I am so pleased to welcome Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, which debuted last week to great reception: #34 on the New York Times bestseller list, #11 on Heartland Indie Midwest, and #9 on SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers’ Association); go CeeCee!
This novel is full of southern warmth and charm, and loaded with wise and strong women; the main character is a 12-year-old girl in transition, who in turn inspires changes in those she touches. My review of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is here.
So, I’ve put on tea, Beth has arrived, and we’re hoping Oletta will soon arrive with a plate full of her homemade cinnamon rolls …
She is Too Fond of Books: Hello, Beth, and welcome to She is Too Fond of Books. Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with us today. It’s been only a few weeks since Saving CeeCee Honeycutt debuted as Sam’s Club’s first book club pick, can you tell us a bit about what your book tour has been like? Are you still on Cloud Nine?
Beth Hoffman: The book tour is a potpourri of excitement, wonderful adventures, and exhaustion. The schedule is grueling—I’m in a different city each day. Yet the minute I arrive at an event and begin talking, I get all fired up and the adrenalin kicks in. Every single event has been wonderful and I’ve met amazing and generous people.
SITFOB: As you know, I was quite taken by Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and all the strong female characters you created, especially CeeCee herself and Oletta. Did you know when you began writing that you’d have such a wonderful women-centered world, or were CeeCee and perhaps Aunt Tootie your starting points?
BH: CeeCee came to me first, and though I knew I wanted to write a story about strong women of all different ages, backgrounds, and cultures, the story often led me on unplanned adventures. Several times I experienced “writer’s alchemy” – that powerful moment when a character takes control and demands to be heard. It was quite something.
SITFOB: Many of Oletta’s conversations with CeeCee were imbued with wisdom, pithy sayings that summed up Oletta’s advice on good clean living. They all rang true, but I’m not familiar with these particular expressions – were they passed down in your family, or did you create them as part of Oletta’s character?
BH: With the exception of a few family sayings that are sprinkled throughout the story, Oletta’s voice and her earthy wisdom came to me as she evolved from chapter to chapter. More than a few times I was genuinely surprised at what I heard her say in my head!
SITFOB: Mrs. Odell’s idea of a Life Book is a fairly spiritual (though not overtly religious) concept, and several of the characters in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt experience new chapters ending and beginning. In the very moving video [it's at the bottom of this page, folks!] about your decision to write, you say you weren’t walking from a successful career; you were walking toward something else. Did your understanding of a Life Book help you make that decision to write, or did the path of your journey gel as you wrote?
BH: After I nearly died of septicemia, I emerged a very different person. It wasn’t an overnight transformation by any means—it happened slowly over several years until one day I felt as if I’d been reshaped. Though it might sound odd, I also felt like I was far more wide-awake and aware. My view of life and my creativity shifted dramatically until I could no longer ignore the fire that I felt for writing. When I finally made the decision to leave design and honor my dream of writing, it was the most empowering feeling I’d ever experienced. In my heart I knew I was gong to write a Southern novel before I even wrote the first word.
SITFOB: Do you identify with any one character in particular?
BH: Though there’s no denying that I can be a bit like Thelma Rae Goodpepper, it was Oletta who stole my heart. She exemplified who I aspire to be as opposed to who I am. Every time I wrote about Oletta she taught me something that I value to this day.
SITFOB: You were a partner in a major Cincinnati-area interior design firm before leaving to pursue writing full-time, and I understand that you’ve renovated your own historic home from top to bottom. Have you, like Aunt Tootie, ever been active in saving a treasure from potential demolition?
BH: I’m in love with old homes and I support many organizations—the Savannah Historic Foundation, the Historic Charleston Foundation, and the Kentucky Historical Society to name a few. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve admired the architecture, solid construction, and charm of older homes, and I feel it’s vital that we protect and preserve them whenever we can.
SITFOB: How would you describe yourself, other than an author/writer?
BH: Animal lover, a darn good girlfriend, and a devoted wife (or at least I certainly try to be).
BH: Yes. I have been overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from your readers. I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their kindness. And, I also want to thank you, Dawn, for believing in CeeCee—and me! It was so great to meet you in person at ALA, and I hope our paths cross many times in the future.
SITFOB’s further note to readers: Beth Hoffman is the genuine article, and she pours that authenticity into the spirit of the characters in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Check Beth’s book tour schedule, and do try to catch a reading if you can. I’ll just sit here and continuing waiting for Oletta to show up with those cinnamon buns …
Here’s the video I promised: