About Sheetrock Metal
At thirty-five, Audrey James figures she has missed the boat to schizophrenia where her mother now dwells. But questions are surfacing: What happened to the guy who taped her drywall? Was one of her friends involved?
Having grown up with a mother who often conversed with people who weren’t actually there, Audrey does her best to deny that it could be happening to her. Is she seeing what everyone else is? Are the current men in her life—the drywall taper, her ex-husband and his best friend—who they represent themselves to be?
Audrey ponders all of these notions when she is presented with murder, kidnapping and a situation where any or all of her closest friends and colleagues could be involved. How can you know whom to trust when you can’t trust yourself? When she begins to see that guilt and innocence are not always sharply delineated, she must finally make a conscious decision to trust. That decision allows her to be at peace with the result of both the mystery and her question of her own mental competence.
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Thank you. It’s exciting to be included.
Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
Sheetrock Angel grew out of a confluence of events in my life that sparked a parallel mystery story. I was in the middle of a divorce when I moved into a tiny little hovel of a one-bedroom condominium. Because I had spent everything I had to gain a foothold in Santa Monica which was really beyond my means, I had to make any improvements myself. I became depressed and worried that I might be prone to repeated depressions as my mother had been. My brother and I demolished an awful ersatz rock fireplace but it was up to me to cover the exposed studs. As I walked across the street carrying a piece of drywall, a scruffy young man exited the condo at the front. He explained that he was a taper and that he would tape the wall for me as part of his twelve step program which included atonement. A couple of months later, I saw the woman in the front unit and asked how the taper was doing in his recovery. She said he’d been killed on his motorcycle. That gave me the basis of a mystery that I used as a device to explore my fear of depression and to unravel my feelings about my dissolving marriage.
Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
I actually wrote Sheetrock Angel as a feature script first which gave me a solid footing for the mystery. The surprises came when writing the novel and filling the character’s back stories. I cannibalized much of my life for the main character, Audrey, but all the other characters were amalgams of people I have known. The actor husband in the story is far less likeable than my own ex-husband who remains a great friend.
Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
Always, though vaguely. And I never know how I’ll get there. It’s as though I start my characters off with a destination, but I let them decide if they’ll take the back roads or race straight through.
Do you have a process for developing your characters?
It’s not a conscious process. In a mystery story in particular you need characters to hit certain marks to make the mystery work, but beyond that, I let them reveal themselves to me. One of my nicer characters in the book picked up a brick and threw it down the street without my having consciously planned it. I had to ask, what in his background made him keep a lid on things, and then when no one was around, blow his top. That gave me the key to his back-story.
It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
I’ve taken a few of the incidents straight from my life. My mother was depressed, so I upped the stakes and made Audrey’s mother a schizophrenic. My ex-husband was an actor, as is Audrey’s and their problems are similar to those that we had. There is a section that recounts a motorcycle accident when Audrey was 16 which mirrors my own experience precisely. I don’t mind the flagrant use of pieces of my own life, but I wouldn’t take directly from any of my friends or family without permission. The best friend character is an amalgam of three of my friends. As far as personality, Audrey’s and mine are fairly close, though she’s brighter and nicer than I am.
What is your most favorite part about this book?
I really have to think about that. Writing is a labor of love, but a labor nonetheless. When I finally finished the slog – in and out of the drawer for a decade – I think I just was glad to get the thing off my desktop. But now that I’m reflecting, I think that, though the mystery was the surface story, the real meat of the piece for me was my main character’s personal growth and insight which I revealed in step with the unfolding mystery story. So I guess my favorite part of the book is its parallel structure.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
After the first draft. I sent it around to agents and even to slush piles, then threw it back into the drawer. As I mentioned, it was in and out of the drawer for a long time.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
A television agent friend of mine advised me to have it published through Amazon’s publishing arm because he felt I’d see a larger return than if I were to go through a traditional publisher. He had read the original screenplay and felt that a quicker publishing route would mean a faster sale of the screenplay. He is no longer an agent, but I just signed an option with Antonia Ellis who was a producer on Sex and the City. I’m happy to let her deal with setting it up somewhere.
What has been the best part about being published?
I love seeing the physical book. In television, the screenplay is the blueprint – sixty pages held together with brads – that only lives when all the other elements are in place. I like having the entire responsibility for the result.
What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
I hope they’ll remember the lessons Audrey learned about apportioning blame, believing in something important, and the mutability of mental health
Do you have plans to write another book?
I’m already in the middle of another self-cannibalizing book called: My Pan Am Memoir: a Novel. I kept a journal for most of the 18 years I flew for Pan Am and will use many of my actual experiences, but like Sheetrock Angel, the real story is beneath the surface. While my main character navigates an exciting world she comes to learn about how very different life is beneath the surface.
Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
I expected the excitement of visiting the many blog sites, but I didn’t expect to enjoy the process of talking about Sheetrock Angel as much as I have. Your questions in particular have stimulated my imagination. It’s been a remarkable experience that I’d recommend to any author.
Where can readers find a copy of your book?
Enter either Jeanne C. Davis or Sheetrock Angel in the Amazon.com search box, and it’ll pop up.
Do you have a website for readers to go to?
Thank you, Jeanne, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
About Jeanne Davis
Before Jeanne C. Davis seriously entertained writing a novel, she wrote for radio and television including staff jobs on DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN and the modern prequel to the BONANZA series, THE PONDEROSA. Between the numerous drafts of SHEETROCK ANGEL, she wrote, produced and directed the independent feature THE UNIFORM MOTION OF FOLLY. Her early career had little to do with writing – other than in her journal – and everything to do with living. She was a Pan Am purser.
As with most authors, she has stolen a couple of incidents directly from her own life, but SHEETROCK ANGEL is not autobiographical. She did marry actor Ben Murphy, but he is not to be confused with the actor character in the book. Ben and she remain dear friends.
She is currently working on a novel based on her experiences with Pan Am while in preproduction on another independent feature with niece, Morgan Davis, called LIP SERVICE. She is also continuing work on a documentary about her family with editor Charlene Huston. Her great-grandfather brought one of the first carousels to California and merry-go-rounds were a family business until her father retired in the 1980s.