Welcome to fellow author Alethea Williams today. Alethea Williams grew up in boom-and-bust southwest Wyoming, with her nose perpetually in a book while living in a world of robust railroad workers and trona miners. She attended every writing class available, from poetry to creative nonfiction, absorbing her teachers’ knowledge of mastering the writing craft and their experience of publishing. Williams has contributed a monthly newspaper column, won writing awards, and published short stories. Willow Vale is her first novel. A past president of Wyoming Writers, she presently lives in the Northwest with her husband and her longtime friend, Amazon parrot Bob.
|Alethea Williams and her dog|
Alethea: I grew up in a small town in southern Wyoming. There were two industries in town: the prison and the railroad. My dad worked for the railroad. I have two younger sisters, but spent a lot of time at my cousin’s; she was an only child and I suspect the purpose of my frequent sojourns at her house was to keep her from getting too spoiled! I was, and still am, a bookworm. I might be the single person alive who had a teaching nun tell her mother to make her stop reading so much after I had to get glasses in the second grade. I stopped at the library on my way home from school almost every day to check out more books. If anyone wanted to give me a gift, the most appreciated was a book. In the 9th grade, I had Forever Amber confiscated in class after I thought the paperback was so well hidden inside my English book. My eyes got progressively worse until about the age of fifteen and my prescription has been about the same since despite continuing to be a voracious reader, so I strongly suspect reading was never the problem.
Caroline: My mom used to believe reading was why I needed glasses. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
Alethea: For romance, nobody has ever beaten LaVyrle Spencer in my estimation. There was a place in each of her books where the reader went “Ohhhh” while reaching for the tissues. I try for that same emotional hook in my writing. For detective and murder mystery, absolute escape literature for me because I don’t write it, I really like James Lee Burke and Greg Iles, just because they’re such good writers and not necessarily because they write about Louisiana. For historical, I like Jane Kirkpatrick. She writes about strong women protagonists in the 19th century, and I try to incorporate into my own writing the lessons she teaches about writing engaging fiction without graphic encounters.
Caroline: What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge?
Alethea: I’m a book addict. There is no better way to relax and recharge than reading. I work in the yard a bit, much less than I used to, and my hobby is – guess? – reading!
Caroline: Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, too. Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?
Alethea: I ran across this quote from President Calvin Coolidge many years ago and it helps me when I get stuck, in writing or in life, and has proven to be absolute truth over the years: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Caroline: I keep that quotation in my favorite quotes, too. How long have you been writing?
Alethea: Twenty years. I wanted so much to be published when I was younger, and the rejections just kept rolling in. Perhaps a book just has its own time to be published, or perhaps an author has. Maybe important things just shouldn’t be rushed, I don’t know -- twenty years writing and I still don’t know for sure if it would have been better earlier.
Caroline: Where do you prefer to write?
Alethea: I have great power of concentration. I can write anywhere, with or without radio or TV on, as long as it’s not NASCAR or ads. Those things, with all the shrieking, are meant to distract. The keyboard on a PC is handy to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, but I can write just as well on the flat keyboard of a laptop. I used to write longhand and then transfer to computer, but for anyone except poets that can lead to severe writers’ cramp.
Caroline: I know some authors write in longhand still, then transfer to the computer. Seems like wasted time to me. Are you a plotter or a panzer?
Alethea: Panzer, definitely. Back in the old days, I really dreaded it when an editor required a 30-page outline with a manuscript submission. I don’t write from an outline, the characters just show up in my head and won’t stop talking until I write their story. Sometimes they leave pieces out, though, go in another room or something where I can’t hear them. Then I have to wait and let the story simmer for a while before I can get back to the familiar white-hot heat of writing.
Caroline: Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?
Alethea: I think everyone who writes uses real events or people as the basis for plot and characters, despite the disclaimer in the fronts of novels that they’re purely fictional and any resemblance to a real person is coincidental. WILLOW VALE is loosely based on my immigrant grandmother’s experience of coming to America after WWI, but the story veers quickly from anything resembling Nona’s history into pure fiction.
