Thursday, July 9, 2015

Meet Debra Coleman Jeter - A Well Rounded Novelist

A Vanderbilt University professor, Debra Coleman Jeter has published fiction and nonfiction in popular magazines, including Working Woman, New Woman, Self, Home Life, Savvy, Christian Woman, and American Baby. Her story, “Recovery,” won first prize in a Christian Woman short story competition, and her nonfiction book “Pshaw, It’s Me Grandson”: Tales of a Young Actor was a finalist in the 2007 USA Book News Awards. She is a co-writer of the screenplay for Jess + Moss, a feature film which premiered in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival, screened at nearly forty film festivals around the world, and captured several international awards. She lives in Clarksville, Tennessee, with her husband.

Tell us about your debut novel, The Ticket, recently published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas:

Tray Dunaway longs to be part of the popular set at school, but she's growing too fast and her clothes no longer fit right. When she wears Gram's hand-sewn clothes to school, the kids make fun of her tall, boney appearance. Tray's luck improves when Pee Wee Johnson, a down-and-out friend of her father's, buys two lottery tickets and gives one to Mr. Dunaway as a thank-you for driving him to Hazard, Illinois. When her father's ticket turns out to be the winner, Johnson demands his cut of the proceeds, but Tray's dad refuses. What seems like a stroke of good fortune suddenly becomes a disturbing turn of events as Johnson threatens to cause problems for the family and Tray. To learn more, view the book trailer here. 

 What prompted you to write this novel?

First, I wanted to write something to show of how little importance wealth really is, though we often spend way too much time thinking about money. Once I decided to write about a family with financial troubles winning the lottery, then I thought it might be interesting if someone else bought the ticket and gave it to them ... which leads to a lot of the twists in my plot.

Is there one particular message or “moral of the story” you hope readers walk away with?

There are actually two important messages. One is that wealth might not bring all the good things we sometimes envision and might create more problems than it solves. The second message is to treasure the moments with your loved ones; we never know how long we will have them in our lives.

What is your current work in progress?

I have two adult novels almost ready to go; they are set in the fictional town of Sugar Sands, Alabama, a small Southern beach town. I am also currently writing an ambitious saga about my grandmother’s life, which is based on the facts that I know, but fictionalized. I start when she is twelve and cover fifty years of her life.

How do you choose your settings for each book?

I prefer to set my novels in places I can see vividly, having experienced something similar in my own life. So I typically write about small southern towns: Paradise, Kentucky, in The Ticket, patterned after the small towns of Mayfield, Murray, or Benton, in western Kentucky, where I grew up; Sugar Sands, Alabama, patterned after Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, Alabama, where my family has vacationed regularly for years; Bell City, Kentucky, where my grandmother grew up with eight brothers and sisters. I’ve spent a month each year in New Zealand for about 12 years, so eventually I plan to set a novel there.

What three things about you would surprise readers?

I start to dry out like a fish if I’m away from water too long. I’m a world- class (or least LA, as in lower Alabama, class) boogie boarder. I’ve done a fair amount of stage acting, including several of Shakespeare’s plays (Ariel in The Tempest was a favorite—I also played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz).

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?

Boogie boarding (I currently have a sprained ankle from this), tennis, boating.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?

I have a colleague at Vanderbilt whose signature on his emails reads “Never, never, never give up.” I think this is what I would tell writers. That, and write what you care deeply about, rather than what you think the market is ripe for.

Tell us about the giveaway you’re offering.

 To learn how to enter a drawing for a Kindle Fire, visit my media page at:

How do you see yourself in your character’s story, if at all?

I think there’s always a piece of me in every character I create, from the most sympathetic to the least. In The Ticket, I see myself most clearly in Tray and in her relationship with her grandmother.

Where do you like to write?

When I’m writing, I get so immersed in my characters and their lives I can write almost anywhere. As a part-time writer with lots of other demands on my time, I have learned to scribble thoughts on anything and everything whenever a sentence, a phrase, or an idea strikes. It might be on a napkin in the middle of a business lunch, or on a scrap of paper in my handbag during my commute (not a recommended strategy, from a safety perspective), or even on an order of worship during a sermon. I can’t always explain where or why an idea comes to me when it does, but I try to take advantage of every one if at all possible. If I wait, thinking, “I couldn’t possibly forget this one,” I may surprise myself with my capacity to forget.

When you’re working on a project, how do you keep the immensity of it from getting you down?

I often rely on Robert J. Ray’s book on writing, The Weekend Novelist, to provide a structure. In it Ray describes a fifty-two week program designed to produce a finished novel writing only on weekends, though I never follow his plan exactly. For one thing, there are often weekends that don’t lend themselves to any extensive writing. Stuff comes up. Fortunately, my hours as a professor are fairly flexible. This allows me to start the day on certain weekdays by writing at least a couple of pages, although I aim for five pages. I can make up for this by doing my class preparation late at night, right before I go to bed.

You can find Debra online at:

Debra is generously giving away a paperback copy of The Ticket.
To enter this give away, please leave a comment below and/or
join this site through Google Friend Connect by Wednesday, July 15.
Thank you!

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Tweet this: What's more important than money? Read Debra Coleman Jeter's debut novel, The Ticket. @DebColemanJeter #amreading

Tweet this: Debra Coleman Jeter is giving away her YA novel, The Ticket. 
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  1. I love seeing such a professional and busy woman take time to do what she loves, which is write. Motivates me to not waste a minute in my day.

  2. Although I've spent time in both LAs (Los Angeles and Lower Alabama), I love a southern setting and look forward to reading Debra's beach series!

  3. J'nell, I appreciate your thoughts on this. Debra's devotion to writing is truly inspirational!

  4. Nikki, thank you for stopping by my blog today and leaving a comment. I've never spent time in Alabama,
    so it's interesting to read your perspective. There are lots of lakes and beaches around Michigan, where
    I've spent my life, but that's not the same as the ocean, of course!

  5. Kathy, I'm so happy you introduced me to Debra on your lovely blog. I've recently seen a blurb or some other write-up on THE TICKET and am thankful for a chance to win her Giveaway.

    Debra, I wish you continued writing success. And, thanks for the reminder to never give up!

  6. Elaine, it's always so nice to have you stop by and leave a comment. So glad you
    enjoyed meeting Debra here!