Jane Kirkpatrick interview

» Posted on Jun 28, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Jane Kirkpatrick interview

I am going on vacation so I wanted to post next week author guest a few days earlier. If you want to enter the drawing for Jane Kirkpatrick’s Memoir and A Tendering in the Storm, please email me at Mdaley50@aol.com. The drawing for her two books will end next Sunday, July 8th. Please visit her web site at www.jkbooks.com.

1. What made you start writing?
I’ve always written but not for other people to read. In my professional life as a mental health administrator and therapist, I had to write to express concerns, raise funds, that sort of thing. I found that people responded! So that reminded me of the power of words. When my husband and I moved to our ranch, “writing” was the word God gave me when I asked what I could do there on this remote site with no running water, no electricity, no phone, no house…. After we got power and phone, burying the phone line ourselves 7 miles, twice because it didn’t work the first time, I found this story I felt needed telling and I couldn’t convince anyone else to write it. I guess I was more persuasive in fund-raising than in getting someone else to tell a story! Thank goodness or I might never have written A Sweetness to the Soul, my first novel in 1995.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book? My first book came out in 1991. It was a memoir called HOMESTEAD and it was about the journey my husband and I took leaving suburbia and professional lives and moving to 160 acres of rattlesnake and rock ranch in a remote part of north central Oregon. At that point I’d been writing for seven years, non-fiction articles and essays for magazines such as Decision, Focus on the Family, Sports Afield, Private Pilot, Today’s Christian Woman, Mother Earth News Quite a range as you can see.

3. How do you handle rejections? I suspect like most of us. I go through what I call the Harpie voices that tell me how unworthy I am, how foolish I was to think I could be a writer, maybe a little outrage at the unfairness of the industry, some guilt because I spent all that time and nothing came of it, even hurt feelings and the issues of perfectionism come creeping up to shout in my ear about how imperfect I am. But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that it isn’t my job to write the great American novel or to get Oprah to know my name: It’s to assume the position of a writer; to tell the stories I’ve been given the best way I know how and to trust that I’m not alone in the telling. Those last three are the tape I put across the Harpie’s mouths to silence them so I can get back to work. On my computer I have an Anne Lamott quote: “You don’t have time for that.” I remind myself that “perfect” doesn’t mean without errors but rather “complete.”

I will also get the local paper and read the want ads to remind myself…would I really want to be doing THAT job instead of this writing life? Or Gee, my writing work isn’t nearly as difficult as THAT job. It’s a reminder that I have a blessed life using a gift given and that every job has its time of rejection. It’s the way it is.

4. Why do you write? The truth is, I can’t not write. I write for my own healing. I write to make sense of my world and the world around me. I write to encourage others. I write to tell untold stories I think are important. I write out of obedience to God’s calling. The German word Sehnsucht means human yearning and seeking that is almost a compulsion. I think it’s the yearning we have to find God, to know who we are as a child of God. The word literally means “to long for like a mania” Writing is my answer to the human Sensucht.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing? Ok, so here’s the confession: I’m always writing if only in my head…I’m always wondering what my character would be doing in her free time or if she’d like gardening (I don’t so much) or what she’d do if the dog dug up her tomatoe plants (I love him anyway and moved the plants) or, whether what I just overheard in the restaurant might be something my character would say, well you get the point. But I’d be reading if I wasn’t writing. I used to reward myself at the end of a day of writing by telling myself that if I stayed with it even when I felt like I was getting nowhere with my story, that I could then read a chapter of a good book. I got through The Joy of Writing that way. It kept me going. I also love to take walks with our dog, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. And my husband and I are often researching together so we’re on the road when I’m not writing. We also have a ranch so there are issues of haying, moving cattle, fixing fences. We’re 52 miles from the nearest grocery store so shopping takes the day, basically. I have little “free time.”

