In my capacity as the Historical correspondent for FamilyFiction, I had the pleasure of interviewing the delightful Karen Witemeyer for the most recent edition of the FamilyFiction magazine.
I'm thrilled to post our full interview for you here. Karen and I hope you enjoy it and would love for you to comment!
Rel:~ You describe yourself as a hopeless romantic! How does that shape the stories you write?
Karen:~ I admit it. I'm a sap. I love rugged heroes, charming heroes, dark heroes, wounded heroes, take-charge heroes . . . oh, [ahem]and the heroines, too.
The truth is, for me there is something so alluring about that short window of time where two people who are meant to share a life together discover one another and fall in love. I've been married for nearly twenty years and am living out my own happily-ever-after, but I can still remember those early weeks and months when my husband courted me. Writing romantic stories allows me to relive those emotions and share them with others.
This summer, my daughter and I started watching old Hollywood musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Singing in the Rain (I'm determined to pass my sappiness on to my children), and I realized how much my exposure to such movies in my teens years influenced my writing choices. Not only do I prefer historical settings, but I love giving my stories that same light-hearted spirit.
What is it about historical fiction that appeals to you and why do you think it is currently so popular?
For me, there is nothing more romantic than travelling to the past. It enhances the fairy-tale factor, the fantasy of the story. And when times are hard, like we've experienced over the last few years with our nation's economy, the need to escape drives our entertainment choices. The farther one can escape, the better. Escaping 130 years or more into the past allows readers to distance themselves for a few minutes or an hour from the realities of their contemporary life. I think that is also why Amish fiction is so popular. It may have a contemporary setting, but it reads like an historical story and allows readers to escape into another world far different and less complicated than their own.
You hold a Masters degree in psychology ~ do you find yourself applying the science of psychology when you create your characters?
I don't break out my DSM and search for neuroses to plague my characters with, but I have no doubt that my studies in psychology subconsciously influence my writing. There are so many different personality types and defence mechanisms that drive people in everyday life that any deeper understanding I can gain about my characters because of my psychology training is a blessing. In my first book, A Tailor-Made Bride, I have a secondary character who is mentally challenged and another who is so chained by grief that he subconsciously holds people at bay by allowing his personal hygiene to deteriorate to the point that no one wants to get near him. In Head in the Clouds, young Isabella suffers from elective mutism as a result of traumatic events in her recent past. Would these characters have come about if I didn't have a background in psychology? I don't know. But I believe having this background gives me insight into my characters that I wouldn't have otherwise.
Please share your inspiration for Head in the Clouds
Many times, I start with plot as I develop story ideas, but for Head in the Clouds, everything started with theme. I wanted to write about a woman with big dreams who grows impatient when God doesn't seem to be answering her prayers. The longer God is silent, the more confused and frustrated she becomes until she finally takes matters into her own hands and pursues her dreams in the way she thinks best. In the process, she makes a thorough mess of things. It is only when she learns to wait on the Lord that he begins to work in her life to bring about blessings she never before imagined.
I love the humour in your stories and the vivacious personalities of your female characters ~ is the humour and the feisty women a reflection of your own personality?
Hmmm. . . It depends who you ask. When I'm with close friends and family, I can be feisty and vivacious, but in other situations, my introversion takes over and holds that more lively side of my personality prisoner. One facet that remains constant, however, is my light-hearted spirit and cheerful outlook. I love to laugh. Whether it's being silly with my kids, giggling at one of my husband's quips, or smiling over the fact that the pancake I just turned more closely resembles a deformed slug than the teddy bear I'd intended, I truly believe that finding joy in life lends us strength. As a reader, I'm drawn to stories that make me laugh. I want action and drama, too, but if a witty turn of phrase can make me smile or a character's reaction can elicit a chuckle loud enough for the people around me to stare, that's even better. This is the type of experience I hope to create for my readers.
Can you give a sneak peek into your third novel and when it is set to release?
My third book with Bethany House will release next May. It is entitled To Win Her Heart and features a blacksmith with a criminal past and a librarian with pacifist ideals. Both long for a second chance, yet neither can escape the secrets that threaten their future.
This story set in the late 1880s asks the question – what happens after the prodigal son returns? So many times, we focus on the wonderful homecoming the lost son received from his father, but have you ever asked what life was like for him after the celebration was over? How did he relate to his bitter older brother or the servants and townspeople who were only too aware of his past arrogance and wild living?
To Win Her Heart plays on those very questions. My hero is a man recently released from prison who has returned to his faith roots and rededicated his life to the Lord. The heroine is a woman who has been disappointed by men in the past and has little tolerance for those who don't meet her high standards. In an effort to make a clean start, Levi hides his past and Eden believes she has finally found a man of honor and integrity. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can a tarnished hero find a way to win back his lady's affection?
I hope you enjoyed this FamilyFiction Plus ~ we would love your thoughts!