Click on the image to visit Jean's Meet & Greet at VBT Cafe
After graduating from Franklin and Marshall College with a dual degree in Spanish and Government, Jean rose through the ranks of the insurance industry for twenty years before heeding her own heart and pursuing her passion for writing.
She grew up listening to the stories that elders recounted about the women in her family, and it is from these dominant, yet richly flawed matriarchs that she draws inspiration for her writing. In addition to The Fruits Of Our Sins, Jean has published two short stories, Stella’s Silent World, and When The Bough Breaks. She is also a featured author in Sister To Sister, Black Women Speak To Young Black Girls.
She plans to release a collection of short stories later this year, and is currently working on a sequel to The Fruits Of Our Sins.
Jean lives in a suburb of Philadelphia with her husband and three children.
Louise: Jean, welcome to my blog! I’m so excited you could join me for a chat. When did you first decide to submit your work to be published? Tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
Jean: After months of revising, self-editing, and submission to a professional editor, I eventually got to the point where there were no more changes to make. The manuscript was complete. It was then that I decided to move forward with the publication process. After much research into the matter I made the decision to self-publish. I formed my own publishing company, Red Lotus Press, in order to publish my own work.
Louise: Please tell us a little about your new release The Fruits Of Our Sins.
Jean: This novel tells the story of two young women, Madeline and Sybil, who experience abandonment and betrayal within their own families at a very young age. Their lives soon become intertwined in heated confrontation by the birth of a child - a child that each claims to have a right to. For one woman, possession of the child represents redemption; for the other, the repetition of generational sin.
The Fruits Of Our Sins chronicles the deeply flawed relationships these women have with their parents, the impact of those relationships on the direction of their lives and ultimately the lives of their children as they attempt to flee from, yet reconcile, the abandonment and betrayals of their youth.
Louise: Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
Jean: I plan the main characters before I start the story. The supporting characters I develop along the way, depending on how I might need them to assist in developing the plot and the personalities of the main characters. So I guess you can say there’s a little bit of both.
Louise: What is your writing process? Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants (Pantser) or a combination of both?
Jean: I fall somewhere in the middle. I know right away what the beginning and ending will be. For the rest, I allow my imagination to be my guide.
Louise: Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer or still do?
Jean: Right now I’m writing full-time. Prior to that, I was an assistant vice president for an auto insurance company.
Louise: Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen, laptop and a comfy place.
Jean:I don’t have any rituals but I do have a few quirks when it comes to writing. First, the house must be completely quiet while I’m working. This is quite a feat with three kids, a husband, and a dog and cat in our tiny house. I have a colorful collection of ear plugs I use to block out all the noisy chaos; otherwise I wait until the evenings and write while everyone is asleep.
Second, I often wake up in the middle of the night for no reason at all. It is during those moments that I experience my most creative insights. I keep a pen and paper bedside so I can capture the rush of ideas that seems to come for nowhere.
Louise: Describe a typical writing day for you.
Jean: A Typical day? What’s that? I’m still in the midst of raising kids so every day is different and full! In between carting my kids to baseball camp, swim lessons, basketball summer league and pre-season soccer; we manage to get some down time at the neighborhood pool. There, I sneak in a few hours of writing time, otherwise life doesn’t slow down until the evenings after everyone is settling down for bed or early mornings before the house awakens. At dawn I head out to the gym for a quick workout then rush home to check email, and update Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and my website.
Louise: Please give us a sneak peek at your future books. What’s on the horizon?
Jean: I’m currently working on a collection of short stories focusing on family relationships - mostly mother/daughter relationships - that involve transformation after overcoming steep obstacles. I hope to finish the collection later this year.The second project I’m working on is a sequel to The Fruits Of Our Sins. I hadn’t initially planned on writing a sequel, but so many people have asked me to consider it that I’ve decided to take a stab at it. I’m in the process of writing the opening chapter now.
Louise: What is your favorite genre to read and who is your favorite author?