6. What are you working on right now? A number of projects: I’m in the line-editing phase of book three in the Change and Cherish series that will come out next spring called A Mending at the Edge. I’m writing a non-fiction book called Stitching Stories: the Quilts and Crafts of the Aurora Colony which is a celebration of this old community, once a Christian communal Society that was the only one successful in the west that is the framework for my novel series. The participants, German Americans, were known for their fiber arts, their music, food, and furniture and basket-making. I’m intrigued with how they expressed themselves through their vibrant quilts and samplers; that they interacted with the larger community through those crafts and how the arts can heal us and reach others even today. I hope it’s a book of inspiration which will have many photographs. It’s due in September and it’ll be out in September of 2008. I’m also researching my next novel that will be due at the publisher in April of 2008 but won’t come out until the spring of 2009. I try to stay out of trouble….

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters? See above. But yes. I’m always asking if the way I see something or how I respond to something is the way my charater might or how he/she would be different.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.
A Tendering in the Storm is the second book in the Change and Cherish series that is based on the life of the only woman who with 9 male scouts was sent out from Bethel, Missouri in 1853 to start a new colony in the Northwest. At the end of book one, A Clearing in the Wild, Emma Giesy and her husband and many of the scouts and their families have split from the main group that arrived from Missouri and didn’t like the choice of their site. Emma’s rather pleased as she didn’t really like the restrictive nature of the charismatic leader’s design of the community. In A Tendering in the Storm she finds herself widowed with two children and pregnant with a third and the choices she makes to keep her family together and secure do not always turn out as she hoped. I think it’s a story about grief and how if we do not witness our griefs and mourn, we may respond in ways that get us deeper into trouble: anger, guilt, separation from God, are just some of the ways we try to manage our lives on our own when tragedy befalls us. It’s also about strong and independent people and their/our difficulty in accepting help. Tendering, the word, by the way means “the shattering of a fabric from exposure to caustic materials.” I think we experience tendering more often than we might wish to admit. Of course it’s also a word that suggests fragile, kindness, and transition as in a tender that takes one from a larger boat to safe harbor. I’ve already had several readers tell me the book opened their eyes to their own grieving needs and gave them direction toward healing in their own lives. That’s very gratifying.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers? I actually have a 15 point list of tips I use in my writing classes that I will be posting on my blog www.janekirkpatrick.blogspot.com but I think to summarize them all I’d say to persevere, to silence the harpies (the shrouded women from old Greek tragedies that would race across the stage annoucing the bad news about to come). We have to find a way to let God’s voice ring through. I once asked some second grade kids what the word powerful meant to them and they gave answers like, “big, rich, strong.” One little boy sitting in the front said “Oh no. Powerful is when you want to quit but you keep going.” I’d say to any writer out there, be powerful in that way.

10. How important is faith in your books? People who have read any of my thirteen novels will recognize four threads woven throughout: landscape, relationships, spirituality and work. Faith is very important in my stories because I think each of us has to come to terms with who we are as mortal beings, we have to come to terms with how we view divinity — whether we believe in God or Jesus or don’t or what we do believe in — and each of us as humans longs for meaning. I think these are universal human needs and faith is one of the ways that people express or meet those human needs. The Italian word for religion means “ambassador.” An ambassador is the person we’d go to in a foreign land when we are lost, seeking asylum, want help etc. We can take the ambassador’s advice or not, though with consequences that will befall if we ignore it. So my faith expressions with my stories are sublte, they are “ways through” the trials of a character’s life and through them I hope reader’s will ask themselves the questions: would I have done that? Is that what I need in my life? Does that ring true for how a person would reach out in a time of trial? Missionaries tell me they love the way I handle faith elements because when you’re doing work in a foreign land, one must be taught by the people who are there and express one’s faith in ways that show rather than tell the people around you what God and Jesus mean in your life. It’s what I try to do in my stories.

