AUTHOR: Rita Durrett
BOOK TITLE: Keeping Secrets
GENRE: Young Adult
Please tell us about yourself.
I am an emerging author. Over 35 years in the field of education have given me insight and knowledge about American families. I have spent my entire life in Oklahoma. Living in the mid-west has exposed me to individuals as unique and inspirational as the land they inhabit. I feel like the bits and pieces of each of the myriad of personalities I’ve come across in my sixty plus years of life help me create memorable characters that, I hope, come alive on the page and grab at your heartstrings.
I am a mother of two sons and grandmother to four young boys. My own mother resides with me. I belong to a cat named Mousey and I have two big attack dogs that might lick an intruder to death, but I’ll admit, wouldn’t bite unless someone was getting between them and their food.
Please tell us your latest news.
I’m in the last stage of editing my Young Adult novel, Borrowed Time, to be published by 4RV Publishing, hopefully this year. The following is a short synopsis:
Love is in the air as Sabrina Anson gives her boyfriend, Camden, a goodbye kiss and walks out of the school door where destiny sweeps her away to another place in time. Her parents, Camden and the life she knows are gone. In their place are a mother and daughter who take her in and give her everything she needs, except her memory and her missing family.
Forced to blend into the new life, she enrolls in school and meets many new friends, including the popular and incredibly handsome Bobby Watson. Attracted to him from first sight, she wants his attention. But that’s not easy as she stumbles through the foreign life and learns to survive without memories to guide her. Her heart seeks his at every opportunity. But, just when things begin to go her way, everything falls apart.
Desire conflicts with destiny and Sabrina is caught in the middle. She battles for control and can only hope the borrowed time will enable her to end up with her true love.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I am a part-time writer, full-time teacher. I must work around my real-life teaching job, to be able to afford to write. That writing usually takes place after 7 p.m., when everything has quieted down. I also take advantage of conferences and week-end vacations. A quiet hotel room proves to be very inspirational for me. My family can enjoy the sights, equipment room, and swimming pool, while I write. Short breaks to keep an eye on family activities give me an opportunity to stretch and think.
When and why did you begin writing?
I took a break from teaching in the mid-nineties. During that time I accepted a job that provided varied days off. I woke up one morning on a day off and told myself I was going to write my long contemplated book. I sat down at a word-processor, a machine with computer qualities, but more closely related to a typewriter, and began writing. I had been thinking about the book for so long that I typed out three chapters that morning.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My inspiration for writing happened 25 years before I actually began the process. I listened to a local judge speak about what constituted child abuse, the second year I began teaching. Through the next five years I had two young ladies in my class who experienced incest with their fathers. I also had a young lady who became pregnant the year following her graduation and was afraid to tell her parents. She chose to go through the pregnancy and have the child on her own. All of these occurrences greatly influenced me. Another ten years passed, and I decided I wanted to write their stories. So I did. I combined them into my Young Adult novel, ‘Keeping Secrets’.
Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
I have two publishers. The first, Gilcrease Publishing, is a small independent publishing company, established by myself, with several talented friends and family members. We have editors, cover artists, and promotion people.
My publisher for ‘Borrowed Time’ is 4RV Publishing. A publishing company out of Enid, Oklahoma. I met the owner, Vivian Zabel, while doing editor/publisher interviews at the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation conference in Oklahoma City a few years back. I gave a pitch on my book and she invited me to send a review package to her. I did, she presented me with a contract, and we are now in the process of publishing.
Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
In the coming-of-age novel, ‘Keeping Secrets’, three-year-old Caitlyn Grant’s mother passed away and left her living with the step-father. Now she is seventeen and pregnant. She fears being forced to get an abortion if her stepfather finds out. He doesn’t know yet, and if she can help it, he never will. Gathering courage from her mother’s childhood lessons of faith, Caitlyn goes to school as usual one morning and disappears.
Facing the world as a runaway, she has the challenge of hiding from her step-father and keeping her past hidden from those in her new world. She is desperate to find a home, safety and security. What she finds is a formidable, rugged and handsome Forest Thompson. He wants to be a part of her life, but there are so many things she can't tell him. How many secrets can a young girl keep without being found out?
