Technically, it is the last day of the month, so I could add more words, but I'm pleased with how things worked out this year. I started with a personal goal of 65,000 words, 15,000 over the normal 50,000 goal. I hit 50,000 before Thanksgiving. And I finished up the story yesterday at 65,261.
I started with a rough outline, several scenes in my head, and a few characters I knew about. I added more characters and scenes. And I only surprised myself about three or four times. In the next to last chapter, one of my characters made a decision I was NOT expecting, but as soon as the words popped in my head, I knew they were right. My husband likes to tease me, saying, "Didn't you create these characters? Don't you know what they're going to do?" Yes, I created them. But that doesn't mean I can control them!
Anyway, I feel pretty satisfied with the way the story turned out. Hopefully, after quite a bit of editing, you'll get to read it yourself in a few years. :-)
Y'all, I am so star-struck today. Karen Witemeyer has been one of my favorite author for years now. Her books are Historical Romances set in the 1800s in Texas, full of vivacious, feisty heroines and heart-warming stories. I just finished reading her latest, which has me completely caught up and waiting for another. Her books are the kind that I know as soon as I get it in my hands I won't get much else done over the next couple of days. They're too hard to put down once I pick them up.
When I first started interviewing authors on here, Karen had come to mind as someone I'd love to host. Unfortunately, I let myself be intimidated by the fact that she was one of my most-loved authors as well as being award-winning. I was just a recently-published nobody.
I'm so thankful to God's graciousness that He has allowed me to meet so many authors over the last year and realize that even the ones who have won multiple awards are just people. We all struggle with writer's block every now and then. All have to juggle life outside of our writing-time. All want to support each other. So, I am pleased to announce that when I reached out to Karen, she very kindly agreed to do an interview with me. I'm excited to help you get to know her a bit better, too. Read on!
Karen, I know you're not originally from Texas, but all of your stories are set there. What is it that draws you to that state? Have you ever considered writing about the area you grew up in?
Texas is home now and has been for nearly 30 years, so even though I wasn't raised here, it is certainly close to my heart. I've always loved westerns, and Texas just seems like the perfect setting for cowboy heroes. I must admit that I love mountains, though, so areas like Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming also have great appeal. However, my brand is Texas, and I love it. I love exploring different areas of my state, whether in person or in my virtual time machine. Texas is so large and has such a variety of settings and topography, that the possibilities for story worlds are numerous. My last two projects involved deep research into areas that aren't too far from where I live, and I loved learning more about the rich history of the area and visiting sites where my characters would have walked.
I haven't really considered doing a story set in my home state of California, but who knows what the future holds?
I know most of your books are set in the 1800s. Writing historical fiction takes a lot of research. What's one of the neatest things you've discovered as you researched for your stories?
You are right about the research. It is a big component of my writing. My favorite recent discovery came when I was researching Texas Harvey Houses for a novella collection I was working on featuring Harvey Girls. I uncovered a Harvey House in Gainesville, TX in their historic Santa Fe depot that was still standing. I knew I had to visit.
As it happens, Gainesville is within easy driving distance from my hometown of Abilene--a little over 3 hours. So when I first decided to set my story there, I posted about it in my Facebook group, The Posse. As it turns out, one of my members lives right outside of Gainesville, and she offered to arrange a research day for me. The depot museum wasn't open on Saturdays, the only day I can travel with my day job, but Bonnie made it happen! She worked with the museum to arrange a private showing for me. Not only that, but one of the museum volunteers, Sherryl, went out of her way to provide me with all kinds of old newspaper clippings, original photographs, and all sorts of historic memorabilia for me to dig through to give me a feel for what the town was like at the turn of the century. I walked through the depot, saw the indentations in the floor where the Harvey lunchroom's horseshoe counter had stood, and I even got to step inside the upstairs rooms where the Harvey girls boarded. Not only that, but while I was in one of the rooms, a train came by. I got goose bumps. It was as if I had actually stepped back in time. You can see some of my photos here.
That is so neat! I can't wait to learn more about the Harvey girls when your book comes out.
Okay, let's talk about your latest release, The Christmas Heirloom. It's a collection of stories with three other authors. I know you've done several of these collections, and have more in the plans. Do you prefer to write with others? What's the hardest part?
Working with other authors, especially when they are already friends of mine, is a pure joy. Kristi, Sarah, Becky and I have known each other for several years and are great friends. We brainstormed the connections between all our characters (since there are about 3 generations between each story) as well as what the actual heirloom would be. When Becky's character needed a way to research the genealogy of her family and the brooch, we came up with the embroidered bag with all the initials and wedding dates on the back. Those kind of touches really add a wonderful continuity to the stories even though the actual writing of the stories was a completely individual process. They all took place in different time periods and settings, yet the heirloom thread wove them all together. The actual writing is solitary, but having partners to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of is a blessing.
I definitely enjoy reading them, and I know I've had times I needed someone to brainstorm with, so I can understand that.
I did quite a bit of canning from my little garden this summer, and it made me have a greater appreciation for people who used to rely on preserving food that way. Thinking along those lines, if you could go back and live in the times you set your books in, what do you imagine your life would be like? Would you live on a ranch? Work as a telegrapher? Maybe be a seamstress or tutor?
Fun question! I imagine I would be a teacher. I would get to work with books and children, two of my favorite things. And maybe I would make just enough salary to take my clothes to a laundress because I have NO desire to do laundry 19th century style. Ha!
Can you give us a sneak peek into something you're working on now that we can look forward to reading in the future?
My next project is More Than Words Can Say. It's a stand-alone sequel to More Than Meets The Eye. Big brother Zach is getting his own story. Here's the blurb:
After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free to live life on his own terms. No family entanglements. No opportunities to disappoint those he cares about. Just the quiet bachelor existence he's always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away once again when the baker of his favorite breakfast treat is railroaded by the city council. As hard as he tries to avoid getting involved, he can't turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.
Abigail Kemp needs a man's name on her bakery's deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. Not the stoic lumberman who oozes confidence without saying a word whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can't even control her pulse when around him.
When vows are spoken, Abigail's troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. As trust grows between Zach and Abby, she finds she wants more than his rescue. She wants his heart.
You can read an excerpt here.
Ooh. That sounds so good. I know I loved the first one, so I'll be excited to see what happens to Zach.
I always end my interviews by asking the author to share with us a fun fact not many people know about her.
A fun fact you might not know about me is that I live next door to my in-laws . . . and love it!
Awe! I love my in-laws, too. I always love hearing that others do, as well. Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us.
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Winner of the ACFW Carol Award, National Reader's Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and a finalist for both the RITA® and Christy Awards, Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. Learn more at www.karenwitemeyer.com or join her private Facebook group-The Posse.
In Kristi Ann Hunter's "Legacy of Love," Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman's grandson, a man far above her station.
In Karen Witemeyer's "Gift of the Heart," widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.
In Sarah Loudin Thomas's "A Shot at Love," Fleeta Brady's rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family's brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.
In Becky Wade's "Because of You," Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)