I hope you have had the best of days and that it continues.
Today, I ask that you help me welcome Author, Thomas Conner. What drew me to today’s guest and his book is that it involves Alabama, my home state. So obviously, I couldn’t pass up hearing more about him and his writing. And I have a feeling you’ll enjoy his story, just as much as I do.
Tell us about your book.
It’s very loosely based on my childhood. I was raised in a small town on the Alabama/Florida state line. My mother ran the local cafe, which turned into a honky tonk at nights and especially on the weekends. We lived in an old apartment over the newspaper office and ate all our meals at the cafe. I had free run of the town and went to the movie every night. I used this childhood as basis for a story set in 1956 that centers on the unusual friendship between an eleven-year-old misfit and a twenty-two-year-old dropout. I created characters loosely based on people I knew in the past and gave them additional qualities I wanted the characters to have. Then, I created a fictional story centered around them. The book is not autographical, but it is very loosely based on my childhood.
How did you get the idea for the book?
After I’d read Larry McMurtry’s THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, I realized I had a story to tell that, like his novel, was set in a dreary little town in the 1950s. That’s really the only similarity between the two books. When I had the chance to meet McMurtry at his rare and collectible bookstore in Washington, DC, I shared my story idea with him and he said it was a good one. He encouraged me to go and write it. That was in the early fall of 1979.
I wrote the first draft in two months, handwritten. I had an old Underwood portable typewriter that I used in college but three of the keys would stick. I could write in long hand faster than I could type on the old Underwood. I moved to California from Alabama shortly after completing the first draft and I brought the manuscript with me with the intentions of buying a new portable typewriter, rewriting and cleaning up the story, and submitting it for publication. Time got away from me and I put the manuscript back for thirty five years. A year and a half ago I pulled it out, transcribed it, and rewrote and edited it.
Who is your publisher and how did you find them?
Foundations, LLC, out of Mississippi. I had originally planned on self-publishing because I didn’t want to deal with scores of rejections before I found a publisher to take the book. I have a friend who had two books published with Foundations. She really encouraged my to submit my book to them and a couple more houses before I self-published. I gave in and submitted the manuscript to Foundations. To my shock, they loved the book and offered me a contract. Then, I was in a quandary. Should I self-publish or go with them? I took a week to make up my mind.
What made you decide to accept Foundations’ offer?
I talked it over with two writer friends, both best-selling authors. Their advice was that I would receive a validation going with a publishing house that I would not receive self-publishing. That was the main motivation.
Are you working on another book?
Yes. This one is loosely based on my freshman first quarter in college in the fall of 1965. My main character is an eighteen-year-old who is smitten with his single, twenty-seven-year-old female English professor. They develop a strong friendship based on mutual interests and needs. The friendship gets complicated when it moved to a deeper level. Again, this is a story based loosely on my life. However, it is fiction and not autobiographical.
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing since I was in grade school. I would go to the Saturday movies and watch the cliffhanger serials and come home and write a story about them. I’d read the stories to my friends and they loved them. When I got to junior high, the stories centered around mermaids and fairies, themes that would be popular today. I actually wrote my first novel when I was twelve. It was a silly little 1940s World War II romance based loosely on several plots I’d seen on the late, late show. I sent the handwritten manuscript to Grosset and Dunlap in New York and waited patiently for my advance check to arrive. Instead, they returned my manuscript along with a nice letter of rejection. I framed the letter. The manuscript was lost when our house burned a couple of years later.
What else have you written or published other than GOODBYE, SATURDAY NIGHT?
I published several articles in the now defunct Big Reel Magazine through the years, mainly dealing with Roy Rogers, the famous movie cowboy of the 40s and 50s. In 2000, after much research into my ancestry, I published a book entitled: THE CONNERS OF CONECUH COUNTY, ALABAMA. It’s a family history of character studies. I devoted a chapter to the important family members of the past. I self-published that book and donated copies to the local libraries back in Alabama. I sold a lot of books to family and friends, but never pushed it commercially. In the early 1990s, I wrote a juvenile mystery novel along the vein of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I completed the first draft but never did anything else with it. I might pull it out at some point and see what I can do with it.
