Interview with Andra Watkins, author of Not Without My Father



Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She’s still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. In addition to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.

Her latest book is the memoir, NotWithout My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace.

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About the Book:

Title: Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace
Author: Andra Watkins
Publisher: Word Hermit Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Memoir
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?

Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

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  • Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Q: Welcome back to The Writer’s Life, Andra.  We enjoyed having here just after your first book, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, was released.  Now you’re back with another exciting book and this is all about the journey you took to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace.  Why did you decide to write a book about your journey?

Andra: I undertook the Natchez Trace walk to launch To Live Forever. It was a unique way to launch a book, plus I thought it might be fun, which shows how stupid I am. I never wanted to write a memoir. But the tension and travails of walking for a month while living with my 80-year-old father became a compelling reason to pen this memoir.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this?  I understand you had your father with you.  Is he a writer, too?

Andra: The required honesty, the personal revelations and the admission of struggles make this book the hardest thing I've ever written. With fiction, a reader can pan the book, and I don't take it personally. But with memoir? If people don't like the book, they don't like me.

Yes! My 80-year-old father accompanied me, which contributed much to the experience. He's a natural storyteller, but if his stories get written, I do the writing.

Q: I know you had so many new experiences during your hike that it would fill a book (and it did, lol), but can you give us a glimpse of what it was like?

Andra: I walked 15 miles a day for 34 days, with one rest day each week. Dad dropped me at my first milepost and picked me up 15 miles later......when he remembered. Not only did I battle my lack of preparation and pathetic excuse for athleticism, but I also confronted the maddening, dysfunctional relationship I've had with my dad. We argued and struggled while I crawled and cried. I wondered whether we'd kill each other before we finished. It was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done, but I'm really glad I did it. 

Q: Could you tell us a little about Word Hermit Press?  How did you find out about them?

Andra: Word Hermit Press has been around for over a year now. I was looking for a way to get my books to market and still have some say in creative direction, and I found them at the perfect time. It helped that they're in my hometown. They're small, and I still take responsibility for selling my books. But they set up my books on all platforms. They distribute through Ingram's Lightning program, giving my books entree into any bookstore or library out there.

Q: What can you say you learned about publishing your first book that helped with the second book?  Any surprises?

Andra: I'm more organized with the second book. We pitched advance copies to numerous national outlets and got some takers, which will be huge. I'm better at crafting marketing materials, and I'm slowly getting comfortable with selling myself. It's so awkward to talk about my books, but the experience of making Not Without My Father gave me a platform to talk about US, about the things we can all learn from my experience.

The five weeks I spent walking became less about me and my book and more about rediscovering my father and working to rebuild our relationship. We made such a treasure of memories that I'll have forever. When he's gone, I won't be left with I wish I had. I'll smile through tears and know I'm glad I did.

I hope to encourage readers to Make a Memory with someone they love while they still can. In our busy, overwhelmed world, everyone needs that message.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Andra: Readers, turn I wish I had into I'm glad I did in 2015. Participate in the Not Without My Father Make a Memory campaign and make a memory with someone while you still can.

Here's how Make a Memory works.

Take to social media and invite someone to Make a Memory with you - by picture, video or gif. Tag your invite #NWMFMakeaMemory, because we'll be featuring your invites at andrawatkins.com. Your public invitation will hold you accountable, and it will give us a way to follow up and find out about your Memory. An hour. A day. A weekend. Make a Memory that will last a lifetime.

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