Q&A: Jan Watson (Tattler's Branch)
WHAT INSPIRED THE SETTING OF TATTLER'S BRANCH?
One morning over breakfast, as I perused the Lexington Herald, a story caught my eye. Tragically, the body of a young woman had been found on the banks of a creek called Tattler’s Branch. The story flooded my emotions as I thought of her family and what they must be going through, and I thought of her life cut short by forces outside her control.
There are many creeks in Kentucky with descriptive names such as: Lost, Frozen, and Troublesome, as well as Tattlers which rhymes with rattler’s and makes me think of trouble ahead.
WHAT DO YOU THINK READERS WILL LIKE ABOUT THIS NOVEL?
Tattler’s Branch is multilayered with more than one point of view. I believe readers like a challenge, and this book is certainly that. The main character is a young doctor, Lilly Still, who faces heartbreak in her personal life as well as threats from a former patient who menaces her.
Some, who have read the first chapter of Tattler’s Branch, are already questioning what grave illness has overtaken Armina Tippen, a fan-favorite character from my last book, Skip Rock Shallows. And then there is the apparently abandoned infant girl, a baby who was born with three strikes against her. Where did this little one come from? And how does Doc Lilly’s stalker play into this tragic scenario.
Lest you think this is a sad and heavy story, let me assure you this book contains delicious bits of humor—the kind of funny that comes when life happens in all its trials and glory.
WHAT ARE SOME RECURRING THEMES THROUGHOUT THE BOOK?
It is strange to me when looking back over my body of work, (seven books so far) I do see recurring themes though I never set out for this to be so. My books always begin with character; theme develops as I tell the story: sister to sister conflict; babies in distress; odd and unappreciated folks who live on the fringe of society. A member of my critique group says that though she often intensely dislikes a character in the beginning of my novels, she always understands, and sometimes even likes them, by the end of the book.
YOUR MAIN CHARACTER, LILLY, IS A SMALL-TOWN DOCTOR IN A TIME WHEN WOMEN DID NOT TYPICALLY WORK IN THE MEDICAL FIELD. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS OCCUPATION FOR LILLY?
Lilly’s father was a doctor, and her mother is a lay-midwife, so this is a natural progression for Lilly. For many years, I worked in the medical field as a registered nurse and for a time was a peri-natal loss counselor, thus including snippets of medical lore allows me to indulge my interest in all things medical.
WHAT SORT OF RESEARCH DID YOU CONDUCT FOR THIS BOOK?
In my humble opinion, thorough research makes or breaks a historical novel. For example: If Lilly Still M.D. puts a stamp on an envelope, I’d best know what the stamp cost and just how said stamp would be affixed to said envelope—there were no peel-and-sticks in 1911. Even if this bit of information is not to be relayed to the reader, the writer needs to know. In that moment in time, the writer becomes the character. For Tattler’s Branch, my research included the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the outlaw Jesse James, 1911 fashions (including maternity dress), telephones, electricity, automobiles, medical practices, Down syndrome, and lots of Scripture searches. Reading the Bible grounds me and keeps the work of being an author in perspective.
ANY FUTURE PROJECTS IN THE WORKS?
Buttermilk Sky is the title of the book I’m working on now. The setting is the time period just before the great upheaval of WWI. Mazy Pelfrey, whose dream is to become a modern, self-supporting woman, is struggling to adjust to life in the big city and the demands of secretarial school. Meanwhile, Chanis Clay, the sheriff in the small town she’s just left, pines for Mazy to come back home and be the sweet, old-fashioned girl she’s always been.