Interview with Rose Gardner

I’m very excited… for two reasons. First, my friend and fellow author, Denise Grover Swank, has released her debut novel, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes — (whispers go ahead, click the link and buy copy… I know you want to. I’ll wait right here for you to get back…) And second, I have the rare opportunity to interview Rose Gardner, the delightful and charming heroine of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes.

LK: First off I’d like to thank Rose Gardner for stopping by today to talk with me. How are you today, Rose?

Rose: I’m doing well, LK, I’m trying to get used to all this attention Denise has put me in. I’m not used to having so many people interested in my life. For the most part, people don’t want to have much to do with me.

LK: Just a bit of trivia, and this just hit me when I said your name…one of the names my parents considered for me was Rose, and I’d have been Rose Gardner, too.

Rose: Really? That’s so awesome! My father loved his flower gardens, so I suspect my sister Violet and I got our names from that, but Momma always brushed off the question. So we never knew for sure.

LK: I understand. Anyway, today I’d like to talk about bullying and how it feels to be on the receiving end.

Rose: Bullying? I think you’ve misunderstood what happened to me. People in my town of Henryetta, Arkansas find me an oddity, not that I blame ’em. I have visions and what I see just blurts right out of my mouth. To be fair, people just don’t know how to handle me knowin’ their personal business, you know? My momma used to tell them I was demon possessed. Most people didn’t believe that and just thought I was a snoop, which explained how I knew where to find someone’s library book or that Mr. Tucker was having an affair with his secretary. So most adults avoided me and their kids followed suit. Most just snubbed me at school or made snide comments, but I was never tormented. Not too much.

LK: Most people don’t know that they are being bullied. Bullying tends to be a string of small incidents over a long period of time, and while each incident might be considered trivial, over time it builds up. This might be a hard question, but have you ever been belittled or demeaned either at home or work? Can you tell us about it?

Rose: Oh, dear. I’d never looked at it that way. Um, one of the women I work with, Suzanne, makes lots mean comments, but honestly I just try to ignore her. But my momma… my momma was a difficult woman. Momma just didn’t know what to do with me and though it doesn’t make what she did right, I can sort of understand it. Mostly she used to just call me names although she had a special punishment when she found out I’d been having visions of other people’s business. I’d rather not talk about that one.

LK: That’s okay, hon. It sounds like the memory is still too painful. You don’t have to talk about it. Humiliation is often an effective tool for a bully. I know this may be difficult, but will you share a situation in which you felt humiliated?

Rose: The most humiliating experience was with my momma, I just can’t talk about that one. I don’t even talk to Violet about it. We shut it off and left it in the past, but sometimes I have trouble being in tight, enclosed spaces. I did tell Joe, but it just slipped out without my meaning it to. But next to that experience, my momma used to separate my older sister, Violet, and me. Or she’d punish me and then punish Violet for trying to come to my defense. Violet could have very easily turned her back on me, but she never did. Ever. She’s my hero.

LK: It’s so nice to have a sister to look up to. Who would you consider the number one bully in your life and why?

Rose: I suppose if you’re going by your definition of a bully, my momma was the biggest one. But she’s dead now so I only have to deal with her ghost. Not her real ghost mind you, I don’t believe in those. More like sometimes out of no where, I’ll hear her voice in the back of my head tellin’ me how stupid or lazy or insolent I am. Even though I’m changing, sometimes I’m still that little girl who tried so hard to please her momma.

LK: {{{{Hugs}}}} Sometimes it’s not easy to break away from old patterns. I understand you stood up for yourself against your mother, shortly prior to her murder, which led to you being under suspicion for her murder. And that your stand was over pie. What caused pie to be the thing that caused you to snap?

Rose: I’d just seen a vision of my murder. You have to understand, I’m nobody. I go to work. I go to church. I occasionally go to my sister’s house and I go home, so even though the people of Henryetta find me annoying, no one really have no reason to murder me. But seeing myself dead on a Momma’s sofa shook me up. And I started thinkin’ about how I hadn’t even lived any of my life yet. Just wasted twenty-four years under Momma’s rules. And I suppose I had a whole bunch of anger stored up and once I let myself at it, it just spewed right out. So when Momma told me I had to make her two apple pies for the Memorial Day picnic at the Henryetta Southern Baptist Church and I couldn’t leave until I made ’em. Well, it was like one order too many. And I just lost it. I told Momma she could get her own d**** pies out of the oven and I left. And the entire neighborhood heard me. I admit, it looked pretty suspicious. The first time I ever told my momma off, in public no less, Momma winds up murdered.

LK: How did you feel when you took your stand?

Rose: I was so proud of myself! But I felt kind of bad, not because I did it but because I didn’t feel contrite, only smug pride, which as Momma would be quick to point out, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

LK: Well, I think you’re somebody pretty special, and sometimes a little pride can be a good thing. Do you think standing up against a bully allowed you to change your life?

Rose: Oh yes, for one thing, if I hadn’t left the house and delayed coming home so long, I would have been murdered. And I wouldn’t have been a suspect for her murder. But I also wouldn’t have created my wish list, the twenty-eight things I wanted to do before I died or got arrested. And I would have been held back by my fear and been too scared to do the things I wrote down. With every number I checked off, I got more and more confident until, by the end, I hardly recognized myself anymore.

LK: What changes have you experienced since?

Rose: The old Rose was too scared to talk to people, so I make myself do it now. I’m better at it, but old habits are hard to unlearn. I’m less self-conscious of how I look and I care more about my hair and my clothes. And I’m happier. I have a boyfriend now, my wonderful next door neighbor Joe. But I’m most happy that Joe didn’t have anything to do with my changing. I changed me and took him along for the ride.

LK: Joe sounds like a wonderful guy. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Rose. Is there anything else you want to share?

Rose: When we’re kids, we’re raised to believe that our parents are always right. And while nobody’s perfect, parents usually are. But sometimes when they say mean, hurtful and degrading things they aren’t. And sometimes they have underlying reasons for behaving the way they do. It doesn’t make it right, but it help to know it’s not really you they’re striking out at.

Thanks to Rose for stopping by and to Denise for arranging this interview. Make sure you stop by Denise’s blog to learn more about Rose and Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes

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