Guest: Author Iris Chacon

I knew that I had to ask Iris Chacon in as a guest as soon as I read her “Schifflebein’s Folly”. It was one of the nicest experiences I have had all year; a charming story so amusingly well-told that I wish that I could simply sit and read her whole catalogue, but that is not possible right now. (I have made a start.)

Of interest to most of us here, Iris touches in some works on serious subject matter, but it is all ‘clean’ reading; I can’t recommend her more highly.

Iris has received many awards for her writing (with no surprise from me). She’s had many careers and experiences, which are certainly reflected in her work and with whom many of our people here can relate: teacher/professor, musician and librarian, to name a few.

Iris is a native Floridian, considered a “Southern Humorist” by some, but her stories are not so ‘southern’ in speech or situations that they aren’t easily relatable to people from all over. In fact, some of Iris’ family traces directly back to when Florida was a Spanish colony (other ancestors fought in the American Revolutionary War). With all of the genealogy going on, we whose families have been here more than two generations can generally claim happily that we are proudly diverse, and Iris makes the most of it.

I ‘friended’ Iris on Facebook and found her warmth and humor comes through in all of her life. Let me introduce you to her.

Welcome, Iris!

            Hi, Tonette! I’m honored and excited to be here and to get to know one another better.

First of all, “Iris Chacon” is your pen name, please tell our readers the moving story of why you chose to use that name.

When I began writing my first novel, my greatest fear was that the book would be so bad, my whole extended family would be embarrassed. I thought I’d better not use my real name. (Also, I wanted plausible deniability; I could always claim I had no knowledge of that silly book. Blame that “Iris” person, whoever she is.)

            When I began writing my first novel, my greatest fear was that the book would be so bad, my whole extended family would be embarrassed. I thought I’d better not use my real name. (Also, I wanted plausible deniability; I could always claim I had no knowledge of that silly book. Blame that “Iris” person, whoever she is.)

            Therefore, I needed an alias, er, I mean “pen name.” My husband and I had adopted a beautiful baby girl from Guatemala a few years earlier. The birth mother was a rape victim and one of many children being raised by a single parent in a poor village. The new baby was abandoned simply because her mother and grandmother could not feed another mouth. Miraculously, God put us together with that precious baby. (That’s a whole other story.)

            Without knowing it, and at a terribly sad time for that Guatemalan teen, she gave us one of the greatest gifts possible — and undoubtedly saved the baby’s life. That teenager’s name was Iris Chacon, and I thank God for her every time I hug my daughter or see that pen name on a book cover.

            Not only did Iris Chacon give me a daughter and a pen name, she gave me lots of background for my adoption novel, Schifflebein’s Folly.

Iris Chacon’s daughter at age 5

Were you aware at the time of the famous Puerto Rican entertainer, (and former “bombshell”), with the same name? Do people ever confuse you with her?

            I learned about the other Iris Chacon from a Puerto Rican friend after the first books had been published. Then I googled the entertainer-Iris and saw pictures of her. The word “bombshell” is exactly what comes to mind whenever I see the beautiful singer, Iris Chacon. Pretty sure nobody in this world would ever get the two of us confused!

Our guest Iris Chacon
The picture our guest sent of the other Iris Chacon

However,THIS is the reason why I said “former bombshell”.I will not allow ‘our’ Iris Chacon to poke fun at her own looks!

Speaking of names, the way nearly everyone in the story gets “Schifflebein” wrong is done so naturally that it had me in stitches, since my first name and my (unused-here) married name is also one that almost no one gets right. Without revealing your private life/name, does that happen to you, (besides few people getting “Chacon” pronounced or spelled properly, I am sure).

Tonette, you know too much about me! Have you been stalking me? (If so, thanks! I’m flattered!)  Yes, like Lloyd Schifflebein, I grew up having to spell and pronounce my name at least twice to everyone I met.

            That’s probably yet another good reason for using a pen name, come to think of it.

            As a shy kid in school, it was a tremendous embarrassment to have a weirdo name that nobody could say. This led to other children giving me creative, not always desirable, nicknames.

