Today’s Friday Focus features Heart”wings” sister and multipublished author, Gail Kittleson, who shares how her life, writing and spirituality are thoroughly intertwined.
When Gail’s not steeped in World War II research, drafting scenes, or deep in an edit, she does a limited amount of editing for other authors. She also facilitates writing and creativity workshops, both in Iowa and Arizona, where she and her husband spend part of the winter in the amazing Ponderosa pine forest under the Mogollon Rim.
Gail’s favorites include: walking, reading, meeting new people, hearing from readers who fall in love with her characters. So, without further ado. . .here’s Gail!
What genre(s) do you write? And what made you choose that genre?
Women’s historical fiction. I never write anything un-inspirational, so don’t feel it’s necessary to include that in my genre label. I don’t think I’m capable of writing outside the inspiration field, because I’ve always been a thinker, a questioner. . . How does that work? What does that really mean? What in that person’s past would cause them to make such a huge mistake? Why so certain flowers have exactly the same number of petals on each blossom?
This is how my mind works, for better or for worse. (This could drive certain people berserk.) I think my genre fits with this sort of thought process, this analyzing bent I have had as long as I can remember. Certain people don’t appreciate having someone like me around, but CHARACTERS respond well to my mind-set. I guess that’s what matters, eh?
Do you have a mentor? How’d you find him/her? Tell us about him/her and how he/she has helped you.
Well, I’ve had many. At my age, just one would never do! When I first started writing fiction, the amazing authors at Seekerville took extra time to encourage me and answer my questions…if any of you read this, THANK YOU again!
One time, an agent who did not have time to take me on as a client took the time to correspond with me, read some of my work, ponder my writing history, and give suggestions/assignments for making my writing better. I’m still overwhelmed to think that this top-notch professional who had received many awards made time in her busy schedule for one struggling writer.
What about re-writes? How many do you usually go through before submission?
Approximately a kazillion—that’s what it feels like. I couldn’t even make a guess. The book I’m finally going through for the final time right now has been through the mill. A wild guess – I’d say probably upwards of forty edits.
Sometimes I think there has to be an easier way, but mostly, I simply accept that this is how a rather neurotic, perfectionistic, recovering codependent manages to complete a novel.
How has being published changed your life?
This is a really good question. I’m a much happier person when I’m writing, wrangling with timelines and characters’ personalities and quirks. I wish I’d begun long ago, but it is what it is, as they say. Vinita Hampton Wright in her wonderful little book, The Art of Spiritual Writing (Loyola Press), says,
“I believe that, for some of us, attempting to juggle fire is a life calling. A writer’s task is to discover the names of things, and the task of a … writer is to provide vocabulary by which the rest of us can name what God—that lovely, terrifying Divine—is doing to us, for us, around us, and right inside us… the writer who feels compelled to invite this quite spiritual process in which she lays out, in phrases and paragraphs, the realm where human meets Divine, where we truly engage and then tell the story of what happened.”
Vinita is speaking more of memoir-type writing than fiction, but I find her words translating into what I experience as my stories come to life. Sometimes after a book is published, I stand back and realize what it was really all about. Sometimes I engage so deeply that I “lose” myself (in a good way) for a while.
And often when I’m stuck on a manuscript, prayer and waiting bring some surprising answers, channels to explore I’d never considered before.
Do you have a new story in the works?
I’m working on a World War II novel about the POW Camp in Algona Iowa. There’s a wonderful museum for research, and very helpful veterans who know the story well. Besides that, WWII stories are still everywhere. Maybe they were seventy-five years after the Civil War, also, but I would guess they’ll dwindle with time.
Those stories compel me to research even further, to tie the characters with the historical record in an attempt to make that time period come alive for readers.
Peggy Blann Phifer and I are also working on such a FUN novel—it’s a cozy mystery (also World War II era).
Mystery, you say? I never knew you to write a mystery!
Exactly, and until a couple of years ago I rarely even read them. To be honest, I can’t even recall how Peg and I got started on this project, but I can say that it’s been a joy to work with her and really delightful to learn a few new skills.
…I remind myself of that every time I smash into a parking meter on a sidewalk…or worse, into one of those old granite walls I supposedly learned to avoid long, long ago.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
I’d say to consider how much time and effort this vocation requires, what a lonely process it can be, and evaluate if you’re truly called. Otherwise it’s so easy to get discouraged. And I’d also say do NOT trust your own editing abilities…not, not NOT!
What’s your newest title?
A Purpose True, the final book in a series of three, bringing closure to the stories of several World War II era characters.
I’m so excited for readers to receive answers to questions they may have entertained as the other two books ended.
The release date is December 7, Pearl Harbor day, which fits really well with the theme of my novels.
Why did you decide to write this particular story? What led to the premise of your story?
In extreme difficulties, believers seem to grow the most. That’s a conundrum seen from one perspective, or a huge blessing from another.
Things get very dark and scary in wartime, especially when an evil as all-encompassing as the Third Reich is unleashed upon the world.
I’ve always wondered about the unanswerable questions…why was Hitler allowed to continue living…why didn’t one of the thirty+ attempts on his life work??? So my characters churn out their everyday, un-ordinary lives under this massive, threatening, debilitating shadow of destruction.
Can their contributions make a difference? Do the “small” choices human beings make in the course of their activities alter anything in the long-run?
And can even the presence of great evil/chaos produce lasting good?
Would you like to step into your heroine’s shoes?
Mmm…at times, I would. Trekking through the gorgeous scenery of southern France or working in the very offices where Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower made their decisions would be pretty exciting. On the other hand, I might not be able to keep my fears under control with the Gestapo breathing down my neck.
Who did you dedicate your book to and why?
My mom and dad. Mom first, because she always encouraged me in my writing, and she really suffered through the Depression years and during the war. I want to honor her. And the more I wrote about the sacrifice of so many young men, some healing came to me in my relationship with Dad. So when the day came to write the dedication, I decided to include him too.
If you could step into any literary character’s shoes, who’s WHOSE would they be?
Think…think….so many characters…
Perhaps Marilla in Anne of Green Gables. What a challenge she undertook with Anne…but how she grew and blossomed! She becomes more real because of Anne, more honest, and her tenderness dares to show through. Maybe I’d choose her because I have such warm times with our twelve-year old granddaughter. She’s a reader, a story person. I love being with her.
Please share in the comments your response to Gail’s question for your chance to be selected to receive a reader’s choice of type of book. E-book for overseas. Our giveaway winner will be announced on Wednesday, November 29th so be sure to get your qualifying comment posted by no later than midnight Tuesday, November 28th.
What’s one deep question that stays with you through the years, and how do you imagine it being answered?
To follow up or find out more about Gail, please follow these links:
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/GailKittlesonAuthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/GailGkittleson @GailGkittleson