Bio: T. I. Lowe
is an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories and is the
author of nearly twenty published novels, including her debut, Lulu’s Café, a number one bestseller.
She lives with her husband and family in coastal
Can you walk us
through the emotions you felt while writing this book? My emotions were all
over the place. I fully invest in my characters. When they hurt, I hurt. When
they rejoice, so do I. One scene where
You’ve said that this book is the most important book you’ve written to date. Why? The subject matter of this book, even though it’s fiction set in the eighties, is so relevant today. Everyone hurts. Everyone struggles. And everyone hides their truths to some degree. I was led to write this book in a way that I hope readers will realize it’s not so healthy to hide, that it’s okay to seek help no matter what they are going through.
You say you are an observer of people. What do you mean by that? How do you use that to craft your stories? People are so fascinating. I know I look like a weirdo but I’m all about people watching. I also want to understand things that I see, whether it’s from a news headline or something I’ve witnessed in person, so I work that out through my stories.
Some of the common
themes in this book are the power of community and connectedness, as well as
the impact that small and simple kindnesses can have on those around us. How do
you hope those themes encourage the reader? Why did you include those themes
specifically? I hope the reader will reflect on their own actions and
attitudes toward others. As I’ve already said, kindness is a simple act but can
have such a profound effect on the one receiving it.
Why did you choose to
set this book in the eighties? Why was it important to you to write a
coming-of-age book that wasn’t set during the age of social media? The
eighties was a great decade, so why not! I truly wanted to get to a simpler
time for this book. One with less noise, so to speak. I think it’ll be easier
for someone to read this subject from afar and not have cell phones and all
that to distract from it. It makes
What was your inspiration for this book? You’ve referenced some of the conversations you had with God about writing this book. Can you walk us through that a bit? Spring of 2019, it seemed every time I turned on the news or pulled up Facebook, there was a headline that a community leader, mostly church leaders, had committed suicide. Man, did that put such a burden on my heart. I wanted to know their story and why they got to the point of feeling that hopeless. Before I knew it, I was deep into research. I discovered most times those victims were secretly suffering with mental illness. They were worried what others would think, so they kept it hidden. A lot of prayer went into the book, asking God to help me understand and to express that understanding to readers. Days of writing with goose bumps along my arms and a tightened chest, I knew I wasn’t telling this story alone.
This book is gritty
in parts, but it also serves up a good dose of humor. Why did you intentionally
include humor in this story? Can you give us an example? Life is tough! It
is gritty, yet I lean heavily on humor to get me though the rough patches of
life. I also needed it to get through the rough patches of this book and I think
readers will too. You will meet
Why is it important to write stories about characters who deal with real issues? What are some of the real issues that this story addresses? Sometimes I think reading about real issues in fiction is easier for us to digest than reading it in nonfiction or in a self-help book. It takes us out of it, so to speak. The issues addressed in this book are quite extensive, but it is mostly about ill-fitting labels that need to be done away with.
Why did you choose to represent characters who are marginalized or misunderstood in this book? I don’t know about you but I am just so tired of the labels and the unrealistic boxes society creates and expects you to live up to. That’s hogwash. If God wanted us all to fit in the same box, he would have created us as carbon copies. He didn’t, so that means it’s a gift to be different and I think differences should be celebrated. I did a lot of celebrating this in Under the Magnolias.
Nobody is immune to hardship in life and the Fosters know that well. For readers going through a personal battle, what does Under the Magnolias offer them? It will give them the courage to seek help in those times, realizing it’s not healthy to keep it all hidden. And that people genuinely do care and want to help.
We see a beautiful picture of what it means to be the church in this book. What do you hope readers take away from this? Exactly as you put it in the question, the church is beautiful, and I’m so sad that so many are missing out on this because they have misguided views of what church is supposed to be. I’m not an expert on theology, but I do love how Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 puts it: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
What do you hope your readers walk away with when they’ve turned the last page of this book? My hope is that they say, “Dang, that girl can write!” Ha! Just kidding. Kinda ... No, seriously, I want them to get to the end of this book and find their own sense of freedom. To bravely go out and live without putting on airs. To exercise their compassion and empathy muscles more.
Thank you, T. I., for sharing this book with my blog readers and me. This novel is going to the top of my to-be-read pile.
Readers, here are links to the book.
https://amzn.to/3nUH6eE - paperback
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