            I’m emotionally, intellectually, and psychologically scarred forever from all this.

            Iris the writer, however, is calm, self-assured, and mentally healthy. Fortunately, she’s the one writing the books.

Schifflebein’s Folly is a warm-hearted story about a young man who plans his entire life to be a foster father of special-needs kids, despite so much being against his case, and of the special help he gets along the way.

It isn’t fair to ask a writer where all of their ideas come from, but this one is special: where did Schifflebein come from, and how did you decide how all of his Heavenly Help took such unusual and adorable forms?

            Lloyd Schifflebein is a real person, and he is every bit as kind, smart, and handsome as the Lloyd in my book. I haven’t seen my friend, Lloyd, in many years, and I know he got married. I don’t know if he eventually became a father, but he would have been a fabulous one. I added a few fictional touches, of course, but Lloyd, himself, truly created this wonderful character.

            As I hinted earlier, my experience adopting a special needs child involved many heavenly interventions. As I thought about the fictional Lloyd adopting several special needs kids, I knew he would require extreme supernatural help.

            So, naturally, I thought of God speaking through cookware.

            I can’t cite Biblical references for this, but I’m sure over the centuries, God must have spoken through stranger things than, say, teapots. (There was that time with Balaam’s donkey, remember?) 

            Once I began to imagine strait-laced, mild-mannered Lloyd’s reaction to a talking tea kettle — and a brash, intrusive one, at that — the story was off and running. All I had to do was multiply my own tragic-comic child-adopting experience by six, and Lloyd was in a world of trouble guaranteed to make us laugh. 

I had adopted bunnies, also, like Lloyd did in the book, so I had plenty of house-rabbit horror stories to draw on.

Other of your books also contain handicapped or special-needs people.  Do you try to include these factions of life or do the characters just come to you?

            I do include people with disabilities as often as possible, because I think most of us unconsciously believe we are somehow superior to them. I read Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, Joni, many years ago, and it affected me deeply. Joni is paraplegic and a world-traveling, book-writing, inspirational and motivational speaker. She is also a fine singer and marvelous painter.

            A person is not defined by their disability.

            It would be a mistake, when passing Joni Eareckson Tada on the street, to think of her as simply a woman in a wheelchair. Yet, we encounter people every day and label them by their visible disability and nothing more.

            Joni taught me that every person is dealing with handicaps and disabilities, often in desperation; but most of the time those handicaps and disabilities are invisible to the rest of us.

            Sometimes we can see a disability.

            Sometimes we can’t.

            Either way, we are in danger of making grave mistakes in judgment when we presume to know person based on what we view from the outside.

            It’s ironic, but the recurring theme in my books seems to be “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Do you also always include animals/pets in your stories?

I can’t imagine life without animals! I love them all (though I confess a lesser affection for reptiles and amphibians, especially those of the snake-y persuasion).

            I think God gave us pets in order to show us what unconditional love means. Jesus showed us, but we forget. Pets remind us every day.

            Except cats. Sometimes cats want us to worship them, not the other way around.

            I also believe that animals are much wiser than we humans are. Maybe they just seem wise because they don’t speak, but even that is a good lesson for us. The Bible tells us, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keep silent.” (I consistently recall that verse a few seconds later than I should have.)

            Those are a few of the reasons Finding Miranda could not exist without Dave the dog, The Mammoth Murders had to include Zeus the cat, Lou (Lou’s Tattoos) tolerates Conan the Destroyer Rabbit, and Lloyd (Schifflebein’s Folly) could not live without his bunnies.

            Animals add a vital dimension to our lives. Without thinking too long, I can’t name a book I’ve written that doesn’t include at least one animal, in a small role if not a large one. Even Mudsills & Mooncussers has a cow!

In Finding Miranda, there is a ‘surprise’ reveal that you very skillfully wrote around. I would not have seen it coming if I had not had to stop reading, and when I picked it up again, I saw the synopsis. (That is saying something; I usually see everything coming!) Does it bother you that your hard work to keep the ‘should-have-been-obvious-but-wasn’t’ part of the plot is revealed prematurely outside of the story?

