If I ever want to immerse myself in a Scottish romance, Kathleen Morgan is an author whose books I pull off my shelves. I have the first imprint copies of her Brides of Culdee Creek series which has just been re-released with gorgeous new covers (I confess I am a little jealous!) and her fantasy novel, Giver of Roses, is a favourite.
Needless to say, I was delighted when Kathleen agreed to spend some time at Relz Reviewz. Here's what she had to say:~
Why Christian fiction?
I've been a baptized Christian all my life. A lot of that time, though, I tried to be a good person, but more so because it was the right and honorable thing to do, than that I was a child of God and hence should live like one.
The turning point in my life came in the summer of 1996 when our youngest son, Sean, died unexpectedly of cancer. I was totally devastated. Only two things got me through those early days and months--my love for my husband and our oldest son, and the fact I had made a promise to Sean before he died that we'd all join him again someday in heaven. It took me a while, though, to fight past the pain, guilt, and anger at the injustice of losing Sean. Still, as I battled through that terrible time, the kindness of others and the support of my church kept turning me around and pointing me back to my Lord and Savior. I was so moved by everyone's kindness and generosity. Their actions opened up a whole realm of new insights about my fellow man. And there, in the hearts of those fellow men, I caught the strongest, purest glimpse of God I had ever had.
Prior to beginning my Brides of Culdee Creek series with Daughter of Joy, I wrote romances for the general market and did well, garnering many writing awards and making several national bestseller lists. Later, though, in the months after Sean's death when I was writing my last contracted book for the general market, I began to do some hard thinking about the course my writing life, as well as my life in general, should now take. For me at least, it was a natural evolution that as I turned back to the God of my youth, I should also turn my writing in another direction. I prayed about that decision for several months, knowing if my heart truly wasn't in writing for the Christian market, I couldn't just pay it lip service. I waited patiently on God and, in time, He seemed to answer my prayers when Baker Books bought Daughter of Joy. Writing that book was one of the easiest and most joyful books I've ever done. I also took that as a sign from God that I was on the right track. And as of today, Daughter of Joy has been my very bestselling book in the Christian market.
As my life and experiences as a Christian and writer have evolved, so have my writing and focus. Where before I saw writing as a fulfillment of a creative urge solely to tell stories about life and people, now I also see it as a Christian ministry. Life, and my writing, have always been a journey. Now I'm farther along in that journey than I once was, seeking answers I now find more fully and satisfyingly answered by God.
You were stationed in Korea as an Army nurse when you sold your first novel. Tell us a little of that time, please.
My husband had just retired from the Army and had decided to go back to college to prepare for a second career. I decided, since it now fell on me to support the family while he was in college, to go back into the Army as a nurse. My first assignment was to spend a year in Korea which, for many, might seem like a great adventure. Well, it turned out to be more adventure than I anticipated, primarily because I was away from my husband and two sons for so long. In the end, my writing helped fill my lonely off duty hours and give me something to focus on that filled me with such joy and excitement, especially after I learned, halfway through my tour there, that I'd sold my first book. That Saturday morning that my editor called to offer me my very first book contract was an event I'll always cherish and remember.
What does a “typical” writing day look like for you?
I head upstairs to my office first thing in the morning with my cup of coffee. Then I do my spiritual reading, meditate, and pray, before walking a few feet to my computer where I soon check my email. Then it's time to open the current chapter of the current book I'm working on and begin writing. Alternately, I might first put in edit changes from the part of the chapter I wrote the day before, then start the new pages for the day. I take a short break every couple of hours to stretch my legs, get a drink, do some laundry, put out the dogs, etc., then back to work. Lunch is usually about 45 minutes, wherein I read the day's paper and eat. Then it's back upstairs to the office with a similar schedule as the morning. I usually stop about 4 or 5 PM to do some more spiritual reading and prayer, before taking the dogs for a walk with my husband. Then I cook supper, eat, watch some TV, socialize with the husband, and just mentally relax before it's time for night prayers and bed. Frequently, I'll take the pages I've done for the day to bed and edit them, so they'll be ready to put into the computer the next day before I begin fresh pages. If I'm really productive and get my current requirement of one chapter a week done by the end of Thursday, I might even take Friday off to relax, see friends, etc. Then I get a 3 day weekend! If the writing doesn't go all that well during the week, I sometimes, though, even work on my book on the weekends, or do other writing related or writing business stuff (like answering interview questions! J)
What writing project are you working on now?
