At the annual Gratitude Celebration, held the evening of Legacy Day in November, new members were inducted into the Cumulative Giving and Clemson Legacy societies in recognition of their generosity and leadership. The Clemson Legacy Society honors donors who follow the example of Thomas Green and Anna Calhoun Clemson by including the University in their wills or other estate plans. Giving societies honor those whose cumulative gifts to Clemson exceed $100,000. For some inductees, this was their first time in one of the societies; others were honored for moving to a higher level society.
The bronze leaves honoring members of the Fort Hill Legacy Society, a posthumous honor for those who have given the University $1 million or more, lie under the trees next to the Calhoun Mansion.
William Brooks Thayer ’52 is the most recent inductee into the Fort Hill Legacy Society, honored with a bronze leaf bearing his name during the Legacy Day celebration in November.
Thayer served his country as an officer in the Air Force and served his community as a talented agricultural engineer. He established the William B. Thayer ’52 Quasi-Endowment for Excellence, designated for Clemson’s areas of greatest need.
Clemson’s Legacy Day was started in 2009 to recognize the fact that Clemson was founded by an act of philanthropy by Anna and Thomas Green Clemson. To learn more about the Fort Hill Legacy Society, or to see pictures of the day’s events, go to clemson.world, and click on “Clemson Forever.”
Shica Hagood Little saw her waistline expand as she was drinking multiple cups of sugar-and-cream-filled cups of coffee while teaching and working on her Ph.D. in education leadership at Grand Canyon University. But Little wasn’t ready to cut coffee from her routine. Something had to give. That’s when she got in her kitchen and started from scratch.
She bought cream, butter, spices and vanilla and blended it with a hand blender. “It came out horribly,” she said. “It didn’t perform the way it should and didn’t taste the way it should,” she said. “So I started researching.”
More than 2,000 batches later, she’s the proud creator of “Dr. Shica’s Healthy Surprises,” which includes “Incredi-Whip,” a coffee creamer, fruit dip and whipped cream in one. “Initially the product was called “Coffee Whip,” but once I started working with a couple of the stores and buyers, I decided it should be not only for coffee drinkers, but for everyone,” she said. The product doesn’t include artificial colors or flavors, high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan or gluten. With many of the ingredients that were going into her 1,000-calorie cup of coffee gone, Little said she was able to drop about 40 pounds using her product instead.
The next step was to bring Incredi-Whip to the masses. Little saw an audition for “Hatched” on the CW network, where entrepreneurs pitch their brands to business moguls. Her pitch was a success, and she partnered with investors Mark Koops, “Hatched” TV executive producer, and Freddy Cameron, retail expert and host of season 1 “Hatched,” to bring her product to Walmart, Sam’s Club and Kroger. “What that show did for me is amazing,” she said. “They have consumers come in and try your product so you have real-time feedback, and they tell you what you have to do to get on shelves.”
Little has gone on to appear on another show called “MVP: Most Valuable Partner” on Verizon’s Go90 television, where she earned the endorsement of basketball star Kevin Durant and his mother, as well as three other sports stars on the series. Little’s research showed Durant’s mother was an avid coffee drinker, and he was going to 7-Eleven every night to get her a coffee.
Little knew she had her hook. “I didn’t know if any of them wanted to work with me, but they all worked with me.” Little said she always dreamed of being “somebody” and going to California to lead her life. In October she was able to make her dream a reality and work full time for her brand that’s helped her rub elbows with industry titans and earn superstar endorsements.
— Julia Sellers
With key support from the Walmart Foundation and its U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, Clemson textile experts are working with the world’s most widely used fiber, polyester, to develop technologies that will make dyeing it more economical and environmentally friendly.
Chris Cole, a faculty member in materials science and engineering, has extensive experience in both textile and apparel design and fabrication, while her collaborator, Philip Brown, also a faculty member in materials science and engineering, is recognized nationally and internationally for his work in designing and extruding textile fibers.