Jean: My favorite genre is literary fiction. While I have several favorite authors, my number one, all-time favorite author is Toni Morrison. It was Morrison who inspired me to put pen to paper, and it was Morrison’s books that I read over and over yet never grow weary of her written word.
Louise: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers we have not touched on?
Jean: I’d like to leave readers with my favorite quote. It has inspired me to follow my dreams and will hopefully inspire someone else to do the same:
“When you follow your bliss, the universe will open doors where there were walls.” Joseph Campbell
Louise: Jean, thank you again for visiting with me today. Where can the readers learn more about you and find your books on the web?
Jean: You’re welcome, Louise. My links are as follows and I'll giveaway a copy of The Fruits Of Our Sins to one lucky reader. Leave a comment with your email address and we'll draw the winner on Wednesday, Aug 8. Good luck!
"MCKIE-SUTTON SHOWCASES HER TALENT, CREATIVITY AND BRILLIANCE IN THIS NOVEL. I LOOK FORWARD TO HER NEXT MASTERPIECE."
-Lynia White, founder of The Quality Corner Bookstore
-Lynia White, founder of The Quality Corner Bookstore
Madeline Stovall raised her fists high in the air then plunged them downward forcibly onto Sybil’s face. Sybil staggered sideways, dazed and unsteady, yet Madeline continued striking her harder and harder. Sybil cowered at the rage darkening Madeline’s eyes, and it was in that moment that she became fully aware of the depth of her fury. Sybil threw a series of futile punches, a few contacting Madeline’s chin, most simply sailing through the air, inciting Madeline’s onslaught to intensify.
She won’t keep fighting someone who won’t fight back, Sybil silently reasoned, and she stopped all efforts to defend herself. Trembling and spent, she bent forward with her arms shielding her face, and crouched immobile. Madeline continued her frenzied flailing, and her knuckles, bruised and bleeding, pounded with increasing vigor. Sybil suppressed the urge to cry out for fear of angering her opponent even more. She locked her jaws shut, endured the weighty punches and said nothing at all. She stood erect to lessen the battering to her head and face. Nevertheless, Madeline’s blows increased in speed and intensity and the strikes, now aimed at her breasts and stomach, nearly brought Sybil kneeling to the ground. She heard the sickening snap of her own ribs cracking, and grimaced just before the pain punctured her insides. She remained still and rigid hoping that her refusal to fight back might end the battle, but respite did not arrive.
“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” she screamed over and over in a rhythmic chant. Her voice was the shrill timbre of a stranger’s, yet she could not stop her senseless, cadence of shrieking. Her cries invigorated her opponent. Madeline lunged toward her, fists poised for more. Sybil took several quick steps backwards, colliding with a brick support pillar. There was nowhere to run. She clenched her jaws shut tight, swallowing her shrieking voice into the pit of her stomach. Her teeth sank into her tongue but she dared not cry out again. The metallic taste of her own blood filled her mouth as her body jerked with spasms. She coughed to keep from choking. Blood seeped through her lips, down her chin and onto the concrete below, forming tiny dark circles at her feet. Sybil feared for her life. Weeping openly, she fell to the ground, drew her knees to her chest and rocked back and forth, still shielding her face and head.
In rapid succession, two kicks to her left hip knocked her onto her side, yet she continued her rocking motion until she again assumed an upright position. A damp heat rose from her neck to her forehead and droplets of sweat rolled onto her chest and thighs. Sybil’s surroundings grew dim as her senses dulled. But just before she succumbed to the solace of unconsciousness, the assault came to an abrupt halt. For a moment, all was still.
Sybil inhaled and exhaled deeply until she regained lucidness. The warmth of the mid-afternoon sun bathed her neck and shoulders, while the cool rigidness of the concrete cooled her from below. She inhaled the Poeme Perfume she so lavishly splashed on her body before leaving home that morning. A mild scent of lavender with a hint of fresh roses ‒ it was the fragrance all the young women were wearing. It reminded her of springtime and morning rain. But on this day, her favored Poeme pitched waves of nausea spiraling through her stomach. She willed herself not to vomit.
