What To Read Wednesday

11 Apr

It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time for What to Read Wednesday.  Today we’re in for an amazing treat with an awesome author, friend and person.  I’d like you to meet Myra Hargrave McIlvain.  She’s here to share a little about herself and her latest release LEGACY.

Welcome to What to Read Wednesday Myra!  I’m beyond excited to have you here.  Let’s jump right in!  Tell us a bit about yourself. 🙂

Thank you for having me. I’m excited about the opportunity. I am one of those women of a certain age with a husband, six grandchildren, and four greats, which I am absolutely too young to have.  I started writing a family humor column, a made-up version of real life, while practicing parenthood on two unsuspecting children.  Over the years I slipped into writing and lecturing about famous and infamous Texans, but I’ve always dabbled in the escape of fiction at every opportunity.

Now, let’s dig deeper!  Share something about yourself that might surprise your readers.  (and everyone, listen up, this was one of my favorite things to learn about Myra) 

I wrote Texas Historical Markers, those road signs that travelers see along the highways, attached to historic buildings, and erected in cemeteries. As a free-lancer, I was sort of the stepchild so I did tons of cemetery markers. People are often surprised to learn that real people write those markers. As a great grandmother, perhaps it may surprise that I still jog two miles four or five mornings a week.

The more I get to know you Myra, the more you amaze me.  Do you prefer to read fiction, non-fiction, or both?

It’s hard to choose.  History is my true love, both fiction and biography.  I must confess to being a political junkie, which gets me into reams of. . .sometimes I wonder if it’s fiction or nonfiction.

What genre or genres do you write?

Except for the family humor column that was mostly fiction, I’ve written primarily nonfiction.  The historical markers opened the door for me to write longer articles about the marker stories.  Then, I wrote five guidebooks that tell the Texas story and direct travelers to the sites.  Writing travel articles for newspapers and mags took up several years.  Along the way, I hungered for fiction that mainly took the form of short stories.

And I have to say that you always have an incredibly interesting blog.  It’s one of my favorite weekly stops 🙂  Describe your writing space.

Today, I feel really uptown. I share a room of books, desks, and computers with my very supportive husband.  However, during the early years of family humor columns I wrote in my bathroom.  The dressing table served as my desk; my typewriter was a family heirloom that required hand turning the ribbon when it reached the end of the spool. Honestly, I didn’t get as frustrated with that old portable as I do with my fancy iMac.

What’s the best part of the writing process for you? 

I love getting inside my characters, immersing myself in the story.  I also enjoy research, digging through all the information about people and events invariably turns up something I least expect that helps to shape my story.

The worst?

The absolute worst is marketing.  I avoid, delay, feel embarrassed—the killer approach to success. A close second to marketing is tech stuff.  I waste lots of time swearing at my iMac.

It’s time for LUCKY SEVEN…Pick seven words to describe your book.

Pre-feminist era, coming-of-age, secrets, shame, loss of innocence, WWII home front.  I hope phrases count.

Those 7 definitely have my interest.  I purchased your book not long ago, and it’s next on my list to read.  I have an out of control tbr pile, but I’ve really been looking forward to your book.  Tell us about your latest release?

Legacy is set in 1945 as WWII is crashing to a close.  I felt compelled to tell the story from the point of view of twelve-year-old Miranda Harrison.  I believe that so often children carry great burdens because they can see the truth that adults have learned to hide.

The Harrison family maintains a public façade of success while all around them neighbors suffer with war loses and failed dreams.  Miranda struggles to make sense of her changing body and the turmoil in her home life—a papa driven to destroy himself, a mama hiding her secret past in a cloak of piety, and a live-in grandmother who reigns over the household.  Stirred into the family mix is a fifteen-year-old, out-of-control cousin who holds the adults and Miranda in guilty submission.

Share a favorite quote or sentence from your book.

“I taught you well.  You clean fish as good as a man.”  George nudged      her with his shoulder.

She continued working, the fish scales flipping across the water like rounds of parchment, sticking to her face, making smelly whiskers.  A wail want up inside her, gnawing at her stomach.  This would be their last fishing trip.  He tricked her into coming just to talk about Jo Beth.

