Chatting with Author Gail Kittleson
We’re in store for a lot of fun today, I had the pleasure to meet Gail recently when she presented to our ACFW-DFWwriter’s meeting. Thank you for coming and visiting with us today. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you join us.
Gail, please tell us about the genre of books you write. Why did this place in history draw you in to share your stories with your readers? AS for your memoirs, what got you started in writing them?
What about the World War II era has me so addicted? May I say I don’t know for sure? What I do know is that my youth on the farm was filled with Mom singing or humming the tunes of that time.
I really had no idea how much the war affected “the way we were” in my childhood home, so my research has taught me far more than simple facts. The heroes and heroines of that time so captured my heart that I can never honor them enough.
Everyone has a beginning to their writing career, which novel was your first? Can you tell us about it?
My first novel’s five-year contract ran out in December, so I recently reworked it. Oh my—I was SO verbose back then! After culling out unneeded words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole SCENES, it’s a much stronger story, and will be released in autumn of 2020 as part of a Christmas set.
Even though this manuscript revealed ways I needed to grow as a writer, the main character, Dottie Kyle, still has my heart. A widow and Gold Star mother, she lost her only son to the war. With her two daughters married and a distance away, she takes a job at a local boarding house to help make ends meet—and for a reason to get up in the morning.
Dottie meets the boarders’ needs and also volunteers with the children at her church. At the same time, her hidden yearning to meet her sweet little grandchildren In California haunts her, but how can she ride a train all that way when enclosed spaces bother her so much?
Next door, the husband of her deceased best friend faces his own challenges. Dottie has no idea that as she treks to work each morning, Al slides his living room drapes back a little to watch her and ponder how to win her heart.
It’s going to be fun to re-publish this story with a Christmas theme, because second chances are such a gift!
You have a series titled “Women of the Heartland,” can you tell us about each of these novels?
In Times Like These highlights Addie, a young farm wife with a huge home front challenge as the Pearl Harbor attack launches the US into war. Her battle revolves around her volatile husband who blames her for the draft board’s decision to keep him on the family farm.
In fact, he blames her for everything in general. But Addie’s best friend Kate, seeking her downed RAF pilot husband in London, sends a steady stream of letters that buoy Addie up during this frightening time.
Addie also discovers an older neighbor down the road who’s been through a lot and emerged with a pithy sense of humor and common sense wisdom for facing life’s conundrums. In fact, everywhere Addie turns, she finds a friend—and friends make all the difference!
The sequel, With Each New Dawn, casts Kate as the main character, with Addie her support. I hate to say too much about the way their friendship continues to grow, lest I spoil the story. Let’s just say that readers learn a great deal about London during the war in this book.
The last novel, A Purpose True, transports us to the Auvergne in France, where French Resistance workers fight for the soul of their country. Kate plays a significant role she never would have imagined, and discovers guidance for her future.
And Addie continues to move forward into new challenges…and joys! Two young women from the sleepy rural center of the United States, in the midst of a vast world war—who could have guessed where life would lead them?
Do you have a personal connection to America’s Heartland, and to the military in general?
Absolutely! I’m a farmer’s daughter from Butler County, Iowa, where in the 1950’s and 60’s, life revolved around farming and attending school.
I was one of those rural children who longed for visits to the town library seven miles away. For me, school equaled JOY, and I was always deflated on the last day of the year.
The military rarely entered my thoughts until I married Lance, a military brat whose father had played a pivotal role in delivering the Bataan Death March captives from their prison camp. Throughout our marriage, Lance has been active in the Army Reserves, and spent two year-long deployments in the Middle East.
Our son also deployed twice, once for fifteen long months. Lance says I’ve endured more deployments than anyone else in our family. (:
Thank you for your families service, we appreciate it greatly. As for your memoirs, would you please share a tidbit on them?
