Blog Tour: Meet Me on the Paisley Roof Author Murray Tillman Interview

We are the next stop in the blog tour for Meet Me on the Paisley Roof written by Murray Tillman. Tribute Books is hosting the tour until December 15th. Let see what Murray responded in our interview questions today.

Murray Tillman Links: Website / Facebook / Schedule

Murray Tillman's Bio: Murray Tillman is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia and formerly Chair of the Department of Instructional Technology in the College of Education. He has authored several texts that assist teachers in using instructional design tools and has developed training manuals and courses for businesses and human service agents. Murray is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and the University of Georgia. Meet Me on the Paisley Roof is his debut novel.

Welcome Murray,

OUaT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm just a guy who wanted to be with his gal. I'm happy to say that is the life I have had. Dorris and I have been married for 49 years. Our two wonderful children and their families enrich our lives.

I love to see people grow, learn, create, and I try to do the same myself. I spent my working career as a teacher, for a short while in a public school and for a long while at a university. Among my duties at the University of Georgia, I used to teach a course in technical writing, wrote training manuals, and consulted with businesses and human service agencies about their communication needs and manuals. Only after retirement did I begin writing a novel, although creative writing has been an interest of mine since my undergraduate days at Birmingham-Southern College.

OUaT: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your book? 

My college days were the emotional winter of my life. I found comfort as well as beauty in literature and music. I read novels, poetry, minored in English, took a creative writing course, and wrote several short stories. I was surprised one day when my professor read aloud to the class part of a story I had written and then said, "I wish I had written that." Although I wasn't sure why he said it, I was pleased to hear his comment. I hoped someday I could do more.

My graduate degrees, however, were in psychology taking me off the creative writing track. Although I started a novel once, my muse was fickle, requiring large chunks of time before she would appear. No weekend gigs for her. I had to wait for retirement before I could really start writing a novel in earnest. I finished writing Meet Me on the Paisley Roof in 2009.

OUaT: How did you choose the genre you write in?

The genre I chose is life. While I would not deny writing a coming-of-age story, I would deny that I picked the young adult genre, and then proceeded to write a novel. Quite the opposite, I started with an idea of a story I wanted to tell and then began writing. The story happened to be about teens.

Writing for a genre is market driven and that's fine. What author doesn't want to have a known audience with known expectations. But it does impose on the writer what I would perceive as limitations, ranging from "must do's" on one hand to "must not do's" on the other, and that's incompatible with my view of writing as an act of discovery. I do enjoy reading mystery novels and can appreciate the craftsmanship writers of that, and any, genre use. But writing within a particular genre is just not my cup of tea.

OUaT: Where do you get your ideas?

For me, the impetus to write comes from within. It begins with feelings, intense feelings, that somehow get sorted out in the writing process. For example, from my growing-up years in Columbus, Georgia, three events stand out very vividly. (1) When I was in the seventh grade and later as a teenager, I was madly in love with a beautiful girl in my school who, I thought, viewed me as a pest. (2) I had wonderful friends with whom I shared many nocturnal adventures, problems in our family lives, and dreams about the future. (3) I studied piano very seriously for a while and adored listening to the Classical and Romantic repertoire, if not on a record player, then in my head.

The story that I wanted to write came from this well of feelings about my teenage years: a seemingly impossible love, friends who love, support, and test one another, and music that would send your soul soaring. Add to that the teen frustration of having to deal with challenging events without having any experiences to fall back on, emotions so intense, so alive, that I can feel them today, a half-century later. I wrote Meet Me On The Paisley Roof to share those feelings, expressed humorously, in a fast moving story.

OUaT: Do you work with an outline, or just write?

As a technical writer, I had no problem writing from an outline. After all, specific outcomes were defined in advance and the most effective procedures for achieving those ends could be selected. For me, that is not possible in creative writing.

What is possible, however, is trying to visualize a scene, including place and characters, and sketch out how it might unfold. I like to take a large sheet of paper and write out various actions of the characters. I draw lines, make circles, boxes, whatever it takes to focus my attention on what the characters might do and identify the nature of the conflict or connections being made. Now this is not quite an outline of the scene. It's just a rough map or sign posts for me. I don't know everything that's going to happen, and I don't want to. It happens when I write. Then I find out.

