Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

THE PAST EVER PRESENT
Friday, January 15, 2021 by DEBRA COLEMAN JETER

PLEASE WELCOME

DEBRA COLEMAN JETER

TO

A VERY SPECIAL FICTION FRIDAY

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE PAST EVER PRESENT (Inspired by true events)

For those of you familiar with Catherine Marshall’s novel Christy or with the two-season CBS television series based on that novel, The Past Ever Present should feel like an old friend. For those of you not familiar with Christy, consider The Past Ever Present an introduction to something you are likely to love.

I remember the day my son Clay was invited to audition for a television show called Christy. I did not make the connection, though I had read Christy years earlier. Then he was invited for a call-back in Townsend, Tennessee. It was there we first realized Kellie Martin (star of Life Goes On) had been cast as Christy. She was there that day, and Clay recognized her. Then I had a chance to read a section of the script, and I recognized the story, to my delight.

If you haven’t read Christy, you should. It is simply wonderful. If you appreciate Christy, or if you are interested in true tales about child actors, or about growing up during the Great Depression, I hope you’ll love The Past Ever Present.

Clay was cast as a regular in the series Christy, filmed in the hills of eastern Tennessee, at the age of nine. Much of the usual struggle for recognition and approval associated with the Hollywood industry found its way to this isolated mountain community.  Because both my husband and I were working full time, my father Clifton served as Clay’s guardian. The television series being filmed was set in a poor farm community, much like the one where Clifton grew up. The show brought back memories for Clifton and, while Clay was working, he watched and remembered. During the filming of Christy, he made a series of tape recordings of those memories and the parallels between his childhood, Clay’s, and that of Clay’s character, Creed Allen. These tapes inspired me to write The Past Ever Present.

Being on the set of the show provides a subtle but dramatic spiritual transformation for both principal characters, as Clay comes of age and Clifton comes to terms with his past and its effect on his life. From Clay’s perspective, the choices and changes in his life loom enormous.  First, he has to choose between his weekly soccer match and an audition for a role he may not get.  But land the role he does, and soon soccer games are becoming a part of Clay’s past. 

On the set, Clay is torn between a drive to maximize his joy in each moment, which leads him into mischief, and the occasional urge to land a big part.  Eventually, Clay is given some of the choicest roles in the final episodes. This leads to even more confusion, however, as the series ends and Clay returns to normal school life.   

As Clifton watches and remembers, he is forced to face the reality of his relationship with his father Ray and his ongoing struggle to redeem himself in his father’s eyes, even after Ray’s death.  Comparing himself to Ray, to his favorite Uncle Punch, and to his grandfather Pa Byerly, Clifton realizes that he has spent much of his life trying to be someone he is not.  Although he sets out to teach Clay lessons about life from the wisdom of his years and experience, he ultimately discovers that it is Clay who has taught him the greater lesson.

MORE ABOUT THE PAST EVER PRESENT

A fly-on-the-wall account of making a television show, and a great examination of country living in the first half of the twentieth century, The Past Ever Present revolves around the relationship between a boy and his grandfather. When Clay is cast as a regular in the TV series Christy, his grandfather Clifton serves as his on-set guardian. The series is set in a poor farm community, which is eerily similar to the one where Clifton grew up. Being on the set of the show provides a dramatic transformation for both, as Clay comes of age and Clifton comes to terms with his past.

If you have time, check out the reviews on Amazon. I’m humbled by these, and they give you a better idea of what to expect than my synopsis.

 

ABOUT DEBRA COLEMAN JETER:

Debra Coleman Jeter has published in popular magazines, including Working Woman, New Woman, Self, Home Life, Savvy, Christian Woman, and American Baby. Her first novel, The Ticket, was a finalist for a Selah Award, and her most recent, Song of Sugar Sands, a finalist for a 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Award. Her short story, “Recovery,” won first prize in a competition sponsored by Christian Woman; and her book The Past Ever Present (originally published as Pshaw, It’s Me Grandson) was a finalist in the USA Book News Awards. She is a co-writer of the screenplay for Jess + Moss, a feature film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, screened at nearly forty film festivals around the world, and captured several international awards.

As the mother of Clay Jeter and the daughter of Clifton Coleman, Debra Coleman Jeter is uniquely qualified to tell their story. 

Where to connect with Debra Coleman Jeter

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Instagram: debracolemanjeter

Facebook: Debra Coleman Jeter

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Comments

Debra Jeter From Clarksville, TN At 1/15/2021 4:12:23 PM

Thanks, Nikki. My thanks to Linda for having me on Snark and Sensibility and for everyone who visits.

Nikki Wilbanks From TN At 1/15/2021 9:01:44 AM

Thanks for sharing! I love this description: subtle but dramatic spiritual transformation for both characters.

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