What inspired you to write Legacy?

I’ve wondered that myself.  I remember very little about 1945, which meant that I had to do a lot of research.  What I do remember left a strong impression such as an uncle who stayed with us for a while and screamed at night when an ambulance passed.  I knew of men who were 4-F, who experienced terrible shame for not serving, and then had trouble finding work after the war. I heard the family talking about a man like Barney Carson in Legacy who had been very public in fondling his bride only to return from the war as a twisted, terrified bundle of nerves who couldn’t stand to be touched.  And, I saw the 1945 issue of Life Magazine’s photos of partially burned bodies stacked in concentration camp ovens, which burned an indelible picture of suffering in my mind. Legacy is a tale I needed to tell.

Is there a particular author who may have influenced you to become a writer?

Authors, like characters in the Bible, always seemed distant and different from me.  My old maid aunt was the one person who encouraged me to follow my muse.  She wrote, but never published.

Please tease us with an excerpt of your book!

Portside never had a dancing school until Barney Carson brought Kathryn Gary home from Houston two years ago.  She made quite a stir.  Barney couldn’t keep his hands off her.

Nellie walked with Miranda down to the Carson’s ice cream social they held to show off Kathryn.

“I don’t want you hanging around the Carson’s,” Nellie said on the way home.

“Why not?  Maybe Kathryn will teach me to dance.”

“Barney’s gone haywire over that girl.  It’s embarrassing the way he paws her in public.”

Barney squeezed around Kathryn’s shoulders.  Everything she said in her little soft voice made him listen like she was FDR speaking or maybe even God.  Every step she took, his hands trailed after her, touching her back or waist.  When they sat down, he got right against her, clutching her hand with one hand and holding her tight around the shoulders with the other.  It didn’t look like Barney ate a bite of that homemade ice cream.

As soon as Miranda could get away, she headed back to the Carson’s.  Sure enough Barney was still hanging on Kathryn.  That’s when she said everyone should start calling her “Kitty” because she’d soon be a Carson.

Barney loved her joke so much that he let his hand rub her butt.  Miranda saw because she stood behind them.  She got the window-peeking feeling and looked away.

“My cow, did you see that?”  Gloria whispered right beside her.

“Gee, Gloria, you scared me silly.  Where’d you come from?”

“The bushes.  I’ve been watching them for two hours.  He’s mad about her.”

Barney had gotten his draft notice.  They hurried up the wedding in Houston.  Nobody could go because of gas rationing.  Gloria said she bet that kiss was something to behold.

Barney moved Kitty into his parents’ house the day he left.  Gloria and Miranda offered to help unload the car, but Barney kept saying no thanks.  He could hardly get anything done for kissing Kitty.

As soon as Barney left, the Carsons rented the big room over Hawthin’s Hardware, and Kitty opened her dancing school.

Gloria and Miranda were the first to sign up.

It wasn’t eight months until Barney got sent home.  They called it “shell shock.”  They kept him at the Carson’s for a while but it was no use.  He didn’t know anybody, not even Kitty.  He sat and stared and cried if they messed with him.

Miranda only went down once with Gloria.  Nellie didn’t have to tell her to stay away after that.  Even Gloria couldn’t look.  He was so skinny, his cheeks caved in.  His fingers looked like white chicken feet, scrawny and curled into rigid claws.

They took him to a Veteran’s Hospital and Kitty went on teaching dance.

What are you working on now?

I recently completed my second historic fiction, Stein House.  Helga Heinrich is suddenly widowed in 1853 when her drunken husband drowns as their emigrant ship pulls away from the dock in Germany.  Helga and her four children settle in Indianola where her sister’s husband set up a boarding house for Helga to operate.

Helga is a woman of passion and strong opinion, not a peasant as she is quick to remind her children.  With an emigrant’s energy she sees that the Stein House thrives in this Gulf Coast seaport during its heyday that lasts until the 1886 hurricane reduces the place to a ghost town.  This is the story of hope, promise, love, alcoholism, war, and loss—a family saga.

If you could ask our readers any question, what would you ask?

How do you promote your books?

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Put your bottom on the chair and your fingers on the keyboard.  Continue writing and rewriting until it sounds right.