‘Keeping Secrets’ is a story of courage, determination, and most of all, it is a story of love.
What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
I have been teaching 9-12 grade Family and Consumer Science classes for nearly forty years. I’ve also raised two boys. They, along with their friends, have opened my eyes to world of male teens!
Why do you feel qualified to write a children’s or teen novel?
My novels tend to lean toward the female perspective, but I know how my son’s would have reacted in a given situation. During my time as a teacher I’ve interacted with that age group on a daily basis. I’ve become very familiar with issues my students face. They share with me their heartaches and disappointments and their joys in life.
I’m privy to unimaginable overheard conversations. Many of my students are loved and protected by very capable parents. Many are not. Some of my students take care of their parents, or live with grandparents. Grandparents who are aging and tired of raising children.
Is this your first published children’s work?
Yes, this is my first published children’s work. I was inspired from a need to express frustration and anger over the family abuse going on in this country. I wanted to write, from the girl’s point of view, of how she used courage and determination to overcome powerful forces trying to destroy her life.
What other types of writing have you done?
I have written several short stories and they are published in ‘Shades of Gray a Short Story Anthology’. I like romantic Suspense. I’ve written two romantic suspense novels. I call them twins. They are not connected of necessity, but have several characters in common. Below is a short synopsis of each.
Smugglers in Paradise: Megan West has planned a relaxing vacation, but when she meets Travis Mankiller all of that changes. Her luggage is stolen, death threats overheard, and hot passionate sex engaged in before she has even boarded the cruise ship. The dark headed, brown eyed stranger is rude, arrogant, and probably dangerous, but she can’t help but fall in love with him. Red, the curator seems so much safer and is very willing to take care of Megan. She just doesn’t want him. She wants Travis, and he wants her, for whatever reason. So, she is his. But Megan doesn’t know if she can rely on Mankiller to protect her, or if his kiss will be the kiss of death.
Travis has missing art and artifacts to find, but some little minx keeps getting in his way. He’d love to get rid of her, but she is the key to his suspect, and to his heart.
Together they embark on an adventure of mystery and intrigue, but the overriding theme is of love, romance, and passion as hot as the tropical background in which it is set.
Calypso Princess: Maria Fuentes, a beautiful med student from the economically depressed island of Cuba, is kidnapped and smuggled to Nassau aboard the Calypso Princess. Fearing for her life, and desperate to protect herself from being ravaged by her captors, Maria takes advantage of the protection offered by one of her guards. She has no way of knowing if the protection he offers is real or a ploy to have her for himself. She decides to follow her heart.
Kyle Alexander is a teacher, a very good one. He has sought and been offered a summer job teaching English at a school for women in Nassau. When he accepts the job he is told his first assignment will be to board the Calypso Princess and help the crew go pick up cargo. He expects the cargo to be food, books or tools, but their shipment turns out to be kidnapped women.
Kyle knows he is in over his head. What he has done will get him thrown in prison or, at the very least, he will lose the teaching license and career he has worked so hard to achieve. His first inclination at returning to port is to hightail it back to the safety of his quiet Oklahoma life. The rub to that solution is he has fallen in love with one of the captives. Now he can’t get her out of his mind.
Describe your writing space.
My favorite writing space is my recliner. I have tables and storage on either side, a good lamp, and ear buds to block the TV for me, and my computer volume for my family. That way I can spend time with family and still concentrate on my work. I don’t have to wonder what everyone is doing.
What has been your favorite part of being an author?
My favorite part of being an author is the opportunity to share some of my life wisdom with young people. I have lived through a lot and feel I can have a positive influence on other people’s lives.
What has been your least favorite?
My least favorite part of being and author is the editing, over and over and over! Wait, is that called writing? I guess I should say the “story” often comes easy for me, but the actual correctly written manuscript is a little tougher. I like it all.
PUBLISHER: Gilcrease Publishing