Author’s Roundtable: Jasmine Bath

How long have you been writing?

Since I first understood the concept of picking up a pencil or pen and using it to put thoughts together in coherent sentences. It’s something I’ve always done, it’s part of who I am.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Not so much something that I ‘wanted’ to do, it’s something that I ‘have’ to do. Kind of like breathing.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

One of the chapters of No One’s Daughter was published as a standalone piece in ‘The Healing Woman’ years ago. I’ve written several pieces, under a different name, for what used to be ‘The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation,’ which is now the JDRF, and I’ve written guest commentaries for dozens of newspapers nationwide. One of my proudest achievements was being able to put together an information packet for law enforcement in our area to help them distinguish a DUI from hypoglycemia to prevent people with medical emergencies from being confused with someone who is under the influence and wasting time in getting them medical attention.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

So far there is only one book, but there are several more in the works. I write about what I know, that’s the only thing I feel comfortable writing about. No One’s Daughter started out as an attempt for me to write down specific incidents in my childhood in order to fully understand them, to paint a picture with words of the ghosts that tormented me so I could look them in the eye and deal with them on an adult level.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

Everyone I know, everyone I meet is a potential character.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

Yes, the book is a series of personal experiences that combined along a timeline that made the book. 

Excerpt from No One’s Daughter 

Earl was Mom’s latest boyfriend. I usually don’t keep up with them since they never stay around long but Mom says she had known him since high school, one of the many boys that had been in love with her and never got over her. How or why he found her after all these years is a mystery to me. He has a wife and a son in another state but now he’s living with Mom, Julie and me. There’s a lot I don’t understand but at eleven I’ve learned to keep my questions to myself.

Earl seems too friendly at first, too fast to try and stuff dollar bills in my hand, I feel like he’s trying to pay me to like him but I don’t. I hate him. It doesn’t take long to find out that the feeling is mutual and his being nice and friendly to me is just an act that he put on until he got comfortable enough to make himself the boss of all of us. Julie doesn’t care one way or another but the hate between Earl and myself is intense.

He takes over everything and before long he’s ordering everyone around including Mom and always complaining about something. Usually he’s yelling at me or about me. Mom never yells back at him even though he’s never happy with anything she does. Instead of standing up to him she spends most of her time trying to make him happy so he doesn’t leave like all the other boyfriends did.

NO ONE'S DAUGHTER - 600 X 900I guess that’s why she told me to tell Earl that my last name is the same as Julie’s, to pretend like her dad is my dad too if Earl were to ask. I don’t look anything like Julie so Earl must suspect something and that’s why he tricks me by asking me if I’m big enough to write my name in cursive on a piece of paper. As soon as I finish writing my first and last name in cursive swoops he begins cussing, at first at me and then at Mom and then they both begin yelling at me. I don’t understand why they’re yelling at me, it was Mom that told the lie in the first place.

Earl seems to hate me more and more each day, he even yells at me just for looking at him. He complains to Mom that I look through him, not at him and he doesn’t like it. Before long his yelling and screaming turns to hitting and punching. Not just slaps across the face but big fists coming at me, most times for no reason at all and with no warning. It doesn’t take long before the beatings are an everyday thing.

I try hard to do all the things that Earl tells me to do because I know what will happen if I don’t. One of my jobs is to do the dishes and I do them all the time but sometimes someone will put something in the sink after I’m done and Earl will hit me for not washing it too. Earl also has a rule that I’m not allowed to talk on the phone and if the phone rings and I pick it up without being told to, Earl doesn’t care who is on the other end, he’ll grab the heavy receiver out of my hand and start slamming it into my head. Mom doesn’t seem to be upset by anything Earl does to me and just laughs when things like that happen.

“It’s just his way of playing. Don’t be such a crybaby,” she scolds me when I complain to her about Earl. She always has an excuse for everything he does and after a while I don’t even bother to tell her when he’s hurt me. I know she won’t do anything to stop him and her excuses for him hurt worse than his fists.

Now that Earl is living with us Mom works even harder to keep herself looking nice. She goes to the beauty shop twice a week and is always coming home with new clothes for herself and Earl. There’s never anything new for Julie and me.

Still, Earl makes Mom happy and when he’s not yelling at her she’s always smiling and laughing, something she doesn’t usually do. Maybe because she’s finally happy for once that she decides to do something nice for me, something else that she doesn’t usually do.

“I saw some of the prettiest fabric on a clearance rack today. Makes me want to sit down and make something. Do you want me to make something for you?” she asks after coming home from shopping. Earl isn’t home yet and I suspect that she wouldn’t have asked if he had been home.

“Do they have any brown fabric? Brown is my favorite color.”

“I think I do remember seeing some brown denim material that I can make you a pair of jeans from, if they still have it when I get back there,” she says offhandedly.

Surprisingly, she doesn’t forget and brings the material home a few days later and begins to cut out the jeans by using one of the two ragged pair that I own as a pattern. I’m so anxious to have a decent pair of jeans that I pester her and ask everyday if they’re finished. I’ve got one pair of jeans that I’ve had to wear everyday for the last week and even though I get teased at school, I have nothing else to wear until the brown jeans are done. Every single night I put them in the bathtub and scrub them with a bar of soap. After I wash them in the tub I wring them out the best that I can but they’re never all the way dry by the next morning and full of wrinkles.

“If you don’t stop aggravating me about it I won’t finish them at all. I’ll finish them when I get time!” she yells at me whenever I ask.

I know they’ll be my favorite when they’re finally done because brown is my special favorite color. Brown is a warm, snuggly, safe color that I can feel myself sink into, away from Mom and all the different men in her life. When her boyfriend’s hands search my body and touch me in secret places I think of brown and imagine myself hiding deep within it where no one can reach me. The color brown is my safe place.

“Here, they’re done. Now you can stop nagging me,” Mom says as she tosses the jeans at me a week later.

Julie’s down the street at a neighbor’s house when Mom and Earl decide that they’re going to the grocery store for beer and I beg to go with them so I can wear my new brown jeans. They’re the first new thing that I’ve had in a long time and I can’t wait to go to the store and hope that I’ll see some kids from school and they can see that I’ve got something new to wear.

We get in the car, Mom and Earl up front and with me, of course, sitting in the back seat. As Earl drives he keeps glancing back at me through the rearview mirror with an amused smirk on his face.

‘You really think you’re something in those new pants, don’t you?” he asks, trying to taunt me but I say nothing, I know better.

“I think you look cheap, kind of like a…slut.”

I turn my head and look out the window to avoid his eyes in the mirror. He makes fun of me the entire way to the store while Mom giggles at his comments.

“Now Earl, be nice! She doesn’t understand that you’re just kidding. You know that she has no sense of humor,” Mom says as she laughs along with him.

I’m relieved when we finally pull up to the parking lot of the grocery store. I plan on lagging behind them, hoping that if I stay out of sight that they might leave me alone. Earl puts the car in park and then suddenly reaches down to the floor of the front seat picking something up. When he lifts back up I can see that he’s holding a piece of chalk in his hand, a piece that I had dropped a few days before.

Without warning, he reaches over the seat, halfway back into the backseat where I am. He grabs my hair pulling my head down flat against the back seat while he grabs my legs, pulling them up at first and then forcing me to lie across the back seat. Holding me down he takes the chalk and begins to write all over my new brown jeans. He writes words like, ‘bitch,’ ‘slut,’ ‘cow’ and other filthy words all over my new brown jeans. Flipping me over, he writes ‘fuck me’ across the groin of my pants.

I can hear my mother’s giggles over the sounds of my own sobs.

“Don’t be such a baby,” she scolds me, “can’t you take a joke?”

“Get out of the car and don’t you dare dust the chalk off those pants! Do you understand me?” Earl growls as he pulls me up from the seat by my hair and pulls my face up to his.

Crying silently, I nod my head. He’s out of control and I know not to cross him. Getting out of the car I look at Mom and plead with my eyes for her to do something. She smiles and turns her head as she gets out of the car and grabs Earl’s hand.

As we walk away from the car and towards the store Earl pushes me in front of him and Mom and I can hear them whispering and giggling as we enter the store. When I hesitate, not wanting to go any further into the crowd of shoppers, Earl shoves his knuckles into my back and pushes me on.

They laugh and snicker like a couple of kids behind me as I walk with my head down not wanting anyone to see my face. My hair is a mess from Earl pulling on it and my face is streaked with tears. When I finally look up I can see people reading the words that Earl has written on my jeans. Two ladies look at me and I can hear them gasp before they turn away. Most people turn their heads as if I don’t exist but no one does anything. No one pulls me away from Earl and Mom. No one asks, “What’s going on here?”

