Funny how we meet people. I recently signed up for a mystery writing course with American Christian Fiction Writers, and another attendee, Gail Kittleson, contacted me in response to my self-introduction. We decided it might be fun and mutually beneficial for us to trade interviews for our blogsites. Read on for my interview of Gail:
JANICE: Hello Gail. It was good to meet you through the ACFW course. Here are a few questions in order for me and my readers to get to know you: First of all, who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?
GAIL: I’d like to give my mother credit here. We lived on an Iowa farm in the 50s and 60s, too far from where I went to school to be involved in sports. I still remember her patience in teaching me how to write my name, and her love of books, even though she had very little time to read. As a rather miserable adolescent, I started to write secret stuff, and she always showed interest. Not in a nosey way, but trying to encourage me.
She was that quiet force in our home that believed in me. I didn’t develop the kind of self-confidence to plunge into writing in a serious way for decades, but her blessing provided a foundation for things to come.
JANICE: People who believe in us have a great influence on our lives. In a nutshell, tell us why you write.
GAIL: Because I can’t not write, now that I’ve truly given myself to this venture. I’m so much happier when working on a manuscript, and wish I’d developed this skill much earlier. But as I mentioned, self-confidence is a requirement for this career, IMHO. And that sometimes takes decades to grow.
JANICE: Don’t I know it! Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
GAIL: They simply come to me, first in the form of a character I can’t withdraw from. I mean, she/he takes over my head/heart. Sounds crazy to say characters whisper their story to me, but I don’t know how else to describe what happens. Then I start researching, and as I learn more about the specifics of the heroine’s life, including historical occurrences at the time, the plot unfolds. Gradually. I don’t often know the ending when I start. So this says I’m a panster, I guess. [Jan sez, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “pantser,” it refers to a person who writes “by the seat of her pants” instead of by extensive plotting.]
Flowers inspire me, and country roads, and photos of people from the era, as well as true stories from the time. I can’t read enough about the Bombing of London or the Blitz, or Mosquito pilots who saved the city. The same is true about Southern French Resistance movement. Those people—just regular peasants—contributed more to the war effort than I can ever research.
JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?
GAIL: I prefer personal accounts to most any other source. The World War II era offers a variety: spoken accounts from still-living Greatest Generation folks, letters, and memoirs. Of course, I use the usual resources, too: history books and the Internet.
JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?
GAIL: This might be all about the most part…I enjoy the research, but before that, the thrill of a character appearing in my head/heart. What kind of miracle is that, anyway, to have an invisible someone enter your life, someone who’s as real to you as your neighbor next door? That’s how it’s been for me. First Dottie, a WWII widow who also lost her son during the war. Then Addie, whose volatile husband provided battles for her at home, and her best friend Kate, the risk-taker—they’re all SO real to me. I feel privileged to know them, and discovering how readers react to their stories is incredibly interesting.
I like the initial get it all written down phase. I like to edit. The fourth to tenth time through might get a bit tiring, I admit. But about the tenth time, when all of a sudden I see how verbose I’ve been and slash words left and right, is pure fun. That’s when I know this manuscript deserves to be published. The next few edits with professionals always teach me things. And the publication itself – delightful!
Okay, okay. I haven’t enjoyed the rejections, and I’ve had plenty. But having kind editors point out how I can improve is
pure gift. I’m really grateful to be involved in this entire process. And I MUST add that hearing from readers that they appreciated my characters’ honest doubts and questions, that I didn’t use platitudes or pat answers, and that certain characters are actually helping them through difficult times in their own lives—wow! It doesn’t get better than this!
JANICE: I know that most writers love to read. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?
GAIL: Print. I’m old-fashioned about this. Nothing like holding a book in my hand. I’m reading 2 books right now. One about Dunkirk, and even though I dislike the writer’s style (not a contemporary writer) I’m gleaning so much trivia about how a British soldier changed through his wartime experience. I’m also starting something a new friend lent me: Grand Ambition. This is an Arizona historical about the Grand Canyon.
JANICE: What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?
GAIL: Raindrops on roses…actually raindrops on anything. I’ve always felt better after a good rain clears the air, and storms excited me even as a child. I used to go up in the immense attic of our farmhouse to watch them roll in across the land.
I love the mountains, too. Everybody has their geographical “druthers,” and mountains make me happy. It’s the altitude (for my sinuses), but also the incredible beauty of undulating cloud shadows on mountains. Ahh…
Another favorite: sweet potatoes. Such a healthy, tasty food, especially with rosemary and butter. Yum. And I just baked a marvelous recipe: sweet potato quick bread. Gluten/sugar/lactose free, and absolutely great comfort food.
And walking has done so much for me during my lifetime—walking wherever I am. Ideas come to me on walks, and relief from tension. I used to like riding bike, too, but my aging body instructs me to cool it on that one.
JANICE: Yes, we do have to make adjustments as we age. So what keeps you going in your writing career?
GAIL: It’s that I love writing. Even though its so time and energy consuming, hard on my eyes, and takes forever to bring tangible satisfaction (as in publication/fans), I have to say the work intrigues me. Answers to puzzles come to me in the night, in the shower, during church. Scenes ride my imagination at the oddest times and in the most unlikely real-life situations. It’s like having another life of its own living inside you, and that keeps me writing.
In addition, reader comments keep me writing. I’m making a difference, which is what I always wanted to do. I’m being used. Wow.
JANICE: Tell me, how is your faith reflected in your writing?
GAIL: Growing in faith is tough. Anybody who says otherwise, I would doubt. True faith requires letting go, which for so many of us is nearly impossible. And it requires facing life with integrity, allowing for our doubts and fears. Nobody wants to be a fearful mess, but we ARE. Embracing all life brings us through, and still believing equals spiritual growth.
My characters live deeply in this growth process. They make do, whatever comes, and even when evil seems to have the upper hand, find a way to look up.
JANICE: Thanks, Gail, for letting us into your life for this interview. I wish you God’s rich blessings as you follow this path that you love, that He’s given you to walk.
To learn more about Gail, visit her website, Dare to Bloom.