Sybil lowered her arms and examined her surroundings. She was surprised to find that she was kneeling on Madeline’s front porch, since the encounter began with the two women having a simple conversation in the living room of the brick twin home. A three foot high stone wall surrounded the rectangular porch, framed by pillars that faced the tree-lined street. Less than six feet away, four concrete steps descended to a path leading to the sidewalk. Adrenaline raced through her limbs, lending her a quick burst of energy. Sybil considered making a run for the steps, but a small group of neighbors clustered on the sidewalk blocked the path that led to a quick escape. She observed the faces of the people in the crowd as they peered back at her. All of them witnessed her brutal humiliation yet did nothing more than watch her suffering. Sybil was alone amidst the dozen onlookers and made a conscious effort to shrug off her self-pity.
I really shouldn’t be surprised, she almost said aloud. They were all Madeline’s neighbors, and most of them ‒ men and women alike ‒ feared Madeline’s wrath. Sybil heard a rumor that she once tried to kill her own husband with a sword while he was asleep. The rumor had never been confirmed, yet no one dared question Madeline about the tale’s authenticity.
Sybil shifted her gaze to examine her adversary. Madeline’s short, curly hair sat in uneven tufts around the sides and top of her head. A scowl distorted her sharp aquiline features, and one of her large breasts poked through an opening in her silk blouse, twisted where the buttons were torn away. Sunlight glittered off the perspiration on her bare shoulder. Madeline stood with her feet slightly apart and her arms rigid at her sides. She breathed fast and heavy, almost panting, reminding Sybil of a pit bull she once saw mangle a newborn rabbit. She shivered in spite of the intense heat.
I figured talking about the baby would be hard but I surely didn’t expect to have a full blown fist fight with this woman.
Just then, the baby, lying in a bassinet in the living room, whimpered softly as a kitten. Sybil’s chest tightened. Madeline turned her head in the direction of the baby’s whimper and relaxed her stance.
This is my chance, Sybil thought. I’ll take her off guard.
She sprang from the ground with a frenzied torrent of punching and kicking. Madeline lost her balance momentarily, yet quickly became oriented and battle ready. She pounded her fist down forcibly where Sybil’s neck met her shoulder. Sybil folded, collapsing to the ground, and lay motionless. Madeline stood over her, waiting and watching, until it was evident she had fully succumbed. She backed away until she reached the door, and as she stepped into her home, she turned to look at the beaten woman one last time.
Sybil lay flat on her stomach. Splattered blood and tears peppered the ground around her. Shuddering and grimacing with each inhalation, her eyes pled for mercy. Madeline bolted the door.
“Wait!” Sybil screamed from the porch. “I can’t leave without my baby.” With one arm cradling her abdomen, she crawled across the porch, her knees cutting open on the uneven concrete, and banged on the door with her fist.
“Please! Give me my baby.”
Facing the closed door, still on her knees, she waited.
“Please!” she sobbed, her voice now hoarse and raspy.
When Madeline’s footsteps retreated farther into the home, she bowed her head and closed her eyes as if in prayer. After several quiet moments, Sybil pulled herself from the ground and faced the crowd of neighbors that was now beginning to disperse. Some whispered with their hands cupped over their mouths, others patronized her with pitying stares, while still others shook their heads disapprovingly.
As Sybil began to depart, the infant’s whimper swelled to a persistent wail. She paused with her face tilted toward the sky, but did not turn around, then she dropped her chin to her chest and continued on her way. The wail ripened to a piercing scream, Sybil’s sobs now in concert with those of the infant. As she placed one foot in front of the other, knees trembling and unsteady, the crescendo of the wailing symphony commingled in the air. The farther away she crept, the more vehemently the infant screamed, as if bemoaning and mourning Sybil’s permanent departure.