I began writing a memoir (although I didn’t realize that was what it would become) when I was instructing writing at Eastern Oregon University. Memoir, such a unique genre, can be a life-changing experience. It was for me.
The title came to me on an evening flight from Des Moines, Iowa to Colorado Springs. A man behind me said to his seatmate, “We’ll be catching up with daylight on this flight.”
Bingo! Immediately I knew this was my title because it describes the movement of my life from darkness into light.
I believe the memoir writing process was necessary before I could write anything else. Once the memoir was published by WhiteFire Publishing, my first World War II character came to me. I don’t understand this, but isn’t it interesting?
That is very interesting, it seems every writer has their own path to follow toward their writing career. Speaking of writing, your blog is titled “Dare to Bloom,” which sounds like what writers feel as they open themselves up to begin writing. How did your writing journey begin?
I’ve covered some of this already, but your phrasing, “open themselves up” is really meaningful. That’s the key, as far as I can tell. That’s what occurred for me when I attended a summer writing retreat in Oregon that summer long ago. Suddenly I was in the “student” seat, with writing assignments to complete.
Opening myself up to whatever came through my pen onto paper involved a risk—but oh, how rewarding to take it! When an international friend suggested I needed a website, I also needed to title it.
Dare to Bloom seemed perfect—this venture felt like a big risk invoking a mix of excitement and fear. I hope my story motivates other fledgling writers to take their first steps along the writing path.
As a consummate teacher, what advice might you have for a beginning writer? Are there some websites/books on the craft you’d recommend for them to read?
Donald Maass/Writing The Breakout Novel and workbook helped me SO much. So did The Moral Premise/Stanley D. Williams.
K.M. Weiland’s blog has also proven valuable to me, with down-to-earth advice. https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com
Of course, all the oldies-but-goodies, like Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones should be cited. Also, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, with its excellent activities following every chapter, has made a big difference for me.
I appreciate your sharing Gail some of your favorite craft books. As a Christian writer, do you have a favorite Bible verse you like to lean into during stressful times?
This is always tough, because so many have strengthened me. I’ll fall back on Psalm 32:8 this time. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. This is in the NIV, but I learned all of them in the KJV a loooong time ago!
I ask all guests this burning question, do you prefer coffee of tea, since we writers are all fueled by something.
Tea. I grew up with the coffee pot always on and lots of people stopping by to chat. But that wonderful smell leads to a bitter taste I could never embrace.
Now, tea….ah, the aroma! Ah, the joy of imbibing each tantalizing sip…ah, the World War II folks who also knew the joys of a heartening cup of tea!
A cup of tea sounds perfect. I enjoy reading or movie watching while sipping on a cup of coffee or tea. What book or movie is piquing your interest now?
Books excite me far more than movies, but a couple of films have impressed in the past few years. Sawtooth Ridge is one—I was speechless on the way home from that, and The Longest Day had the same effect on me. The courage, tenacity, and suffering of the heroes magnetized me. I don’t often watch movies more than once, but have with these.
Right now, Lance and I are watching Endeavor, a British detective series, and Foyle’s War has engrossed us, too.
As for books…recent research of the Civil War era has given me fresh appreciation for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. What a far-reaching impact that novel continues to have).
Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals, happy to see we have a love of his work in common. Thank you, Gail, for spending some time with us. I wish you all the best in your writing.
#Amazon link to In Times Like These (Women of the Heartland Book-1)-
Dare To Bloom became the title of my website for a reason. I’m a late bloomer, and just thankful to be blooming!
My background in teaching English as a Second Language, college expository writing and other courses colors my writing, as do my origins in farm country. Honoring the heroines and heroes of the Greatest Generation motivates me, and facilitating writing workshops is the frosting on my cake (although I’m gluten and sugar-free)!
How to connect with Gail-
Amazon author page-http://amazon.com/author/gailkittleson
Comment for a chance to win an e-book of In Times Like These. Drawing Friday, April 17th at 4pm.