And finally Myra, where can we find you and your book(s)?

You’ll find me in person in Austin, Texas




Scroll down from Legacy to view my other books on Amazon



Thanks so much, Christine, for honoring me with this interview.  I have really enjoyed it.  Your previous guests have taught me so much.

I want to THANK YOU Myra for joining us today.  I’m so honored we’ve met and love talking to you via emails and on blogs.  You are an incredible woman and I can’t wait to read my copy of Legacy 🙂


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58 responses to “What To Read Wednesday

  1. Cait

    April 11, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Lovely to meet you, Myra and Legacy sounds like a must read. Very inspiring interview, thanks Christine.

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 6:54 am

      Thanks, Cait. I’m delighted to meet you.

      • ChristineWarner

        April 11, 2012 at 9:20 am

        Glad you stopped in Cait…Myra was fun to interview…she has an interesting past!

  2. Loralee Lillibridge

    April 11, 2012 at 6:50 am

    What a wonderful interview, Myra! I’m definitely adding LEGACY to my library! As a woman “of a certain age”,and a native Texan, too, I remember those WWII years and look forward to reading your book. Christine, thanks for starting my day with another great interview.

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 6:56 am

      Loralee, fellow Texan, you’ve also made my day. Thanks for your comments

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

      Glad I could help you connect with Myra and her book, Loralee. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed…I can’t wait to read my copy. Just from reading Myra’s blog, I know I’m in for a treat.

  3. Tereasa Bellew

    April 11, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Myra your vivid storytelling and chapter excerpt has me wondering how Barney and Kitty will make out. I loved the passage!
    Best wishes!

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

      I felt the same way Tere! Can’t wait to read my copy!

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Thanks, Tereasa, for your good wishes. Glad to hear the excerpt made you wonder.

  4. Jennifer Lowery

    April 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I’m intrigued by your book! Difinitely going to read it! Nice to meet you and wonderful interview!

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Glad you came by Jennifer…we’ll have to compare notes once we’ve read Legacy.

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Thanks, Jennifer, for checking out Legacy. Glad to make your connection.

  5. Kristina Knight

    April 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

    What a wonderful life you’ve had, Myra! And I’m one of those who didn’t know real people write those signs! Your book sounds wonderful – good luck with it.

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Thanks for the good wishes, Kristina. Yes, I’ve had a good life.

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

      LOL..I loved it when I found out Myra wrote those markers….that is probably one of the most fascinating jobs (at least in terms for a writer) Glad you came by and met Myra!

  6. Jerri Drennen

    April 11, 2012 at 9:57 am

    The book sounds great, Myra! Best of luck with marketing it! ((((((wink)))))

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Yep, Jerri, sounds like you understand that marketing thing!!

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Glad you dropped in Jerri!

  7. trudyleedarman

    April 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Great interview Myra, you are a very interesting and entertaining woman with wonderful fact and fiction tales to tell, and you jog! I know I’m impressed! Thank you for sharing your gifts, one of which is your sense of humor:-)

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Trudy, you know how to say the kindest things. Thanks you, thank you.

      • ChristineWarner

        April 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

        I’m with you Trudy..I’m jealous Myra jogs….I’m lucky if I hit the treadmill at a fast clip. LOL

  8. Victoria Adams

    April 11, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Wondeerful wonderful interview.

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Thanks Victoria….Myra is awesome to talk with and interview 🙂

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 10:28 am

      Yes, Victoria, aren’t we fortunate to have Christine willing to post with these interviews every week!

  9. D'Ann Lindun

    April 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I HAVE to have this book! Great interview, loved it!

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Glad you came by D’Ann…I had to have Myra’s book too the first time I checked it out. It’s a keeper!

  10. myrahmcilvain

    April 11, 2012 at 11:01 am

    D’Ann, I thrilled to hear from you. Thanks so much!

  11. Ally Broadfield

    April 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Hi Myra (and Christine!). Loved the interview. Stein House is wonderful, and after that excerpt, I’m going to need a copy of Legacy. Best of luck with it!