I'm writing a sequel to my latest Scottish historical romance, As High As the Heavens. It'll be about Colin, Duncan's twin brother, and will pick up immediately after the end of As High As the Heavens. Suffice it to say, Colin is none too happy with Duncan, and means to do something about it. On the Wings of the Wind, its current title, is slated for an August 2009 publication date.
You obviously have a passion for Scotland! How did your interest and then your books set there, come about?
I can't remember when my love for all things Scottish began, but it's been with me for a while. And, boy, howdy, when the bagpipes start up at some Highland Festival, how my heart does race and chills run through me! I know I have Celtic blood in me--at least English and Irish for sure--and hope there's some Scot's blood running through my veins as well. If not, I'm definitely a died-in-the-wool Scots wannabe.
As far as how did my books set in Scotland come about, 16 and 17th century Scotland just seemed the right place and time to set the books in. I've always liked more ancient times, as I don't know a lot about them (well, starting off in writing them anyway), and part of my love for writing historicals is the fun of research and learning about the people and what their life was like in that era. And then, there's just something about a man in a kilt…
Please tell us the inspiration behind your most recent Scottish historical, As High As the Heavens.
I've always been interested in Mary, Queen of Scots, and the events of her life. And, in researching her, I learned about her escape from Lochleven Castle after she abdicated the throne and was imprisoned there. My imagination took hold, and an idea for a story based around the actual plot to rescue her gradually evolved into the fictional plot for As High As the Heavens. I thought a Pygmalion or My Fair Lady in reverse might be a fun way to set up the meeting and conflict between the hero and heroine too. And from there, the wheels spun and out came As High As the Heavens.
Did the plot or characters come to you first?
Sometimes a character inspires the beginnings of a new story idea, sometimes some spiritual theme, and sometimes a particular dramatic time in history. One way or another, though, the story protagonists eventually take over, because, in the end, I write character driven books. I've always seen myself as a writer of stories about life and people, and how they live those lives for good and for bad. Not all my characters ultimately make the right choices, but there is always an element of hope in them. And a lot of lessons learned too.
Who would you cast in a movie of As High As the Heavens?
This probably sounds strange, but I rarely fantasize on which actors would make good characters from my books. Now, if I hear a particularly inspiring song or music score, I have occasionally been know to fantasize about it as an opening score for some of my books. But, for the fun of it, let me choose Gerard Butler to play Duncan and maybe a young Michelle Pfeiffer or Robin Wright Penn to play Heather But what do I know? So, I say let the readers choose the actors that best fit for them when they read the books. That, in the end, will make the stories come most alive to them.
You have a Christmas novella releasing in August, One Perfect Gift. This novel includes characters from your Brides of Culdee Creek series. Tell us a bit about the book and what keeps taking you back to Culdee Creek.
My editor has always wanted me to do three novellas based on this series, so that someday they can be combined in an omnibus or anthology. Hence, why all three books in the series have “Gift” in their titles to help yet again tie them together. Plus, once I'd finished the full length, four book series, I had readers starting to write in and ask me for more stories about the MacKays and their children. And novellas seemed one way of giving them that until I came up with more ideas. As far as what One Perfect Gift is about, here's a blurb on the book, which is actually a September 2008 release:
Jessica Ashmore has brought her young daughter to the Colorado high plains in the winter of 1933. A penniless widow, Jessica is hoping for employment as an office nurse. Though the job she wants is no longer available, she is grateful to at least be offered a temporary position taking care of stroke victim Abby MacKay at Culdee Creek Ranch.
Abby's son Sean, an embittered WWI veteran who many view as a coward and deserter, is none-too-pleased with the arrangement--and he doesn't hide it very well.