The nearly $1 million award from the Walmart Foundation allows the research team to pursue three primary research objectives: reduce the amount of dyestuff required to color polyester; reduce the energy required to color polyester; and lower the amount of colored effluent from polyester dyeing processes. Effluent is the liquid waste remaining from the dyeing process, and as Cole has noted, “There’s a lot of dye used in dyeing polyester to be able to get the colors that we all know and love like our bright Clemson orange.”
The award was announced by the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the 2016 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. Clemson is one of five universities conducting research through this opportunity, which is focused on supporting research that strives to create new manufacturing technologies and to reduce the cost of producing goods in the U.S. with the ultimate goal of creating jobs that support America’s growing manufacturing base. Clemson’s award is supporting 2½ years of research.
Within Clemson’s Olin Hall is a unique machine that has enabled the research team to design a polyester fiber that will dye more easily. “The funding provided by the Walmart Foundation has allowed me to build this machine — something that has never been done before — and it’s phenomenal,” said Brown. “There’s only one in the world.” Researchers in the industry have attempted to dye polyester using copolymers, but due to fiber manufacturing technology limitations, they typically used a single polymer. This technology also suffered a very poor wash fastness unlike the technology Brown and his researchers have developed. “We might dye a fabric a brilliant orange, but after it was laundered a few times you could see the color was starting to fade with these other polymers,” said Cole. “Because of Dr. Brown’s expertise and the facilities we have at Clemson, we can now build fibers where we can take advantage of being able to get the dye in quickly with intense colors and excellent dye pickup by the fibers. We’re not leaving as much dye behind at the end of the cycle, but at the same time we’re going to be able to get the wash fastness and the light fastness that the commercial market requires.”
Materials science and engineering makes it a priority to get students involved in projects that provide them with hands-on research experience. “By being part of a major research project, students can see the techniques that we use, how to design a large project, how to build a team effectively for a large project and the communication skills you have to have,” said Cole. Another benefit is that students are introduced to the manufacturers who are their potential employers. With another award from the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund announced this year, these two researchers are optimistic about expanding their research program to look at how they might develop polyester fibers that achieve a high level of water and oil repellency at lower economic and environmental cost.
Free cups of coffee were all Charlie Mustard wanted when he volunteered to roast coffee at Jittery Joe’s in Athens, Georgia. At the time, he was working on his graduate thesis at the University of Georgia in nutrition and chugging cups of coffee as he wrote. Twenty-two years later he’s still at Jittery Joe’s, but now as their head coffee roaster.
“That was awesome they let me do that because I didn’t know anything about roasting coffee,” said Mustard with a laugh. But he found the answers at the UGA library. “There was a whole shelf dedicated to coffee and coffee production.” With a background in biological sciences from Clemson, and having focused on sciences most of his life, Mustard said, “Oh yeah, I can do this.”
Now he’s roasting batches from all over the world and has mastered how to get each bean to open the flavors indicative of their area. “If I am roasting a coffee from Tanzania for example, I am thinking about temperature, humidity, air pressure, size and density of the bean and how the bean was processed on the farm — to name a few of the variables” he said.
Jittery Joe’s is now sold all over the Southeast, throughout the country and around the globe, including being the brand packaged for the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. Roasting has even taken him as far as Japan to teach, as well as learn techniques.
“I actually do reflect from time to time about how much coffee we roast and how many cups are consumed every day — you can make 35 to 40 cups of coffee per pound. It blows your mind when you think about how many cups we’ve shared with this community,” he said. “This community is such a neat, creative place to be. There are so many who are being creative, whether that’s in a band, painting, acting or writing poetry. What I really like is that we get to help fuel that creativity.”
Mustard’s love of his job even filtered into his 20- and 21-year-old children’s lives. Mustard said when they were little he caught one son on the playground saying, “My daddy doesn’t work, he just drinks coffee all day.”
“Just for me personally, I see success in that I’m doing something that I truly like doing. What
excites you that you say, ‘I can do this for the rest of my life’? My children have never heard me saying, ‘Work sucks.’”
