Thursday, April 21, 2011
It’s a little scary in a blessing sort of way. I have a new nomination for the Oregon Book Awards, and a wonderful review of my latest on the Pioneer Woman blog, a Publisher’s Weekly short feature and a contemporary book coming out this fall in addition to a novella and my latest, A Daughter’s Walk. Some years ago a woman suggested that as my career moved forward I’d need a prayer team. So I have five special women who pray for me and my work, that it will reach the hands (or ears!) of those who would find healing and hope inside the stories. So that’s what I see on the horizon: good support, hopefully great stories to tell, and gratitude for what has already transpired.
Tell us a little about your family.
I’ve been married to Jerry for almost 35 years. He’s 16 years older than I am and often as...persevering as I am. We have great fun together and he is the love of my life. He had three children from a previous marriage so I have two living step children, Katy in Florida and Matt who lives near our ranch in Oregon. Between them we have five grandchildren and one great. My only brother lives in Red Wing, Minnesota, with his family and we talk every week. He and his wife have kept us connected and I feel like his two sons are my grandkids in a way, too. My sister passed away 12 years ago and her two sons also have kids though one lives in Florida and the other in Oregon and we’ve been privileged to be a part of their lives. And of course we have two dogs who are part of the family…Caesar a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bodacious Bo who is a wire-haired pointing griffon. Bo has his own blog http://www.bodaciousbothedog.blogspot.com/ and he has more followers than I do!
Has your writing changed your reading habits?
If so, how? I read more eclectically and not just historical novels that I write. I love mysteries and I read a lot of nonfiction, biographies especially. I tend to read fiction just before I go to bed so it takes me along time to finish a book I think! Daytime reading is devoted to research reading. I also read more books about “how to write” even now feeling like there is always more to learn. I’m also more likely to ask as I’ve finished a book that has moved me “How did the author do that?” Whereas before I began writing I’d read just for the joy and not ask that question.
What are you working on right now?
I have a couple of projects. My next novel with a working title of The Lilac Lady is about a woman who taught herself horticulture and managed to hybridize nearly 250 new varities of lilacs but that’s only part of her story. You’ll have to wait for the rest of it. I’m finishing final edits for my contemporary book about a writer who mistakes fame for fulfillment and I have a novella as part of A Log Cabin Christmas coming out this fall that is in edits. And then I’m also working on a Midwife novella along with three other authors. That’s a new challenge for me and so far it’s been fun! It’ll be out in 2012.
What outside interests do you have?
I love music and theater though we’ve lived far away from access to both for 26 years. We recently moved from our remote ranch to a more suburban area and I’m looking forward to attending concerts and stage performances. It’s another art form, another story-telling. I also have a passion for Native American issues after working on a reservation in mental health for 17 years. I hope to re-involve myself with those tribes now that I’m living more closely.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
The characters choose most of the settings since most of my novels are based on the lives of actual people. But my contemporary is set in the Midwest where I grew up and the novella is set in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I’ve never lived there but the history is wonderful and the landscape and sense of place is one of the four elements that I think are woven into the fabric of story the other three being spirituality, relationships and a character’s work.
The book I'm writing right now is set in and around Oregon City in Oregon in 1885. I've been doing a lot of research on that area. If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
Jane Adams. She developed the concept of social work, reaching out to those in need and helping them discover their true potential. I think that’s important work and I’d love to hear what she thinks about how her work brought about a profession and what she thinks is still important work to be done.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
I wish I’d known the three questions I now ask myself before I start writing: what’s my intention; what’s my attitude; and what’s my purpose in writing this story. And then I wish I’d understood that God is in control of what happens after the story is finished.
It took me a while to understand about God's control over every book I write as well. What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
The importance of provision, that God provides every aspect of our lives whether it’s story ideas or that missing word or the impact the story might have on a reader. I also believe he is teaching me to trust more, to relax better and to play harder.
Take time each day before writing to have a time of prayer and identify areas of gratitude; answer those three questions I mentioned above and get them down to one sentence each to attach to their computers while they write; and make a commitment to write and then keep that commitment.
Tell us about the featured book?
The Daughter’s Walk is set in 1896 and is the story of an actual walk made by a mother and daughter who walked from Spokane, WA to NYC within 7 months hoping to win $10,000 from the fashion industry. The money would save the family farm. When I read about the actual walk, I was struck by a side note that said when they returned, the 18-year-old daughter, Clara, changed her last name and separated herself from the family for more than 20 years. I wanted to know how that walk touched their lives, what happened that caused the schism and what kind of reconciliation did they have. So it’s a story of family hopes and disappointments and how we often walk the same path as our parents even when we set out to do something very different.
