Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I interviewed one of my favorite authors: Jane Kirkpatrick

I had the privilege today of interviewing one of my very favorite authors, Jane Kirkpatrick, for the "Weekend Magazine" radio show I produce and host.

I wrote this about Jane on my website :

"From the time I picked up Jane's book, A Sweetness to the Soul ,I realized that here was a very remarkable Christian author. Her beautiful,lyrical writing style would grace any writing genre. Probably my favorite Kirkpatrick book,though, is Love to Water my Soul. Few authors possess such a gift of evoking a mood or capturing a description sheerly through finely crafted wordsmithing and absorbing storytelling."

Since then I've read several other books by Jane, and I'm a bigger fan than ever. The following are excerpts from my interview with her.

Interview with Jane Kirkpatrick

Cindy: I understand that you have some exciting news that has been passed along to you...I understand that you have been named a finalist in the Oregon Book Awards. How do you feel about that?

Jane: Well, you know, I know my name's on there, but I really feel that it's the story that the finalist. (chuckles) It's for "A Name of Her Own," which is the story of a remarkable woman, a remarkable mother who also happens to be a native American, an Ioway Indian woman....We'll find out in the middle of November whether I'm a runner-up or actually the story might win, but we're just so pleased that the story has been honored as a finalist, so we're pretty excited.

Cindy: Well, that is in itself an honor, but I would be thrilled if you won, because as I said, I read "A Name of Her Own," and "Every Fixed Star" I believe is the second...so, is the third one out yet or not?

Jane: No, it will be out in April, and it's called Hold Tight the Thread.

Cindy: So is that what you're working on right now?

Jane: Yes, in fact in front of me are the finals right before it goes to printing, so I'm making all these tiny little changes at the very end...can't let it go, you know (laughs).

Cindy: Well, I got the first books in the Tender Ties series, and then I had read All Together in One Place, which I believe is one of three as well...

Jane: Right.

Cindy: And while I was reading the Tender Ties books, I loaned the other books to my sister-in-law, who is also a big fan of yours...and now I've finished the Tender Ties books long ago, and now I've got to get the other ones, so Beth, if you're listening, I want my books! (laughs) Just kidding.

Jane: Well, I always like Benjamin Franklin's quote...and he supposedly started the library system...but he said you should never loan your books out, because people are terrible about ever returning them. "In fact," he said, "I have an entire shelf of my library made up of books that I failed to return to my friends!"

Cindy: (laughing) That is so true, and really, my sister-in-law is good about returning them...I think she's probably still reading them, so I'll give her some more time on that.

Jane: Right.

Cindy: You live in the Pacific Northwest, and although there are notable exceptions...there are some books you have written that are not based in that area...most of your writing does tend to focus on the pioneers who settled that area as well as the native Americans that were already there. Why are you so drawn to writing about that specific area and those people?

Jane: I just think that I'm drawn to people that I call sort of "hardy." They're people who had a passion for something, or maybe they were dragged along, as many of the women were on the Oregon Trail...and I'm just intrigued with how it is that these women came to terms with life as they knew it having ended. You know, how did they find new vision and new direction? And I just think that they have so much to teach us about our own lives today, even though they lived 200 years ago. In some ways, the landscape is massive here, with huge mountains and valleys...and I grew up in the Midwest, I'm a Wisconsinite, and that landscape is lush, and wonderful, and invigorating...and it's different than what's here. And so I think I was also intrigued with, not only the relationships that women had to make changes with, but also how they dealt with things that were really beyond their control--whether it was a mountain they had to cross, or terrible illnesses for which they had no recourse, they had no medicines available, and how did they live with their neighbors to form communities? So, it's been great to be able to explore various kinds of options that I think are important in everyday life today, and set them in the past, and see what's similar and what might have been different with the times.

Cindy: Have you ever thought about writing a novel set in modern times?

Jane: You know, I'm actually working on something that is going to transcend some times. It will be historical in the beginning, but it will move towards a contemporary ending...and the reason for that is that it's a remarkable story that really started in the early 1900's, and I really feel as though God brought it to fruit in the year 2000. So, yeah, I'm gonna try that, I'm a little anxious about it, I have to tell you, (laughing)...I like living in the 1800's.

Cindy: (laughs) Well, you certainly bring that era to life, but I do look forward to reading whatever you write about. But one of the things I love about your writing is, although the Christian message is unmistakable, it could be enjoyed by anyone who loves fiction. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I could give one of your books to a person who is not a Christian, and while they would definitely see and feel the powerful foundational undercurrent of God and Jesus Christ, yet they would not be hit over the head by it with a two-by-four. (laughing) Do you know what I mean?

Jane: I do, and I appreciate that comment, because I work hard at that...to make it accessible. And I think that's the gift of fiction, really, as opposed to non-fiction sometimes, is that you can tell a story, and the spiritual elements, the faith elements, can come sort of beside someone; they don't really kind of jump up and hit people over the head. And I think that's in many ways how our lives are touched. I'm really fond of saying that our lives are the stories that other people read first...and so I think that, as we live our lives with faith and with our belief systems intact, that that's what people are drawn to. We don't have to have a label on our heads that says "I'm a Christian and that's why I'm doing these things," it's that "I'm doing these things out of great love and because things were done for me."

Cindy: Exactly. And make no mistake, the message is not obscure....it is definitely there...I just like the way you work it in. (chuckles)

Jane: Well, I appreciate that. I think that's one advantage of writing the historical novel, is that people in the 1800's who had a faith life, it was pretty out there on their sleeves, and it wasn't like something they did on Sundays; it was a part of their everyday life. And they had the same struggles that we do, but I can make those characters be able to have thoughts and explorations that seem a part of their everyday living, whether they're out gardening or their taking care of their babies or whatever it might be. And sometimes that's harder to do in our fast-paced contemporary world.

Coming: Part 2 of the Jane Kirkpatrick Interview

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