My special guest today is C.M. Subasic, the author of the new adult novel, The Forty Watt Flowers.
During her virtual book tour, Colleen will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner’s choice) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.
Welcome, Colleen. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
At 16, I spent a year in the basement, sitting at my father’s typewriter writing a sequel to the movie Star Wars (starring me as Luke Skywalker’s love interest) — and sent it in to 20th Century Fox.
Well, no surprise they turned it down, but what a great first rejection! The letterhead was gorgeous, showing Luke standing in a circle holding up a light sabre. So hurt by the rejection, the letter was thrown out. HUGE regret there. Not too long after that, I started working at a theatre company that specialized in the development of new Canadian plays. I started writing, searching around for my own stories to tell.
I turned to prose through the international 3-day novel competition. I placed in the top 5 once, tied for second another time. When I went to Vancouver to do my MFA in playwriting I became a judge.
I lived in Athens, GA from 1999 to 2001 and, while there, reviewed and edited manuscripts for Hill Street Press. I now reside in my birthplace, Toronto, with three grey cats and a drawer full of lint brushes.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Forty Watt Flowers is the story of an all-girl rock band in the thriving music town, Athens, GA. I wanted it to be like a jog through the streets and scenes of Athens, from its very Southern culture with sweet tea and unsweet tea, barbecue and the flowers of the countryside as well as its music history, focusing on REM and the B-52s.
The main character, Trisha, assembles four other women interested in music and The Forty Watt Flowers are formed. Unfortunately, making great music isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The story is about being a woman who wants to make something meaningful. About how when presented with an opportunity, we frequently tend to destroy rather than to create. But it’s also about how much more challenging it is for women to focus on something they want to do. The world around them, their men, and even the women themselves can get in the way. When a guy says he wants to do something, the world clears a path for him. When a woman decides to do something, she has to do the laundry first.
At turns playful and funny, the characters are the kind of people you love to hate or hate to love.
What inspired you to write this book?
In my early years I was a fan of the B-52s, then REM. I ended up moving to Athens, GA and was pleased as punch. It’s an amazing town, with the culture of a big city but the vibe of a small town. And what a music scene! You can’t swing a guitar without hitting a musician in that town. There’s an indie band for every 100 people who live there. Still to this day, it’s a place where the ground hums in harmony.
While there, I was reading slushpile manuscripts for Hill Street Press, who at that time was publishing stories about the South. They wanted contemporary stories that told of the New South.
One day I was sitting there reading and realized: Hey, wait a second. There’s a story missing about a band in Athens. So, I wrote it.
Excerpt from The Forty Watt Flowers:
A sound like marbles hitting the roof made the four of them jump. Rain.
Trisha sighed. They'd been at this for too long and she felt herself drooping. There was no way they'd finish writing a band description for the papaer, let alone agree on their band’s name. Not now. They’d call themselves TBA or something.
"Anybody want a beer?" Toni asked.
Moments later they stood on the porch, beers in hand, watching the sheets of rain gunning down from the sky, feeling its spray on their faces. A wondrous sight. Trisha had never seen rain like they had here in the South. Biblical in proportion, with thunderclaps so powerful one could mistake them for buildings falling down. The bruised sky glowered, ominous. A lightning bolt snapped the horizon into two photo negative halves for one brief second. An earthquake rumble of thunder followed. Windows shook in their panes and beer cans jostled, singing empty notes.
The flowers up and down the street appeared lit from within. A crepe myrtle tree across the street glowed neon purple. The azaleas next to it were more orange than orange, more red than red. Just above their heads, an entire magnolia blossom shook loose and tumbled down a stairway of leaves until it landed on the porch.
Juanita picked it up, the blossom filling her two cradled hands. The bloom equaled her head in size with white, satiny petals each as broad as her palm. She walked the flower from person to person, offering it up to be touched and smelled. The lemon yellow pistil was as large as Trisha's index finger.
"They really are incredible around here, aren't they? The flowers?" Juanita said at length.
The storm whooshed harder again and they looked out at the street to see the change. Massive branches swayed in circles like the long green locks of rock musicians, dancing to nature's mighty beat. A spray came after them and they scurried through the door, giggling. The five arranged themselves in front of the picture window to continue watching the show.
Trisha noticed how comforting it was to share the moment. Then a thought eased up from out of nowhere. A phrase. A name.
"Guys," she said. Four heads turned, waited. "How about, The Forty Watt Flowers?"
They all knew what she meant.
Slowly, all five heads turned upward to the bulb hanging from the black wire in the middle of the ceiling. Sure enough, it was a 40-watt bulb.
There was another silence, filled in with the pat-pat-pat of the rain as the storm faded. But they weren't listening to that. They were listening to the sound of the name of their band:
The Forty Watt Flowers.
What exciting story are you working on next?
What’s taking most of my time right now is recording the audiobook! Wow, it’s a lot of work. But it certainly is fun.
In addition to that I’m working on a story that explores power in the relationships, the importance of communication and how we all tend to turn the people we love most into unapproachable monsters.
Here’s the story synopsis so far: Janet starts to think her husband Jaime is “looking around” so to investigate she creates an online tempting morsel for him to flirt with. Not only does he take the bait, the two of them begin an e-affair. At first she’s angry with him. But she also discovers the benefits of having an inside scoop on his thoughts and feelings. Their home and sex life improve and the netsex is hot. But what does she do when he asks to a meet his e-paramour at a hotel?
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Interesting question, because there is a big difference between writing all the time and calling yourself a writer. For many years, I was like a toad who couldn’t see the warts on her own back. But until I could say with confidence, I’m a writer, I wasn’t plumbing the depths of my work as much as I could.
I’d say I first considered myself a writer after my first 3-day novel placed in the top 5 of the International 3-day novel competition. Even though I didn’t win, it was like being told, “You’ve got something there, keep going.” It was an important thing to hear.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write full time, but not always on my own work. I am a dramaturge, helping other writers develop their novels, screenplays or plays. I also write screenplays / storyboards for an assortment of projects.
I’ve learned that when writing is on my “to do” list for the day, if it’s at the bottom of the list, it won’t happen. So I put it at the top of my list.
Sitting down to write can be scary at first. The unknown is always scary. I tell myself, “Just sit down for 15 minutes, you can get up after that.” Frequently, two hours later I’m dragging myself away.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Sometimes I play my characters, dressing up and acting out a scene. My characters like to pick fights. Frequently, I lose.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to make things, to be creative. I watched my father work from home and my mother commute back and forth to work every day. I decided working from home was better, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My fictional band has been on a fictional tour of North America for the past year, meeting other (real) indie bands along the way. Check out the website to follow along, or catch up with them on Facebook or Twitter.
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