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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Find Your Strengths as an Author and Get Help with the Rest: Author Interview with Kathryn Spurgeon

My interview today is with an award-winning author who has published multiple books and over a hundred stories, articles, and poems. Now, let's learn more about her writing journey. 

What drew you to writing about the Great Depression?
This book series, based on my grandparent’s life in the 1930s, is representative of many who lived during that time. So much happened to them that was universal and condensed into a short period.

What type of research did you do for the books?
I read books about the Great Depression, scanned relevant newspaper articles at the setting’s library, interviewed individuals who lived then, and of course, researched details on the internet. I organized my notes into a workable order. Actually, I printed the data and put it into a three-ring binder to be used for later books.

What was one of the most intriguing discoveries you found in your research?
My main character, raised by a wealthy Socialist banker during the Great Depression, was interested in politics. While researching the second book in the series, a newspaper article stated President Roosevelt gave a speech from the train caboose as it stopped in her hometown of Shawnee, Oklahoma. 

Thousands attended and I decided to write a fictionalized chapter of the event. When I mentioned it to my oldest living relative of that time period, she said, “Sure, I remember that day.” What? She was there—and helped me mold that chapter. She probably would not have recalled the event if I had not researched and discovered it.

What comparisons do you see in our current pandemic crisis and the depression of the 1930s?
This pandemic reminds me of the vast unemployment and long soup lines of the depression, startling people from the complacency and abundance of the 1920s. The U.S. has basked in affluence for years and this occurrence reminds us that life can quickly change.

Your book notes for A Promise to Break say it’s based on a true story. How closely does it follow the actual story?
I strictly follow dates like birthday, deaths, and marriages, as much as I can confirm. I also include real events surrounding the stories such as a fire to the mill, etc., and describe town locations to bring the reader a clear and true picture of the setting. Readers from that era and location confirm that the ambiance of the book takes them back to those years.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
When you’ve written for a long time, you learn your strengths and weakness. I can easily create a scene and write dialog. However, putting tension into that scene is much harder. After I have completed a draft and know the theme, I add more internal thoughts, drama, and cliffhangers. I look for the spiritual ramifications. It’s more difficult when writing based on a true story because some things cannot be changed, and an overarching plot and purpose must be discerned.

What’s easier for you to write – historical fiction or non-fiction? Why?
Both can be rewarding. Creative techniques learned in fiction can and should be used in non-fiction writing. For me, a project takes my whole focus and that book is what I enjoy at the time.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
When a person tells me that they are waiting for my next book to be released, I get motivated!

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of how you learned to write past it.
My first rejections cut so much I didn’t write for months. Now, I wait a few days, consider what I can do better, then pick up my pen and keep going. Don’t be afraid when someone suggests changes. Edit until you are satisfied, and don’t hesitate to edit again if needed.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? What frustrated you the most?
The process of writing a book is way lengthier and more difficult than I expected. Marketing, a key component, makes me cringe. A good writer may be a lousy marketer, or a lousy writer may be a good marketer. There’s a place for all aspects of publishing. Find your strengths and get help with the rest.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
My first career was in accounting, and I didn’t realize writing was like learning a different industry. A writer has to absorb the lingo, the networking, the way publishing works, not to downplay the writing techniques that make for a good book.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
Don’t give up. Keep writing and re-writing and re-writing.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
Here’s a synopsis of Fremont’s Promise, the third book in this series.

Sibyl dreams of doing mission work, but her wealthy papa abandoned the family, leaving Mama and her sisters destitute and Sibyl the only one to keep the torn family together.

Fremont, a former penniless hobo, will do anything for his wife. The best way to support his family is to find a better job outside Oklahoma, remove Sibyl from family stress, and offer a place she can freely share her beliefs. But fate is not in his favor.

When a job opportunity becomes available, will they go? Sibyl is pregnant with another baby and her mother strongly disapproves. Is hope leading them toward their dreams? Or does God want them to remain where they are?

Sounds interesting. If you would like to learn more about Kathryn's books and her speaking engagements, here are some links to get you started.

Lastly, what links would you like to be added at the end?
A Promise to Break
A Promise Child

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