Welcome to An Indie Adventure, Phylis Caskey. Tell us, what inspired you to write your book Skinny Dipping in Cane River?
Hi Leslie, thank you for inviting me.
The story originally started as a short story about my grandfather and a secret he kept for 50 years. However, the characters became bigger than the story, and I had to pluck them out and give them a bit more space. I had a mystery outlined with no hero or heroine so I merged the two stories. It was the perfect fit. Once the two were combined, it just took off.
I have always loved living in the South so I wanted to share similar experiences with the reader. No one can define behind-the-scene small-town crazy like a native.
What were your experiences as a child that contributed to you becoming a writer?
My family never lived anywhere longer than two years and believe me, this was no picnic.
My father was a Baptist minister, so people had preconceived notions about me before I even arrived. I was constantly reinventing myself to fit in, especially in middle
Enter imagination… no matter where you go, you can take it with you.
Since my father counseled members of his church at our home from time to time, there were several discussions behind closed doors that a child or teen could overhear. One thing stood out early on: People are not always who they appear to be, and situations are rarely simple, even the most idyllic families have issues.
Do day-to-day life experiences influence your stories?
Of course, even when sitting at the carwash the conversations are fascinating. People love to talk about themselves. Sometimes I’ll find myself writing down a conversation, the syntax and vocabulary may find a home in my next character. Our son comes home with friends, and their word choice is drastically different than mine.
Recently, someone hit my car from behind. No one was hurt, thank God, but I was shaky getting all the information together and calling the tow truck, etc. The police officer was making sure everyone was safe and all the forms were in order, but she kept telling me: accidents happen. She must have said it five times or more. I know she was trying to calm everyone, but she was having the opposite effect. She reminded me of the tooth fairy hanging around while you still have the toothache. I thought about it later. What a wonderful character.
The police officer that kills everyone with kindness, the townspeople hide, slip and fall, wreck… anything to avoid her. But she always shines in the end, solving the mystery.
What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?
I outline the story idea on paper. Then I decide on the characters. Once I’ve named them, I interview them and discover their motivations, goals, hopes, quirks, and backgrounds.
Once they are fully fleshed out, I drop them into the appropriate scenes. That’s where the real fun begins.
If you were a TV, film or book character, apart from one you've created, who would you be? And why?
I have loved Jane Austen since I was in high school. So, it would have to be Eliza Bennett. She is such a strong character: wise, witty, and kind. Also, I could marry Mr. Darcy and live at Pemberley. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to live there?
Give us a brief summary of Skinny Dipping in Cane River:Julian James returns to his hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana with an urn under his arm––and a heart full of regrets. Around every corner are haunting memories, one in particular:
As a teenager, Julian’s worst nightmare comes true when his father supposedly commits suicide. But he never believes the stories swirling about his father and soon discovers a hidden diary with three coded messages. Sara, a clever new friend, helps him decode the first message, and his fears are confirmed. His father’s death was no accident.
Julian digs deeper, investigating clues overlooked by the local authorities. But the closer he gets to solving his father’s mysterious death, the more dangerous the game becomes––risking not only his life, but Sara’s, too.
Bio:After traveling in Europe, Phylis Caskey returned to the university setting to study French and Fine Arts. Along the way, creative writing piqued her interest, but it wasn’t until her youngest child went to high school that she started writing seriously. Her love of all things Southern led to her debut novel, Skinny Dipping in Cane River, and her passion for French history contributed to her medieval series. When she isn’t writing, she is tramping the world with her husband, visiting their children, and looking up friends. She enjoys getting lost in a good movie, especially an Indie film, with a huge bucket of popcorn. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and their anthropocentric dogs.