Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blog Tour: Who's Your Daddy, Baby by Lisa Pell

Who's Your Daddy, Baby?
Lisa Pell

Release Date: July 24th, 2012
Publisher: Aberdeen Bay

Inspired by the author’s experience, Who’s Your Daddy, Baby? is the story of Lori McGuire Pomay, a happily married career woman living in suburban Washington, D.C. Lori undergoes genetic testing for in vitro fertilization and her world is rocked when she is told the dad she always knew could not possibly have been her biological father. This mid-life shocker sends her into an alternately hilarious, heartwarming, and heartbreaking search for truth about her heritage – from Appalachian Cherokees to Purple Kings on a church stage, with high-rolling gamblers, car dealers, dentists, and all manner of confused amnesiacs in their seventies along for the ride.

With Lori’s mother having died in the 1990s, taking many of the answers to her questions with her, the situation was rife with miscalculations. Initially, the protagonist Lori McGuire Pomay’s only clues to a prospective unknown biological father’s identity are memories of her late mother discussing pre-marital dating in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, and faded old letters from several paternal contenders, written around the time of her conception in the apparently swinging spring of 1958. The hunt eventually involves possibly ten paternal prospects; their families and friends; the membership of two churches; the high-rolling gambler ex-husband of a famous Hollywood actress; two families of car dealers; several free-spirited road trips around Virginia, and numerous humorous telephone calls and e-mails.

It all boils down to timing and opportunity. Lori learns more than she ever wanted to know about the vagaries of female fertility, the fallibility of half-siblingship DNA testing, problems with blood type testing/mutations, the impact of several genetic mutations – and her late mother’s courtships. Readers learn more than they might have known about Appalachian heritage, northern European ethnicity, inbreeding, sex and Rock n’ Roll in the 1950s, the bonds of motherhood, and the nature of paternity. Throw in the onset of a puzzling hereditary vertigo condition set off by hormone injections, plus a trip to the hospital for chest pains, and "Who’s Your Daddy, Baby?" will leave your head spinning.  

This book was based on your own real life experience. Did you find writing about the event therapeutic or had it been a difficult task?

Oh, it definitely was therapeutic. Initially, I began writing a journal to ensure I kept the names and stories of all the players straight, and record my thought processes and emotions, sensing this paternity search situation was something I might want to develop later.  I was hesitant about calling it a book, because I didn’t know where the ending was going to take me.  Then I decided the ending was not what really mattered; it was the journey, and I could conjure up whatever ending worked and might be most interesting to others. This book covers more than my search from my tiny little corner of the universe.  Several doctors intrigued by some of the quirky medical and scientific issues involved in my situation, people who have been involved in adoption issues, and friends intrigued by my tales of my Appalachian heritage, began to encourage me to publish my story.  Some advance readers have said the book was therapeutic for them, and would be for others.  My novel should particularly resonate with people searching for their roots, those interested in Appalachian American and Virginia history and genealogy, DNA testing foibles, the impacts of various genetic mutations, and certain medical/scientific issues, including in vitro fertilization, migraine disorders, vertigo, blood typing quirks, and blood type mutation theories.  And of course, any story about a child born in the late 1950s has to involve a little rock ‘n’ roll.  I hope my experience can help others by shedding light on some timely, relevant issues, and readers can enjoy a few laughs along the way.

How close do you feel you relate to Lori? Or how different is she from you?

Lori is my alter ego, even has the same number of letters in her first name, and the same initials, for those of you into clues. But the ending is where the schizophrenic split into two beings becomes pronounced.  Reading closely, you probably could discern the ending to my story – it’s in there – but Lori’s is more twisted than mine, even though her story very well could have been mine, which I think makes it more intriguing.  My family and I joke I had to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the guilt-ridden by fictionalizing what basically is my story.  I was squeamish about some elementary school student having to deal with news about grandpa’s date 50 years earlier, so some characters were amalgamated and, after a four year search, the plot had to be condensed.  The fictionalization also provided more freedom to delve into deeper truths without having to worry about embarrassing anyone.  When I was in the television news business, I recall a conversation about how sometimes you have to stage things to make them appear more real.

What part of the writing process did you enjoy? What part did you feel you could do without?
            There was such a sense of accomplishment in finishing the last page of the first draft, but I actually enjoyed the editing of the story more, tweaking the words to enhance my own understanding of the meaning behind a situation to ensure my descriptions were as clear and precise as I could make them.  I am reluctant to say there is any part of the writing process I could have done without, because with each stage, whether in the satisfaction of having nailed an aspect of the story in a way I found intriguing and satisfying, or in experiencing frustration with various technology issues, sometimes the worst things you think might be happening to you cause you to pause and reflect, which can make for a better product. 

In your opinion what do you feel is the central theme to the story?

