Wednesday, October 6, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH KAREN WITEMEYER
I first met Karen Witemeyer when I volunteered to promote her debut novel, A Tailor-Made Bride. I fell in love with the book from the first paragraph and happily signed up for her second book. Please join me in welcoming Karen as she discusses her upcoming release, Head in the Clouds.
1. I loved the phrase you use to describe Head in the Clouds, “a recovering romantic.” (The manuscript I just turned in involves two hopeless romantics who believe in love at first sight.) Would you describe yourself as a romantic or as someone with her feet planted firmly on the ground? Why?
I'm an odd combination of the two. In day-to-day responsibilities, I have a practical streak a mile wide. I like to focus on a task and accomplish it. However, when it is time to escape the real world, and I have down time to watch a movie or read a book, the hopeless romantic in me takes over. I read historical romance, I listen to sappy love ballads, and when I have a lot of free time, I soak up those great BBC productions of Jane Austen's novels. Old Hollywood musicals are fun, too. I started introducing my daughter to them this summer. You just can't beat the sigh factor of Singing in the Rain, My Fair Lady, and of course The Sound of Music. I love to daydream, too, but only in those secret times where there are no other pressing responsibilities – during my morning walk, in the shower, while riding in the car, or in bed just as I'm drifting off to sleep. Although, I'm usually so tired by the end of the day, that those daydreams in bed only last a few seconds before the nighttime dreams take over.
2. There’s nothing like those old musicals. The above question leads to the next—how much of yourself is in your heroine, Adelaide Proctor?
Adelaide was such a fun character to write, because she gave free rein to my sappy side. She adores reading romantic stories from fairy tales to novels, just as I do, and we both claim Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre as our favorite. I read Jane Eyre in high school and fell in love with the story. I've seen every major film version and even watched a live theater musical retelling of the classic tale. I had not started out with the intention to parallel Adelaide's story with that of Jane Eyre, but the comparisons crept up naturally as the plot progressed, and it was fun to allow Adelaide to recognize the similarities between her own unfolding story and that of Bronte's Jane.
On a less cheerful note, I also share some personal history with Adelaide. We both lost our fathers when we were sixteen. And like Adelaide, it brings me comfort to image my dad looking down on me from heaven with love and joy as he watches me muddle through my life.
3. Those kind of connections make our stories authentic. On your website, I noticed that we come from opposite ends of the country—you from California, me from Maine—and both of us ended up in the southwest. What draws you to this part of the country (aside from your husband)?
I came to Texas to attend school at Abilene Christian University and never seemed able to leave. LOL I married my husband who was a student at ACU as well, and after graduate school, we both started working for the university. After 18 years of marriage and three children, we're still in Abilene and still working for the university, although I took about 5 years off to stay at home with the kiddos. I miss the mountains on the horizon and the moderate summers, but Texas has a beauty all its own. The sunsets are glorious, the rugged land naturally elicits frontier spirit, and the people are wonderful. Besides, what kind of hopeless romantic would I be if I didn't love the western land that inspires those hunky cowboy heroes that make my heart flutter?
4. I also came west to go to school and ended up marrying a local boy. American mythology stems from our old West, in my opinion. What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on rewrites for my next novel called To Win Her Heart which is set to release early summer, 2011. It is set in the late 1880s and asks the question – what happens after the prodigal son returns? So many times, we focus on the wonderful homecoming the lost son received from his father, but have you ever asked what life was like for him after the celebration was over? How did he relate to his bitter older brother or the servants and townspeople who were only too aware of his past arrogance and wild living?
In my story, I play on those very questions. My hero is a man recently released from prison who has returned to his faith roots and rededicated his life to the Lord. The heroine is a woman who has been disappointed by men in the past and has little tolerance of those who don't meet her high standards. In an effort to make a clean start, Levi hides his past and Eden believes she has finally found a man of honor and integrity. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back her affections?
A blacksmith with a criminal past. A librarian with pacifist ideals. Do they have a fighting chance at finding love?
5. Ooh, what happened after the prodigal’s return. I love it. What has been your most satisfactory experience as a writer?
This is a hard question to answer. Seeing my first book in print was a dream come true and wonderfully satisfying. However, I think what I have found most satisfying is receiving notes from readers who not only enjoyed my books, but who felt spiritually blessed by reading them. I love to tell fun, light-hearted stories, but beneath the entertainment is a mission to challenge believers to take their faith to the next level of maturity. I need that challenge as much as anyone, and as I write, I pray that something in my stories will resonate with readers and help to strengthen their faith.
6. Julia Cameron talks about the concept of “artist dates” in her book, The Artist’s Way. What are some things you do to revitalize and reenergize your writer’s soul?
One of the main things I do to recharge my writer's soul is to read novels by authors I love. I try not to analyze their style or break down their syntax, I simply absorb the pleasure of their storytelling. I receive a lot of my inspiration from other authors. For example, in my debut novel, A Tailor-Made Bride, my heroine, Hannah, is what I like to call a 19th century fitness maven. She has a daily exercise regimen that ends ups playing a key role in the makeover of her friend, Cordelia. What initially inspired such an idea? A bicycle enthusiast named Essie Spreckelmeyer in Deeanne Gist's Deep in the Heart of Trouble. Two completely different heroines, but one inspired the other by simply planting a seed that begged the question, what if?
7. What can readers expect to see next from you? Where can they find you on the internet?
I recently contracted another three books with Bethany House, so readers can expect to see more light-hearted, historical romance from me. (Which is what I love to write, so I couldn't be happier.) To Win Her Heart will release in either May or June 2011, and then I should have a new book out around the same time each of the three years after that.
Please visit me at my website: http://www.karenwitemeyer.com/. Readers can find interesting vignettes about the research that went into developing my characters as well as enter my monthly historical fiction giveaways. To enter, simply sign up for my bi-annual newsletter and you are not only entered for this month's contest, but for all future contests as well. I give away two Christian historical fiction titles a month. Also, everyone who enters receives a free download of a biblical fiction piece based on the life of Rahab along with a short Bible study that can be used for personal or group study.
I am also online on Facebook and would love to interact with you there, too.
8. In what ways has your success changed you, both personally and as a writer? Is there any aspect of writing that hasn’t changed much?
The biggest change for me is learning not only to write to deadlines, but to juggle all the marketing, editing, and networking that is piled on top of simply writing the next book. At any one time I can be actively marketing one book, revising another, and brainstorming or even writing a third. It is a crazy juggle for a mom of three who also works full-time, but I'm certainly not going to complain—not when it means I'm living the dream that God planted on my soul.
For a chance to win Head in the Clouds as well as several other titles, leave a comment on any or all blog posts this month.
When a recovering romantic goes to work for a handsome ranch owner, her heart’s not the only thing in danger.
Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.
When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America's wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn't uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon--and intrigues him at the same time. But he can't afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.
When Isabella's uncle comes to claim the child--and her inheritance--Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man's evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?