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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sitting Down with author Billy Coffey!

I've always loved great stories. In part, because they stay with you long after you have finished. Some in fact have embedded themselves in my mind that even now they seem like my own personal memories. Then one day something truly wonderful happened. I came across a blog titled simply, "What I Learned Today" from Billy Coffey. He shared these simple, but relevant true stories that resounded deep inside your soul and once there they have never left. I am thrilled for that because I've gotten the opportunity to watch him live a dream.

He began writing these incredible stories on his blog while waiting for his big break. It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears but in the end, Billy is living every writers dream, to see your book published. Not only that but well received, liked, talked about and in demand. 

If you're a firm follower of Billy Coffey, then you already know most of this, but if you have found your way here today, well I'd like to believe God brought you here for a purpose.When Mockingbirds Sing is Billy's third novel. His first, Snow Day, is an amazing novel that chronicles what happens when that inevitable snow day occurs to different people all over a wonderful city. There is truly something to be found for everyone who reads it and everyone definitely has their favorite parts of the book. 

Paper Angels was Billy's second novel debut and chronicles the life of Andy Sommerville, who has been visited throughout his life by one he deems, the Old Man, who instructs him to keep a box of mementos that share special memories of people who have impacted his life. This is where we get to know just what the purpose in the collecting means and how he shares it with a woman named Elizabeth, he believes is a counselor in the hospital. What happens along the way touches you long after you finish the novel. 

Now in When Mockingbirds Sing, by far for me, his best novel yet, we are taken back to the town of Mattingly and we meet the Norcross family who has just moved there from a place simply known by the locals as Away. The story revolves around their nine-year-old daughter Leah who feels isolated partly because of her stutter. She finds solace in her conversations with the Rainbow Man who is only visible to Leah. The story builds as Leah finds herself painting pictures based on instructions from the Rainbow Man who appeal specifically to those she paints them for. It soon draws a line in the sand between the people of Mattingly who believe Leah and those that don't. You'll have to pick this one up to see the climatic ending of just what happens when people can't find explanations for what is going on in their small town. 

Now the fun part. I got to take some time and ask Billy some questions not only about the novel When Mockingbirds Sing but also about life in general. So without further delay, here goes!

1.Where did the idea to introduce mockingbirds to the novel stem from? In other words, why mockingbirds and not another species of bird?

My grandmother loved birds. I remember being just a kid and going to work up the garden with her. She’d start calling birds, one after the other—robins, sparrows, cardinals, anything. She’d whistle and sound just like them, and after a while I’d look up at the telephone line that ran the length of their yard and see it covered with birds. But she loved mockingbirds most of all. She passed on when I was just a boy. But for years after, every summer there would be a mockingbird singing every night in the big maple in our backyard. It just stuck with me, I guess.

2. Will there be another novel coming as a sequel to When Mockingbirds Sing? I know you are working on the companion book to Paper Angels involving the town of Mattingly again, but will there be one that continues the story of some of the characters in When Mockingbirds Sing like Allie, Tom or Ellen Norcross or even the Sheriff Jake since we never quite got to hear about his story of Happy Hollow.

The next novel will focus on Sheriff Jake. The one after that will be Allie’s. I think all the characters but Allie found some sort of closure by the end of When Mockingbirds Sing. That was by design. Allie’s my favorite, so I’m not done with her quite yet. Unfortunately, that also means she’s going to be hurting quite a bit.

3. What do you hope people take away from reading When Mockingbirds Sing?

I think there’s a prevalence in today’s society to fit everything we can into a single tiny box, whether it’s politics or social concerns or religion. That’s one of the main points the story ends up making—life is too full of mystery to be neatly fit into either/or. It’s oftentimes more and/both.

4. What made you decide to take a darker spin to your writing style? There is obviously a darker element that we see at play in this novel with a suspense side that is created when the painting Leah creates begin to have a prophetic vision to them.

I spent my first two books trying to get a feel for writing fiction. Mockingbirds is the result of that. Thomas Nelson gave me the freedom to produce the kind of books I really wanted to write. Mockingbirds really is darker than my other two novels. In some ways, the next one is even darker than Mockingbirds. But you know what? I think real life can be pretty dark as well, and I’m a big believer in the notion that we’re all surrounded by the unseen. So I don’t mind using a little darkness. It makes the light brighter.

5. Do you think the Rainbow Man will be returning in any of your future novels?

You never know. My gut reaction is no. But I’ll qualify that by saying the Rainbow Man was an instance of God stepping into the world for a brief moment, and that’s something you’ll always see in my books.

6. What do you think are the earmarks of a great storyteller?

An ear for dialogue, an eye for setting, and a good dose of honesty. And I think the best stories—the ones that stand the test of time—are those who don’t just tell what happens, but also speak to the deepest parts of us and what it means to be human.

7. How do you stay true to your faith in your novels without going overly religious that might turn some readers off?

I always think of the book of Esther in the Old Testament. God’s never mentioned once in those ten chapters, and yet He’s everywhere—just behind the scenes. That’s what I try to keep in mind when I write.

8. You say you wanted to be a baseball player growing up, have you considered the possibility of writing a book about a baseball player?

Oh, I’m sure sooner or later the subject of baseball will come up in a book. Or two. There are already a couple of ideas floating around.

9. What would the local people around your small town have to say about Billy Coffey?

I’m not sure a lot of them know I write books, or if they do, they don’t much care. I’m just Billy to all of them, and I like that just fine.

10. What is the biggest compliment/reward you’ve received since having your books published?

I think every writer wants to hear from readers who say this story was great or that character was riveting, but the best rewards to me are those who say a book or a blog post has really helped them through a rough time in their lives. That’s what I live for.

So there you have it in a nutshell! I want to personally thank Billy Coffey for taking some time out of his day to answer these questions. If you haven't already done so you can find more about Billy Coffey by visiting his website and while your there you can even get 30% off When Mockingbirds Sing by clicking here.

You can also follow Billy Coffey on Facebook so you don't miss out on any of his novels or short stories.

You can find his latest novel at your favorite book retailer or on Amazon by clicking here.

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401688217
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401688219
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches


  1. Great interview, Kat. A great sneak peek into Billy's next two books.

    1. Thanks Kat! I watched all the previous interviews and along the way these questions just popped out. I am working on a different spin for an interview that I can hopefully wrap my head around soon!

      Love and Hugs ~ Kat


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