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Ally, I’m so grateful for your comment re Stein House. I’ve been holding my breath waiting for your red pencil and fearing you would say “toss it!” Hooray! Thank you, thank you.

  12. Sharon Cullen

    April 11, 2012 at 11:26 am

    What an interesting life you’ve led and your book sounds amazing! Can’t wait to get my hands on it. (And, yes, I’m one of those people that never realized a person wrote those markers).

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      So glad to meet you, Sharon. I loved hearing from you. I wrote markers for so long that I actually dreamed of counting letter and spaces.

      • ChristineWarner

        April 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm

        It’s one of my favorite MYRA FACTS…glad you dropped by Sharon.

  13. sarahballance

    April 11, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Myra, you ROCK! I love that you wrote the roadside markers. That is AWESOME! (I also freelance, but mostly gave it up for fiction. My sole remaining on-going project is to write the on-hold script for auto repair shops. Your gig is WAY cooler, lol!)

    It has truly been my pleasure to meet you and your book, which sounds incredible. ;c)

  14. myrahmcilvain

    April 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Hey Sarah, so glad to meet you and to know someone who writes what we listen to while we’re holding. Real people do that too!!

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Looky here….my friend Sarah does something I didn’t realize she did either. LOVE IT! Myra and Sarah, you have some interesting tidbits to share.

  15. Neecy Kelly

    April 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Myra, one thing I’ve learned is that you’re never done learning.
    As far as promotiong your books, a freind of mine has made herself known at libriaries and coffee houses she does signings at…
    I wish you luck with your sucess. It was great getting to know you,

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Great advice Denice! Glad you stopped by 🙂

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks for your good wishes, Neecy. I’ll check out the possibilities at libraries.

  16. Jenna Jaxon

    April 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Wonderful interview, ladies! I’m a huge history buff, so both these books are going on my TBR list. WWII is not my period, but I heard so many stories from family members that it does intrigue me. Your excerpt was excellent for giving me a true flavor of your voice–which is fantastic! So glad to meet you!

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      Myra does have a great voice…you really need to check out her mini history lessons on her blog….great reads that I look forward to. Glad you dropping in Jenna!

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Jenna, I’m so glad to meet you. Thanks for your encouragement and the good word. Glad you liked the excerpt.

  17. Mirriam Smyth

    April 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Nice to meet you, Myra! The excerpt is captivating and I can’t wait to read more. LOL I like what you used to do. I never would’ve guessed those markers were made by an actual person!

    Christine, terrific interview. I love that you have such a huge diversity of authors coming by here!

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      So happy to meet you, Mirriam. Glad you liked the excerpt. I would love to hear what you think of Legacy.

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Thanks Mirriam…glad you’re enjoying all the authors who visit!

  18. Cera duBois

    April 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Fantastic interview, ladies… Loved meeting you, Myra! Your book sounds amazing.

  19. myrahmcilvain

    April 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Cara, thanks for connecting. I’m so glad to meet you.

  20. Martha Ramirez

    April 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Nice to meet you, Myra! Great interview! Thank you, Christine for the intro.

    • ChristineWarner

      April 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Glad you came by and enjoyed the interview Mart!

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 13, 2012 at 12:10 am

      I’m happy to meet you Martha. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  21. yearstricken

    April 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I’ve been enjoyed Myra’s blog for months. She’s a great storyteller. So happy to see her work highlighted here.

    • ChristineWarner

      April 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks for coming by! Myra is a great storyteller, and she picks subjects that aren’t written about so as I’m enjoying her stories I’m learning more about our history.

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 13, 2012 at 12:12 am

      Thank you for checking out the interview. So glad Christine is our mutual friend.

  22. Barb

    April 16, 2012 at 5:06 am

    This was almost as good as pulling up a chair and having a glass of sweet tea with you. How fun to get to peek behind the scenes of your writing. You know how much I enjoy your work. Hugs.and thanks to Christine for showing us your deep Texas side.

    • myrahmcilvain

      April 24, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      Barb, thanks for stopping by, and for continuing to be my friend/reader.

  23. ChristineWarner

    April 16, 2012 at 7:08 am

    So glad you stopped by Barb! Myra is an amazing person and it was fun to interview her.


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