Friday, March 26, 2010

with Stephanie Grace Whitson

Patterings


Tell us about your epiphany moment when you decided you were going to seriously pursue writing and eventually publication.
When the protagonist in my first novel became a real person to me, I couldn't just put the book away until a later date, but I needed to. Our family business was growing by leaps and bounds, I was needed at that "job," and I just couldn't justify writing unless it helped the budget. Knowing very little about how to get published, I naively queried three Christian publishers listed in the Writers Market. Of those three publishers, one responded with a request for sample chapters and, eventually, the entire book (which I didn't have). A few months later, after I had sent about 2/3 of the book (remember, I didn't have time to write a book--which was the whole point at the time--get rejected and get on with real life) an editor left a voice mail on the house phone that Thomas Nelson wanted to offer me a contract. I was literally stunned. While I was very serious about the history that had inspired that first book, I honestly never expected to be published. Ever. I didn't have an "epiphany" about making writing my vocation until I received my second three book contract. By that time, the family had decided to close the business, our gift line product had been licensed, and I was free to write in my "spare time." We were home schooling four children and my husband was battling cancer, but the Lord enabled me to continue to write. Sixteen years and nineteen books later, He continues to provide contracts and I praise Him for that.

Which of your books (published or upcoming) has been the most fun for you to write and which character is your favorite?
Walks the Fire was the most fun, because I had no deadline at first. I was writing for the pure joy of writing and the pure joy of playing with "imaginary friends" I found fascinating. I had very little knowledge of the basics of the craft, and so I didn't agonize over the technical aspects of writing or second-guess myself like I do now.

I honestly don't have a favorite character. I have a few that I didn't like very much, but we've come to an understanding and I've promised not to insult them publicly :-).

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
I am my most difficult obstacle. One of my greatest talents is avoidance, and when it comes to writing that takes the guise of avoiding work. I talk about work. I blog about work. I write readers about working. I plan to work. And then the day is over and I realize I haven't actually worked, meaning I haven't written the day's word count. Overcoming it isn't complicated, but it isn't easy, either. Turn the ringer off on the house phone. Turn my cell phone off. Walk into the office, sit down, and CLOSE THE DOOR. Turn on the computer, open up a file, don't answer the doorbell, don't open the mail, don't don anything but WRITE. Simple. But difficult.

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?
Sixteen Brides tells the story of five different women and I love them all. I love Caroline's ability to move forward even when she's terrified, Sally's honesty, Ella's determination, Ruth's self-sacrificial attitude, and Hettie's willingness to use her talents to help others, even though doing so could threaten her own well being.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Well, I modeled in France, and I never did feel comfortable in that Rolls Royce or carrying that miniature poodle. As a prop, the poodle wasn't very cooperative. For a girl who was afraid of her own shadow and very shy, that was quite a coming out event. A girl friend got me into it--she actually had been a professional model--and at times I could have wrung her neck. But it turned out to be great fun and now it's a very nice memory. It also serves as evidence when I tell my oldest daughter, "You have my body. . . and I want it BACK!"

What is your strangest habit?
My habits all make perfect sense to me. What do you mean. . . strange ?

ROFL This just totally cracked me up, Stephanie! =)
Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?

Is the sky blue? Mending. Cleaning the garage. Weeding the garden. Cleaning the pond. Filing. Lifting weights. Fixing anything. Setting up a new computer or any other gadget. Mopping the floors. (Floors are not my strong point.)

What would a perfect day for you look like?

I could describe a half dozen perfect days, all of them very different, some of them in my home town, others in Paris or Captain Cook, Hawaii, or in Florence, Italy.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I'm an extremely eclectic reader. I keep a reading journal where I list the books I read and write a short reaction to the book. Last year I read everything from narrative history to biography to chic lit to suspense to historical fiction and beyond. This year's "to-be-read" pile includes memoirs, diaries, history books, romances, literary fiction titles, writing craft books. . . and the list goes on.