OUaT: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

The story has close parallels to my own life. For example, at the time this story takes place (the summer of 1956) my parents were dead, I lived with my stepmother, studied piano, adored a girl who lived directly behind our house, and slipped out at night to join my friends in various adventures. All of this is a part of the story line. Yet, the story and characters are fictional.

Friends of mine who have read the book sometimes say "I didn't know you had such a difficult time when you were growing up!" Then, I have to assure them I didn't come close to having the problems that Trussell did. In other words, most of those things never happened to me.

Of course, there were a few specific incidents that did. For example, the "great turkey fling" (boys battling each other with dried turkey manure) did indeed happen. And it was an exciting experience, a game with real consequences, which I would recommend to anyone, especially teens. I also stole my stepmother's car, multiple times at night, abetted by longtime pals. Now that I would not recommend.

So, this story is not a memoir of my adolescent days. In some ways, it's more of a story of how I wish things might have been.

OUaT: How did you come up with the title?

Everyone, even the little dog next door, knew that the working title of the manuscript, The Goodbye Miracle, needed changing. Taking a cue from the cover art, which showed three boys in silhouette sitting on a garage roof looking at a big moon, my wife Dorris proposed Meet Me on the Ridgepole. "What's a ridgepole?" I shouted, rolling on the floor with laughter. After a brief give and take (and my apology for the floor scene), we decided that maybe "roof" would be a more familiar term. But Meet Me on the Garage Roof still lacked that umph we were looking for. Dorris suggested we replace "garage" with a word that had a double meaning, a family's name and also "something else." Yes, a great strategy, but an hour later we hadn't come up with that magic word. In desperation I picked up the telephone book and began searching through names. When I arrived at the "P's", I saw it. "Paisley!" I announced, "how about that?" "Yes!" we both chimed. "That's it." Dorris reached for the phone book. "Actually, the name is Pasley," she said. But what the heck! I could never spell anyway!

OUaT: Did you design the cover?

No, I didn't. The graphic design department at Mill City Press asked me to describe three possible scenes that I thought could be used for the cover. They included guidelines and questions for me to answer. Based on that input, Alan Pranke designed two images from which I selected one, a version close to the current cover. After going through several minor revisions, we ended with the cover image currently used. It was a very smooth process.

OUaT: Where are you from?

I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. When I was nine years old, my family moved to Columbus, Georgia. I attended grammar school and high school there and later returned to teach in the public schools for a year. So, I think of myself as having two hometowns. I loved the big city bustle of Birmingham, the clanky trolley cars, the smell of the Merita bakery near our house, and the big storm sewer across the street where we could hunt for crawfish. Columbus, to my surprise, had clean air, soldiers in khaki uniforms wandering around downtown, and a den of iniquity, Phenix City, Alabama, just across the Chattahoochee River. Today, I enjoy going back to both cities and step back, it almost seems to me, into another time in my life.

OUaT: Tell us your latest news.

I have developed a Facebook page for the book with help from a creative designer in Brooklyn and my daughter-in-law in Orlando. I've really enjoyed trips to Columbus taking photos of local landmarks mentioned in the book and posting them with narrative on Facebook. The contacts I've made with readers have been especially rewarding. Two such contacts are English teachers from my old high school who will be using the book in their classes soon.

The Mini-Blog tour site set up by Tribute Books is my latest blogging effort and has all of the major links you might need about the book:, including my e-mail address, web site, Facebook page, and book purchase information.

If you have a question about the book or about writing in general, there are several ways to contact me: my e-mail address, web site e-mail, or Facebook page. Question or not, I hope you will visit the Facebook site and say hello, leave a comment, and by all means "like" it.

1 comment:

  1. Yara, thanks for hosting Murray today. It's always a pleasure working with Once Upon a Twilight which is one of my all-time favorite blogs.

    Murray, I like how you said that you didn't start off writing for a YA audience, but telling the story from a teenage point of view just sort of unfolded naturally. Your book certainly reminds me of the feel and scope of "To Kill a Mockingbird." It crosses the boundaries of age and genre.


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