We walk slowly through the entire store. Earl and Mom stay behind me, their laughter follows my every step. I want to run away, to run into the arms of a caring stranger who will take me out of the store and put an end to my humiliation.

I die a little more with each step until finally Earl and Mom decide they’re ready to go through the check out lane. The cashier smiles a confused smile as she takes a second look at me standing in line with my new brown jeans. She takes money from Earl and hands him a receipt and tells him, “Have a nice day!” in a cheery voice as we walk towards the exit.

I ride home with my head up against the window, staring but not seeing anything. Mom lectures me all the way home about what a poor sport I am and how I need to learn how to take a joke. Earl just drives, laughing to himself every now and then.

Later, after everyone has gone to bed I take my new brown jeans into the bathroom. I take Earl’s razor from the medicine cabinet and remove the blade. I take the blade in one hand while I hold my jeans in the other and slash them until they’re nothing but shreds, matching how I feel on the inside. Brown is no longer my favorite color, it now reminds me too much of Mom in that what was supposed to be my safe place, has betrayed me. There are no safe places to hide anymore.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Be yourself, be unique. Don’t try to imitate the writing voice of someone else, find your own voice and exercise it to help it mature and gain confidence.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

Every writer needs their work edited. It’s all but impossible to pour your heart and soul into your work and still be able to be objective enough to properly edit it. It’s similar to a singer having a voice instructor. Have you ever heard someone sing when they have headphones on and you literally cringe at the sound only to look at the person singing and realize they have no idea how horrible it is? That they think they actually sound good? Sometimes we write with a different type of headset on, never realizing how our own writing voice actually sounds to others. A good editor can fine tune a writer’s voice and make it more palatable to readers.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

The hardest thing for me to overcome is my own personality. I am, by nature, a private person and publishing forces me to be ‘out there’ which is out of my comfort zone. Because of my childhood, when having attention focused on me resulted in some very unpleasant experiences, my survival instincts insist that I stay in the background where it’s safe. Publishing my book has awakened me to some of the issues that I still need to confront.

How did you find time to write your books?

Before my children became adults, I became a time bandit and would try to steal every extra second or minute from each day and attempt to write. Now that my children are adults, some with children of their own, I’m learning to pace myself between spending time with the  grandkids and writing so I can have the best of both worlds.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

It depends. If someone is not a writer, then writing can be a stressful ordeal. For the person who is a writer by nature, writing has more potent positive effects than any drug, legal or illegal, that’s out there.

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

I can’t say that writing No One’s Daughter was a particularly relaxing time for me, but it was definitely therapeutic in the long run.

Can you also talk a little about how writing your book was therapeutic? What do you mean?

Writing the book was a literal soul cleansing experience. I was able to take the demons that haunted me and put them on a piece of paper where I could look at them more objectively. Similar to turning on the light to chase the boogeyman out of a child’s bedroom, it helped me to see things in the light versus them haunting the dark corners of my mind.

Has writing made you a better person?

Writing has allowed me to see that I’m not at all what I was raised to think that I am, so yes, it has made me a better person.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

YES! I love to read! My house recently was so full of books of every genre that my children were threatening to do an intervention. I read anything and everything, I don’t think I have a ‘favorite’ genre but will admit to a fondness for biographies.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are a writer’s emotional paycheck. They are of the utmost importance.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Yes. I had a dear friend verbally tear me to shreds after reading my book. The emotional sting of her words left me stunned and extremely hurt. Then, after unleashing her attack she calmed down and made a telling statement and told me that something in my book had hit close to home regarding her own relationship with one of her children. Her attack then made sense in a twisted sort of way. Even though her verbal review hurt and was what I felt unfair and uncalled for, it gave me insight as to what might be behind some extremely cruel reviews I’ve read on other writer’s books, that sometimes the things we write may hit a sensitive nerve with some readers. And sometimes, the person doing the review may have just had a bad day. As hard as it is, we can either not read our own reviews, as I’ve heard some writers do, read them and be honest with ourselves as to any possible merit, or chalk it up to someone having the need to simply lash out for whatever reason and try not to take it personally.


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