Q&A with Mary E. Kingsley, author of All the Pieces


Publisher: Seneca Creek Press

Publication Date: May 10, 2013

Order Links:  Amazon

Synopsis: Sometimes there are stories floating around about things that happened a long time ago, which nobody can explain. When eight-year-old Anna Lee takes off running one day, fleeing a painful scene and seeking refuge from her family’s lingering grief, she unknowingly brings to the surface some questions that this small, southern Appalachian community had long ago buried. 

Who was the stranger that appeared at the midwife’s door one distant winter’s night and disappeared again silently, leaving a mystery that had remained for over a generation? Who was the child that was born with eyes the color of a harvest moon, that only wanted to sing, and the boy that would grow to love her beyond himself? What was the reason for the brutal murder in the woods that left one man dead, another sentenced to life in prison and a young woman to die months later, without ever uttering another word? And who was the man that came face to face with Anna Lee in a place she was certain no one would find her, each of them in their hour of greatest need, each with their own pain and secrets to be revealed--and perhaps healed? 

The desperate search for the runaway, Anna Lee, is paralled by the storyteller’s version of a mystery that most folks around have long forgotten. All the while Anna Lee struggles within a situation that holds danger beyond what she can imagine, and it is only in her innocence, even in the face of death, that she becomes the key to a revelation and the answer to a longing. 

All the Pieces is not only a tale of birth, death and grief, but is also the story of profound love and a journey’s end.

Interview: What is your writing background?

I've always wanted to write. My mother framed a story that I wrote when I was six years old about a little puppy that goes out to play, then comes in to have lunch. Hopefully I've learned some things about character and plot development since then because I've been working at it all these years.  Aside from being a mom and having a rich family life, I have always wanted to write and am thrilled to live my dream day in and day out.

What inspired you to write the novella All the Pieces?

I was looking for jelly one day in the refrigerator, and the line just popped into my head. “All I wanted was some jelly.” The story flowed from there.

All the Pieces as well as your debut novel Angel were set in Appalachia. What is it about that part of the country that inspires you?

I was born and raised there, so it’s inside me. In the writing of a story when I’m writing dialogue or describing the surroundings in a scene, I don’t have to go any further than my own memories and experience to evoke the essence of it.

Angel took you seven years to complete. How long did it take you to write All the Pieces?

All the Pieces came much more quickly. I wrote it in about three months.

Where did you publish the novella?

All the Pieces was published by Seneca Creek Press, my own independently owned and operated publishing company. I look forward to other titles coming out with Seneca Creek Press, both my own books and possibly others that are of the quality and subject matter that we want to represent.

Who are your favorite authors?

I loved reading the English novels growing up, the Brontes, Dickens, Jane Austen. George Eliot. Now, I have to say my favorite genre is Southern Fiction, including the greats such as Harper Lee and Eudora Welty. Some authors I have really enjoyed in recent years are Lee Smith, Charles Frazier, Sue Monk Kidd and Clyde Edgerton. I recently read a marvelous book called The Cove by Ron Rash. I love discovering new books and new writers.

Tell us a little about your next project.

I’m working on a World War II story based on an experience my mother had as a teenager in a small, west Tennessee town in 1942. I’m also well into a prequel of Angel. It will focus on the early years of the character Old Susan.

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Granny Sary’s Strawberry Jam
The inspiration behind the novella All the Pieces, by Mary E. Kingsley. Recipe from The Backyard Homestead; Edited by Carleen Madigan/Storey Publishing, 2009.

Ingredients: 

•  2 quarts of washed, stemmed, crushed strawberries
•  6 cups of sugar

Recipe:

1) Preheat a boiling-water-bath canner. Sterilize eight half-pint jars, and prepare the lids.
2) Combine the berries and sugar in a tall, heavy, non-reactive saucepan.
3) Bring slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.
4) Boil rapidly until thick, about 40 minutes.
5) As the mixture begins to thicken, stir frequently to prevent scorching.
6) Test for doneness-220 degrees F on a thermometer, or when jam sheets off a cool saucer or spoon.
7) Remove from heat and skim off any foam that has formed during boiling.
8) Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headroom.
9) Run a rubber spatula around the inside of the jars to release air bubbles.
10) Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth. Place lids in position and tighten screw bands.
11) Process in the canner for 5 minutes once the water has returned to a boil.
12) Adjust for altitude, if necessary.
13) Use a jar lifter to carefully remove the jars.
14) Cool sealed jars. Check seals; remove screw bands. Label and store.
15) Eat on anything you want...or straight out of the jar.

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