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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: Past Due by Elizabeth Seckman

Hello Gentle Readers,

An awesome writer friend of mine has just published her debut novel Past Due. And I thought, why not do a book review? I also did an interview that follows the review. Before we get to that, though, allow me to plug the fact that Cult of Koo-Kway, the exciting sequel to The Five Santas comes out September 2012! 

Now, enough about that crass self-promotion. Instead let me promote other people! Enjoy!

Past Due by Elizabeth Seckman. World Castle Publishing.

Honestly, I’m not much for a romance novel, so I was a bit reticent to pick up the book. And frankly, I now am very glad I did. Past Due follows Jenna Austin, a widow and resident of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. She’s a single mom, raising a child, always one step ahead of the bill collector, and bumps into the handsome, affluent Governor’s aid Tres Coulter. From there, things get complicated. Very Complicated. Tres and Jenna have a past, or rather a PAST. And unfortunately the past has a way of catching up.

Seckman has a very breezy, light touch with her writing. Her characters have depth, her dialogue is crisp and jumps off the page, and I was pleasantly surprised at how deep and meaningful the resolution of this book is. I won’t lie, there’s a big twist, a sappy happy ending, and every single character could use some serious therapy. But at it’s heart this book is filled to the brim with complex, human characters who are just trying to get by. If you’re looking for a book to curl up with, this is definitely the one for you.

What follows is a Q&A between Elizabeth and yours truly. My questions are in bold.

Hello again, I have to say it is an honor to review your book. I guess we should probably get out of the way that you and I are friends, and there may be a certain amount of rooting for you. 

Yes, you're an awesome friend. Your facebook pictures have kept me from depression on more than one occasion. 

 What made you decide to become an author?

I always wanted to be a writer. I've been filling notebooks with meanderings as long as I can remember. My husband has been my motivator to actually do it seriously. He has great faith in me. Crazy man.

I’m curious, why did you end up titling the book Past Due? It’s a term that comes up quite a lot in the book, but this could just as easily been called Self-Inflicted Wounds.

Crap J!!! Why didn't you suggest that sooner?! LOL. My kids will watch movies and when the title comes up in the's like, "there's the title"...I typed out in chapter one ..."electric bill came said past due"...and I heard (in my head of course) my kids yell..."there's the title!!"

This book has an interesting narrative, in that it’s all very linear, very straightforward. What made you decide to forgo flashbacks?

Have you been talking to my editor? LOL. He suggested flashbacks. I wrote a few and honestly, they stunk. I am a linear, logical sort of thinker (do I hear giggles? Not nice J, you invited me here!!) 
*Now between you, me, and the wall...I hate flashbacks. I hate them in movies; I hate them in books. If you throw one in, it better be done well so I don't lose my flow or I'll audibly groan.

I felt like when I was reading that at any moment I could walk out my front door and meet these characters. How did you develop their voices? Or was it something that came natural?

Why thank you very much. I shall pause a moment and enjoy that. Seriously? I'm a daydreamer by nature. And these characters become real in my mind and they talk to me. Sooo, instead of medication, I write them to life!

Was this based on something? Because going back again, this felt so natural and organic a story, it felt like it was entirely grounded.

My sister, Cathy, wanted a story as an anniversary gift. I said fine. She said it had to be about the beach. I said fine. Then she said it had to be during the moving of the lighthouse. I said fine. Then I decided to pattern Jenna after her. That's why Jenna can't cook. The burning of the Jello? My sister really did that. Everything else is made up.

It’s interesting because I don’t feel like there’s a real villain in this story. Everyone has a hurt, everyone has a problem, and you just put the whole thing into a blender. Was there ever a temptation to make one character clearly despicable? Point to someone and go “This is the hero!”

I started that way...the most obvious villain being Tres's mom. But then I started to feel sorry for her. Yes, she can be a bitch...but she has her reasons. Then the brother Craig, but hey, he's human too. 

I guess it's only fair that even the bad guys have their say in the court of make-believe appeals. And truly, in life, there are no good guys or bad guys...we are all just different degrees of selfish on a given day. Well, besides Hitler. But even he had a mom who loved him.

I love how you manage to capture the authenticity of living in a resort town, of being that Outer Banks touristy flavor, while never making it Locals Versus Tourists. What made you decide to set it in Outer Banks, NC?

It's my happy place and my home away from home. I'm not a tourist there, I'm a displaced resident.

Is it weird that I see Barbara as Dixie Carter from Designing Women? Maybe it’s that Aristocratic thing, but I always felt like she should have that old South voice.  Were there any particular voices that you channeled when writing characters such as Jenna and Tres?

No J, you're never weird. ;)  But you know I was a HUGE fan of "Designing Women"...maybe it stuck in my psyche!

Without giving away the big twist, what made you decide to tackle so many complicated issues in this story?

I never thought of it as complicated. It's just life. We all have stories and secrets. Some are just bigger than others. 

I keep meaning to ask, what in the world is Tres short for? I couldn’t seem to find the answer in the book, and apologize if I glossed over it. You have such a unique naming convention in the book with Tres, Jenna, Maureen, and Tanner. Do those names have special significance for you?

He's Charles Winston Coulter the third. (uno, dos, Spanish, get it?) Stole that from a friend's kid's name. Writers are just thieving sponges!

The other names? Am I a loser to admit they are chosen at random from "What to Name Baby"?

Any chance we’ll see a sequel or follow-up? What are your plans for the next book?

I have two more "companion" books to this one. When I was done, I felt bad for Craig. So I had to write him a story because he was just heart broken to have caused soooo much trouble. Then when that was done, the youngest Coulter boy was like, "hey lady, what am I, chopped liver? I deserve a story too!" So, I wrote him a tale too.

What would you like to tell new readers who might be looking to take a chance on this book?

I've been there. Tons of books to choose from, but not tons of cash in my pocket. It's not like me to tell you what to do, but if you do take a chance on me, thanks. It means a lot. 

Thank you so much again my friend! Any big plans for the near future?

Yep, going to break my chocolate addiction and lose weight. I hear that giggling again!!!

Thanks J. You're the best. Can't wait to read your next tale. Mr. Landis always makes me GOL...giggle out loud. :)

About the Author
Elizabeth divides her time between her beach cottage and her scrupulously clean house in the hills of West Virginia. Ooops. That's fantasy Elizabeth. The real Elizabeth spends her days schlepping after her four boys (five if you count their father) and the assortment of pets they swore they'd take care of.

She does live in West Virginia; the house is clean when the mother-in-law visits; and she does have serious dreams of living at the beach.

Elizabeth is a Marshall University graduate with a degree in counseling. This has proven very beneficial when dealing with the make-believe friends she hangs out with all day (she calls this 'writing'). 


  1. Thanks! I'll owe you when yours comes out. (self-promotion is never crass, by the way)

  2. Very fun! I love being able to follow my writer friends around the blogosphere when their books come out. Nice interview!