Are there certain foods or snacks keeps the words flowing for you?
Not really. Food is more of a deterrent because retrieving it gives me an excuse to leave the office. I do love a really nice cup of coffee, but I don't necessarily connect food with writing.

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
The theme of any given book usually doesn't emerge for me until I'm past the mid-point of the writing. Usually at some point there is a "eureka" moment as I mull over the plot and the characters, and that "eureka" usually involves finally understanding what the book is REALLY about in a spiritual sense, but I don't set out with a theme in mind. I begin with a needy character in a difficult place and then try to create a world in which that character will be brought to a place where they learn whatever spiritual lesson it is they need most. That might be salvation, it might not. It varies from story to story. Since I don't do a lot of plotting beyond the synopsis and I don't outline before I begin writing, the journey is usually as interesting for me as it is for my readers.

What lesson is the Lord teaching you right now or recently taught you?
I'm still working on so many lessons. Trusting Him with my children and knowing I don't have to worry the night away is a big one. As my children have become adults, their problems and challenges are still just as concerning to me as they were when I was actually responsible for their daily behavior and could generally rescue them from trouble. I've been blessed with godly children who love Jesus, but I still tend to worry over the challenges life brings their way. I tend to want to fix everything for them instead of letting God work in their lives in His time.

Since having cancer a few years ago, I find that it's easy to slip into worrying every time I have a little pain here or there. Cancer chances your life forever. Resting in the Lord about my personal health (which is excellent, by the way) is an ongoing challenge.

Now that I think about it, most of the lessons are about TRUST. I think once I've perfected trust, I'll probably wake up in heaven, because the Father will consider me "done."

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I'm working on my 2011 fiction release tentatively titled The Letter Box. It's a historical romance set right after the Civil War and it tells the story of a young woman who ignores reason and sets out on a quest to find a long-lost relative. The journey culminates in an accident that strands her in a very remote fledgling town in Montana where she's faced with a shocking revelation about her own past and the subsequent loss of just about everything she holds dear.

I also have a non-fiction book releasing with Kansas City Star books in 2011. Tentatively titled Home on the Plains: Quilts and the Sod House Experience, the book celebrates the courage and creativity of sod house homemakers. It features quilts known to have been used in sod houses along with patterns for making reproductions of some of those quilts. My research partner Kathy Moore and I have finished most of the historical research for the book. Now we're busy making quilts.

Thank you for being with us, Stephanie! I loved your interview!

Stephanie is giving away a copy of Sixteen Brides. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment and check back on Tuesday, April 6th to see if you've won. You can enter twice--once on each post in this spotlight. If you want to guarantee that you're notified if you win, then leave your email address in the comment, otherwise, you can just check back and email me through the button in my sidebar.
**Annoying little disclaimer: This giveaway is open only to U.S. addresses. By clicking on the Amazon link above or in the sidebar, and purchasing, I will receive a very small percentage of the sale.

9 comments:

  1. I was unaware of Civil War widows being sent West until the last couple months. This sounds like a great book to complete some of the history of that time! Please enter me.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed Stephanie's interview . . . I put off all things cleaning related also! This book is already on my wish list and I appreciate the chance to win a copy.

    cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is awesome about how she first got published. Please include me in the giveaway. Thanks. gasweetheart211[at]netscape[dot]net

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow! How wonderful to be able to write full-time. God has a way of working things.
    Your book looks so interesting. I can't wait to read it.
    Would love a chance.
    csdsksds[at]gmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous4:22 PM

    would love to read Stephanie's book...thanks for the chance :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  6. I enjoyed the interview! Looking forward to reading more of her books! Thanks!

    jumpforjoy at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just finished reading Sixteen Brides. Stephanie is one of my favorite authors. I was hooked after reading "Walks the Fire" many years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love brides going west stories, you know they had to have spunk to venture into the unknown. I'm looking forward to reading Sixteen Brides and hope to win it! Thanks for a chance.

    worthy2bpraised[at]gmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sounds like a good one...please enter me. Thanks!!!
    jackie.smith(at)dishmail(dot)net

    ReplyDelete

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