Monday, April 19, 2010

Interview with Young Adult Fiction Author Kathi Oram Peterson

Kathi Oram Peterson was born in the small town of Rigby, Idaho. After winning the Heart of the West (1994) and Golden Pen (1995) contests, she put her writing on hold to finish her English degree. After graduation, this small town author now devotes her time writing inspirational fiction for young adults.

Hello my Fellow Idahoan! As you know, I'm from Idaho, as well. What a wonderful state! I’m so happy to have this opportunity to interview you. In “The Forgotten Warrior,” your main character travels back in time to 66 AD. When Sydney finds herself among the ancient American Indians, what happens next? Give us a synopsis of your book and tell us how you came up with the idea of time travel.

Sydney Morgan is a sixteen-year-old girl, who has a black belt in karate. She's going through some hard times in her life and just when she thinks it can't get worse she's thrown back in time to Captain Helaman and the stripling warriors battling the Lamanites. There's a little romance, and of course, some fighting. In fact, Helaman eventually asks Syd to help train the stripling warriors to fight. The book is told in two points of view: Syd's and a stripling warrior named Tarik.

My son helped me come up with the idea. I had just finished writing another YA time-travel (The Stone Traveler, which will be released this August) and asked him what he thought I should write about. He told me, "No brainer...the stripling warriors."

Well, I wanted this novel to have a strong young woman in it. So this had me thinking, wouldn't it be interesting to have a young woman who could really fight and teach the stripling warriors. They were boys and yet they were men because they fought against a mighty foe. Since my son is a second-degree black belt, I knew I could use him to make Syd's karate ability believable. Plus, I wanted a little romance. For me, every story has to have a little romance. ;)

I love the description of your main character: “Sydney Morgan: Holder of a black-belt, this head-strong and quick-tempered sixteen-year-old inherited her mother's Shoshone Indian features and her father's Caucasian stubbornness.” I love strong women characters. When Sydney is thought to be a boy by the ancient Americans, why does she continue the disguise? Could you please elaborate for us? (In Shakespeare’s “The Twelfth Night,” Viola poses as a boy, as does Sydney. Do you have a little of “Twelfth Night” in your story?)

Good question. For the time period that Sydney goes back to, women did not go to battle. Their job was to take care of their family, do the cooking, gathering, raising children, etc. Because I gave Syd a black belt, I wanted her right in the thick of battle. I also wanted her with the stripling warriors as much as possible and for all this to happen they had to think she was a boy. Plus, the warriors would have had a hard time taking instructions on how to do combat from a woman. It was best to keep her in disguise. I haven't read Twelfth Night for a very long time. I'll have to check and see if my story is similar.

Where did you get your ideas? Do you get most of them from scriptural history? Give us some examples.

Ideas come from many places. For my YA books that travel back in time, the scriptures influenced me on what to write. My next book, The Stone Traveler, takes a sixteen-year-old boy back in time. I've always been fascinated with Christ visiting the Americas after his cruxificion and knew that I wanted this story to work around that glorious event.

I've also written another time-travel that takes a brother and sister back in time when Christ was born. However, they go to different places. The sister ends up in the belly of a Roman battleship and the brother goes to a shepherd's family. I'm still writing this book, but it's nearly finished. I have scenes at the nativity and also with the wisemen. Writing this book has been a wonderful journey.

Do you use an outline when you write or play it by ear?

I start with an idea, then people the idea with characters I love. I've used an outline, but if a better idea strikes, I'll follow it. Usually, before I sit down to write the actual book, I know how I want to begin and end the story. And as the book unfolds I build the tension with each chapter. I research as I write. I know that's odd, but it works for me.

Reviewers come by the dozens and they have their opinions, but when you receive a fan letter from a young adult who is the same age as your character, to me that is what proves the merit of your writing. You write for young adults and so they should be the reviewers! I loved the fan letter you received: “I am a 16 year old girl from Meridian, Idaho. I just wanted to thank you for writing the Forgotten Warrior. It has become one of my favorite books. I loved it so much that I read it in one day. I really hope the sequel comes out soon so I can find out what happens.” Would you like to share your feelings on this teenage review?

Every fan email is wonderful and especially those from the youth. I've made some wonderful friends. Sometimes they bring tears to my eyes. I received a letter from a youth that told me that my book has helped him read the scriptures. That just made my heart soar. I consider that one of my highest compliments. I also received a letter the other day from a gal whose mother is dying from colon cancer, so The Forgotten Warrior really touched her. Letters such as these make me ever grateful to be in the profession I've chosen. I love my readers!!!

