Interview with Carol Ann Albright-Eastman, author of Always There

Publish Date: March 13, 2013

Order Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: For readers who loved The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, or The Shack.

“People walked up the front steps of the funeral home, preparing themselves to see the grieving orphaned children of the woman who passed, but what did they find instead? The youngest orphaned child was snacking on a Quarter Pounder with cheese, drinking a medium Diet Coke, and laughing in a chair with her friends.”

In this fresh, poignant novel, Always There, Shelby Lynn LeeMaster grapples with her recent “orphaned” life and how to let down her guard to fully experience true love, allowing it in to her heart without fear. The mother, Betheny LeeMaster, struggles with dying before she could teach and guide her children into adulthood. The daughter cannot break from her own fears, while the mother cannot forgive herself for leaving her children too soon. The different narrators, the mother in Heaven and the daughter on Earth, tell their stories in alternating chapters. Can the two women reconcile their fears and remorse being worlds and lifetimes apart?

Eastman’s honesty explores the tragic ending to a mother-daughter relationship, revealing the pain a motherless daughter experiences. The two vantage points allow the reader to find a connection with the mother and/or the daughter, personalizing the loss that a dying mother and grieving daughter often face. The novel portrays the truth behind the death of a loved one, while glorifying the mystery of Heaven, proving that love does not die when a person does. The channels of love are still open, going in both directions. Love goes on when life does not. The novel bridges the tragic with the comedic, giving audiences a lighter, more enjoyable, sentimental read. You will laugh while you cry, and cry while you laugh, but in the end, you’ll hug your loved ones for dear life.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.

The novel is about a daughter who struggles with her mom’s death.  It’s also about a mother who feels that she’s left her children too early and didn’t get to “parent” them long enough.  There are two narrators:  the mother in Heaven, and the daughter on Earth.  But most importantly, there is a beautiful love story written in that shows that true love is real and does always prevail.

I love it, because it's my story, my life. Of course, there is a great deal of fiction added in to this book, as I have never been to Heaven. :-) But much of what happens to the main character is a realistic account of my life: my ups, my downs, my tragic recalls, and my most memorable events. There were things that I obviously embellished and fabricated for the progression of the story, but those who know me, know what is real and what is not. It was difficult to write, a work that I had to put down for long periods of time and come back to, time and time again, due to how difficult it was to relive certain parts of those tragic events. Overall, I am thrilled that it is finally done, finally out there for others to read and share. I'm hopeful those who choose to share this novel, this journey, with me do in fact embrace it.

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

This book put me on a roller coaster of emotions.  It was horrendous.  For the first time in 20 years, I felt like my parents were with me.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?

When I was in fifth grade, I had a little boyfriend, “Tim.”  Once a month, at the fifth grade roller skating parties, “Tim” and I couple-skated and didn’t let go of each other’s hands after the couple-skate ended.  “Tim” and I often held hands for the duration of the skating party.  Then, with about 10 minutes left of the skating party, he and I went into the coatroom, among the many different coats, and kissed each other.  This happened once a month in fifth grade, starting in October of 1983 and ending in February of 1984.

On February 24, 1984, my dad died.  I was ten-years-old at the time.  At the March skating party, “Tim” and I skated as usual, but when it was time to go into the coatroom for our monthly kiss, I refused.  He and my friends were confused.  I just merely told them, “My father is watching me now.”  From that moment on, I always felt that my dad was watching over me, and I didn’t want to do anything that would upset or disappointment him.  I lived my life pretty wholesomely and used that same line many times thereafter.

Then one day, about half way through high school, my friend actually asked, “But what if he’s not?”  I blew off the question as asinine and irrelevant, but always kept it at the back of my head.  What if our loved ones aren’t watching over us?

When my mother was sick, terminally ill, and nearing death, we gave her messages to give to our dad.  That is when I was struck with the idea of my book.  What if the people in Heaven, our loved ones, just sit in Heaven waiting for new people to die and fill them in on the happenings here on Earth?  What if we are their real-life soap operas, and they just wait to learn how our lives turn out and what happens to us?

After my mom died, I spent many nights lying in my bed trying to determine what I would want her sisters, my aunts, to tell her when they finally met up with her.  I wondered how they would spin the tales of my life to her and my father.  It became important for me to reach my goals and live my life in a way that would make both of my parents proud of the job they did while they were still here, guiding me, teaching me, and loving me.  It almost gave me more comfort to think that they weren’t watching every mistake and mishap, but were filled in on the happy, successful end results.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Verb tense!  I never know if something happened, happens, is happening, or had happened—and I’m a freaking English teacher!

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?

I don’t listen to music—pretty much ever.  No, not even in the car.  My students (freshmen/seniors) have the hardest time with that.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

I have a few ideas for some future books, but Always There is a standalone.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

My latest news is that my husband just took me on a surprise romantic vacation to Turks and Caicos for my 40th birthday.  He arranged for my sister to stay with my kids for the week, so he could surprise me and whisk me away.  When I got back, the surprises weren’t over.  He had our “formal living room” renovated into my own personal library.  Man, do I love him, and so far, being 40 is pretty damn amazing.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I think those individuals who have ever been afraid of loss, afraid to love will relate to this book and relive some of those memories and feelings. I think people who have ever lost someone dear and close to them will also be able to find a connection with his book. I am proud of myself for not only writing and finishing it, but for delving into those parts of my life that I have been so afraid to revisit for the past 20 years. The 20th anniversary of my mother's death is next month; this book is dedicated to her. This is my way to show her that even though two decades have come and gone, she is still an integral part of who I am and who I will always be.


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