            Tonette, you are an insightful person. Only another writer would conceive such a question. You are absolutely right, I sometimes do have pangs of regret that Shep’s disability is revealed in the synopsis.

            I realize some people will pick up the book because they are intrigued by Shep’s disability versus Miranda’s problem of “invisibility.” Still, it might be much more satisfying for the reader to learn the truth at the same time Miranda does.

            By the way, Shepard Krausse is based on a real friend of mine, also. (Not Lloyd, though. My blind friend’s name is Bill.) I just want to assure readers that none of Shep’s abilities are exaggerated.  In fact, I probably have only scratched the surface. People with Shep’s so-called “disability” accomplish more amazing feats than most of us can imagine.

This series is a mix of madcap humor with serious and tragic mystery. You have several other series that are mostly light-hearted. Are they all set in Florida? Do you only write of places where you have visited?

            I read every book ever written by Louis L’Amour — both westerns and non-westerns, fiction and non-fiction. I learned many things about writing from observing his style and skill. One thing I especially remember was that he never wrote about a trail, a boulder, a river, or a mountain that he had not seen for himself — usually on horseback.

            Writing about a place I had never seen felt like cheating, somehow, even though I realize there are many ways to know a place without physically being on the site. I determined to write about places I knew (or at least had traveled to), and the only place I or my family have lived (for a very long time) is Florida.

That isn’t the only reason my books are set in Florida, though. There is a not-so-subtle wordplay involved. Since I write from a Christian worldview and a Floridian location, I wanted the hallmark of my books to be both Sonshine and sunshine. I know how corny that sounds, and if you tell anyone I said it, I’ll deny it. Authors have much more sophisticated rationales for their prose, as we all know.

For Mudsills and Mooncussers you did extensive research on the American Civil War; I had no idea how Key West got its lucrative start.  How do you do your research for your works?  I know that you had experience with communications for Miranda, what are the other real-life experiences you have used in your stories?

            Who doesn’t love Key West? I learned a lot about the island by traveling there frequently, since I was living only a couple of hours away. I could go to Key West for a weekend or a short vacation, and I could spend time in the library there, reading diaries of people who lived there during the time about which I was writing. I walked to the fort and the old houses.

            I learned a lot about writing historical fiction, too. First of all, it takes a lot of research! Altogether, I spent about three years doing the research — and probably three months writing the first draft of the book. I didn’t write any more historical fiction for a while. Life is too short!

            Eventually I did write Lou’s Tattoos, which was set in 1995. I didn’t think of it as historical fiction until I realized how many of my readers were born after 2000! So, it was back to the research in order to help readers understand what 1995 was like. I can tell you the Internet sped up the process!

            Personal experience has been invaluable in lending realism and depth to my books:

Working in radio helped me to know exactly what Shepard Krausse’s job might entail in Finding Miranda.

Adopting a special needs child taught me things about Lloyd Schifflebein’s trials in Schifflebein’s Folly.

My life as a tattooed lady with the circus contributed to the reality of Lou’s Tattoos — just kidding! I was a photographer, like Lou in the book.

            If I’m being honest (and that’s what we’re going for here, right?), I’d have to say that using my personal experience proves I am basically lazy. Otherwise, I’d have to do all that research on stuff I have no clue about! 

            (Am I the only novelist who responds to skeptical fact-checkers by insisting, “It is fiction, you know!”)

Despite your catalogue, you called yourself a shameless, cowardly procrastinator. I should have wondered what that makes me, but somehow, that gives me hope. I also read that you, like me, have written plays. Do you write in any other genres as well?

I enjoy writing song lyrics, especially parodies of well-known songs.  Who can forget, “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Lawyers”? (Sure, Willie Nelson says “Cowboys,” but what mother would caution her child to avoid becoming a western hero? Cowboys are universally loved and revered. Lawyers, not so much.)

            I have written short documentaries for missionaries in the US and Latin America, and I assisted in editing and producing missionary videos.

