Tuesday, April 06, 2010
I never consciously write myself into my characters, but I know it happens whether I plan it or not. As I think back over my writing life, I realize that my character's fears and worries are usually things I've experienced, as are their faith questions and struggles, but then those aspects of my characters are also fairly universal to women in every place and time.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Learning to ride a motorcycle as a 50-something-year-old—and loving it.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I have always written. I was the weird kid in school who loved writing assignments of every kind, especially research papers. Two things eventually made it possible for me to tell people "I'm a writer" and not feel like I was "putting on airs." First, having my name come up when I did an author search at the local public library and second, receiving the contract for my second three book series.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I'm a very eclectic reader. I keep a reading journal where I list books I've read and write a brief response—what I liked or didn't like, etc. My 2009 list includes everything from non-fiction to suspense, contemporary women's fiction, historical fiction, murder mystery, gentle reads, end times fiction, Pulitzer winners, and biography. So far this year I've concentrated on non-fiction (I'm working on my master's degree) and obscure biographies as background research for a novel proposal.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Sixteen Brides is my eighteenth novel. God has blessed me with a publisher for every book so far. I have a quilt history book coming out next year that hasn't been titled yet, but I'd love to hear from people who would be interested in receiving an e-mail when it's released next April. It pays tribute to 19th century sod house homemakers on the Great Plains by showing off their quilts and providing instructions for making reproductions of some of the gorgeous pieces unearthed during the research to document quilts used in sod houses. At any rate, here's the booklist so far:
Walks the Fire, Soaring Eagle, Red Bird, Sarah's Patchwork, Karyn's Memory Box, Nora's Ribbon of Memories, Valley of the Shadow, Edge of the Wilderness, Heart of the Sandhills, Secrets on the Wind, Watchers on the Hill, Footprints on the Horizon, Unbridled Dreams, A Claim of Her Own, Sixteen Brides.
A Garden in Paris, A Hilltop in Tuscany, Jacob's List.
How to Help a Grieving Friend: A Candid Guide for Those Who Care
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
It's easier now than it was when my children were young and I was home schooling all four of them, living on an acreage, and running a home based business. As I've matured I've found it easier to focus, because I have become more conscious of how short life is and how little time I have left to accomplish the things that really matter to me. I try to be intentional about simplifying my life and eliminating merely "good" activities that might keep me from the best possible use of my time. In recent years I've also been intentional about getting rid of possessions that, because of the care they require, seem to "own me" instead of the other way around.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Building two happy marriages (my first husband died in 2001. We were married for nearly 28 years. The Lord provided new love and we've been married for almost seven years).
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Something graceful. . . because I'm not. Maybe a Lipizzan. If all the foibles translated, I'd be. . . .hhhmmm. . . . a three-legged one-eyed dog named Lucky.
What is your favorite food?
Yes. Except for anchovies.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Self discipline is the greatest roadblock and I haven't overcome it yet. Having written is so much easier than writing.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Continue to read widely, because reading informs writing in a way nothing else can. Write every day, and if you are writing fiction, get a copy of Sol Stein's Stein on Writing, Browne and King's Self Editing for Fiction Writers, and James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. Those three books together provide a superb education.
Tell us about the featured book?
Sixteen Brides was inspired by a 1902 newspaper article that said: "ATTRACTIVE WIDOWS--Another cargo of war widows arrived in Gordon last Wednesday morning, sixteen in number and filed upon claims adjacent to town. This was decidedly the best lot of widows that has arrived thus far."
I just had to know the story behind that article, and researching it became "the rest of the story."
Please give us the first page of the book.
A man's heart deviseth his ways: but the Lord directeth his steps.
As the carriage pulled away from Union Station, Caroline Jamison almost panicked and called out to the driver. Wait! Don't go! I've changed my mind! Take me home! Her heart racing, Caroline forced herself to turn away. St. Louis isn't home. And home doesn't want you. Daddy told you that in his last letter. Still, there were times when she entertained a desperate few minutes of hope. But what if I was standing right there on the veranda. Would he really turn me away? If I told him I was sorry. . . that he was right. . . if I begged. . . what then?
For just a moment the possibility that her father might forget everything and pull her into his arms made Caroline feel almost dizzy with joy. But then she remembered. It had been five years since she'd opened that last envelope, and still she could recite the terse few lines of the last letter posted from Mulberry Plantation.
We received word today. Langdon joins his two brothers in glory. Your mother has taken to her bed. The idea that any--or all--of these deeds may have been committed by one their sister calls HUSBAND--
The sentence wasn't finished. Caroline still remembered touching the spot where the ink trailed off towards the edge of the paper, a meandering line that wrenched her heart as she pictured Daddy seated at his desk, suddenly overcome by such a deep emotion he couldn't control his own hand.
We are bereft of children now. May God have mercy on your soul.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
http://www.stephaniewhitson.com/ and soon. . . . http://www.footnotesfromhistory.blogspot.com/
Stephanie, thank you for spending this time with us.
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