The Ticket by Debra Coleman Jeter

Posted by on Jul 10, 2015 | 13 comments

The Ticket by Debra Coleman Jeter

The Ticket is the debut full-length work of fiction by author, Debra Coleman Jeter, writer of many articles and stories, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as a nationally-acclaimed screen-play. This coming-of-age story is for both young adults and adults. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Debra better! Please leave a comment at the end of her interview and sign up on the Rafflecopter for even more chances to win a copy! 


Fabulous Fridays

Welcome, Debra! You are a busy lady with a lot of writing to your credit. Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

Thank you so much, Norma, for having me as your guest today. In answer to your question about my writing, I like looking at issues from multiple angles so I’m drawn to multiple points-of-view as a writer. As a reader, though, I know it’s sometimes off-putting when you’re just getting immersed in the story from one perspective and the author suddenly changes point-of-view on you. I like mystery but not who-dun-its, more the mystery in life itself or the “why” behind human behavior, which can be at times so inexplicable. This includes the “why” of mysteries; that is, what motivates the criminal mind? I have one work in progress in which a child jealous of a sibling and feeling slighted by his mother goes on to become a killer who — like all killers — finds ways to justify his actions. (No, it’s not the one about my grandmother. This is a different one, and this one is fiction.) More often, though I like to write about the “lesser” sins that plague most of us. I like to write about characters who are flawed but not beyond redemption. I like to write about, in the words of William Faulkner, the human heart in conflict with itself. I like to write about the ways in which we both are, and are not, the product of our upbringing, our past, and even the past of our parents and grandparents.

As for who I am, isn’t that what we’re all trying to figure out? I think this is the greatest mystery of all, and perhaps the foremost reason I love to write. Maybe, through my characters — who always contain a piece of me, whether it’s the hero of the villain — I hope to gain insight into myself, the foolish things I so often do, and the occasional glimpses of something noble.

You write a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction. How challenging is it to write so many different genres?The Ticket

It’s not particularly challenging from a writing perspective, but it’s likely to prove more challenging from a publishing perspective. I love to read authors who never allow their work to fall into a predictable pattern; and I think that, as writers, most of us aspire to write the kind of things we love to read.

What is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?

I think the biggest challenge is overcoming inertia. Another way of putting it is that I can be my own worst enemy. Sometimes I write daily for weeks on end. But then something will happen to interrupt the pattern; once that happens, it’s easy to let days and then weeks slip by before I get back to what I’m writing.

One of the challenges I faced in writing The Ticket was getting past inertia at the start of a writing day. For me, the first sentence of the day is almost always the one that comes hardest. The more I tell myself I need to get on with it, the harder it is to make my pen move (yes, I write the old-fashioned way using pen and paper). I didn’t discover any magic tricks here, though I tried copying a passage from a favorite novel a time or two. What I avoided was giving up for the day. Instead I would tell myself that I could always trash the pages later if they stunk, as I often suspected they would. Then I’d force myself to start moving my pen. As a part-time writer, I didn’t feel I had the luxury of waiting until later in the day. Usually, after the rough start, the words would start to flow. But not always. Some days I’d have to grind out every word. Later, though, I discovered surprises in both directions. When I would reread what I had written, the stuff I wrote when I felt inspired sometimes turned out to be lousy; and some of the most painfully written pages turned out to be pretty good.

Please share with us how The Ticket came about.

In novels and movies, you often see people who risk everything — their freedom, their families, their lives — in the pursuit of wealth. People are willing to steal, kill, etc. for it. When I read or watch these works, I typically think, “How foolish! I’m so thankful that’s not me”, or even “I would never do that.” Yet I also think how much of my own life — (how many minutes of the day or days of the year) is consumed thinking in some fashion about money. But would wealth really bring an alleviation of problems, or create new ones? I wrote The Ticket to explore how the sudden acquisition of wealth might affect a family struggling to get by.

I initially investigated this windfall from multiple points of view: the father, the grandmother, the mother, and the fourteen-year old daughter Tray, as well as that of the man who actually bought the lottery ticket and gifted it to Tray’s dad. However, a number of readers of the early draft indicated that they found Tray’s story and perspective to be the most compelling. At first I was reluctant to yield to this suggestion and instead re-crafted the story from the points of view of the three generations of women. Ultimately however, it emerged as a single perspective novel, as Tray’s story.

Why did you choose the particular theme in The Ticket? What were you trying to say to your readers?

