Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Jane Kirkpatrick’s book, “All She Left Behind.” Winner will be announced in the next Author Spotlight feature. Congratulations to Mallori R. Norris for winning Patricia Bradley’s book, “Justice Buried.” Please email my assistant christenkrumm {at} gmail {dot} com to claim your prize.

Based on true events, award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick uses engaging storytelling to relay the intriguing account of Jennie Pickett, a young woman who dreams of practicing medicine in Oregon. Already well-versed in the natural healing properties of herbs and oils, Jennie longs to become a doctor but the Oregon frontier of the 1870s doesn’t approve of women attending medical school.

To support herself and her son, Jennie cares for an elderly woman using skills she has developed on her own. When her patient dies, Jennie discovers that her heart has become entangled with the woman’s widowed husband, a man many years her senior. Their unlikely romance may lead her to her ultimate goal—but the road will be winding and the way forward will not always be clear. Will Jennie find shelter in life’s storms? Will she discover where healing truly lives?

Jane Kirkpatrick invites readers to leave behind their preconceived notions about love and life as they, along with Jennie, discover that dreams may be deferred—but they never really die.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I live in Central Oregon, which is the high desert part of the state. We get very little rain, but have snow instead in the winter. I wrote a blog piece about my adopted state that readers might enjoy, http://annettesnyder.blogspot.com/.

I grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in Communications and Public Address and worked in public relations and social services for awhile. I then went back to school to become a clinical social worker. After I graduated, I came to Oregon in the 1970s to live closer to my sister and her family and worked in the disabilities field. I met my husband of 40 years in Oregon. He had three children from a precious marriage so I became a step-mom!

Eventually, I became the director of a mental health clinic until my husband and I decided to leave and move to a remote ranch. We have two spoiled dogs. Through our church, I’m also involved in a project in partnership with the Batwa people of Burundi. I went to Burundi in 2015 as we began this partnership and we are hoping to go back in 2018.

Do you have a day job as well? If so, what is it?

I wrote most of my earlier novels while working as a mental health specialist on an Indian Reservation, but now I am “retired” and my day job is looking after my 87 year old husband who gets into amazing scrapes like falling down a sage-brushed covered ridge while he was deer hunting! It’s really a full time job with that guy!

When did you start writing your first book?

My first book was a memoir about the decision for my husband and I to leave suburbia and our jobs and move to what I called the “rattlesnake and rock ranch.” I wrote letters about our progress on this remote place, which was seven miles from our mailbox. One friend said that when they got my letters they’d turn off the TV and read them out-loud after supper because they were like a chapter in a book. I thought maybe I could write a book about people following their heart even when others questioned their direction. That book became Homestead and the rest is history.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did the genre choose you? 

It really chose me. My novel life began with an effort to write a biography about a historical woman, Jane Sherar. As a young reader, biographies of women really inspired me. But when I tried to find out about her, I could only find some census data and her obituary. I was able to find out all kinds of things about her husband, brother, and father. So I took a risk and decided to try my hand at fiction. Virginia Woolf wrote that “women’s history must be invented…both uncovered and made up.” That’s how writing historical novels about actual women came to be my thing.

Does writing energize you or exhaust you?

It energizes me! I lose track of time and am always amazed when I look at the clock on my computer screen and think “I’ll just finish this paragraph and then I’ll break for lunch” and when I look again a couple of hours have passed. As I get closer to the end of a book, I wake up earlier and earlier to finish the work. I need blocks of time afterwards to relax, read, and walk with my dogs, but it is the act of writing and living in another world that is the richness of my days. I actually think of writing as praying. I am never less alone than when I’m writing despite people saying that writing is a solitary act.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I don’t. There are days when I feel more productive than others. And I have a few tricks I use now to keep me “staying in the room.” I actually teach a writing class called “Staying in the room”, which offers tips for writers to keep seated rather than find reasons to clean the grout or floss their teeth. One of my tricks is that I usually end my work in the middle of a sentence. That way when I come in the next day, I always have a place to start right in.

Do you create an outline before you begin? Do you have the end in mind, or do you just wait and see where the story takes you?

I don’t really write an outline, but I have a practice that is recommended in a book called Structuring Your Novel by Meredith and Fitzgerald. It asks writers to answer three questions before they begin to write. 1) What is this Story about? 2) What is my attitude toward this story? 3) What is my purpose in writing this story? I work long hours on answering those three questions. It might take four to five pages for each answer, but I try to get each down to one sentence. I print these out stick them that at the top of my computer. Then I start to write. And when I get to that muddle in the middle and wonder why I ever thought I could write this book, I look at those three answers and remind myself about why I’m writing the story. I don’t always know where the story will end but I usually have an idea of how I hope a reader will feel at the end.

What kind of research do you do? How long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I explore census records, create genealogy charts, and I try to contact descendants to interview them and hear their stories. I also form a timeline of important events for my main character, asking why she was there, what had just happened, what else was happening in the world then, did my character know about these events, and how long it took for the news to reach the west.

For my latest book, All She Left Behind, I needed to know how people became doctors. Plus, I needed to research fashion, transportation, and living conditions. I always have to start writing before I think I should. Having a deadline to meet keeps me from just wandering off in research. In revisions, I also take out a lot of the detail of research as it slows the story down. But I do love research.

Are you part of a community of authors? If so, how has it helped you?

I am a part of Central Oregon Author’s Guild, Oregon Christian Writers, Women Writing the West and Author’s Guild. And I belong to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association as an author. I’m also part of some on-line groups of authors and am grateful for access to the skills of these many-published authors.

Early on, it was Women Writing the West that provided a “tribe” for me, other people who understood my passion for stories about historical women told authentically. They championed my efforts as a young writer, offered research material. We have a once a year conference with panels that enrich my skills. And they provided authors as possible endorsers and suggestions for how to market.

When I learned about Oregon Christian Writers and other on-line sources, I saw the value of supporting each other and encouraging colleagues as writers. I have tried to extend that to other authors, reading for endorsement, making suggestions about finding agents and encouraging. I think that’s the biggest thing writer groups can do: encourage. We all need it no matter how many books we’re written. Being involved in a trade show association helps me learn what booksellers need and to appreciate their efforts when they give real-estate (shelf-space) to my books.

[Tweet “Join author @JaneKirkpatrick on this week’s #AuthorSpotlight with @SuzanneWFisher + enter to win a copy of All She Left Behind!”]

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Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling author of more than thirty books, including A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver, This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have been finalists for the Christy Award, Spur Award, Oregon Book Award, and Reader’s Choice awards, and have won the WILLA Literary Award, USABestBooks, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregon with her husband, Jerry.

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