“The Sweater of My Soul,” a debut novel written by Lisa A. Greenlee, brims with emotional intimacy and courage while breaking down the boundaries of sexuality and racial divide. Two fearless young women break with convention to live their truths in the face of adversity and against the social norms and oppressive realities of the time. The novel is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in a small rural community a stone’s throw from Savannah.
Tell me a bit about your background. Are you from Savannah?
I was born and raised in Circleville, Ohio, a small town outside of Columbus, but I have relatives in the South and have spent a lot of time visiting the South on summer vacation. . The story actually takes place in Richmond Hill and outside of Savannah. I’ve always been drawn to southern culture and love Savannah. As much as I love the city, I’m a bit of a country mouse and love the slow, easy pace of the South.
Did you study writing or journalism? How did you get interested in writing?
I’m a nurse case manager and work in geriatrics, but I’ve always taken courses in creative writing, comparative religion, and cultural diversity in college. I have always liked to write and I write a lot of poems. I’m working on the second part of the book and I hope to have it published in the late fall of this year, and I would like to compile a collection of my poetry. One of the characters in “The Sweater of My Soul” is a writer and I lent him some of my poetry to be scattered throughout the book.
How long have you been writing?
I contributed to a text book, but nothing like this, this is my first. When the health climate changed and the pandemic arrived, I had been thinking about writing a novel for a few years, so when COVID arrived and a lot of my work happened over the phone, I started writing it in early 2020 and I finished it in January of 2021. It is 213 pages and was published on October 31, 2021. I self-published and built my own house of editing. With that, I enlisted copy editors, cover designers, and graphic designers geared toward beginning authors and new authors, helping them with their books and creating their novels.
How did the idea for this novel come about?
It kind of touches on breaking down the boundaries of mid-century sexuality and racial divide. As much as I identify with southern culture and appreciate all things southern culture, I love learning about history, the good and the bad. You can’t know all about the good things without knowing and understanding all the bad things that have happened. I wanted to paint a picture of the other side of life. As much as the sad and heartbreaking events in history took place and existed, there were many good things and good stories and relationships between people that were good and honest. I wanted to tell that side of the story a bit and talk about their relationship, the two women, not only was the relationship between a white person and a black person taboo at the time, it was taboo because it was of the same sex.
What can readers expect?
It’s a love story. I very deliberately focus on the fact that this is a love story that anyone can read. I specifically chose a beta reader who was a very Christian and conservative woman and wanted her to read it and her comments were very important. I didn’t want it to be a gay and lesbian novel, I wanted everyone to like it. I wanted it to be a beautiful love story. When she got back to me and we talked about it, she told me she loved it and appreciated the way it was written.
There will be a second novel. Tell me a bit more about it and when do you think it will be available?
The second novel will flash forward 20 years in their lives and go back and reminisce about what happened in those 20 years. I’m currently working on it and it should be out in early spring with a late fall release.
Anything else readers should know?
In reflection, my hope is that any reader, once they turn the last page, leaves the book with a sense of hope and goodness in life and love. After all, happiness is paramount in life, and love, well, it’s the greatest gift we have for each other. One of the poems in the book has a line “Love knows no bounds of time, nor width of space between when it is you I have sought and found again and again.
For updates and to learn more about the author, visit lisagreenlee.com