My parents were children during the Depression, and they knew what it was like to have very little in the way of material things. Yet they never look back on that time as being anything other than blessed. Still they are very careful with money. I got to thinking about how easy it is for people of our generation to get obsessed with wealth and the things it can buy. People sometimes risk their families, their freedom, even their lives in its pursuit. But would it really bring happiness? I wanted to explore this issue. I pray about having success with various things I’ve worked on, (if it’s God’s will), and this is the one where some success seems to be happening…SO FAR at least.

There are actually two important messages. One is that wealth might not bring all the good things we sometimes envision and might create more problems than it solves. The second message is to treasure the moments with your loved ones; we never know how long we will have them in our lives.

You are targeting teen audiences with The Ticket? What would you say to parents about why their kids should read this book?

The Ticket deals with some tough, realistic issues. The situation referred to in one controversial scene—where a sexual predator makes advances to Tray—is one that arises all too often, and I think it’s important for young women or boys who might face something like this in their lives to know that it’s not their fault. They are not alone. They should not feel ashamed. Ideally, I’d like for my book to open a dialogue within families about how to handle such a situation should it arise.

I don’t mean to give the impression that only bad things happen to Tray in The Ticket, or that the controversial scene lies at the heart of the novel. The Ticket is about a family that wins the lottery. While the win itself doesn’t provide the happiness they long for, good does come to Tray in various ways. A new girl at school turns out to be Tray’s dear friend. A boy she has a crush on begins to pay her some attention. Her relationship with her dad is strengthened. And, little by little, Tray becomes a more confident young woman who believes in her ability to survive the tough things that sometimes come our way in life. 

How do characters come to life in your mind?

I do a lot of groundwork before I start writing the novel. I write pages of physical descriptions, pages on their dreams and desires, pages on their habits and mannerisms, what they like, what they dislike, their wardrobe, etc.

When I was writing The Ticket, I got totally absorbed in my characters and their lives. As a part-time writer with lots of other demands on my time, I learned to scribble thoughts on anything and everything whenever a sentence, a phrase, or an idea struck. It might be on a napkin in the middle of a business lunch, or on a scrap of paper in my handbag during my commute (not a recommended strategy, from a safety perspective), or on an order of worship during a sermon. I can’t always explain where or why an idea comes to me when it does, but I tried to take advantage of every one if at all possible. If I’d wait, thinking, “I couldn’t possibly forget this one,” I might surprise myself with my capacity for forgetting.

If you could spend the day with a character from your all-time favorite novel, who would it be and what would you do?

I think I’d choose Raskolnikov from The Ticket. I would like to talk with him about how he finally got past the guilt over killing the two women. If he could find redemption, there’s hope for all of us! 

Which do you think is more important: to entertain or teach/inform?

That’s really a tough question. I think the best way to teach or inform is often by entertaining. I don’t like to smack readers in the face with a message. I like for them to reflect on things in their own lives that the struggles of my characters may shed light on, or help them to see differently or more clearly.

What’s next for you?

I have two adult novels almost ready to go; they are set in the fictional town of Sugar Sands, Alabama, a small Southern beach town. I am also currently writing an ambitious saga about my grandmother’s life, which is based on the facts that I know, but fictionalized. I start when she is twelve and cover fifty years of her life.

Please share the first scene of The Ticket with us.

Here’s a summary of the 1st scene after the prologue, followed by the actual first scene:

Tray’s dad finds her reading a novel, one of her favorite pastimes, and demands to know why she isn’t outside playing like any “normal kid” her age. She flees, as is her habit, to Gram for comfort. She confides in Gram about a party to which she wasn’t invited. Gram tells Tray she’s going to be a knockout someday. Tray thinks: Someday. Someday. Doesn’t Gram know anything? Someday doesn’t matter. Someday isn’t here, may never be here. What can she do about now?

Paradise, Kentucky

September 1975

Chapter One

I am content, curled on the sofa with the afternoon light streaming in through the picture windows, warming me as I allow myself to be carried away to Egypt, where I am a beautiful, dark-skinned, blue-eyed spy deeply in love with a dashing adventurer. But, even more, I am deeply committed to my cause and uncertain on which side of the political fracas my love’s true allegiance lies. I must not—I cannot—be swept totally by the passion that threatens to consume my soul …

So when my father charges through the door, reeking of stale coffee and fatigue, I momentarily forget who or where I am and am taken by surprise.

I look up, and our eyes meet. He sighs and turns away without a word. Then he whirls back to face me. He strides to my side, jerks the book from my hands, throws it on the floor so that I cry out.

“Why aren’t you outside playing like any normal kid?” he barks. “What’s the matter with you?”

Before I can think of a reply—I am still in transit, being jerked from the beauty and passion of the Nile spy to the awkwardness of my fourteen-year-old body—he is gone, leaving me bookless and defenseless. In that instant, the real me is back: pale skin splattered with angry, reddish acne spots, frizzy dark hair, long, narrow face, thin legs and arms.

