during World War II that reveal a family mystery and an Italian connection. Her grandmother, Beulah, is hesitant to uncover the secret, afraid of what it might mean to her family’s name if they discover the truth. As the family mystery in Italy unfolds, Annie is forced to face her own past. Will she let history sabotage the future?
BE SURE TO ANSWER ANGELA’S QUESTION IN # 20, ABOVE
[JLS # 283]