JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Rhonda Lawson, author of Putting It Back Together
Putting It Back Together is a story of Alexis White’s quest to rebuild her life and her beloved city of New Orleans. Along the way, she finds herself caught in a love triangle between her present love and a love that once was. Reggie Morgan is a successful football player but a failure in love. When he finds that his wife is cheating yet again, will he continue to live in the past or take hold of the future? Once Alexis and Reggie find themselves tangled in a love triangle, it’s only inevitable that somebody’s getting hurt.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Putting It Back Together?
Rhonda Lawson: My first novel was a story called Cheatin’ in the Next Room which was about a man who cheated on his wife with her best friend’s cousin. He nearly got away with the infidelity, but the cousin, Alexis, got pregnant. He gave her the money for an abortion but was sloppy about hiding the evidence of his affair. Once the affair came to light, everyone they knew was affected in a different way.
Over the years, people have always asked me whatever happened to Alexis. She was the fast college girl everybody loved to hate. The problem was, I couldn’t write a story about her that directly followed Cheatin’. Too much time had passed. I had to let Alexis grow up. She needed to show a softer side but with the edge my readers had come to know and love. At the same time, I had dreamt of writing something that paid homage to my hometown New Orleans, especially since Hurricane Katrina had wreaked havoc through the city. Fortunately, Alexis’ hometown is also New Orleans, so it only made sense to bring those two stories together.
JP: What sets Putting It Back Together apart from other sports-related novels?
RL: Sports is actually only a small part of Putting It Back Together. Many people may remember Reggie as the Tulane University football star whose heart was broken by Alexis in Cheatin’ in the Next Room. Now, Reggie is an award-winning football player with the New Orleans Saints. His wife, whom he married a few years after he left Alexis, is doing the same thing Alexis did to him in college–cheating. It was important for me to show that not every famous athlete is uneducated or a cheater. Many work hard to balance their careers and their families, which is what Reggie is trying to do. Yet, when he entertains thoughts of retirement, his wife heads for the door.
Reggie’s tumultuous marriage leads him to begin thinking more and more about what might have been with Alexis had they made it work so many years ago. Unbeknownst to him, Alexis, now a pediatrician with a private practice, has been having similar thoughts despite being involved with successful and streetwise New Orleans attorney Jamar. Eventually, Alexis and Reggie try being friends, but memories begin to take over forcing Alexis to choose between rekindling the past or moving toward the future. All of this takes place with the sights and sounds of an exciting city around them.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to Putting It Back Together getting out to the public?
RL: As an author, I always work hard to tell stories that my readers can identify with. I wrote Putting It Back Together with New Orleans in mind. I wanted people to know why we love our city the way we do. I also wanted people to see that Alexis has grown up, but she’s still not one to be played with. It was difficult balancing myself with all of these different story lines, but I think it added more depth to the story.
I always credit my success to writing from my heart. I can only write what I believe in. I also work hard to send a message with every story I write. It’s one thing to write a story that entertains, but it’s something even more to write a story that will stick with a person for years to come.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish Putting It Back Together?
RL: Putting It Back Together was the first book I had written with a real deadline. I really felt like a working author with this novel. It was due to the publisher at the same time A Dead Rose was being released, so I only had about three months to write the book. I had to put in a lot of late nights and long weekends to get it done, but thank God a quality story came into fruition.
I found that setting goals helped me to stay productive. I set a goal of writing 10 pages a day. As long as I worked toward that goal, I stayed the course. For example, there were some nights when I could only complete three to five pages instead of 10, but setting the goal forced me to continue writing. Additionally, I found it useful to read the last chapter or so before continuing writing. By doing this, I didn’t inadvertently change an important fact or make a black outfit purple in the next scene.
I also made research an ongoing process throughout the entire project. In order for a story to feel realistic, it’s important to note real places and events. I also found it useful to visit New Orleans while I was writing. Small things like the people who sit on the porch and wave at passers-by can’t be found on the Internet. Only real New Orleans natives understand Hubig’s pies, Big Shot sodas, and the guy with the powder blue suit on the furniture commercial who wants to know “what are you wait-ing for?”! We also know it’s a sandwich is a Po Boy, not a poor boy. It’s something you have to experience.
JP: What’s next for Rhonda Lawson?
RL: Right now, I’m working on the next chapter in the Alexis saga. Only this time, she’s fleeing Hurricane Gustav and preparing to face some of the ghosts from her past. I’m also working on my master’s degree and continuing my Army career at Fort Stewart, GA.
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