Meet Emily Hodge from David Armstrong’s new novel, The Rising Place.

NPT: Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Emily. We’re so happy you could join us today.

EH: Thank you. It’s a true pleasure to be here.

NPT: Before we get started, I just have to say that you are such a strong, spiritual woman. Where did your deep faith in God come from?

EH: I was always blessed with a strong faith in God—particularly in His love for us. It’s something I’ve never questioned.

NPT: Was this faith instilled in you from your parents, growing up?

EH: No, not really. I was raised Catholic because my father was Catholic. My mother was Methodist, though, so they never went to church together. In later life I became a Methodist.

NPT: Why was that?

EH: That’s something I’d rather not talk about. I don’t think it matters which religion you identify with. All that really matters is our faith in God and our love for and forgiveness of other people.

NPT: Fair enough. Okay, then, let’s change subjects. You just mentioned “love for other people.” You had such an amazing and abiding love for Harry Devening, but he never loved you back. This is such an enigma to me. How could you—

EH: Sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off, but I believe Harry did love me. He just never knew how to show it, or maybe how to even feel it.

NPT: I’m confused here. Harry never answered any of your love letters to him. In the end, he even returned all of them to you, unopened. Don’t you consider that “unrequited love?”

EH: I can certainly understand why you would think that, but don’t you recall that precious letter Harry wrote to our little boy, shortly before his birth? Surely, you could see the love Harry expressed for both our child and me in the words he wrote?

NPT: I don’t mean to offend you by this, “Miss Emily,” if I may call you that, but….

EH: Sure, that’s what I was called in later life.

NPT: Author Stephen Chbosky wrote: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Do you think, perhaps, this applies to Harry?

EH: Possibly. Yes, possibly so. Actually, I’ve thought that before, several times. I never met Harry’s parents or his two older sisters, but from what Harry told me about his childhood, I don’t think there was a great deal of love in their home.

NTP: When was that? When did Harry tell you this?

EH: When I boarded a train from Hamilton, Mississippi to go visit Harry in Gary, Indiana, toward the end of the book. We spent four, wonderful days together.

NPT: And…?

EH: And then I took another train back to Hamilton.

NPT: So, why didn’t you stay up in Indiana with Harry?

EH: Harry begged me to stay with him, to start all over, try to make it work between us. He claimed he always loved me; he was just afraid to show it, even admit it. He also said it was the greatest mistake of his life—not returning my love. By then, though, my love for Harry was gone—only a memory—sort of like a distant dream I had had, once when I was young. Plus, my friend Wilma Watson was engaged in a great struggle for justice and civil rights, down in Hamilton. Wilma was my best friend. I had to go home to help her.

NPT: Miss Emily Hodge, you are such an intriguing and enigmatic character. I wish I had more time to visit with you. I’m just glad your lawyer found your letters and shared them with the world. Otherwise, we would have never known your beautiful story.

EH: Thanks. I’m glad David did, too.

NPT: Before we close, I do have one more question, though: Who was that “gray-haired stranger” in the Prologue who attended your service and placed a yellow rose on the top of your child’s grave? Was it Harry Devening or Streete Wilder?

EH: How do you know it wasn’t Will Bacon? After all, he loved me, too.

NPT: Point well made. I guess readers will just have to decide for themselves who that was. Speaking of readers, is there any thought or message you’d like to leave with them?

EH: Yes. Always live in the rhapsody of your own music. I did, and that’s what I’m most proud of.

NPT: Thank you so much for visiting with us, today, Emily Hodge.

EH: You’re welcome. And thank you.

About the Book:

The Rising Place is based on an interesting premise: What if you found a box of love letters, written during World War II by an old maid who had just died—would you read them? And what if you did and discovered an incredible story about unrequited love, betrayal, and murder that happened in a small, Southern town over seventy years ago? After a young attorney moves to Hamilton, Mississippi to practice law, one of his first cases is to draft a will for Emily Hodge. “Miss Emily” is a 75-year-old recluse who is shunned by Hamilton society, but the lawyer is intrigued by her and doesn’t understand why this charming lady lives such a solitary and seemingly forgotten life. When Emily later dies, the lawyer goes to her hospital room to retrieve her few possessions and bequeath them as she directed, and he finds an old sewing box full of letters in the back of one of her nightstand drawers. He takes the letters back to his law office and reads them, and he soon discovers why Emily Hodge lived and died alone, though definitely not forgotten by those whose lives she touched.

About the Author:

David Armstrong was born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi. He is an attorney, former mayor, and former candidate for the U.S. Congress. The Rising Place is David’s second novel. His third novel, The Third Gift, will be released this summer. David has also written four screenplays. He is the father of two grown sons and lives in Columbus, Mississippi, where he is the COO for the city of Columbus. His website iswww.therisingplace.com, and his novel is available on Amazon, as is the DVD of the film that was based on his book.

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