By the time I was a teenager with secrets of my own, I knew I would someday be a writer. Sitting in my daddy’s hayloft and fresh from falling in love with Huckleberry Finn, I dreamed of being Mark Twain.
As you can see, I became neither Roy Rogers nor Mark Twain, being the wrong gender and afraid of horses, to boot. But I did become a writer, late in the sixties after I had taken the married name Webb. During the 60s and 70s I wrote about two hundred humor columns (shades of Twain) for trade magazines. During that time, I also taught high school English. Though I loved teaching and adored my students, I felt stifled by the routine, so my stay in the classroom was brief.
By the mid-80s I had moved on to writing women’s fiction. Reviewers and fans were very kind to me, and I got so comfortable in that genre I stayed far longer than I’d planned. Writing as Peggy Webb, I produced a mind-boggling number of books and became a USA Today Bestselling author.
In early 2000 I was back in the classroom, this time teaching writing as an adjunct at MississippiStateUniversity. It was an enormously creative period for me, with ideas flowing so freely I amassed a huge file of story ideas, partial books and completed books. One of those ideas was for a little comedic mystery series, which I had the opportunity to publish in 2008. It seems I still harbored dreams of being Mark Twain.
Finally I ended up where I’d been heading all along, telling the complex stories that took hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go, first as Anna Michaels and now as Elaine Hussey with The Sweetest Hallelujah..
As I write this bio, I realize how much of my own life I poured into ten-year-old Billie – yearning for Roy Rogers, dreaming, eavesdropping, defying adult authority.
And then there’s the glorious Miss Queen…Her life is defined by family, music and faith, much like mine. Though it wasn’t common for little farm girls to learn music, my mother was determined that all three of her daughters have piano lessons. As a result, both my sisters and I play piano and organ. Sandra is still the organist in her small northeast Tennessee church, and Jo Ann sometimes graces the piano bench at the little church near the farm where we all grew up. I was church pianist for many years, and I still sing first soprano in my church choir.
But my heart always yearned toward blues. Some of the lyrics I composed as Li’l Rosie appear in The Sweetest Hallelujah.
My life and my art are intertwined. This is an unconscious process, and it’s only on reflection that I discover how much of my real story has been transposed into fiction. Unlike Pat Conroy, I don’t have a Great Santini to draw upon, but I do have a background rich with open green spaces and music and memories. As long as the stories sing through me, I’ll tell them. And I am ever so grateful to you for reading them.