An entire day passed before Catherine was told her labor was short for a first baby. She couldn’t tell it by the way she felt, ripped limb from limb and deflated. She had slept the day away, they said. Nausea overtook her, and she turned to vomit into the blue, kidney-shaped dish. She didn’t know which was worse: the throwing up or the now-gone pain, replaced by an aching heart.
Later, she remembered waking and feeling that her stomach was dancing, then she was under again. When she was fully awake, she was still slightly nauseated and her mouth sour with a chemical taste to it. They said it was from the ether, too much for someone who wasn’t used to it. Who was used to it, she wondered? The caseworker came in to see her the following morning.
“It’s a little girl, ‘Annie’. We need a name for the birth certificate.”
“Anything. I don’t care!” Catherine sighed, looking at the woman through a haze of exhaustion. “Make up something,” she whispered, her energy spent. She reached for the bowl and retched.
“You have to do it yourself. It’s the law. Do you want to look at her? It might help you decide.”
“No. I’m not keeping her. Any name will do. Her family will rename her anyway. Just take her... there... to them.”
“That’s the ether talking,” the nurse explained, washing out her bowl and returning it to the side of the bed.
“Just sign these surrender papers,” the caseworker said cheerfully. “You can think of a name before you leave the hospital.”
She overheard the nurses talking later. It seemed that her roommate Martha had died of blood poisoning a day after she was brought in.
Catherine named her healthy girl Mildred O’Brien. Mildred, because it was an ugly enough name that the new parents would definitely change it, and O’Brien to lower the boom on Jack if he ever found out. Catherine went home, her arms empty and her life in disarray.
You just read an excerpt from:
Julie Eberhart Painter
Buy Link: Champagne Books
What the heck, let's go for a second excerpt:
This is the first time that Catherine meets Rick, although he has written to her to tell her of the death of a mutual friend. The time is 1944. He’s in a VA ward learning to use his artificial arm. Her sister, Claire, now a nurse, has set up the meeting.
“Claire, you know I’m no good around blood and suffering.”
“His blood and suffering are over. But he’s lonely, doesn’t know anybody here. They’re teaching him to use his new arm; he has to stay until he gets the hang of it.”
“Jeez, Claire, a guy with a hook. I don’t know. But he was really nice about Ron. I guess I owe him a visit while he’s here.
Tell him I’ll come in the morning straight from my shift. What floor is he on?”
“Six. Some of the vets who’ve been discharged from the VA hospitals are here in Philadelphia for rehab. Just ask for him by name at the nurses station.”
The next day, Catherine braved the acrid smell of alcohol and the serious atmosphere of the hospital and walked into Rick Olsen’s ward. Whistles erupted. She felt the blush coming up her neck and cheeks. Fortunately, he was in the second bed, so she didn’t have to pass inspection all the way down the line. She felt her color deepening.
“Over here,” came a low baritone.
Catherine followed the sound. She held her hands behind her back, went up on her tiptoes, and tried to smile at the pajama-clad fellow, struggling into a sitting position on the edge of the bed. She felt her discomfiture increase. This was unfamiliar territory, a gruesome place.
“It’s okay to show your hands here,” he said. “This isn’t the room where they cut them off.” The gallows humor that Claire found so much fun was almost more than Catherine could bear.
“Pull up a chair and sit a spell.”
Claire had failed to mention how truly arresting his appearance was, or about the clipped country accent. He had ruddy skin, dark blue eyes, and a full head of hair that was cut in a military style, trim and tight to his face.
He held up his metal fist. “I’m re-armed, but not dangerous. I can now call myself a rake, literally.” He laughed easily.
Catherine felt so discombobulated by his attitude that she fell into his humor. “I’ll be careful where I sit.”
Catherine moved her chair closer to the bed. Rick swung his legs over the side. He was very tall. Taller than Jack. He had lifeguard’s legs and bony knees. Very nice--thank God they didn’t get his legs, she thought.
Linda Kage: Please welcome published author, Julie Eberhart Painter. Hi, Julie. Why don't you tell us a little about you and what you write please.
Julie:I’ve never had another pen name. I’ve always wanted to be “findable.” I’m not afraid to be recognized, although my first published book forced my husband into early retirement. His boss thought I’d written about what the company was burying.