But Christmas is a time of love and forgiveness, and their antagonism starts to give way to far deeper feelings. Can Sean and Jessica ever hope for a life together? And will they be able to find that one perfect gift?
Giver of Roses is a fabulous fantasy novel - will we see the sequel someday?
My publisher, my agent, and many readers loved this book and want me to continue to write this series. However, Baker Books also has concerns about the fact that the market for adult fantasy novels with Christian content has not grown as quickly as we all hoped it would. Because of this, I have been encouraged to write some of the other stories I am longing to tell first, although this series means a lot to me. I'm certainly not done with Vartan and Danae and their adventures. If all goes well, I'm hoping to begin work on the sequel Stone of Power this year, but the publication date isn't up to me to determine.
If you want to support Christian fantasy as it struggles to gain a foothold in the Christian fiction market, you can help by:
*spreading the word about these books
*asking libraries to carry the books you've enjoyed
*buying these books as gifts
*encouraging those who are interested to vote with their wallets by buying these books new (it's sales of new books that publishers notice since that is where their profits are derived, not from used or library book check outs)
*writing favorable reviews to post on sites like Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Christianbook.com, etc. (assuming you liked the book, of course) to encourage other potential readers to give these books a try.
*writing about them on blogs or for readers groups
*writing letters to book publishers to ask for more books by your favorite authors in this genre is also very helpful (The publisher of Giver of Roses is Revell. Revell's address is 6030 E. Fulton Rd, Ada, MI 49301).
*forwarding this to any friends you think might be interested.
We authors can say all we like, but in the end it's the readers who have the most clout and really determine what gets published in the future.
Some favourite books?
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and her Mark of the Lion series, anything by Lisa Samson, Kathy Tyers' Firebird science fiction series, anything by Karen Hancock, and Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure, to name a few of my favourite books. Also, Lying Awake by Mark Salzman.
Star Wars, Willow, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, The Matrix, Ben-Hur, Gladiator, and Rob Roy, to name a few. Favorite line is from Star Wars. “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Can't tell that I love historical, science fiction, and fantasy or heroic quests, can you? J
Who inspires you?
Above all, Jesus Christ and the Bible. I also like reading spiritual books by authors such as Joan Chittister, Thomas Dubay, Esther DeWaal, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Thomas Keating, Joyce Rupp, Norvene Vest, and John Howard Griffith. And, as far as who inspires me, there are so many just because of their Christ-like and -filled lives, including friends--many of whom are fellow Benedictine Oblates as well as the Benedictine sisters who mentor and support us--family members, and many people I meet casually everyday. There is so much courage and love in this world. All you have to do is be attentive to it and you'll find it everywhere and everyday.
Please tell us a little about your family
I've been married to a wonderful man for 28 years now, and we have a son who is a registered sleep technologist. In addition, I have a stepdaughter, currently in nursing school, who has three children (making me a very young grandmother), plus a stepson who also has one child (doubly making me a very young grandmother).
Some essential Aussie questions
When/if you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?
I'd want to see both and everything else that makes Australia unique. Plus, they're both so cute. I love to travel and would really like to visit Australia and New Zealand someday (I loved the Lord of the Rings movies and want to see that gorgeous terrain from the movie in person, in New Zealand, of course).
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
Well, as above, I'd love to see both, but especially the Great Barrier Reef. I don't scuba but if I could at least snorkel there a bit, that'd be fantastic. My husband is an aquarium enthusiast, so I've learned a lot about the varieties of salt water fish from him.
Sure, I'd try it. It sounds like it's salty and tastes kind of like thick, peanut butter consistency beef bouillon from the description on Wikipedia. I mean, I grew up eating my morning oatmeal with milk, salt, and butter, which is rather strange for a lot of Americans, so I started out open to different things.
Any last words?
Thanks so much for asking me for an interview. It was fun, especially the Aussie questions. And anyone who might like to keep updated about future books of mine can go to my website at www.kathleenmorgan.com to periodically check on things, and/or sign up for my newsletter, Anamchara Connections, which usually only comes out once or twice a year, so I promise not to flood your email boxes too often at all
Thank you so much, Kathleen - this has been a wonderful interview :)
Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Kathleen's website