15 February 2015

Birthday Blog Tour of Traveling Left of Center by Nancy Christie- Review & Interview

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
----Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet

Nancy Christie, an American author, spun a remarkable collection of stories about sorrow and pain in her book, Traveling Left of Center.

""Girl," my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, "on the highway of life, you're always traveling left of center." (from "Traveling Left of Center)" What happens when people face life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared? They may choose to allow fate to dictate the path they take-a decision that can lead to disastrous results. The characters in "Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories" are unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, relying instead on coping methods that range from the passive ("The Healer") and the aggressive ("The Clock") to the humorous ("Traveling Left of Center") and hopeful ("Skating on Thin Ice"). But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash? Included in this collection of short stories are the critically acclaimed Alice in Wonderland and Annabelle.

The author crafted some enticing stories from the darkness of a human's soul. Yes, it's heart-breaking to read those stories, but the stories the completely riveting enough to capture you in their emotional torment. And it was astounding for to see that the author has immense talent to portray her characters with depth in just few pages. These 18 short stories are a journey of few individuals whose life's choices are often complicated and twisted enough to put them on a dark alley of their emotions.

The author had a strong grip on these psychologically flawed characters who are painted as lonely, deranged, mentally sick, frustrated or just sad in a very bad way, but their flaws is what made us glued to their heart-wrenching stories.

The author's writing is articulate and she is really skillful enough to weave a story with depth and compassion in just few words. Her prose is quite eloquent enough to give the book a good pace. Moreover, these stories are enlightening enough to let you see how some mentally and emotionally unstable characters behave in the moments of crisis. Moreover, her story-telling leaves us with enough space to see the stories with our own perspective.

Verdict: A must-read book that captures the darkest side of human emotions so vividly.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Nancy Christie, for providing me with a copy of her book, in return for an honest and unbiased review. 

Book Purchase Links:

  • February 2015 only — Birthday Blog Tour Sale Price [Click here for link to BIRTHDAY SALE OF AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK]

Nancy's Bio:

Nancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER, and two short story e-books, ANNABELLE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as Wild Violet, EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.

A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG) and creator of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group in Canfield, Ohio. 

Connect With Nancy On:  Facebook | Twitter | Author Website | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Pinterest

Author Interview:
Let's have a quick chat with the author, Nancy Christie, to know more about this incredible person.


Me: The characters in the stories all seem a little (in some case, a lot!) wounded or vulnerable. What draws you to write about these types of characters?

Nancy: I’m not entirely sure. It’s not like I set out to write stories about odd, eccentric or unstable people. It’s just, for some reason, I am drawn to those types of people—perhaps it’s one of those “There, but for the grace of God” things.
My fiction—or at least, my short fiction—tends to be about people who are damaged in some way: by what they have done to themselves or by what was done to them, by what they have received, what they gave up, or what was taken from them. They are, for the most part, struggling to navigate through dangerous waters. Some survive and move forward toward land, some are just treading water, and some don’t even know that they have lost the battle and are, even now, drowning.
I feel sorry for those people, wish I could do something for them, and perhaps, in the writing of their stories, that is what I am doing. Because somewhere out there, there is a real person who is held in thrall by his or her obsessions, who is controlled by past or present circumstances, who wants to live a happy, normal, balanced life but finds that the tightrope of life vibrates too much and maintaining equilibrium is but a dream.
“Dream”—and there it is again. The idea of what we want and what we have. For some of us—perhaps for most of us—the former is the dream and the latter is the reality and never the twain shall meet.
[Michelle Bowles, Kory Shrum, Gillian Felix, Amy Metz, Julie Jordan, Darcia Helle, Janet Emson, Stacy Juba, Aine Greaney, DeAnna, Angela Thomas, Anka Damian, Cecile Sune, Karin Freeman, Namrata Ganti, Mirren Jones]

Me: Dreams and dreaming figure into several of your stories—“Misconnections” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” to name two. Did you “dream” these stories? And what kind of dream history do you have?

Nancy: Actually, ever since I was little, I have been an active dreamer. The description of her children’s nocturnal activities in “Misconnections” is taken from my own life. I was (and, when I am very tired or stressed, still am) a sleepwalker and sleep-talker, and prone to dreams that are so real that, when I wake up, I’m not entirely sure if it was a dream or not! And sometimes, the images in the dreams do end up being part of a story. As a matter of fact, the dream image the character has of the little child in “Misconnections” came from one of my own dreams! Unfortunately, I am unable to dream on command—if I could, I would have lots more stories!

Me: What inspired this collection?

Nancy: The overall theme—people who have difficulty making the right choices or even knowing what choices are available to them—is one that has intrigued me for a long time. People tend to believe that they would always make the right choice, the wise choice, the intelligent choice. But that is from the vantage point of not being in the middle of a disastrous, overwhelming situation. Sometimes, clarity comes only after one has selected Option A. Then, when you have to live with the results, you start thinking Option B might have been better. Fortunately, in many cases there are always more options, more choices, more opportunities to get it right.

Me: What is the message that you want the readers to take away from this collection of stories?

Nancy: I want readers to have a sense of sympathy and understanding for those who are struggling through life. It’s so easy to think we know how we would react in certain situations but we can’t know that for sure, can we? So don’t be so quick to judge another’s choices or criticize another for their mistakes.

Me: Enough about the book—let’s get personal! How long have you been writing? When did you start? Why did you start —what triggered your writing?