— Julia Sellers
Continuing in the footsteps of Clemson founder Thomas Green Clemson, who established the University with a legacy of land, Peter LeRoy “Roy” McCall Jr. ’53 has established a new scholarship endowment through a gift of land valued at more than $1 million. The Peter LeRoy “Roy” McCall Jr. ’53 Scholarship Endowment will fund scholarships for students in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences like Carlos Morales Jr., a freshman agricultural mechanization and business major. “This gift will make a huge difference for students,” said Morales. “The scholarships I received have allowed me the opportunity to attend Clemson, and my decision to attend Clemson was supported by generous donors like Mr. McCall.” “I am proud to know that this gift is an asset to Clemson and to the fellow students who will take advantage of this scholarship program.
I wish the students well,” McCall said when the gift was announced at the South Carolina
Farm Bureau CAFLS Alumni Tailgate in November. “Mr. McCall’s gift will benefit Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences literally forever. It is a demonstration of faith in the future and of faith in Clemson,” said President James P. Clements. McCall earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Clemson in 1953 and has been a long-time supporter of his alma mater. In 2009, he established an endowment to provide Universitywide scholarships that have helped more than 75 students attend Clemson.
He has also supported Clemson’s Scroll of Honor and Military Heritage Plaza, the WestZone project in Memorial Stadium and the Class of 1953 Golden Anniversary Scholarship Endowment. In addition, McCall supports the Clemson University President’s Fund. “Mr. McCall’s gift of a scholarship endowment to the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences will open doors for deserving students to attend CAFLS and will have a direct, positive impact on our ability to educate the next generation of agribusiness leaders,” said George Askew, dean of the college and vice president of Public Service and Agriculture.
His diploma might read “University of South Carolina,” but his heart bleeds orange. And in February during “Clemson Day at the Statehouse,” the Alumni Association made it official, naming Jason Puhlasky an honorary Clemson alumnus. A lobbyist with Parker Poe Consulting in Columbia, Puhlasky went to USC because he could work and pay his way through college.
As a student, he interned in the S.C. House of Representatives, where he discovered his love of politics. He moved on to the State Republican Party Headquarters and eventually on to the staff of U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond.
He returned to South Carolina where he landed a position with the S.C. State Senate. Since leaving that position he has run numerous political campaigns and advocated for various clients. Puhlasky currently serves as a member of Clemson’s Board of Visitors, and in that role and as a private citizen, works “tirelessly and selflessly on behalf of Clemson,” according to one of the letters written in support of his nomination.
Clemson Tigers can be found in every profession, and many are published authors. Here is a short, but not exhaustive, list of alumni authors and some of their books that may pique your interest.
Michel Smoak Stone ’91
Border Child: A Novel (Penguin Random House) tells the story of Héctor and Lilia and the brighter future they dreamed for their family in the United. States. Stone drops readers into the contemporary immigrant experience of a marriage at the breaking point, strained by the consequences of wanting more for the next generation. Stone’s first novel The Iguana Tree (Hub City Press), was the University’s Freshman Summer Reading Program selection in 2013. The novel examines the obstacles of pursuing a new life, set amid the perils of illegal border crossing. From publishing in her hometown of Spartanburg, Stone has gone on with her second novel to land a deal with Random House, working with the legendary Nan Talese. Read a Q&A with Stone about Border Child.
Otha H. “Skeet” Vaughan Jr. ’51, M ’59
There is Something in the Air: Clemson University Aviation and Space Heritage (Vaughan Publishing) compiles the early history of the Clemson Aero Club and Clemson’s aviation and space heritage from 1927 thru 2006.
Claude Cooper ’67
Finding Strong (CreateSpace) details a powerful, inspirational true story of the life of a survivor, elite athlete, coach, teacher, mentor and victim’s advocate.