Your answer really touched my heart. If you can only help one child, it’s worth it. But I know you’ve helped many. What does your family think about your writing? Are they supportive?

They are very supportive. My children grew up with their mother always at the computer, going to writing conferences and critique group. So to see this success, they are living it with me and are just as thrilled. Whenever I've felt like quitting, my husband would always say, "You only fail when you quit trying." How could I give up? He's my number one fan and supporter. I don't know what I'd do without him.

What a wonderful husband! You’re very blessed to have such support. Tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Years ago I was going through some troubling times, and I couldn't seem to find the answer to my problem. One night I dreamed I was on an old ship. All at once there was some excitement on board. I learned that Jesus was on the same boat. I was so excited because I thought I could ask him about my problem. I remember walking up behind him, touching him on the shoulder, and as He turned around, I suddenly awakened. Talk about disappointing! I could not understand why I had awakened just when I was about to see His face.

And then I realized, I wasn't ready to meet Him. I needed to grow, learn, and become the person I was meant to become before meeting Him. I can't even remember what the problem was when I had that dream, but I think of it often. The dream has influenced my life in many ways.

Thanks for the interview, Linda!

Thank you, Kathi, for such a special interview. I was able to get to know the real you and it touched my heart beyond words. Thank you so much.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Laurie C. Lewis

Laurie C. Lewis is from Maryland and describes herself as “a craft-challenged, fifty-something wife, mother, grandma, and novelist.” She is the mother of four children, the grandmother of four, and the author of four novels.

They were the first generation of American-born citizens, charged to build a nation upon the framework of their Founding Fathers. When their Democracy was challenged once again, they picked up their muskets and went to war. They were farmers and mothers; entrepreneurs, visionaries and religionists; unprepared for the fight they faced. They were. . . FREE MEN and DREAMERS!”

For those who enjoy a good history lesson about how we received our freedom and being entertained by fictional characters, this is the book for you. There are three volumes of FREE MEN and DREAMERS: Dark Sky at Dawn, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, and Dawn’s Early Light. Laurie, tell us about these inspiring books.

The titles draw on the concept of increasing light, a theme that applies to both the spiritual and political situations occurring in America during this time. FREE MEN AND DREAMERS illustrates an amazing generation--the first American-born Americans. This is the generation that was also being prepared to receive the Restoration, and this tumultuous nation was about to become the cradle of that great work.

Volume one, "Dark Sky at Dawn," introduces our primary families through whose eyes we will witness the impact the War of 1812 had on the nation and its people. Three families are American, two are British and one is a slave family. We meet the young, wealthy societal outcast--Jed Pearson--and his free-thinking sister, Frannie. And we also meet Hannah Stansbury, a spiritually-inclined young woman whose family is plagued by a crazed mother. Jed and Hannah's friendship develops into love, which is complicated by the gentry's disapproval of Jed's scandal-ridden ancestor whose own mystery we untangle. As Jed labors to clear his family's name, war is declared and personal matters are delayed as Jed heads off to war. We get a historically-candid view of slave life as Jed, a slave owner himself, struggles over this issue.

Volume two . . . in "Twilight's Last Gleaming," two of our characters are drawn to the Upper Connecticut Valley as they attempt to free a family member who is now a British prisoner. The typhoid epidemic is raging in that area, and our characters are caught up in that calamity. Further south, along the Chesapeake, British raids devastate families and leave the region in ruin. One of our characters is caught up in a little-known military tragedy that is nearly lost from our history books. It is one of the darkest and least-discussed events in American history and this military horror will forever change the life of one of our characters.

In "Dawn's Early Light," all our characters prepare for the British offensive against Washington DC. President Madison is receiving conflicting advice from the Cabinet, and as a result, Washington City is virtually unprepared for the coming attack. We experience the week Washington burned and the impact the loss had on the nation and its citizens--including the soldiers and their families. Our characters are involved in every aspect, so we live the historically recreated events along with them.

Book four will cover the Battle of Baltimore, the real Star Spangled Banner story, and the end of the war. It will effectively wind up this portion of the series. If reader demands warrant it, we're prepared to do two more books that will carry our characters through the next generation.

American history is coming to life within these pages. Leon Garfield said, "The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting." You are painting us a story, Laurie. Where did you get your ideas? I suppose you got most of them from U.S. history. Give us some examples.

I weave fictional characters through historically accurate events and have them mingle with historical figures. So most of my ideas spring from history, and then I create a fictional storyline that parallels and connects with that. Sometimes my reading leads me to a place or an expert. Sometimes an expert leads me to a book or a place. This has been a very long and hands-on adventure that has led me to many fascinating historical sites, introduced me to some tireless experts, and filled my library with interesting volumes.