Nancy: I was always a reader—the best gift anyone could give me was a book—so I would imagine that influenced me. And as a child, my next-door neighbor Danny and I were always making up stories, acting out scenarios, creating our own worlds out in the woods. From making up stories to writing them down was a natural progression. I wrote my first short story (actually I called it a book—it even had a cover!) in second grade.
There’s a lot to be said for not having all those electronic games that only require button pushing. When children are left to their own devices and have nothing but their imagination to work with, they can be very creative. 

Me: What was your “writer dream”—your goal— when you began to write? Has it changed over the years? 

Nancy: I don’t think I had a dream. Certainly, I never pictured myself holding a book with my name on it. Writing is such a natural part of me that I never thought about it as an occupation or a goal, any more than I would think about breathing as a profession. It was just something I did.
Of course now, with two books—TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER and my non-fiction book, THE GIFTS OF CHANGE— in print and two short stories as e-books plus others that have been published in literary journals, I do have a dream or two. Great reviews in The Times. Accolades from well-known literary fiction writers. An award or two to stick somewhere on my bookshelf—next to about a dozen foreign translations of my collection!
Or maybe my accountant telling me that my royalties have pushed me into a different income bracket!

Me: If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?

Nancy: I often thought I would have liked to be an archeologist. In some way, the professions are similar. The archeologist carefully digs through stone and sand and dirt until he uncovers a world that has long been hidden, and, in some cases, the remains of people who lived so long ago.
I dig through thoughts and memories and emotions until I find the imagined world and imagined people.
Then we both do the same thing: we re-create that world. The only difference is the archeologist recreates what once was while I recreate what existed only in some space and time outside of this reality. 

(From “Traveling Left of Center”)
“Girl,” my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, “on the highway of life, you’re always traveling left of center.”
Mama was always saying things like that. She had a phrase for every occasion, and would pronounce them with a certainty that, in my younger days, I accepted as gospel. But that time, I didn’t pay her no mind. I just went on painting my nails “Passionate Purple,” hoping that the sexy polish would catch the doctor’s eye.
I was justifiably proud of my hands, especially since, at that particular time, they were the only part of me that was skinny. A girl’s body sure takes a beating from having a baby. It had taken me at least a year to get my shape back after Robert Nicholas, and it looked like Rebecca Nicole wouldn’t be any kinder to her mama than her big brother had been.
(From “The Sugar Bowl”)
Chloe would tell men that the slightly battered and tarnished sugar bowl was a legacy from her grandmother.
“Granny,” she would say, her eyes fixed on a distant spot in the small apartment, “had to sell all her possessions to keep my mother fed and warmed. But she saved the sugar bowl for better times. And when she died,” here, her voice would quiver and a brave smile would slip across her face, “she left it for me, for my ‘better times’.”
The story always worked on those older men who would bring her home after a pleasant dinner in a quiet, expensive restaurant. They would listen to her story as she poured freshly-brewed coffee into delicate porcelain cups, her light brown hair falling softly around her face.
And they would be overcome with feelings of protectiveness for the young girl, so unlike the hard brittle career women they were used to. It would be almost obscene, they would find themselves believing, to think of taking this fragile flower to bed.
Instead they would kiss her chastely on the cheek and then leave, never understanding that it had all been carefully orchestrated—the dinner, the story, the quiver in the voice.
And if they should call again, she would be politely unavailable. Chloe could not support a return engagement. Her story was only strong enough for a single run.
(From “Watching for Billy”)
The sound woke her from her usual afternoon sleep. One of the curses of old age was the need to nap at odd hours of the day, coupled with the inability to stay asleep during the dark hours of the night. And since Roger died, it was even worse. Agnes found herself nodding off at mid-morning while the game shows played on the television screen, during the afternoon courtroom dramas, after the soup-and-sandwich dinner that almost always constituted her evening meal. Why not? There was no one to talk to and nothing else to do.
Brad said that she wouldn’t be bored if she moved into one of those retirement homes. But she didn’t want to leave her home and go live among strangers—even if sometimes the loneliness was more than she could bear.
“I’ve lived here more than 60 years and I’m not leaving now,” she had told her son. “There’s nothing you can say that will change my mind.”
“Fine,” he answered, an unmistakable note of irritation in his voice. “But if you won’t move, then you need to at least have an alarm installed. There have been too many break-ins in your neighborhood lately.”
Agnes agreed reluctantly… was dutifully attentive when the technician explained how the alarm worked and what each noise and light represented.
During the long summer days, she didn’t bother to activate it until bedtime, trusting in the safety of daylight to keep thieves and robbers from her door. But as winter drew near and the days grew shorter, she found herself turning the alarm on at the first sign of dusk, feeling for the first time a little unsure, a little vulnerable, in the house where she had lived for six decades.


  1. Thanks for having me on your blog! Would love to hear comments from your visitors!

  2. Whoa, this sounds like a dark and intriguing book especially about emotions and consequences to what you do. In the interview she mentioned that choices - making the right ones and knowing what is available - inspired this story. I think that is an important theme!

  3. Yes it is, I must say the book involves some darkest human emotions that you won't even be able to imagine. And thanks for your comment! :-)

  4. Hi Olivia-Savannah,
    Thanks for your thoughts about the story theme. Sometimes we don't even know what is available until we make a choice. (The good thing is that there are always more choices and chances!) If you read any of the stories, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Thanks for your feedback!