11. What themes do you like to write about? Most of my stories are based on the lives of real people or actual incidents. I like to write about ordinary people, especially historical women whose’s stories I think are under told. I’m intrigued with the importance of women’s everyday tasks in raising children, in creating places of safety and enrichment within the home and community and how often these aren’t noticed. I’m telling stories of how a woman can do the best she can for her family without losing herself in the process. I like to write about community and how to live with integrity with one’s neighbors. My stories have risk in them and because my own life of moving to this ranch was such a risk that turned into the most amazing career that I might have missed if I hadn’t risked, I write about getting clear about what matters in our lives and having the courage to act on that. I apparently write more often than I thought about ways to respond to the wilderness places of our lives. I like to find the essence of a character’s life and see what it is about a woman who lived in 1853 that has relevance for today’s women. Someone once asked a famouse physicist if he had any advice for young people interested in science and he said yes, “tell them to find something strange and thoroughly explore it.” I think that’s what I do as a writer…looking for that something strange (what was that one woman doing there with 9 men and how did that change who she was and how did it change the relationship of that community, etc. and how does her experience speak to me today?) That’s what intrigues me about writing. All the possibilites!

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why? I’ll never tell! If I said which was my favorite and it wasn’t my reader’s favorite, I’d disappoint them or suggest that they were wrong so I don’t do that. I’ll tell people what I learned from the writing of each book and how the story informed me in ways I hadn’t imagined. Usually people are satisfied with that answer. Really, they are like children. I have no children of my own, three step-children only — but I suspect each mom loves each child for special reasons and would not like to say that one is her “favorite.”

13. Most of your books are historicals. What is your favorite time period? Why? I’m taken with the 1850-80 period but my Tender Ties series was set from 1811 to 1841 and that was a fascinating time of early history. But I find myself drawn to different time periods depending on the story. I’m currently doing research about the early 1900s, right before WWI because of the character I’ve chosen to write about.

14. What is your writing schedule like? Because I have contracts out for several years in advance, I know my deadlines pretty well. I usually have a book due to the editor in either April or June so I block out writing time January-June. During that time I’m a 9 to 5 girl with a break for lunch. As a deadline nears, I’ll be a 1:00 AM or whenever I’m awakened and may write until 8:00 AM, go back to bed and then get up in a few hours and write some more. But usually during my “writing phase” I get up, exercise, eat breakfast, then go into my office and write. I try to limit speaking events and women’s retreats that I lead during that time period but I’m not always successful at saying no. During my “promotion/research” phase, July to December, I’m rewriting, revising, doing speaking events, book signings, and researching. Of course, even during the writing phase, I’m researching and during the reseach promotion phase I’m writing… I just have to start writing before I think I should or I’d just get lost in the details and the historical richness I so love.

15. You enjoy speaking to groups. What topic is your favorite to speak on and why? I do enjoy that! I speak on a wide range mixing my mental health background with story-telling. I talk about the power of stories in our own lives, enduring stories, wilderness stories, changing stories. I’ve spoken to the European Council of International Schools in Nice, France; to Canadian writers — just last week; to juvenile justice directors from the western states, governor’s commissions on tourism, libraries, historical societies, University women, Seniors, for arts fund-raisers and of course churches and books groups and women’s groups, my favorite I think. Most of the themes are the same regardless of the group…I weave in their particular “story” into my story-telling. I see myself as an encourager more than a teacher. I enjoy speaking to groups because it is yet another way to encourage people to pay attention to their own stories. I believe what my tag line on my email’s say: “stories are the sparks that light our ancestors’ lives; the embers we blow on to illuminate our own.” (If I quote myself do I need quotation marks? Hmmm. Thank goodness for copy editors!) Healing is the ultimate goal and trusting God to guide us through wildnerness places: healing our spirits, our relationships. I believe that stories are one of the most powerful ways to do that, spoken or written. I consider it a privilege to be able to do it. I thank you for asking and for giving me a chance to talk to your readers.