D. Charles Williams ’74
What’s Done in the Dark: Affair-Proofing and Recovery from Infidelity — A self-help guide for couples (BookLogix) details 28 reasons why infidelity occurs and provides a common-sense, four-stage path to helping couples establish healthy marital boundaries.
Jerry Whittle ’79
Clemson in the Sixties: Seeking Manhood in Troubled Times (Amazon Digital Services) chronicles the author’s experiences of growing up in a small college town.
Kelly Durham ’80
Berlin Calling (Lake Union Publishing) takes place in pre-war Germany in 1938. As an American abroad, Maggie O’Dea finds herself falling in love with a soldier and with a job in the propaganda ministry.
Doug Russell ’80
Succeeding in the Project Management Jungle; How to Manage the People Side of Projects (AMACOM) shows how to invest in and manage your most important resource — your people.
J. Claude Huguley ’81
Transforming Fear with Love: Trusting the Gift of Grace (Amazon Digital Services) offers readers a path for spiritual recovery and authentic living.
Dana Crowe Bodney ’82
The Red Leaves of Autumn (CreateSpace) offers the changing season to bring promise of new beginnings for some and mystery and mayhem for others in this mystery set on the vibrant Southern coast.
Dennis Brown ’83
Tomorrow is Never Promised: Aaron’s Story (Fulton Books) tells the story of the journey to hope and healing after losing a child in an automobile accident.
George Davis ’83, M ’86
Food and Nutrition Economics: Fundamentals for Health Sciences (Oxford University Press) is a resource for non-economists to understand basic economic principles that govern food and nutritional systems.
Michael L. Puldy ’84
The Millennial’s Guide to Business Travel: Lessons for the Next Generation of Road Warriors (CreateSpace) gives tips learned by experienced business travelers.
Sam Blackman ’85, M ’87, M ’06; Tim Bourret, assistant athletic director of football communications.
If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Clemson Tigers Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books) goes behind the scenes for die-hard fans and history buffs.
B. Andrew Farah ’86
Hemingway’s Brain (University of South Carolina Press) is the first forensic psychiatric examination of the Nobel Prize-winning author with new conclusions about what led to his suicide. Rocke Crowe ’87 Grow Me, Guard Me, Guide Me (Warren Publishing) combines scripture and prose for a perfect first children’s book.
J. Drew Lanham ’88, M ’90, Ph.D. ’97
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Milkweed Editions) is a rare and original story, one that speaks to the larger landscape of American identity. Watch a video from Lanham to learn more about his story.
Claretha Hughes ’91
Diversity Intelligence (Palgrave Macmillan) takes on the concept of valuing the differences in employees without attempting to make everyone alike.
Dean Harman ’92
Win by Not Losing (Emerald Book Company) uncovers the fallacies and flaws in Wall Street-style investing.
Kimberly Anderson Massey ’98
A Girl’s Guide to Abstinence (CreateSpace) is the latest of five books by Massey. In this, she uses her biology teacher background to provide informed answers.
Emily Benson Martin ’10, M ’12
Ashes to Fire (HarperVoyager Impulse) follows up Queen Mona’s journey from Martin’s first novel, Woodwalker. Queen Mona must struggle to reshape her view of the world and face truths for herself and her country.
David Hueber ’12
In the Rough: The Business Game of Golf (TCU Press) takes the reader through the author’s professional career on and off the golf course revealing the golf industry at its most awkward and best.
If you’re a published author, send us a high-resolution image of your book cover so we can include you in next spring’s “Alumni Authors.” Send to Julia Sellers at email@example.com or 114 Daniel Dr., Clemson, S.C. 29631.
Border Child: A Novel tells the story of Hector and Lilia and the brighter future they dreamed for their family in the United. States. Author Michel Stone drops readers into the contemporary immigrant experience of a marriage at the breaking point, strained by the consequences of wanting more for the next generation. Stone’s first novel The Iguana Tree (Hub City Press), was the University’s Freshman Summer Reading Program selection in 2013. The novel examines the obstacles of pursuing a new life, set amid the perils of illegal border crossing. From publishing in her hometown of Spartanburg, Stone has gone on with her second novel to land a deal with Random House, working with the legendary Nan Talese. Below is a Q&A with Stone from April 19. Clemson World met with Stone at the bookstore in the front of Hub City to discuss Border Child, immigration, writing, research and Stone’s next read.
