Day 6: The Goddess of Fried Okra

Today we welcome Jean Brashear to Romancing the Book…

Sometimes life gives us gifts of pure grace; one such for me has been meeting Eudora “Pea” O’Brien, the protagonist of The Goddess Of Fried Okra. She began as an exercise in sheer fun—sitting on my deck in a wicker rocker, taking a few weeks off from my contracted writing to see if, after several years as a working writer, I still remembered how to play, how to write for the simple pleasure of it, a joy too easily lost under the pressure of deadlines and expectations.

I knew nothing about Pea, even her name at first—only that a psychic had sent this woman on the road to search for the reincarnated soul of the sister she desperately missed. It all seemed like a lark those first few days, sipping Mexican iced coffee while listening to birdsong under my live oaks…and seeing where Pea would take me next.

When it was time to get back to my deadlines, Pea was never far from me, and over the next few years I returned to her often, letting the flight of fancy take me away whenever I could scrape up a day here or there. The adventure is one I’ll never forget—here’s a description of the story that evolved:

Every life has signposts.
Every traveler has a history.
Sometimes a detour is the only way home.
Grief. Hope. Love. Sword fights. And the crisp glory of fried okra.

Ex-cocktail waitress and convenience store professional Eudora “Pea” O’Brien is filled with grief and regret, low on cash and all alone. Headed down the hot, dusty back roads of central Texas, Pea is convinced she’ll find a sign leading her to the reincarnated soul of the sister who raised her. A sign that she’s found her place in the world of the living again.

At least that’s what the psychic promised.

In an unforgettably funny and poignant journey, Pea collects an unlikely family of strays—a starving kitten, a pregnant teenager, a sexy con man trying to go straight and a ferocious gun dealer named Glory, who introduces Pea to the amazing, sword-wielding warrior goddesses of Texas author Robert E. Howard—creator of the Conan the Barbarian novels—and celebrated in festival every year. Six foot tall, red-headed Pea looks good with a sword in her hand.

Glory, the goddesses and a grandmotherly café owner become Pea’s unlikely gurus as she struggles to learn swordplay and the art of perfect friend okra. She’ll have to master both if she’s going to find what matters most—her own lost soul.

This book probably sounds a wee bit quirky—and, okay, it is—but I think I became the truest me as a writer I’ve ever experienced in the process of writing it. I went through a lot of agonizing and reworking and second-guessing myself (to say nothing of all the other people who second-guessed me) but in the end, I zigzagged and wrung my hands and got as stubborn as I was scared until I listened enough to my gut to unearth the version that I hoped like the dickens the amazing Debs of BelleBooks would “get” because I just felt in my heart that they would do right by the story.

Well, they did get it—and liked it enough to buy it, these women I have so admired for years—which made every low point worth it, every moment of trying to hold onto my faith and keep going. And since then, I’ve experienced the enormous pleasure of spending several months playing with these fascinating and brilliant women in the most author-friendly environment I can imagine. To then also have some fabulous writers love it enough to give me killer quotes, to receive so many glowing reviews (“Eudora Welty meets Sue Monk Kidd and they lunch with Fannie Flagg”…be still, my heart!) and deeply meaningful reader letters, much less have it become an Amazon Kindle bestseller, well…as a writer, I don’t know how life gets any better than this.

Mission accomplished. Joy rediscovered.

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The Goddess Of Fried Okra, published by Bell Bridge Books, is available in both print and e-book from all major outlets, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Fictionwise and independent booksellers. USAToday-bestselling author Jean Brashear’s website is www.jeanbrashear.com.

Readers, Jean is giving away an ecopy of The Goddess Of Fried Okra to one lucky winner. To enter the drawing, just leave a question or comment for Jean and include your email address in your comment. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 8.