I am so pleased and proud to welcome Anna Michaels to the convertible today. In addition to being a lovely person, Anna is lovely writer – as her brand new hard cover release from Simon and Schuster, THE TENDER MERCY OF ROSES, will attest. If you haven’t heard of this book, you can thank me later. if you have heard of it, why haven’t you read it? Truly, it’s an amazing, magical read. Anna will be giving away a copy of THE TENDER MERCY OF ROSES to some lucky commenter!
Please welcome Anna Michaels…
As I drove to Huntsville, Alabama, last weekend for the Heart of Dixie’s Reader Appreciation Luncheon, I was thinking how remarkable that this annual event was going to take place at all.
In early April, HOD lost Beverly Barton, a marvelous writer, our wonderful friend and one of the moving forces of the chapter. Knowing she would want the event to go forward, the committee scheduled for April 30th. The event in the Von Braun Center would be a fitting memorial to Beverly, a way to remember and to heal.
Three days before the luncheon a killer tornado ripped through the South, leaving a wide swath of death and destruction. Entire towns such as Smithville, Mississippi, and Hackleburg, Alabama, were demolished. Much of Huntsville, including the Von Braun Center, was without power for weeks.
Writers and readers would not be gathering to celebrate the book.
What to do? Cancel and hope next year would be disaster free? Or go forward and hope nearly two hundred people could reschedule on short notice?
HOD marched forward. And so did the little blown-away towns.
And so on June 4thI set out to Huntsville. Driving along Alabama’s Highway 43, I saw forests that looked as if they were being clear-cut, piles of debris on the side of the road, houses and businesses flattened, and scores of volunteers sorting through the rubble to salvage lost possessions and move the unsalvageable so they could rebuild. When I arrived at Von Braun, I saw one of the largest groups of readers ever, wearing tiaras in memory of Beverly and chattering with excitement about the books they loved and the authors who wrote them.
I marveled at the resilience of the human spirit. Along the highway and in the Von Braun center were people exactly like Pony Jones, the rodeo cowgirl I created in The Tender Mercy of Roses. As I wrote the novel – my first under the pen name Anna Michaels – Pony came to me in a dream, kicking and spitting and raring, and absolutely refusing to be daunted – even in death.
I was thrilled by the number of people at the luncheon/signing who told me how much they loved The Tender Mercy of Roses. And always, they spoke of Pony, of how they cheered for her, cried with her and loved her. These readers who had battled back from disaster and death identified with Pony. I think they saw in her the same unsinkable spirit that had allowed them to set aside grief and loss in order to come together in celebration of the books they love, the fictional worlds they turn to for escape, for laughter, for tears, or simply for the joy of reading.
Through the years, I’ve been blessed by these remarkable, loyal fans. As I branch into telling a different kind of story under the pen name, Anna Michaels, I’m excited to take long-time fans on this journey and meet new ones. I hope you’ll grab a tall glass of something cool and enjoy the ride!
I’d love to hear from you. Does the name on a book cover let you know what kind of story to expect? How do you feel about pseudonyms? How do you go about discovering new books and new authors?
Anna Michaels has been writing for twenty-six years under her own name, Peggy Webb. This Mississippi author has penned almost 70 novels in multiple genres. Her romance classics are being re-released as e-books. As Peggy Webb, she writes the Southern Cousins Mystery series. The Tender Mercy of Roses, her debut as Anna, is a Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club Featured Alternate and a Delta Magazine Top Five Pick. Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides) calls the novel “an unforgettable story written with astonishing skill and clarity by a truly gifted writer.” Follow her at www.annamichaels.net, www.peggywebb.com, and on FACEBOOK as both Peggy and Anna.