Q: Tell me about what are you reading right now.
A: Well I read 85 percent fiction, 15 percent nonfiction. I’m reading the book by Sam Quinones called Dreamland. I met Sam through the publication of The Iguana Tree. He was an L.A. Times reporter at the time and he used to keep a blog called “Tell your true tale.” So he had me write a little story — a true story — about my process of researching for The Iguana Tree. He wrote this book called Dreamland about the current heroin and opioid addiction problem in the United States, which is nothing I’d thought much about, but I kept hearing these horrible stories about this rampant epidemic. He’s traveled around the country and heard these heart-wrenching stories about seemingly well-adjusted young college students who just fell off the rails and started doing drugs with devastating consequences. It’s a really sad story, but it’s interesting and a hot topic in our country right now. He’s such a great writer.
Q: What else is on your bedside table?
A: Fallen Land by Taylor Brown. He’s a Southern writer. I read his first book – loved it – so I just bought it this week.
Q: Did you intend Border Child as a “Part 2” to The Iguana Tree?
A: No, the opposite of that. I didn’t want to alienate any readers who may come across Border Child and if they had not heard of The Iguana Tree, pass by the book and not read it. So, I worked very hard with my editor, Nan Talese. She’s fabulous. I worked really hard with Nan to make sure this is a stand-alone novel. And I think it is. The back story is woven in. If you didn’t read The Iguana Tree, you’ll get Border Child. If you did read The Iguana Tree, you’ll recognize characters and settings, since it involves the same family four years later with a continuation of their story.
Q: I noticed the chapters were broken up in a way that introduced more characters than The Iguana Tree, where it was mostly from Lilia and Hector’s perspective exclusively. What made you decide to broaden the perspective?
A: When I wrote the first draft of The Iguana Tree, it was from four perspectives, alternating characters, Hector, Lilia and the American farmers they worked for, Lucas and Elizabeth. My editor for that said, “You know, the American characters are vital to the plot, but the chapters written from their perspectives are sort of,” (he didn’t use the word boring; I’m using the word boring) “but vanilla.” He said he wanted to race through those chapters to get on to the chapters from the Mexicans’ perspectives. That was kind of a tough day for me. I thought the book was finished. The information was relevant and important, but I had to rewrite them from the Mexicans’ point of view. And he was right, it was even more interesting for me as a writer to write from the Mexicans’ point of view because it forces me to see things from a fresh perspective. So, in Border Child I knew it would give the book more texture and round out the main characters if we could see the action and those characters from other Mexican characters’ points of view.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your experience there and how that informed your writing.
A: Before I wrote The Iguana Tree, I knew the story in my head that I wanted to write, but I had not been to Mexico. So, during the course of writing that book I went to Mexico. I went to a little village called Puerto Angel, on the Pacific Coast deep down in the state of Oaxaca. I chose that place, after doing research, because I wanted the village my characters were leaving in Mexico to be similar to the place where they landed in the United States; and I knew I wanted them to land on Edisto Island in Charleston County, South Carolina. I know that area well. It’s rural, it’s agricultural and it’s on the coast. So, I said, “Where in Mexico is rural, agricultural and on the coast?” This village of Puerto Angel was described as a “Sleepy, bucolic little fishing village.” I thought, “This is perfect!”
I just changed the name to Puerto Isador from Puerto Angel. Changing the name gives me some creative freedom. No one can say, “No, the village isn’t like you described it”
I’m now working on a third book that’s set in Honduras. I’ve just fallen in love with Latin America. So, in the past seven years, I’ve been to Mexico three times, Nicaragua once, Costa Rica three times, Honduras once.
