Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life changes the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly jailed for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is an ornery nun who lives in the midst of a peach orchard on Paradise Ranch. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along, but Eleanor has secrets of her own—secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.
It’s not going to be easy for Ruby Clyde and Eleanor to heal old wounds, face the past, and learn to trust each other. But with enough little pieces of love, they might be able to bring their family together again, and learn that paradise isn’t a place—it’s the feeling of being home. Corabel Shofner’s ALMOST PARADISE is a funny and heartfelt story of determination, belonging, and the joys of loving one another.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I grew up in Jackson Mississippi and spent a lot of time on the Gulf Coast, in the Delta, and also on my grandmother’s hunting island in the River. Each summer I went to the Texas Hill Country along the Guadalupe River. I dropped out of high school and traveled the world. I loved living in New York City for 8 years. Eventually, I completed college at Columbia University then went to Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, Tennessee which is now our home. My architect husband and I have three grown children.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
I believe writing can heal. I had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was worried about how that would affect my family. A little spit-fire bounced into my imagination and began jumping on my bed. She said, “My name is Ruby Clyde Henderson and I am not stupid. What’s more, I look like a boy, even at my age—I am skinny, and as my mother says, ‘flat as a pancake.” So when I want, I tell them my name is Clyde, and when I don’t want, it’s Ruby. Some don’t even believe I’m a girl, with my hair being so short. It’s funny, people tell you not to lie, but they hardly ever want to hear the truth. If you try to tell it, they call you a liar. Liar, liar, pants on fire. But if you lie, they believe you.”
I began writing about the brave and wise Ruby Clyde Henderson who believed herself a healer and by the end of the book I had recovered my health and have stayed healthy since. I do believe in traditional medicine and I also believe the spiritual aspect of writing helps it along.
How do you create your characters?
Oddly enough, my characters come to life when I name them. Just like meeting somebody at a party. I may remain interested in them and use them in my writing or I may discover that I’m not going to spend time with them. If I stick with a character, they usually develop a voice first, then as they work through their problems I consider their history. Sometimes what you don’t say about a character is as important as what you do say. Most of all a character must yearn for something.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
I wrote and illustrated the Monsters Under My Bed in the second grade. Since I am the youngest in a loud and aggressive family, writing is the only place I can complete a sentence. I have since written short stories, essays, plays, law and novels.
I am inspired by people. We are complex, diverse, surprising yet predictable. We come in so many stripes and because of that I feel free to be myself, especially as a writer.
Where do you write?
I write everywhere. All over the house, in libraries, and coffee shops, even in groups of people and during car rides. I also like writing in hotel rooms. Right now I am writing on a porch with a dozen women rocking and talking about other things.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I have no idea. Seriously, I sit down to write and there it is.
What do you like to read?
I have read many many books for young people this year. Particularly debut authors for 2017. Otherwise I have broad interests. Non-fiction, fiction, humor, literary, mysteries, and even junk. The Bible is spectacular. Love Alice Monroe and Anne Tyler, Eudora Welty of course. Someone came up to me on a panel last month and returned Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty which I had lent her 40 years ago. It was signed to me as a “friend of my family.” Barry Hannah and John Irving are lively and I laugh out loud at David Sedaris. I also like reading complete decisions of the Supreme Court because everybody talked about them but nobody has read them. Reading is good.
What would your advice to be for aspiring authors?
The common wisdom is to read and write. That is true but also a bit vague. I must admit that I was not a born writer, I had to learn to write and I had to learn why I was writing which is a very personal thing. Nobody can tell you how to do that, except to keep asking yourself until you know you are telling the truth. Give yourself time.