Knowing your biology and honestly comprehending your heritage, and the impacts both have on your being, can be crucial to understanding yourself and the world around you. In making that leap to self-actualization, persistence, patience, and a sense of humor as you embrace the journey of life can bring you to a new level of fulfillment, even as you realize, it’s really not all about you.

If you could go back and change anything about the book what would it be and why?
Feeling the constraints of publishing standards suggesting shorter books these days, I might have retained more of the dialog I had developed if I had been writing in the age of Tolstoy.  With a four year search and so many interviews, I had to keep the narrative moving to reach the ending without destroying entire forests, or blowing out the retinas of e-book readers.  But a subject I touched on in my novel that has stoked my curiosity for future explorations unexpectedly turned out to be what I learned about my Melungeon heritage. During the editing process, I happened upon an article by one of my George Mason University professors, Virginia DeMarce, now retired, entitled, Verry Slitly Mixt.  Her research suggests many long-time American families are more of a racial mix than they likely have contemplated.  Genealogical records have come a long way with more computerization, and now, with cross referencing of more and more electronic family records, it appears many of the mysterious Melungeons (French for mixture of races) have some African roots.  We had suspected some Melungeon ancestry on my mother’s mostly English and Scottish side since she was found to have Mediterranean blood platelets back in the 1970s.  And that’s not even contemplating  my potential paternal contenders.  Back in colonial days, especially in the wilderness of Appalachia, there apparently was quite a bit of mixing between escaped slaves (many of whom may have come from the Portuguese shipwrecks initially mentioned in the Melungeon legends), Native Americans, and white northern Europeans. People may not have told the full truth about their heritage back then, fearing what, at the time, could have been a dangerous classification as non-white.  During my fertility testing, I learned I have a rare genetic mutation present in only one percent of the population, which is more prevalent among African Americans. Aha!  My sister and I think that surprise tidbit of information makes our shared family tree that much more intriguing.  

Are there any current projects that you are working on?

Several people who have seen my music videos for Who’s Your Daddy, Baby? have encouraged me to develop a musical, so I’m currently working on some additional songs.  With the help of professional musicians, I had a blast writing and recording two bluesy, rockin’ music videos, “The Ballad of Who’s Your Daddy, Baby?”,  and “Nothin’ Butt a Mutt”, featuring toddlers in the first, then puppies and kittens in the second, interpreting Who’s Your Daddy, Baby? I’ve also completed a first draft of a movie script.
For the future, I’m thinking more fiction. I began writing stories with a concept for a novel in mind about ten years ago, which I soon realized needed to be a trilogy. Then I became distracted by the Who’s Your Daddy, Baby? situation.  The Distortions series is about a woman convicted of a murder she didn’t commit, an amazing Rock ‘n’ Roll performer, and a character with ties to a few Presidents.  It’s a parody of Earth far in the future on “Planet Malaprop,” very similar to “Hearth,” and I’ve thought about a fourth installment for Distortions.  In addition, I’ve been speaking with several individuals about co-writing some of their stories. 

What is currently in your TBR pile? 

Having been holed up in my launch preparation cave for so long, I haven’t had a chance to read much of anyone else’s work, especially since I love my day job.  The to-be-read pile is disgracefully high. There are so many I want to read: The Bridgeman by Cathy Astolfo, the first of her Emily Taylor Mysteries; William Kuhn’s novel, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, to be released in October; and maybe if I can ever afford to retire and have oodles of time, I would like to get through the Autobiography of Mark Twain.  Oh, and my step-daughter just loaned me the Fifty Shades series. You might say I like a little variety in my life. 

Who's Your Daddy, Baby?
An award-winning former newspaper, network television affiliate, and radio journalist, Lisa has spent most of her career in the communications business. Born in North Carolina, she was raised in Virginia, is a graduate of George Mason University, and attended Harvard Business School. Lisa’s varied career stretches from college stints as a waitress at a seafood house and White House intern, to life on the road observing people and places as a journalist, and then communications consulting and project management for a variety of organizations, large and small. Currently she serves as a communications and program management consultant for an agency of the U.S. government. Outside her official duties, Lisa has served on a variety of community and state boards and commissions in Virginia. Presently, she is a member of the National Press Club and the Project Management Institute. 

Lisa has strong roots in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, and has lived in Tennessee and West Virginia, where she regularly covered news events in nearby Kentucky and southern Ohio. Connoisseurs of well-told stories, Rock ‘n’ Roll music, impressionist art, golf, oysters, and fun people, Lisa and her husband, the self-styled Agent Provocateur, Jon-re-Pell, live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Jon is known for his bow ties, plus-fours, general dapper attire, and charming sense of humor. His enthusiastic support of the Who’s Your Daddy, Baby? project is worth noting.

Who's Your Daddy, Baby? is her debut novel. 

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