One afternoon a young woman walks past a fundraiser being held by a woman’s church group to help raise money to pay for the printing of a book that is aimed at women who are victims of domestic and emotional abuse. The young woman is a nervous individual and unfortunately its plain to see – a victim of abuse. She has only $3 in her pocket and had yet to buy groceries. As she is about to walk away from the stall empty-handed, a woman approaches her and seeing the signs of abuse upon this poor woman, gives her a copy of the book for free, which she clutches to her chest like a lifeline as she walks away.
The kind-hearted woman who gave her the copy of the book was none other than the author herself – Evelyn Stewart. A woman who was once told she didn’t have enough education to write a book. Clearly they did not know what a remarkable young girl they had before them. For Evelyn Stewart as had an extradonairy and sometimes sad and difficult life, and yet has come through the other side as an extremley strong, independent and incredibly beautiful person who at the age of eighty-six now devotes much of her time using past experiences and heartache to help women escape abusive situations and start a new life for themselves.
1. What are you working on right now?
At this time I am doing short stories for FanStory, which is an International Writer’s site. I felt so honored this morning when I saw I was in 2nd place out of 697 short stories writers. There’s times I feel like I need to pinch myself to be sure it’s real because I’ve always been told I didn’t have enough education to write a book. I am eighty-six years old and haven’t been to school for seventy years.
2. Can you tell us a little something about it?
Currently I’m writing stories about my childhood. It was the happiest time of my life even though things were really hard during the Depression years. I’m the youngest of twelve children. I was raised by loving, Christian parents. It was at a time when the slaves were freed. Many of them came to my great-grandfather and grandfather for shelter and protection. These people became our family of color. So, I have many unique and fun stories to share with my readers. There are stories also about my African American Nanny.
The other short stories are segments taken from my book, Behind Closed Doors. That way if anyone doesn’t have the money to buy my book I can still share enough to hopefully help spare others from suffering the kind of pain I did due to abuse.
3. Why do you write? Where do you get your inspiration?
I write because I know it is something God has called me to do. He is my inspiration. I so desire to help others avoid the nightmare I lived through. I’m very concerned about our young people today. Abuse is on the increase. We’ve nearly overdosed them with sex education but we are failing to train them to evaluate the behavior of the person they are dating. Are they obsessed with me? Do they try to keep me separated and isolated from my family and friends? Do they have to know where I am every minute? They need to ask the hard question: “Am I dating/marrying a potential abuser?” It took me ten years to write this book and I shed a river of tears. But if just one person is spared the kind of life I lived it will be worth every tear I shed and all the time it took. I was told I could never write a book. My formal education ended with the 7th grade, so really I’m what I’d call self-educated. God has taken what Satan meant to destroy me with and now God can use my suffering and sorrow to help set others free. To me, that’s getting good out of what Satan meant for bad.
4. When I write I require Jaffa cakes (and lots of them), do you have a writing must have?
I’m sorry i don’t know what a Jaffa cake is but it sounds like it might taste mighty fine. I don’t think I really have a writing must. I like keeping little cans of Beanie Weinee’s and peanut butter and crackers in the little packages so I don’t have to stop writing to go fix something to eat. My biggest thing is spending some quiet time with God and before I know it He has given me the words to share. All of my writing is based on truth, nothing but the truth.
5. What is your favorite book?
Truthfully I’d have to say the Bible. Back when I was young there really wasn’t any other book to be had. My mother was an awesome story teller. She read us the story of Daniel and the Lions Den, Moses and the Parting of the Red Sea, Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors. Every night after supper and the dishes were done we would all head for the living room. Mother had her a little podiem. She’d read us a Bible story or a Scripture that gave instructions as to proper behavior. She always seemed to know which one to read that dealt with the misbehavior that had occurred during the day. I would often see my brothers squirming in their chair. Yes, sometimes I squirmed too. They used the Word of God as a means of correcting our misbehavior. We were never beaten. We were taught that God loved us and we had to obey His rules just like we had to obey their rules. Then, Mother would tell us her “funny” stories. She would send us all off to bed laughing.
6. Which author’s career, alive or passed on, do you admire the most and why?
John Steinbeck stands out foremost in my mind as an admired author, and such books as Grapes of Wrath and The Color Purple. The truth needs to be told and they told the truth about a very sad time in history. I was so privileged to receive a review from Alan Wilkerson, President of Ozark Business Weekly. I would like to share his review.
“This is a period piece, a historical reference, a lifetime saga roled into one riveting book. The word spellbinding is appropriate because you are drawn in and can’t put the book down. The characters come to life and scare you even when you know they are not present, but most of all, and unfortunately for this family, it is a true story. The “Grapes of Wrath meets “Disclosure and Roots all come to mind as partial comparisons. This will make an awesome movie someday.”
You have to remember I am an eighty-six year old woman with a seventh grade education. This kind of review brought tears to my eyes and I rejoiced for I knew God had helped me get my story down in a way that it would change other peoples lives.
7. Tell us something about yourself…an annoying habit or party trick perhaps? Can you speak a foreign language or have a hobby?
I was born in Shulerville, South Carolina. I am the youngest of twelve children. I was raised by loving, Christian parents. Things were hard during the Depression but Dad taught us to work hard, and even enjoy the work we were doing. Our community was made up of my mother’s family, my father’s family, and our family of color. At thirteen there really wasn’t anyone for me to consider dating, as everyone was family. My older brother worked in Charleston, South Caolina, fifty miles from our home. At thirteen I was put on a train and sent to Charleston to get a room and go to work in the cigar factory. There I would be able to meet a young man that I could marry. My older brother had lost one of his hands in an accident. So, he was a trained electrical welder and worked at the navy yard since he couldn’t be sent into battle during WWII. He worked every hour his body could handle, therefore, he wasn’t free to check on me too often. I was really self-sufficient and did well until he introduced me to his co-worker. I wasn’t prepared for the type of person Larry was. It was never sexual. It was all about control and obsession. I never had time for partying. I worked sixteen hours a day, six and often seven days a week until I married. Then I devoted myself to raising three wonderful children. I spent much of my time protecting them from their abusive father. Every minute I wasn’t working was spent with my children. Now, they make sure that I don’t need anything.
I only speak English. I’m not much into tricks but I do like to tease as long as it’s not something that can hurt someone’s feelings. At eighty-six you might say reading reviews on my stories from FanStory might be considered a hobby. It does bring me much happiness to know I am touching others hearts.
8. Do you have a blog, website or social networking account people can go to if they wish to learn more about you and your work?
I am on Facebook. Just ask to be friends with Evelyn F Stewart and I’ll be ready and waiting. I share many of my short stories on Facebook so others can read them. I do have a webpage that is being worked on www.evesdvhelp.org (Eves domestic violence help). This site is ” under construction” and should be updated soon. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. And now, for the most important question of all: Jaffa cakes – love them or hate them?
Darling, I don’t even know what a jaffa cake is. Sorry J Obviously you like them. I would like to know what they are though.
TPW: I hope you enjoyed reading this interview. Evelyn Stewart has been one of the most amazing and interesting authors I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and I encourage all of you to support the fantastic work this brilliant woman is doing. To follow Evelyn and her work, or to help support her cause please find the necessary links below.
Facebook: Evelyn F Stewart
I would like to say a big thank you to Evelyn’s friend, Janie King, for helping us do the interview!