Interview with Stephanie Grace Whitson

» Posted on Apr 15, 2010 in Blog | Comments Off on Interview with Stephanie Grace Whitson

This week I’m hosting Vickie McDonough with Anonymous Bride, Stephanie Grace Whitson with Sixteen Brides and K. Dawn Byrd with Queen of Hearts. If you want to enter the drawing for Sarah’s book, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (April 18th) evening.

Interview with Stephanie Grace Whitson:

1. What made you start writing?

I’ve always loved to write. I loved writing reports in school, enjoyed writing letters home (before the internet existed), had poetry published in a junior high anthology, edited a women’s newsletter, etc. I think I’m just a “word person,” and writing has always been a creative outlet for me.

2. How long have you been writing?

Since I was a child.

When did you sell your first book?

In 1995.

3. How do you handle rejections?

The Lord blessed me with a book contract before I had actually completed my first book, but I haven’t always heard “yes” for book ideas or proposals since then. I allow myself a few minutes to feel the emotion and then I try to move forward, reminding myself that, “in light of eternity,” what just happened was for my eternal good and that if I will respond correctly it will produce good fruit. I don’t mean that I always win that battle right away, but eventually I do gain perspective and move on, either to another publisher who might think the idea is a good fit, or to another idea. I’m blessed with an agent who is superb at helping me decide “the next thing.”

My husband of nearly thirty years died of cancer in 2001 leaving me with four children to raise. I think anyone who’s had something profound like that happen and who’s gone on to be reasonably happy has gained a certain perspective that helps with future disappointments. Rejection hurts, and I don’t mean to minimize it, but I also don’t wallow in it for long.

4. Why do you write?

Because I love telling stories from the past that provide encouragement for today. Learning about the courage and faith of pioneer women helped me through a very difficult time in my own life, and I enjoy giving women today not only a safe place to run away to when they need to escape, but also a reminder that faith can carry a person through unimaginable trials.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Riding my motorcycle, cuddling my grandchildren, quilting, studying history, traveling, reading, learning to speak Italian and Spanish and Hawaiian, refreshing my ability to speak French, playing the piano, taking a refresher course in ballroom dancing, learning to tango, getting a Ph.D., finishing all my unfinished sewing projects, honing my cooking skills, training to run a marathon. . . . . . .

6. What are you working on right now?

• A non-fiction book documenting quilts used in sod houses currently titled Home on the Plains: Quilts and the Sod House Experience which releases in April of 2011
• My 2012 novel for Bethany House. It’s set in a new era for me (1867) and a new place (Montana), so I have lots of research to do!
• Two as-yet unsold novels that “just won’t go away.”

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Not consciously.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

Sixteen Brides is about sixteen Civil War widows who join something called the Ladies Emigration Society, thinking they are going west to claim homesteads in their own names. When their train is met by expectant bachelors, they learn they’ve been duped. Five of the sixteen decide to homestead together, and the book goes on from there.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep reading, because reading informs your writing. Keep writing, because, as David McCullough says, writing is something you can only learn by doing.

10. How important is faith in your books?

Just as important as it is in my life. Faith is a natural part of my everyday life and, hence, it is a natural part of my character’s lives.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

I don’t honestly think in terms of theme when I begin a story, but the theme that emerged for Sixteen Brides was HOPE.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

I can’t say that I have one favorite. Of all eighteen, the two that taught me the most about writing are A Garden in Paris and Sixteen Brides.

13. What is your writing schedule like?

Schedule? Ahem. I wish I could say I keep to a firm schedule, but I don’t. I’ve constructed a chart titled “Making Life Work.” On that chart I’ve listed the things I feel I must do every day to make my life work. Next to each item, I’ve written how much time I need to give to that thing to feel I’ve done well. I’m trying to hold myself accountable to “clock in” and “clock out” for the given time period each day, but I don’t plan to do any one thing at a set time of the day. Some days I write in the evening, some days it works better for me to take the afternoon. The line that says WRITE FICTION says I am to allow 3 hours a day to that work. I try to make those three hours “non-negotiable,” but of course rules were made to be broken in this fallen world of ours, and there’s always a challenge to that commitment.