I don’t want to go to the touristy places…. but I like to go like an investigative reporter where I’m among the people and eating what they eat, going to their churches and sitting around their tables.But I feel that if I’m going to write a book about these places, I can’t sit back in my air-conditioned office in Spartanburg and write these stories. As cliché as it sounds, if my five senses haven’t experienced a place, then I don’t feel qualified to set a story there.
Q: How does someone in Spartanburg become interested in immigration and these family issues in Mexico when it’s so different from your daily life?
A: I could back up to my childhood growing up on Johns Island, a rural farming community. Every spring, summer and fall I would see the migrant workers in the tomato fields and the soybean fields. I was curious about them.
I lived at the end of a half mile long dirt road that split pine woods and tomato fields. Every day going to school I would ride down that dusty dirt road and see the migrant workers working near my house. They were so mysterious to me because I knew at the end of the farming season they would be gone. As a child I wanted to know, “Where did they come from? Where do they go? And do the children like this lifestyle and do they go to school?” I had so many questions about them.
But what triggered these books was an encounter about a dozen years ago when I met a young family on Edisto Island who confided that they were here without the proper paperwork and had crossed with their infant son. Immigration was a hot topic so it wasn’t a surprise. But what surprised and haunted me, finally becoming the catalyst for The Iguana Tree was that they crossed with their infant. I was curious how someone does that. I wrote about them in my journal and that writing eventually became a short story and eventually became The Iguana Tree.
Q: What made you say, “I need to write a stand-alone book and revisit these characters.”
A: The first year after The Iguana Tree came out I said I was not writing another book about these characters. I’d started another book. Then a year after The Iguana Tree was published I was in Hermiston, Oregon because that town had chosen my book for its community read. They had a town hall meeting that resulted in standing room only. The community college had read my book, the high school had read my book, the library had done an event – the whole town rallied around this novel, and they flew me out to Oregon for these events. They treated me so wonderfully. They told me they chose my book because their town was about 35 percent Latino, which surprised me. It’s a big agricultural community with apples, watermelon, asparagus; hence the significant Latino community there. They thought the novel would be something the whole community could enjoy. When it came time for the Q&A someone raised her hand and asked if I would write a sequel. I was so moved by the fact that there were so many Latino people in that room that I said, “Yes, yes I will write a sequel.” The whole room erupted in applause. It was all I could do not to cry. I had always feared the Latino community would say, “Who is she to tell this story?” And sometimes I wonder that, too. When they cheered I knew that writing the next book was the right thing to do. I probably knew, at some level, that it was the right thing to do all along because I wasn’t done with these characters yet.
The next morning I was in the airport in Pasco, Washington about to fly back to South Carolina. The local had a headline that said, “Author says it here first, sequel to The Iguana Tree coming.” I started taking notes for Border Child on the flight home that day. I wrote the entire way across the country. I knew it was meant to be because it was so easy to write. It was fun to write. It got me excited to be back writing a novel that would require more research. I love to write fiction that requires me to learn something along the way.
Q: What do you think you learned while writing Border Child?
A: I learned about the plight of families …I began to consider the human condition more deeply. If a novel doesn’t speak to the human condition it’s lacking. We just think about immigration from a 30,000-foot view. But for me as a novelist to dial down to one family in one place and figure out their motivations and their struggles with the backdrop being the border and immigration — that was something I wanted to illuminate. A family, a person. Even though they were fictional, they were derived from real people, real stories. That’s the most fun for me in writing, to illuminate the people in the shadows. And in doing so, to show how people regardless of background or socioeconomic situation or skin color, really have many of the same motivations. We all share the same emotions. There are certain experiences in life that tie us all together.
Q: You talked about looking at 30,000-foot perspective of immigration. How do you approach discussions that come up that are a little more political than focused on your book?