            I wrote screenplays on a freelance basis, but the format of video was very different, and I enjoyed learning both styles. 

            Some of my screenplay stories that were never made into movies are now incorporated into my novels. I wasn’t going to let any good plots go to waste!

Thank you for being my guest, Iris. I read that the novelists you read are an influence on you, and you certainly have had an influence on me.

What a wonderful thing to say! You know how to win a writer’s heart, for sure. I have enjoyed meeting you and having a new sister in Christ. Secular authors talk a lot about feeling isolated and alone, but Christian writers and readers know we are part of worldwide family of believers and encouragers.

Please tell our readers how they can learn more about you and your works.

Sign up for the Iris Chacon In-Crowd newsletter at https://www.ProlificWorks.com/free/zFcM1.  (New members receive a free ebook of Schifflebein’s Folly.)

            Connect with Iris on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/Iris.Chacon137 – FACEBOOK

https://www.twitter.com/IrisChacon1371 – TWITTER

https://www.linkedin/in/iris-chacon-author – LINKED IN

https://www.instagram.com/stewart.delia/ – INSTAGRAM

            Send email to IrisChacon137@gmail.com.

            If you just want a quick Amazon link to pick up a book, here they are:

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
This entry was posted in America, author interview, author's life, authors, big plans, blessings, book covers, book series, Books, careers, characters, Clean Writing, cozy mystery, decisions, disability, experiences, Faith-centered stories, Family, Guest, Guest author, helping others, hobbies, imagination, inspiration, inspirational people, inspirational stories, interview, Life, lifestyles, Miscellaneous, Mystery stories, novels, Pen names, pets, plots, reading, research, romance, screwball comedy, shyness, Tonette Joyce, traditions, using talents, Why I Write, writers, writing, writing from experiences and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Guest: Author Iris Chacon

  1. Greta says:

    What a great read. I especially liked the section on researching and writing historical fiction. Thank you for sharing this interview with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Welcome, Iris! Thanks so much for telling us more about Lloyd. I’m looking forward to reading his story.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Author_Iris_Chacon and commented:
    I was honored and happy to ge part of this interview by Tonette Joyce of Four Foxes, One Hound. The interviewer’s question were extraordinary and sometimes surprisingly astute. Happy reading
    Iris Chacon

    Liked by 2 people

    • This was one of the top interviews I have done because you were one of the most fun guests! Thank you so much, Iris Chacon. (I don’t know whether “SURPRISINGLY astute” is a real compliment or not! LOL!)

      Like

  4. Jeff Salter says:

    Iris, welcome to 4F1H. Enjoyed your interview responses.
    I love the notion of the teapot “talking” to your character. Or were you just kidding about that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, no, Jeff! The teapot talks, but only to some.(You didn’t pay enough attention to my review a few weeks ago.) It’s a real smart-aleck, but it is always spot-on!
      With its, humor, faith-centered theme and clean romance, you would truly enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff Salter says:

        I’ve been forgetting a LOT of stuff lately…

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s OK, like the rest of us, you have too much on your mind.My sister’s grandson tried to make her feel better by telling her that it was a normal part of the aging process to forget a few things. She has her own problems, her daughter’s health, that young man’s health, and all that is going on with our brother that she is in control of,(nursing homes, covid isolation, his terribly bad legs and lawyers), so , yeah, minor things are getting by her.
          What he said did not make her feel better, BTW.

          Like

  5. Great interview! I loved ‘Finding Miranda’ and ‘Lou’s Tattoos’. Despite being a writer, I also only realised Shep’s unusual hero status along with Miranda 😀 Looking forward to reading more by Iris Chacon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Leenna. I do love Iris’ style and what she has to say. I realize that I am repeating myself, but do read “Schifflebein’s Folly”.
    Thank you for adding to our post. I greatly appreciate your comments.

    Like

  7. What a fabulous interview! I love Iris’s books too – they are guaranteed to make me smile while also engaging my brain to solve the mysteries.

    Liked by 1 person

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