Sounds intriguing. Please give us the first page of the book.
Mica Creek, Washington State, March 1901
Go back! Just go back!” The woman glared at the dog, who stopped, his tail down, ears tipped forward in confusion.
“You can’t come with me,” she said. “I’m not part of this family anymore.” Her voice cracked at the truth that now defined her life. Heavy, wet snow fell on the solemn pair. The dog failed to obey. Even in this she was powerless. She looked at the window, hoping her mother or sister might wave. No one. She returned to the dog.
“Go back. Please.” She pointed, her voice breaking. “Go, Sailor. Go home.” The dog curled his bushy tail between his legs and then turned, walking toward the farmhouse now shrouded in snow. He looked back once, but she pointed and he continued back to the family as she’d ordered.
The woman bit her lip to avoid crying, then stuffed the packet close to her chest to keep the papers dry. She pulled her fur coat around her. Maybe she shouldn’t have worn it; maybe her success offended them and that’s why they’d refused.
The wind shifted, drove pelting snow into her face. She’d forgotten her umbrella at the house. It mattered little; she’d left so much more behind. She trudged toward the railroad tracks, taking her first steps into exile.
My name is Clara Estby, and for my own good, my mother whisked me away. Well, for the good of our family too, she insisted. Trying to stop her proved useless, because when an idea formed in her Norwegian head, she was like a rock crib anchoring a fence: strong and sturdy and unmovable once it’s set. I tried to tell her, I did. We all did. But in the end, we succumbed to her will and I suppose to her hopefulness, never dreaming it would lead where it did. I certainly never imagined I’d walk a path so distant from the place where I began.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, telling stories out of sequence, something a steady and careful woman like me should never do.
It began on an April morning in 1896, inside our Mica Creek farmhouse at the edge of the rolling Palouse Hills of eastern Washington State, when my mother informed me that we would be walking from Spokane to New York City. Walking, mind you, when there were perfectly good trains a person could take. Walking—nearly four thousand miles to earn ten thousand dollars that would save our farm from foreclosure. Also to prove that a woman had stamina. Also to wear the new reform dress and show the freedom such garments offered busy, active, sturdy women.
Freedom. The only merit I saw in the shorter skirts and absence of corsets was that we could run faster from people chasing us for being foolish enough to embark on such a trek across the country, two women, alone.
We were also making this journey to keep me “from making a terrible mistake,” Mama told me. I was eighteen years old and able to make my own decisions, or so I thought. But not this one.
Mama stood stiff as a wagon tongue, her back to my father and me, drinking a cup of coffee that steamed the window. I could see my brother Olaf outside, moving the sheep to another field with the help of Sailor, our dog, dots of white like swirling cotton fluffs bounding over an ocean of green. Such a bucolic scene about to reveal hidden rocks beneath it.
“We are going to walk to New York City, Clara, you and I.”
“What?” I’d entered the kitchen, home for a weekend from my work as a domestic in Spokane. My mother had walked four hundred miles a few years earlier to visit her parents in a time of trial. We’d all missed her, and no one liked taking over her many duties that kept the family going. But walk to New York City?
“Why would we walk, and why are we going at all?” I had plans for the year ahead, and I figured it would take us a year to make such a trek.
My father grunted. “She listens to no one, your mother, when ideas she gets into her head.”
“Mama, you haven’t thought this through,” I said.
My mother turned to face us, her blue eyes intense. “It’s not possible to work out every detail in life, but one has to be bold. Did we know you’d find work in Spokane when we left Minnesota? No. Did we think we’d ever own our own farm? No. These are good things that happened because we took a chance and God allowed it.”
Since I'm part Norwegian and I love the premise and opening, I must read this book. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I’m on facebook www.facebook.com/theauthorjanekirkpatrick.
My website is http://www.jkbooks.com/ where you’ll also find links to my blog http://www.janeswordsofencouragment.blogspot.com/;
People can also sign up for my Story Sparks newsletter there that comes out once a month and features books I’ve read and loved as well as news about my writing life. I’m on Twitter and have a connection to Randomhouse.com and WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers and of course my dog Bodacious Bo has that blog!
Thank you, Jane, for sharing this interesting information with us. I'm sure the readers will want to get ahold of your book right away.
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