A. When The Iguana Tree came out I was scared people would want to talk politics with me despite this being a work of fiction. It isn’t non-fiction. And I never proclaimed I’m an expert on this issue – and I still say I’m not an expert on this issue. There are people who are far more knowledgeable about that (immigration) than I am. But I do think often Americans, on both sides of the political spectrum, talk out of both sides of our mouths. Those immigrants are putting down our flooring and doing our landscaping and they are working in our meat packing plants and they are cleaning our houses and they’re doing a lot of things that we’re really grateful for. And while many folks say we need to solve this issue, but if we really, really were to “solve the issue” so-to-speak, where will we be? I don’t know. I have people who come up to me all the time to talk about, “Oh, I love so-and-so- this Latino person who I know through my business. But we’ve got to figure (immigration) out.” On a personal basis, people value individual immigrants whom they know. So, it would be interesting to see if we resolve this issue in some way. It will be a lifestyle change for many Americans if we somehow no longer had undocumented immigrants in this country. As a writer, I write because I have questions, not because I have answers.
Q: It was interesting that you had Lilia and Hector separated for so much of the novel. What was the intention of having them go through their own separate journey in Border Child?
A: I love to write where I bounce back and forth from perspectives. You saw it in the first book (The Iguana Tree). And I’ve learned that each perspective has to have its own weighty issue. They needed to both have struggles that pulled the reader back and forth. When you get to a chapter from Hector’s perspective I want you to want to come back to him, but at the same time when you finish a chapter for Lilia’s perspective, I want you to want to come back to Lilia. I want both stories to be pulling the reader along.
Q: For Hector’s journey, he definitely gets into some seedy trouble. Hector is this very noble man. How did you say, I’m going to take this character through this journey that makes his character questionable?
A: I had a friend of mine who read both books said, “I think Hector became a man in Border Child because he is putting others before self. The sacrifices and risks he would take were not for himself, but for his child, his wife, his family. For the reader to appreciate what Hector is willing to do is to see what a father would do for the love of family. For that to be appreciated I think there has to be some trial, some risk, some struggle, some questionable scenarios there, with a character willing to run the gauntlet, to take those risks.
Q: How was working with Nan Talese on editing Border Child versus working locally with Hub City Press on edits?
A: Well, on a basic level, I live two miles away, so the first publisher was much closer. I have walked to this bookstore before, so in terms of that, my publisher here was extremely accessible — I could walk right in the door and plop right down or shoot an email and they’d get back to me within half an hour. People warned me working with a big publisher in New York — and Random House is huge with all its many, many imprints, that I can’t even keep straight — that it wouldn’t be the same.
And no, it’s certainly not the same, but working with Nan Talese is incredible. Her emails are written as letters. They always start off “Dear Michel” and she always signs them, “Love, Nan” And she is so lovely, personable, and professional and still immersed in her workat 80-something years old. To be one of the first women hired at Random House and still working as hard as she is and to not be burned out, but to be as kind and thoughtful and good at what she does is incredible. She’s the one who told me I needed to have the word “border” in the title of my book. My original title was based on a line in an Emily Dickinson poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers” And I thought it was so poetic because the novel has to do with hope and feathers and birds, but Nan said, “Nah, that title’s got to go, and I suggest you have the word ‘border’ in it.” That bothered me for about a day and then I realized she’s right. One thinks of New England and Emily Dickinson with my original title and that’s not what this books about. If nothing else, people will give it a glance because of the new and much improved title!
Q: What do you want your take away to be for readers of Border Child?
A: I hope Border Child’s readers are entertained and engrossed and that they see something of themselves in my characters. I hope they will continue to think about the story long after they read the last sentence. If I can achieve that, I’ll feel like this novel was a success.
Q: Are we ever going to see these characters again?
A: Had you asked me that two weeks ago it would have been “Oh, no no no no no.” And truly, the book I’m writing right now that’s set in Honduras, I’m enjoying the process of writing it. I will definitely see that book through fruition because I’m excited about this story. I will not say no, but I realize there is potential for that. It might be fun to revisit the Santos family in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.