I blink back tears and bend to retrieve the discarded book, smooth out the new crease in its spine. Then I fling it back to the floor, trying not to cringe when it slaps the worn beige carpet at a precarious angle.

“Gram,” I moan. My long skinny legs assume a life of their own, carrying me to the refuge of my grandmother’s room, where I flop onto Gram’s bed with a heavy sigh.

Book Blurb:

Tray Dunaway longs to be part of the popular set at school, but she’s growing too fast and her clothes no longer fit right. When she wears Gram’s hand-sewn clothes to school, the kids make fun of her tall, boney appearance. Tray’s luck improves when Pee Wee Johnson, a down-and-out friend of her father’s, buys two lottery tickets and gives one to Mr. Dunaway as a thank-you for driving him to Hazard, Illinois. When her father’s ticket turns out to be the winner, Johnson demands his cut of the proceeds, but Tray’s dad refuses. What seems like a stroke of good fortune suddenly becomes a disturbing turn of events as Johnson threatens to cause problems for the family and Tray.

About the author:

Debra Coleman JeterA Vanderbilt University professor, Debra Coleman Jeter has published fiction and nonfiction in popular magazines, including Working Woman, New Woman, Self, Home Life, Savvy, Christian Woman, and American Baby. Her story, “Recovery,” won first prize in a Christian Woman short story competition, and her nonfiction book ”Pshaw, It’s Me Grandson” : Tales of a Young Actor was a finalist in the 2007 USA Book News Awards. She is a co-writer of the screenplay for Jess + Moss, a feature film which premiered in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival, screened at nearly forty film festivals around the world, and captured several international awards. She lives in Clarksville, Tennessee, with her husband.

Connect with Debra:


Book Trailer:

Facebook Author Page:



Twitter: @DebColemanJeter

Book Links:


Barnes & Noble:

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas:

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  1. Mrs/Miss Coleman Jeter, I was completely mesmerized by your comprehensive and compelling answers to Norma’s questions. As I read your answer to the first question all I could think was, “I need to read what this woman writes.” I read many genres of literature, but I am most thrilled when there is a convergence of many genres in one literary work. While The Ticket may be targeted to a teen audience, I have no doubt that I will enjoy it. At 45 and the mom of a 16 year old daughter, I read YA nearly equal to what I read in adult lit and not only because I have a 16 year old. It’s also for the pure enjoyment of a good book. There has been such a shift in contemporary young adult fiction and the writing has increased in quality far surpassing most of what was available to me as a teen. This makes me terribly excited to read your current book and also share it with my daughter. I truly hope that you encounter great success with this book. I went ahead and “followed” you on Amazon so I can keep up with any new releases.

    Norma, thank you again for stepping outside the box of most author blogs and bringing a quality author to an as yet untapped audience. A good day for me is finding such an author, reading their work and sharing it.

    Terrill Rosado

    • Thank you for such a heartfelt comment, Terrill! I know it will bless Debra as it has me.

    • Debra is having MOSE surgery today on a small basal cell carcinoma on her chin, and she is dictating this to me (Norman): Terrill, I can’t tell you how much your comments mean to me. It has been my dream for so long to reach readers through my writing, and it is thrilling that it is beginning to happen. Like you, I love reading YA books and believe they have improved a lot in recent years. You have warmed my heart and made my day brighter.

      • I will pray for you today, Debra, and the outcome of your surgery. I will also pray for you and Norma as you both present your writing to the public (now and in the future) and that it honors the Lord and blesses it’s readers.

        • Thank you so much, Terrill! That means so much! Promoting books is hard work and can be very discouraging at times. You are a blessing!

          • Norma, Thank you so much for hosting me on your webpage. You do a great honor to me and other writers, and I know it’s a lot of work for you on top of your own writing commitments. I’ll keep you in my prayers!

          • Thank you so much, Debra! I appreciate it. I hope you are recovering well. It’s a blessing to give back a little of what LOC has given to me!

  2. I love the idea that the author uses her writing to figure out things about herself. I often discover characters in literature that make me think about my own actions, attitudes, and motivations.

    • Thanks for taking time to comment, Nikki! That is such a blessing to an author!

  3. I love the story line – the truth that wealth doesn’t bring happiness – and I like that there is a controversial plot line in here too. We need to talk about the tough stuff!

    • So true, Gina!

  4. and so rare to see a GOOD Christian book these days 😀

  5. Thanks, Gina and Coupon Diva! I love hearing from you (you too, Norma!)

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