My biggest help on "Dark Sky at Dawn" came from a historian in charge of exhibits in Philadelphia. We corresponded for over a year. Not only did he answer my questions in great detail, he was invaluable in feeding me fascinating tidbits the average citizen will likely never hear, and he led me to invaluable sites where I could study from original documents and images. I visited the historical sections of Philadelphia and sought out Christ's Church and Independence Hall, but I also sought out the sacred soil, mass graves into which tens of thousands of Revolutionary dead were tossed when they died in prison during the British occupation of Philadelphia. In "Dark Sky at Dawn" there is a mention of these mass graves, including a heart-wrenching quote from John Adams.

After reading a mention of atrocities committed in Hampton, Virginia, my husband and I hit the road. After scouring through books and speaking with docents at the local Visitor's Center, we were able to locate the spot where the British landed their troops before that dreadful attack. Standing on the spot was chilling. I'll never forget it, and I think my reaction to that place made that scene in "Twilight's Last Gleaming" so powerful.

I would love to visit all the historical sites and feel the special spirit of what happened as the patriots fought for their freedom. Since you’re writing about history, do you use an outline when you write?

This series is so detailed that I have used several outlines, time lines and characters bibles to keep the fiction neatly woven into detailed and accurate history. I let inspiration sweep me away, but after the inspiration comes the painstaking labor to put the idea into a proper historical context.

A reviewer, wrote, “The great intricacies in the story are interwoven so smoothly that the book is a great read. There is plenty of adventure, intrigue, and romance to satisfy everyone.” Tell us about the adventure, intrigue, and romance in your books?

One of the themes of the series is the dilemma of balancing one's civic duty against one's personal responsibilities. I illustrate this conundrum by having the series open with a mystery and a mission that plagues Jed and prevents a future with Hannah. All he wants to do is clear his family's name, but when war breaks out he is forced to set aside his personal wants and needs to answer the call to serve. He is also plagued by the moral dilemma of slavery. As he heads off to fight for liberty, he realizes the hypocrisy of his situation. Meanwhile, (there always has to be a "meanwhile"), Hannah's life is controlled by her mother, a mad woman. Her sisters meddle and create a new bit of intrigue. There's a love triangle, the quest for honor, a kidnapping attempt, a daring rescue, a riot, a fire, a great story of friendship, a story about freedom that raises questions about the worth of a man. And this is all just in volume one.

Your book sounds quite intriguing. What does your family think about your writing? Are they supportive?

My husband is my biggest fan and research buddy. My children were already out of the house when I began this series so they were pretty amazed and proud of me when they saw the books. I've been blessed with great support.

I’m impressed that your husband helps with the research. That makes it fun. Tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Wow . . . great question . . . hmmm. . . well, I always thought I'd be a singer. I had a brief stint in a rock band during high school and I joined every single singing ensemble the school had to offer. The goal I placed in my senior yearbook was, "To attend BYU and fill the world with song." After I was married I sang in an amateur review for ten years and I cut a demo once, so I gave it a good try. Now here's the funny thing. When I write, I write in meter . . . as if it were a song. I read and re-read each section to see if it flows well, so in some way, I guess I'm still singing through my books.

Thanks for the interview and for showcasing FREE MEN AND DREAMERS.

Thank you for such a fun interview. Now we all know the real you, that you were a “rock singer” before you became an author. Who would ever have guessed! Everyone, Laurie has allowed you to pick which book you prefer having for your gift.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Interview with Medieval Author Joyce DiPastena

Joyce DiPastena lives in Arizona and is a “died-in-the-fur Desert Rat” with degrees as high as 117. She first fell in love with the Middle Ages when she read Thomas B. Costain's The Conquering Family in high school. She attended the University of Arizona, where she graduated with a degree specializing in medieval history. The highlight of her year is attending the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which she has not missed once in its twenty-three years of existence. She is the author of “Illuminations of the Heart.”

What is illumination? To make something clear or easier to understand and appreciate. To add colored letters and designs to a manuscript or the borders of a page. In the case of this novel: the main character “illuminates many a priceless book with pen and paint.”

Welcome, Joyce! I’m so excited to interview you and talk about your new book. Your books are known as “Mystery, adventure, and sweet romance in the Middle Ages.” Tell us about your new book, “Illuminations of the Heart.”

Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siriol de Calendri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife’s shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri’s face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston’s past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king’s sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman’s shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston’s soul and make his heart beat for her alone? You’ll have to read Illuminations of the Heart to find out!

