Don’t you just LOVE the domino effect? After meeting the talented Mary E. Dawson through Facebook, I was introduced to the award winning Janet Gardner DeVries, who was kind enough to post a comment on Mary’s blog post. So, here’s a new author to add to your Goodreads list, and a bit about her:
DEVRIES: I love to write and I write every day. I attend graduate school at Florida State University where the Library and Information Studies assignments keep my writing skills sharp. By day, I am a library archivist. I spend most days helping other people find information. Since most of my writing is based on history, I spend many hours each week researching. Sharpening my research pencil to zone in on the pertinent information takes patience and practice.
ENGLE: Tell me about your most recent publication. What’s it about? Where did the story idea come from?
DEVRIES: The book is a true story about an extraordinary woman’s journey to Florida in the 1880s through the 1940s. It may surprise readers to know that I didn’t set out to write this book. The book found me.
Several years ago, a fellow researcher contacted me asking the location of a famous hotel in the area. Using original land records, we discovered that a woman owned all the land in the town we live in. Someone else, a man named Maj. Nathan Boynton, was credited with founding Boynton Beach. This was at a time when women seldom ventured out of the house by themselves, let alone invested in land! Our research illuminated the truth and changed history.
Byrd Spilman Dewey was the first woman newspaper columnist in South Florida, wrote the first best-selling novel (Bruno, 1898, Little & Brown), and wrote for many national magazines of the time. She used the pen names Aunt Judith, Judith Sunshine and Judith Ray for many of her magazine publications. Her works provided a first-hand account of pioneer life in South Florida. Bruno can be downloaded for free on Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41514
Since the September, 2012 book release, the City of Boynton Beach named a park after Mrs. Dewey (Dewey Park), a film-maker produced a documentary about our discovery of the ‘hidden history’ and Mrs. Dewey is a finalist for the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.
ENGLE: How interesting, and how cool to bring some new historical facts to light. What’s the most difficult part of the writing process or anything unexpected you encountered while creating this book?
DEVRIES: Often we are caught up in life and its complexities and tend to procrastinate. I forever conceptualize a vision introduced by Mrs. Dewey: “Do it and it will be done.” Carve out little chunks of time to write, to research, to respond to emails and keep on schedule. Allow one hour a day to daydream, surf the web, and just debrief.
ENGLE: Excellent advice. Are your books self-published or traditionally published, and are you agented? Explain how that came about.
DEVRIES: The first book I published, Images of America: Around Boynton Beach stemmed from another book I helped with. A community member came to me for help with his book – Images of America: Boynton Beach. I helped him research, write captions, and find appropriate images. After that experience, I decided I could publish on my own – and went on to publish four additional books.
Arcadia published the first few, and later we went with History Press. The publishers provide guidelines and make the book ready for market, but my colleague and I promote our book using social media and traditional press releases. In the last year we presented at numerous historical societies, libraries, genealogical societies, woman’s clubs, and DAR meetings across the state.
ENGLE: Tell me about your book awards and the ceremony! I’m so excited for you and want to hear every detail…
DEVRIES: My co-author, Ginger Pedersen and I traveled to Daytona for the FAPA awards. We knew we were finalists in the competition and were excited to be a part of this prestigious event. When we entered the room, we spotted our book on a rack with the other award winning publications. As we tried to inconspicuously take photos of our book, we met some other authors. Before we knew it, we were actively engaged in conversation with author James Snyder and several other new Florida authors. The atmosphere was most energizing; I have renewed respect for fiction authors and hope to publish in the historic fiction field soon. Ginger and I had a bottle of champagne chilling in our hotel room. We figured we could celebrate our win or enjoy some good champagne and brainstorm our next book. After winning, the bottle served as the perfect photo backdrop for our Gold Medals. One of our friends from Palm Beach County, Harvey Oyer, III, won first place for Florida Children’s fiction. He was unable to attend the FAPA award ceremony this year. By the way, Birdie tweets!
ENGLE: Now that you’ve wet our whistles, where can we find your book? Do you have a website/facebook/twitter you’d like to share?
ENGLE: And for your final question, if you could be a Muppet, which would you be and why?
DEVRIES: I’d have to choose Kermit. We are both classics.
Here are some additional news articles about the book:
Thank you very much for stopping by. I hope you’ll check out all of Janet’s articles, and the links to her book. Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m certain there is someone in your life who would love to find one of her titles beneath their tree.