David Armstrong was born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi. He is an attorney, former mayor, and candidate for the U.S. Congress. Currently, he serves as the COO for the city of Columbus, MS. David received both an undergraduate and master’s degree in political science from Mississippi State University, where he taught American and local government. He worked for two years as a copywriter for an advertising/political consulting firm before being accepted to the University of Mississippi School of Law, which he graduated from with honors.

In addition to The Rising Place, David has written two other novels, one of which will be released this summer. He has also written four screenplays and taught screenwriting at a local university. He is the father of two grown sons and lives in one of the oldest and most haunted antebellum homes in Columbus with a mean cat named Butch. David is currently working on his fourth novel. His website is therisingplace.com, and he may be contacted at dmatyro@outlook.com.

About the book:

The Rising Place is based on an interesting notion: What if you found a box of letters from World War II that belonged to an old spinster who had just died—would you read them? And what if you did and discovered an amazing story about unrequited love, betrayal, and murder that happened in a small, southern town over seventy years ago?

After a young attorney moves down south to Hamilton, Mississippi to start his law practice, one of his first cases is to draft a will for Emily Hodge. “Miss Emily” is a 75-year-old recluse who is shunned by Hamilton society, but the lawyer is totally intrigued by her, and he can’t understand why this charming lady lives such a solitary and seemingly forgotten life.

When Emily later dies, the lawyer goes to her hospital room to retrieve her few possessions and bequeath them as she directed him to, and he finds a box full of old letters, hidden in the back of one of her nightstand drawers. He takes the letters to his office and starts reading them, and he soon discovers why Emily Hodge died alone, though definitely not forgotten by those who loved her.

INTERVIEW:

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?

I wrote my first short story when I was eleven years old and used to write a lot of short stories and poetry from elementary school through high school. I had an aunt who wrote murder mysteries, and she really encouraged me to be a writer. I always loved to read, and was a big fan of William Faulkner in high school. After I read his last novel, The Reivers, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1963, I knew I had to write. I also was very interested in film, and still am, so I took a stab at writing screenplays in college and graduate school. After graduate school, I worked for two years as a copywriter, perfecting my craft, and I submitted some of my scripts to the president of a major film studio in Hollywood. He was obviously impressed and invited me out for an interview. The guy actually offered me a job, but, unfortunately, I got cold feet and decided to stay put in Mississippi (God only knows why!) and write from home. I taught screenwriting at a local university and also used to edit scripts before I wrote my first novel in 1981. I’ve never stopped writing since then and pray I never do.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

When an idea comes to me, like it did for The Rising Place, after reading a daily devotional in The Upper Room magazine, or a character appears in my head, like the protagonist, Emily Hodge, did, I’ll mull it around for several weeks—often several months—until I get the story nailed down. Then, when I finally start writing, and my first draft is always in longhand, the story comes so fast that I usually have trouble reading what I’ve written on the pages. I guess you could call this stream-of-consciousness writing. I’ve never regarded it as such, though, since I’ve never thought of my writing style as being similar to the style that Faulkner generally wrote in. To me, it’s more like simply going with the flow. In any event, I never do a story outline or character sketches. I think this really hampers creativity, at least for me, and my muse(s) is always good about keeping the story flowing— though I rarely know where it’s headed—and having the other characters appear when and where they’re supposed to.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

I get along with my muse(s) very well. I’ve never had to placate her/him/them. If anything, my muse(s) placates me through encouragement and suggestions, particularly when I’m discouraged or weary with my writing. But my muse(s) is also very demanding. I’m not only led to write every day, I’m driven to do so. Otherwise, I would probably be much less disciplined about my writing. Moreover, I would never even attempt to write something without the guidance of my muse(s). I believe that real inspiration comes from above, rather than from within.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I write non-stop, in longhand, until I finish the first draft and rarely, if ever, edit it. When I finish the first draft, I type it into my laptop and edit as I go. Then, I’ll usually edit it three or four more times before I feel confident enough to submit it to my publisher for consideration. Then, if they accept it, one of the editors there will edit it some more, send it back to me to edit again, and we’ll do this back and forth for two or three more times before we both agree it’s ready to go to print. This is such a laborious and tedious process, but one that is absolutely necessary.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Yes, very disciplined. Since I’m still working a full-time job, I get up every morning and write from 4:30 to 6:30, before I get ready to go to work. I also write for seven to eight hours every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, since we’re off on Fridays (Thank  God!). Writing is like playing a musical instrument, practicing your golf swing, or taking vitamins—it’s something you have to do every day. Writing every now and then, or only when you feel like it, just won’t cut it. I have a great friend who’s been working on her “great American novel,” as she calls it, for twenty-something years. Frankly, that would drive me more nuts than I already am.

When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?

I’m definitely an early bird. As I noted above, I get up early during the week to

write before I get ready for work, and I’ve been maintaining this schedule for over thirty years. I learned early in my writing career that I can’t and won’t write in the evenings, like I know a lot of writers do. I found that when I wrote at night, I was so immersed in the story and characters, that I had trouble falling and staying asleep. And sleeping and dreaming is something I really, really love to do.

Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Yes, and thanks for asking. My third novel, called The Third Gift, is tentatively set to be released this summer. Unlike The Rising Place, which is a historical romance, The Third Gift is a Bildungsroman novel (a German term similar to “coming of age,” with the main emphasis on psychological, moral, and/or spiritual growth). I’m also working on a fourth novel, but I don’t think my muse(s) likes this one. He/she/they have already suggested several, other ideas. We’ll see….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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