Chandler, Oklahoma has been the home of Kowanda Stroud for twenty-eight years. However, she grew up in the small town of Fletcher located in southwestern Oklahoma. For many years she entertained friends by telling stories about some of Fletcher’s more colorful characters. After a published author and friend read some of her short stories, she encouraged and mentored Kowanda to write a novel. Kowanda never dreamed that she’d be able to write an entire book about growing up in Fletcher during the 1950s. Much to her amazement, she has written four adult novels, Killing Time, Icey May, Too Small For A Gate, and The Best Of The Worst Times.
She married her high school sweetheart Dewey forty-five years ago in Fletcher. They have two daughters, Kathy and Kim, and seven grandchildren. Kowanda is very proud both of her daughters are schoolteachers.
Kowanda is also an artist and finds inspiration for her writing from painting.
1) To begin, will you tell us a little about yourself?
My husband, of forty-four years, and I live outside of Chandler, Oklahoma. We’ve lived here for twenty-six years. When he first suggested moving from Del City (about fifty miles south of here), I threw a hissie fit. But now I love it and hate to think about the day that we will move away. We have two daughters who are both schoolteachers.
I started writing my first book when I was fifty-six years old. A late bloomer, I guess. I just didn’t have any confidence in my ability since I didn’t go to college and I was afraid to try. Thank goodness I had a nagging friend who kept urging me to write.
I’ve been an oil painter for about thirty-two years and taught oil painting when we first moved out here. It is very rewarding and I love to do it. Funny when I hit a writer’s block, I start a painting and then that seems to get the creative juices flowing again and I’m able to get back to writing.
2) Is Icey May your first book? If not, what are the titles of the others?
My first book, Killing Time, was released in June of 2003 under my pen name of Sharon Woods. But since I’ve decided to write under my own name, I feel like this is my first.
3) Your setting is southwest Oklahoma. How did you choose that locale, and when does the story take place?
I was ‘raised’ in southwest Oklahoma in a small town named Fletcher. I had a wonderful childhood and I like to share my memories. This story takes place in the mid 1950s.
4) Where did you get the idea for Icey May?
Regretfully it is based on a true story that happened in my hometown.
5) That’s an unusual name, by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. Is there a story behind it?
Names of characters are hard for me because I confuse them with the real person. So--I looked in the obits and there it was. It nearly jumped out of the page at me. Once I had the name I could write the story.
6) Tell us about your two protagonists. Are they based on real people or totally fictitious? Which one is the main character, or the person through whose eyes we see the story’s action?
They are based on real people. The main character is Janiece Addison, and she and her family are based on my family. It’s been a lot of fun remembering those times in my life; of course this is fiction, but some of the stories are true.
7) Is friendship your theme in Icey May? If so, what statement are you making about it? Also, why is this an “unlikely friendship”?
No, I don’t think friendship is the theme of this book. Prejudice in a small community is the theme of this book. It is an unlikely friendship because Janiece Addison is a child of favor in Love, Oklahoma. Her father is a respected member of the community and everyone likes her mother. Icey May, on the other hand, is from the wrong side of the tracks. Her father is a horrible man and her mother works not only to provide money for the family but also to stay away from him, leaving his children at his mercy.
8) Could you give us a brief synopsis of Icey May?
Fourteen-year-old Icey May has problems that Janiece Addison couldn’t imagine. Ten-year-old Janiece knows something is wrong, and she enlists the aid of her parents to help her new friend. But Janiece has problems of her own, and they are big problems to her. In this book she overcomes some of them.
9) Did you encounter any problems while writing your book? If so, how did you solve them?
Yes, I kept getting the ‘true’ story mixed up with the ‘fictional’ story. Also it was just as difficult for me to imagine what Icey May went through as it was for Janiece. I fictionalized this by making the conclusion completely different from the true story.
10) How do you plan to promote your book?
Recently I’ve been doing more public speaking and I talk about my writing experiences. From now on, I will have books there to sell. Also I have a lot of support from the curator in charge of the museum here and two people on the library board. I think this will increase sales also. I will notify as many as possible by email of my new book.
11) Do you have a website where readers can find out more information about you and your work?
No I don’t have a website and I regret that.
12) How did you find your publisher?
I took a romance writing class at the local Vo-Tech. At that time I’d completed one book and was half way through another. Lorraine Stephens was one of the speakers and told me I could submit them to her when I was ready. Thank God for Lorraine!! By the way, they were both rejected. So, I licked my wounds and took the critiques and made changes. Then one was accepted.
13) Would you describe your cover? Also, how did you come up with the idea for the cover art and who is the artist?
Icey May and Janiece first meet in the cemetery. I just love the way Stroud Digital did my artwork. He took that one sentence and created exactly what I wanted! Of course I’m partial to Stroud men anyway.
14) Does your book fall into a particular genre, or is it women’s fiction?
I believe it falls under General Fiction-Mainstream.
15) What’s the best part of being a published writer, in your opinion?
Without a doubt---more people can read your story.
16) Is there anything else you’d like us to know either about you or your book?
I hope I’ve succeeded in writing an entertaining book about a very serious subject. The reader must decide, but it is a story that I believe had to be told.