Book title: GOODBYE, SATURDAY NIGHT
Author: Thomas Conner
Publisher: Foundations, LLC
Genre: Literary fiction, Coming of age
A Southern story of love and friendship, of betrayal and redemption. Growing up gay in the 1950s was very difficult. Growing up gay in the 1950s in the Deep South was a horse of a different color. It’s early May in 1956 in the small South Alabama town of Farmington and eleven-year-old Bobby Crosby’s life is about to change forever. He’s still anguishing over the death of his father even though it’s been five years and he’s come to despise the life centered around his mother’s cafe, a place that becomes the revelrous hot spot of the community when the sun goes down. Bobby escapes his real world by going to the movies every night. There, sitting alone in the dark, he leaves Farmington far behind and melts into the world of the silver screen. Bobby’s best friend is Hucker Nolan, a twenty-two-year-old drop-out from the swamps across the tracks who drives a taxicab in the daytime and works concession at the movie theater at night. Now, Bobby’s world seems to be collapsing and there’s nothing he can do to stop it; his mother has a boyfriend Bobby deeply resents and his feelings for Hucker are confusing and ever changing, often filled with anger and jealousy Bobby doesn’t understand. Then, the worst thing possible happens to Bobby— He’s betrayed by the person he trusts the most.
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After the end credits rolled, the dim exit lights were raised, and I was snatched back to Farmington by a low rumble of voices, a faint laugh or two, and the shuffle of feet moving up the side aisles crushing bits of popcorn and crinkling candy wrappers.
A wave of disappointment swept over me. I was actually back in the dirty little town I had left so long ago to fight and rebel side by side with James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. I sat still for a few minutes, then stood up to go. I was one of the last to make my way up the sloped aisle, and when I looked up, I was facing dead-on with Crazy Willie, the crippled fellow who cleaned up the show. He was limping down the left aisle straight toward me, dragging a big trash can with his good right hand. His withered left hand was pulled up tight against his chest and his broom was tucked underneath it. When we met, I stepped quickly out of the aisle and a couple of seats over, not wanting to be within his reach. I didn’t look him in the eyes, and I let him pass. It always spooked me when I got too near Crazy Willie. For years I’d heard the horror stories about Crazy Willie murdering his father when he was a boy and how the law couldn’t arrest him because he was too young but God struck him with lightning, making him crippled for life, because of his murderous sins. Anytime a dog or cat came up missing, kids would say Crazy Willie had killed them and ate their bodies. I knew I could outrun Crazy Willie because he was crippled and couldn’t move fast, but if I got too close, he could grab me and kill me dead. I made sure I stayed out of arm’s reach.
As I passed through the faded velvet drapes into the lobby, I saw my friend Ellis Montgomery coming down the side stairs from the balcony where the colored people sat. Ellis was a head taller than me, three years older, and several shades darker. I was envious that Ellis could sit in the balcony while I was restricted to the lower level just because I was white. Of course, Ellis couldn’t sit with me in the lower level because he was colored, and it never occurred to me he might be envious of me. Ellis’ mama, Velma Montgomery, had been our evening cook at the cafe for as long as I could remember. Ellis and I had been playmates forever, climbing the big chinaberry tree at the end of the alley behind the cafe, putting rocks on the railroad tracks to see whether we could derail a freight train (we’d never try to derail a passenger train because we certainly didn’t want to kill anybody) or playing cars and trucks or toy soldiers in the stockroom of the cafe.
Sometimes, we would play cowboys and Indians outside in the various nooks and crannies and alleyways around town. I always directed Ellis to play the Indian because he was colored and it made more sense. Sometimes, though, he’d play the cowboy, and I’d play the girl. He’d save me before the stagecoach crashed over the cliff and be my hero. Ellis thought that was funny, but he went along with it and never mentioned it to anybody. I never even told Hucker about that, and I told him almost everything. I knew he would laugh his ass off and never let me live it down. It had been a couple of years since I played the girl. I knew now only a sissy would do that, and I surely was no sissy. Except for Hucker, Ellis Montgomery was my closest friend. We just couldn’t sit together in the show.
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Thanks so much for visiting with us today. I hope you enjoyed learning more about our guest. Please help show him some love with likes, shares, and comments.
Until next time…………………………Happy Reading & Reviewing!!!