When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I started writing when I was ten. I was a big Hardy Boy mystery fan and I decided it would be fun writing my own mystery. I got a wirebound notebook and a pen, changed my name to Jo in the story and went at it. From that point on I knew I wanted to write stories. A lot of years have passed since then and a lot of things have changed. But that hasn’t. I still want to write stories.
Your recent series are set in the Shaker communities. Did you do a lot of research for this? Why did you write a series about the Shakers?
There’s a Shaker village near where I live that has been restored as a living history museum. I’ve visited there several times and have always been impressed with the peace of the place. Some years ago I wrote a couple of historical romances for the general market. And then I wrote a story about the Shakers. At the time the book didn’t find a publisher and it was only after many years and a new editor expressed interest in the Shakers that I pulled it out of my closet and reworked it for the inspirational market. One of the reasons it had been rejected originally was that it was “too religious.” That story became The Outsider, had great pre-sales when it was ready for market and was actually one of five finalists for the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) fiction book of the year in 2009. Because of that book’s early success, my Revell editor asked me to write two more Shaker novels which I agreed to do. Those stories became The Believer and The Seeker. And yes, I definitely had to do a tremendous amount of research to try to understand the Shakers and how they lived and worshiped. I just finished Shaker book four, tentatively titled The Blessed.
If you were able to have dinner with 2 people, who would they be?
If I could bend time, I’d like to have dinner with my mother and father when they were newlyweds just to see how things were at the beginning of their married life. But if you want a realistically possible answer, no famous people are coming to mind. So I’ll just go ahead and have dinner with my two sisters because we have so much fun talking about books we’ve read.
What place would you love to visit? Overseas, historical monument, vacation spot, etc.
I’d like to take a long summer trip driving across America from Maine to California, taking the scenic routes through little towns with some time for hiking in the mountains, stopping to take in all the amazing beauty of our National Parks, and ending up walking on a beach somewhere with the sun on my face and the waves sounding in my ears.
Is there something about you most people wouldn’t know? A secret hobby, craft, etc.
I can’t think of a thing mysterious or secret about me, but most people might not know that I’m a farm girl who still lives on a farm. My husband raises beef cows and I can green beans and make blackberry jam out of berries I chance getting chiggers and stepping on snakes to pick out in the field.
What one event would you have loved to be at? Historical or future?
I think it would have been exciting to be one of the first surveyors to come across the Wilderness Trail into Kentucky back in the pioneer days – with no tragic encounters with the Native Americans, of course. I’ve always liked imagining how my home state looked with all those trees that had been growing undisturbed for centuries and the buffalo grazing in the bluegrass meadows.
Are there other books in the works?
I’m always working on something. And right now I’m looking forward to several new things. In February 2011, Angel Sister is scheduled for release by Revell Books. It’s a Depression era novel of family love and hope. I based a lot of the setting and some of the story on the memories my mom and her sisters shared with me about growing up in the 1930’s. Then I have a historical suspense/romance set in Louisville during the 1850’s that I hope will be out for readers sometime in 2012. Right now I’m finishing up my fourth Shaker novel, tentatively titled The Blessed. I really enjoyed writing about Lacey Bishop as she struggles to hold onto the child she loves in the face of the Shaker way of dividing families.
When a reader is finished with your books, what do you want them come away with?
I’d like readers to close the book after reading the last page with a satisfied sigh and the thought that they were glad they got to know my characters and yes, that was exactly what happened. And then it would be nice if they asked, “What else has she written?”
Do you have any last thoughts for your readers?
I’m so thankful for the gift of imagination and for stories to tell. I sometimes think about writing a book as a kind of waltz shared by me and the reader. A partnership. It’s my story acted out by people I’ve made up, but it’s not until a reader picks up the book and adds his or her imagination that the words I write can truly start sparkling with life. When it’s done right, when I’ve written the best I can and the reader has found a story that speaks to her or his heart, then the waltz can be smooth and beautiful. Thank you for reading.
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