Where did you get your ideas? Do you get most of them from history? Give us some examples.

Ideas come at me from all kinds of places. The first book I ever wrote (still unpublished) was inspired in part by a Gilbert and Sullivan song about a wandering minstrel. A minstrel sounded so romantic, though I placed mine in medieval England instead of in China. For the same book, a song called “Anywhere I Wander” from the Hans Christian Anderson movie inspired a scene towards the end where my romantic couple was ripped apart by cruel circumstance (and a cruel villain).

Loyalty’s Web was inspired by my mother, who said, after I’d received several rejections for my lack of sex scenes, “You’ll just have to write a book that’s so exciting, no one will notice they’re not in there.” LOL! So I set out to write the most exciting book I could think of…but the national market still noticed I didn’t have any sex scenes. One agent asked me to put some in, but I said “No”. Fortunately for me, I finally found a publisher who welcomed my non-sexy romance/mystery/adventure novel.

Sometimes there are bits and pieces of medieval history I think would be fun to explore as part of my story. In Illuminations of the Heart, it was the art of medieval illumination — the decorative painting of books with little miniature pictures leafed in gold that reflected or “illuminated” the light. For my current work in progress, I’m exploring the world of medieval troubadours. Sort of. Well, at least a little corner of that world. The characters and their lives are always more important to me than giving a history lesson on any aspect of my research.

I remember Gilbert and Sullivan’s wandering minstrel in the Mikado. I love that operetta. Do you use an outline when you write or play it by ear?

I’ve tried to write to an outline, but I can never stick to it. I started off with an outline for Illuminations of the Heart, but somewhere along the way (within the first couple of chapters), my characters took off on their own and I forgot all about my outline. After Illuminations of the Heart was published, I stumbled across my old outline and laughed my head off at what I originally thought the story was going to be. Characters that I’d planned to be villains had turned into heroes, a murder mystery angle I’d plotted out never took place, and characters from my first book (Loyalty’s Web) who were going to make guest appearances never showed up. In the end, the only real purpose the outline had ended up serving was to help me choose the names of my characters before I started writing. From this experience I’ve learned that outlines and I just don’t mesh. My characters prefer to reveal themselves to me as I write them, telling me secrets about their lives I could never have dreamed up in advance. It’s just the way writing works for me. Sometimes it makes getting a new book off the ground slow and messy, but somehow I think my writing is richer for the trust I place in my characters to know their own hearts and not have my will imposed upon them.

What a wonderful answer! One reviewer said about your book, "This book is one meaty, intelligent, well-researched and exciting read for lovers of historical fiction. The romance? It's smartly written and delicious.” Tell me your thoughts about this.

Well, needless to say, I was extremely flattered by that review! I love trying to create an authentic-feeling world. And I love to include lots of plot alongside the romance. And I love characters and I love dialogue. And I love mixing it all together and seeing what comes up.

You wrote so eloquently, “He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.” This took my breath away. Are all your books clean, sweet romance? Explain or describe your thoughts about romance.

Yes, all my romances are clean, sweet romances. I originally started writing because I couldn’t find any clean, sweet medieval romances to read. Back then (I’m not saying quite how far back), almost the only clean romances you could find were Regencies (sadly, even many of those aren’t safe anymore) and very few contemporaries. But I was wild about the Middle Ages and terribly frustrated that I couldn’t find a clean, medieval romantic read. So I finally sat down and wrote one for myself. I’d hoped that there might be other readers out there who were searching for clean, sweet historical romances, as well, and I must say, I have been very gratified by the warm, supportive response that my books have received. If my name was a brand, I would want it to mean: “Trust me.” When you pick up a Joyce DiPastena book, you don’t have to be afraid. I will promise you a clean, sweet, safe romance every time. I never want to betray that trust with my readers.

I understand completely. What does your family think about your writing? Are they supportive?

My mother was very supportive when she was alive. My father was less so, and sometimes that was very challenging. Now there is just my sister and brother and me. Both of them are extremely supportive of my writing. My sister even keeps copies of my books in her office for people to “accidentally see” when they drop by to talk to her. She says a lot of people get excited when they see my books, ask her questions about them, then go out and buy a copy. I call that supportive!

Yes, that’s definitely supportive! Tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Golly gee, I’m really not that exciting! Let me think… I’m telephone-phobic. So email me to your heart’s content, but whatever you do, don’t call me! (Just kidding. You can call me. Just don’t ask me to call you!)

Okay, I’ll e-mail you to my heart’s content! Thank you so much, Joyce. This has been such a pleasure getting to know the real you. I hope you enjoyed this interview, everyone.