Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Viola Shipman takes us over the rainbow...plus a book giveaway

We're pleased to bring back our first Go-to-Gay, Wade Rouse, to celebrate the publication of his latest novel, The Hope Chest, written under the pen name Viola Shipman as a tribute to his grandmother, whose heirlooms inspired him to write it, along with his debut novel, The Charm Bracelet. Today, he's taking us back in time to the musicals his grandmothers loved. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have TWO copies of The Hope Chest to give away!

Visit Viola online:


The discovery of one woman’s heirloom hope chest unveils precious memories and helps three people who have each lost a part of themselves find joy once again.

Ever since she was diagnosed with ALS, fiercely independent Mattie doesn’t feel like herself. She can’t navigate her beloved home, she can’t go for a boat ride, and she can barely even feed herself. Her devoted husband, Don, doesn’t want to imagine life without his wife of nearly fifty years, but Mattie isn’t likely to make it past their anniversary.

But when Rose, Mattie’s new caretaker, and her young daughter, Jeri, enter the couple’s life, happiness and the possibility for new memories return. Together they form a family, and Mattie is finally able to pass on her memories from the hope chest she received from her mother.

With each item―including a favorite doll, family dishes, an embroidered apron, and an antique Christmas ornament―the hope chest connects Mattie, Don and Rose to each other and helps them find hope again in the face of overwhelming life challenges.

A beautiful story about the unconditional love and support of family, The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman will remind you that hope can be found where and when you least expect it.

“Hope Sounds Like Judy Garland”

The first musical I remember watching as a child with my grandmothers was The Wizard of Oz. It didn’t turn out so well. The flying monkeys scared me so badly that I covered my eyes, screamed and finally went running out of the TV room to bury my head under the covers in my bedroom.
That didn’t deter my grandmothers from making me watch movies with music (Fantasia went much more smoothly) or further indoctrinating me to Judy Garland.

The next Judy musical I watched – snuggled between them, eating candy straight out of my basket – was Easter Parade.

This time, I didn’t cover my eyes, scream or run out of the room. I sat up a little straighter and smiled. When Judy and Fred Astaire sang “A Couple of Swells,” I remember getting up and taking a seat right in front of the TV, mesmerized, watching them dance in a fantasy world as make-believe characters.

Next came Meet Me in St. Louis, which, ironically, was the big city I dreamed of living in as an Ozarks child (my grandfathers and father LOVED the St. Louis Cardinals and listened to every game on the radio). This one hooked me even more with its songs and its beauty, and I eventually would live in St. Louis partially because of the spell this movie cast on me.

That started a tradition: Whenever a movie musical was on, my grandmothers would call me, and we’d plan a night together, just the three of us, and our imaginations.

We watched more than Judy, of course – Oklahoma, Auntie Mame, The Sound of Music – but Judy’s musicals remained our favorites. Whenever one of her movies was shown on TV, or featured at the local, old-time theatre, we would watch or go, the three of us.

I asked my grandmas once why they loved musicals so much. My Grandma Shipman took my hand in hers and said, “They’re like living a dream. The actors sing everything we think in our heads and feel in our hearts but that we are never able to demonstrate in real life.”

“And why do you love Judy Garland so much?”
“If hope had a voice, it would be Judy’s,” she said.

I use her quote in my new novel, The Hope Chest. In fact, one of the chapters in the book centers around an old Judy Garland ticket stub that is found in the long-forgotten hope chest of the main character, Mattie, a woman in the final stages of ALS. Mattie grew up loving Judy Garland (and living in St. Louis), and she passes along her love for the star and of movie musicals to her caregiver, Rose, and Rose’s young daughter, Jeri (who is named after my own mother).

Watching musicals with my grandmas still fills me with great warmth and memories, but, more importantly, that experience changed me greatly. It caused me not only to see the world differently but also challenged how I wanted to be a part of it. As a result, I took music lessons. I played trombone. I sang. I acted in plays and musicals. I read books. And, of course, I began to write.
Like my debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, The Hope Chest is inspired not only by my grandmas’ heirlooms but also by their lives, lessons and love. It was their belief in me and sacrifices for our family that changed the course of our lives and allowed me to be who I am today. Viola Shipman – the pen name I use for my fiction – is my maternal grandmother’s name, and I chose it to pay tribute to my grandmothers as well as all of our elders, whose voices, stories and sacrifices are too often overlooked today.

I still curl up on the couch and watch musicals, old and new, and I continue to feel the presence and impact of my grandmothers when I do. I recently saw a new movie musical, LaLa Land, and I thought of my grandmas much of the time, thinking of how much they’d love the movie. Near the end, when Emma Stone’s character – who is about to give up her dream of being an actress – sings a number entitled "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," I began to weep openly. So loudly, in fact, that many turned around to see if I were OK.

I had been where Emma Stone’s character had been many times in my career, on the verge of quitting, of thinking that my dreams of being a writer were simply pipe dreams. But something deep inside me always urged me on, sang to me, like my grandmas did when we watched musicals together.

It was fierce determination and a bit of madness, of course, but most of all it was hope. Hope that I could make the world feel, think, see just a little bit differently from my words.

In the end, hope sang to me, so loudly it won out.

And it sounded just like Judy Garland’s voice.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends March 26th at midnight EST.


Kristi said...

I just loved your stories of spending time with your grandparents. Very special moments were had with my grandma as well and it makes me happy to think of her again when reading your experiences. I can't wait to read your new book!

Janine said...

I can't think of any musicals off the top of my head, but I do love the older movies as well. My favorite stars from the older movies are Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.

Unknown said...

I loved 7 brides for 7 brothers growing up!

Susan @ The Book Bag said...

I have always loved The Sound of Music. Oh, and West Side Story, and Dr Zhivago, and Fiddler on the Roof ..... I just love musicals!

Margie Shaw said...

I'm not really sure if you'd call this a musical but White Christmas had a lot of singing involved and I loved that movie. I think I would of liked living during that time period. And I'm really looking forward to The Hope Chest coming out. It sounds like its going to be a very enjoyable read.

Aire para respirar said...

I loved watching Fred and Ginger on TV

Unknown said...

I have heard great reviews about this book.

rubynreba said...

I liked The Sound of Music.

traveler said...

My favorite music would be from The Phantom of the Opera.

Bonnie K. said...

I always repeat watch My Fair Lady.

dstoutholcomb said...

Singing in the Rain



Kinky Boots

diannekc said...

One of my favorite musicals is Singing in the rain. "The Hope Chest" sounds like an amazing read.

diannekc said...

One of my favorite musicals is Singing in the rain. "The Hope Chest" sounds like an amazing read.

jtmswim said...

This sounds like an amazing book. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

Elizabeth G said...

I LOVE "Meet Me in St Louis" too. It's one of my favorite movies. My daughter and I love watching "Mamma Mia" with Meryl Streep. It's a bit cheesy but we love the music.

Melanie Backus said...

I loved Carosel, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oklahoma, West Side Story.....the list goes on and on.

Mary Preston said...

Hello Dolly is a great favorite.

Linda Kish said...

I think you meant the 20th century. We are now in the early st century.
I really liked Oklahoma and South Pacific. I always liked to sing the songs when they were on TV.

Unknown said...

The Phantom of the Opera

Jennifer C said...

I'd have to say The Phantom of the Opera! :)

bn100 said...

no fav

Laurice McClung said...

The Wizard of Oz

Linda May said...

I'd have to say West Side Story & Meet Me in St. Louis, Thanks for this generous giveaway.