I was raised in the northeast in a culturally saturated community, Bucks County, PA. My neighbors were James Michener, Moss Hart, Pearl Buck and Paul Whiteman, the famous bandleader who commissioned Rhapsody in Blue. Whiteman’s home’s doorbell rang the tune. I worked for Pops Whiteman while he had the Teen Club on TV.
Kage: What happened to the first book you ever wrote?
Julie:All 105,000 words sit in my office closet and on my computer. It’s my memoir. However, more than one-third of it has been published in short pieces for periodicals and anthologies.
Kage:What’s your backlist and coming soon bookshelf look like?
Julie: Starting with the most recent in the back list is Mortal Coil about murders in a nursing home that bring two people, the administrator and the cop together. Before that was The World, the Flesh and the Devil, a scandalous romance between a novitiate and a monk drive that plot. American Castles, when senior citizens fight to keep their antediluvian hotel/assisted living out of the clutches of local government, and Tahitian Destiny, a parallel time travel 2009/1769.
Coming soon, if they are contracted, is The Kill Fee, a young EPA field worker inherits fifteen million dollars and her uncle’s beach house after he’s murdered. This spring Champagne released Tangled Web from which you’ll have the excerpt.
Kage: Which story are we going to talk about today?
Julie: Champagne Books released Tangled Web in June 2010. The opening scene shows Catherine’s father fighting his way though a coal mine explosion, called a bump, named for the earth plates that push upward. ( I didn’t dream when I wrote that scene how timely the coal mining situation would beome.) I describe the surrounding community in social terms related to the middle thirties.
“Wilkes-Barre’s cohesive Welsh community was a haven of Protestant values and mutual support. It was also a hornet’s nest of gossip. Neither a canary’s death nor a girl’s fall from grace escaped the local chatter.” The girl who falls from grace is Catherine. Her seduction starts the romantic action.
Julie Eberhart Painter
Wilkes-Barre’s cohesive Welsh community is a haven of Protestant values and mutual support. It is also a hornet’s nest of gossip. Neither a canary’s death nor a girl’s fall from grace escapes the locals' chatter so when unwed Catherine Jones becomes pregnant, she is quietly sent to a shelter for unwed mothers and her baby put up for adoption.
Years later, she and her sister start their lives fresh in Philadelphia where opportunities are becoming available in wartime America. She meets a couple who befriend her, getting her a job in a defense plant and an opportunity to attend art school. This is not an easy path for a woman, but the doors begin to open on a political cartooning career, while a complicated love finds her.
Kage: What would the story be rated if it were a movie?
Julie: PG-13, partly because this period piece contains sex scenes and a lot of smoking—that’s cigarette smoking..
Kage: If you HAD to fit this story into a cliché, which one would it be?
Julie: Very Cinderella, with a little Match Girl thrown in. Catherine’s thinking starts out to be wistful. Low self-esteem we call it now, but it’s not long before she leaves home with her sister and they both find careers, and after a few false starts, they find love.
Kage:Okay, now that we have a general idea which class to fit Tangled Web under, what makes this book so unique from every other book out there?
Julie: The seduction scene in the first section was taken from two sources. I used my memory of the guy I was gaga about in college as a roadmap of his technique. But instead of being set in the fifties, the age without orifices, when we all knew better, such gentle persuasion fell on less fertile soil. The book concludes in 1951 with a double whammy. The heroine is my birth mother, whose real name was_____.
Kage:What was the easiest part to write?
Julie: Though I never met my birth mother, the characters just fell onto the pages. In a way, I am the only living witness to her seduction.
Kage:What do you like most about the main character(s) and what do you like least? Did you learn anything from them?
Julie: By immersing myself in those times, I gained a real sense of who Catherine was. I liked her never-say-die attitude, and her sweet vulnerability. I wish that she hadn’t succumb to my birthfather’s machinations, but I’m the result so I have a selfish interest in their affair.
Kage:Julie, Thank you so much for stopping by today and gracing us with your presence. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to say to wrap things up?
Julie: I’d like to thank you for having me here and wish you luck with your interviews, blogs and books.
If you're still curious about Julie Eberhart Painter, here are other places to find her on the web: