Monday, May 24, 2010
I write quite a bit of myself into my characters. And for some reason that tends to come out in their flaws. Hmm…what does that say about me, I wonder? However, the reverse is also true. I see my characters influencing me as well. For example, my heroine, Hannah, is addicted to her morning cup of breakfast cocoa. While I wrote A Tailor-Made Bride, I found myself drinking more hot chocolate than ever before. Yum!
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Eat tuna fish and Pringle sandwiches. Yep, the chips were on the sandwich. I tried this during those wonderful junior high years when the wings of experimentation are just beginning to unfurl. I liked it so much, I started eating it every day. Of course, I never told my mom. I'd just sneak the chips onto my sandwich when the school lunch bell rang. I haven't had one in years. Maybe I should see if I have the proper ingredients in my pantry...
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I'm not one of those authors who always knew they were a writer. Although in the third grade, I did write and illustrate a stunningly magnificent book entitled The Great Ball of Purple about an astronaut who discovered a purple planet full of purple people, inspired by none other than the classic song, Purple People Eater.
No, for me, I always knew I was a reader. My mom used to have to force me out of hiding to socialize when we had guests because I preferred sitting in my room with my stack of library books for company. I would daydream romantic storylines, and when I grew into an adult, I started jotting those ideas down in a journal. Maybe someday I would give writing a try.
Then in 2003, my husband discovered he was losing his job. I had three pre-school children at home. Perhaps now was that someday I'd been waiting for. Six months later, both my husband and I had new full-time jobs, but by this time the writing bug had bitten hard. I haven't been able to shake it since.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I am an historical romance reader through-and-through. It is all I read and all I write, truly my passion. I love the 19th century American west, but I also enjoy regency stories, and medieval settings. Rugged cowboys, dashing lords, fierce warriors—what's not to love?
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
A Tailor-Made Bride is my third completed novel and my first published book to be released. My second completed novel, now titled Head in the Clouds, will be released in October. I seem to be going backwards, don't I?
It is ironic how things sometimes work out. In 2007, I submitted my first completed novel to Bethany House, a manuscript entitled Fire By Night. They liked the writing and asked for the full manuscript but ended up not offering me a contract because they felt the plot was not original enough to launch a new author. However, Charlene Patterson (now my editor) said there was one element she really liked—the dress shop. Could I come up with a new story centering around this dress shop? Now you've got to understand, in the original manuscript, the dress shop burned to the ground in the prologue. How crazy is that? Build an entire story around a dress shop that didn't even survive five pages in the original? But I had a nibble from an editor, and I wasn't about to let it go. So I put together a new synopsis from scratch, and that story became A Tailor-Made Bride. So I've come full circle.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Pray. Pray. Pray.
In addition to that, my family keeps me grounded. They have a way of clarifying my priorities. They don't care if I publish a book or not; they simply love me for who I am. No publishing contract can validate me more than that.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I had so much fun choosing the name Jericho for my hero. It is a strong, masculine name, but beyond that it has great biblical symbolism that fits his character. Because of painful experiences in his past, he has built walls around his heart. And just like the city that Joshua conquered, Jericho's walls eventually come tumbling down when the right woman lays siege.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Naturally, I am extremely proud of publishing my debut novel, but deep down, I am most proud of being wife to Wes and mother to the three best kids anyone could ask for.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
This question makes me laugh. In grade school one of my close friends and I decided we would choose unique animals for our favorites. Most of the other girls chose horses or kittens or puppy dogs. We wanted no part in that. She selected the armadillo, and I latched onto the stately hippopotamus. I even traveled to Africa on a mission trip once and started a collection of carved hippo figurines. However, as a woman who will admit to being a tad self-conscious about her appearance, I can't quite manage to answer that I see myself as a hippopotamus. That doesn't paint a terribly flattering picture, does it?
So instead of a hippo, I'm going to say that I am a kangaroo. With three young children who love to have Mama carry them around (even though they're getting much too big for that), many times I feel like I have my own pouch. Or should. And since motherhood fills such a large part of my identity, I wanted to select an animal that emphasized that nurturing aspect. In the Hundred Acre Wood, I would definitely be Kanga.
Although, just to set the record straight, I do not have big feet. LOL
What is your favorite food?
Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Those of you who are from the south will understand the importance of the Blue Bell brand. I grew up in California and had never heard of Blue Bell until I came to Abilene, Texas, for college. Oh, the sweetness I'd been missing. Except for my husband, Blue Bell ice cream is my favorite Texas discovery.
I discovered a new Blue Bell flavor last year--Chocolate Covered Cherry. Yum. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Plotting. Definitely. I have never considered myself a creative person. I enjoy creative expression (I sing, cross stitch, play the flute), but every artistic outlet I've found success with in the past had specific instructions to follow. Music has notes. Cross stitch has a pattern. The first time I changed the color palette on a cross-stitch design, I thought the stress was going to send me to bed for a week! So when it came to creating an original plot, I feared I would never be able to do it.
That's where prayer comes in. I pray over my writing every day. I ask the Lord to guide me and inspire me with entertaining and spiritually-moving stories that will touch hearts for his Kingdom. I even pray in the middle of a paragraph if I cannot find the right word. It is amazing to me how often the needed word will pop into my mind minutes later. I give the Lord full credit for the creativity in my stories, for I know it sure didn't originate with me.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
You must be committed to mastering the craft, tenacious in submitting your work, flexible enough to move when the industry moves, and grounded enough in who you are as a person and as a child of God not to lose heart when rejection comes. Accept the lessons of humility you learn now, for you will need them later when you find success.
Tell us about the featured book.
A Tailor-Made Bride is set in 1880s Texas. Sparks fly when a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity.
Here's the blurb from the catalog:
Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with Coventry, Texas's new dressmaker. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothing, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.
Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?
When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to uproarious consequences for the whole town--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?
Please give us the first page of the book.
San Antonio, Texas – March, 1881
"Red? Have you no shame, Auntie Vic? You can't be buried in a scarlet gown."
"It's cerise, Nan."
Hannah Richards bit back a laugh as Victoria Ashmont effectively put her nephew's wife in her place with three little words. Trying hard to appear as if she weren't listening to her client's conversation, Hannah pulled the last pin from between her lips and slid it into the hem of the controversial fabric.
"Must you flout convention to the very end?" Nan's whine heightened to a near screech as she stomped toward the door. A delicate sniff followed by a tiny hiccup foreshadowed the coming of tears. "Sherman and I will be the ones to pay the price. You'll make us a laughingstock among our friends. But then, you've never cared for anyone except yourself, have you?"
Miss Victoria pivoted with impressive speed, the cane she used for balance nearly clobbering Hannah in the head as she spun.
"You may have my nephew wrapped around your little finger, but don't think you can manipulate me with your theatrics." Like an angry goddess from the Greek myths, Victoria Ashmont held her chin at a regal angle and pointed her aged hand toward the woman who dared challenge her. Hannah was surprised a lightning bolt didn't shoot from her finger to disintegrate Nan where she stood.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I would love to have readers visit my Web site at: http://karenwitemeyer.com/ . You can find fun information about the hobbies and interests of the characters featured in A Tailor-Made Bride as well free giveaways like bookmarks and a download for a biblical fiction piece inspired by the life of Rahab.
You can also find me on Facebook. Come by and visit any time. I'd love to hear from you!
Thank you, Karen, for this glimpse into your life.
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