Caroline: Most of my characters are purely imaginary and not based on real people. The exception is the aunts in my current series. Do you set daily writing goals?
Alethea: I don’t set writing goals because I feel bad if I don’t meet them. I don’t write every day, in fact years have gone by sometimes between novel attempts.
Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?
Alethea: The message in my books is the same as President Coolidge’s: Persevere! Nobody’s going to prop up your writing career for you or live your life for you. You’re as unique as your life’s tears and joys; how you handle it is up to you.
Caroline: True words. What long-term plans do you have for your career?
Alethea: I would like to see the rest of my novels in print. The question these days is whether to seek a traditional publisher or go it alone. I still haven’t decided. Either way, much more is expected from an author these days in terms of getting a book out and then Internet networking and marketing. The last year has been a real education for me. If WILLOW VALE had never seen publication, I probably wouldn’t be on Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads or Shelfari. I have four email accounts, five with the new one from Facebook. It’s overwhelming sometimes.
Caroline: Social media is a must. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
Alethea: Learn the craft. It’s hard enough to distinguish yourself by writing a novel these days so write the best that you can.
Caroline: Tell us something you learned researching your book that surprised/interested you.
Alethea: I never understood when I was a kid how my grandmother’s parents could own land and still be so poor. Val di Non, high in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy, was once a silkworm capital. Then the silkworms all died. That high in the mountains, there was only a small amount of land to farm and feed cattle, so most people there were poor. After the war when the valley changed from Austrian hands to Italian, all the customers for the valley’s produce as well as the supply routes were cut off as well as cheap food flooding into Europe to compete. It was a tough situation. In many cases, young peoples’ answer was to emigrate to America.
Caroline: Can you give readers a blurb about your book?
Alethea: From opposite sides of an ocean, two people wounded by the Great War are fated to meet and try to rebuild their lives. Francesca Sittoni was brought against her will to America by the husband she never loved. Now she finds herself alone — widowed, pregnant, and with a small daughter to support. Terrified of being deported back to the impoverished country of her birth, Francesca answers an ad placed by Wyoming rancher and former doughboy Kent Reed.
As their contracted year together passes, Francesca begins to ask if she is cook and housekeeper to Kent…or a secretly sought mail-order bride as the neighbors insist? Only Kent Reed, burned by mustard gas and his spoiled former wife’s desertion, knows his heart’s true desire when it comes to the beautiful Tyrolean immigrant woman now living in the uncomfortably close quarters of his small ranch house.
Caroline: How about an excerpt?
“Aw, boy. We already done talked about it —you want eggs, right? Francesca, you want eggs?”
She looked uncertainly to Kent again, who shrugged without giving her a clue what had preceded this conversation. He looked disgusted. With her? Was she embarrassing him? Her English, perhaps. She knew it wasn’t flawless, but she’d thought she could make herself understood. Harv seemed to understand her. Maybe Kent suspected, maybe both men knew, that she wasn’t telling the whole truth.
“Sure, I like the eggs,” she said uncertainly. Her brows lowered as she concentrated on folding and re-folding a crimp in the tablecloth.
“Agnes—that’s my wife—has more eggs than she knows what to do with. You come on over, and she’ll give you some of those eggs. Old Kent here is cravin’ eggs.”
“Harv,” Kent said. He nearly dumped his coffee, catching it as it started to spill. “That’s enough.”
“I want eggs,” Elena contributed brightly, unmindful that in her mother’s hurry she hadn’t changed clothes or had her hair combed. Francesca tenderly brushed a strand from her daughter’s face. She said quietly, “Tsst, Elena. The men talk, not you.”
Harv sucked his teeth as he studied the woman and the little girl. At last he said, looking toward Kent, “As I see it, it’s the best way, boy. There will be no rest until that woman sets eyes on this here housekeeper of yours for herself. Saddle up a horse for Francesca, and she can come with me right now to meet Agnes.”
Saddle up? Francesca looked in a panic to Kent. His thick russet brows lowered, he glared across the table at Harv Broadbent. He wouldn’t even look at her. Why was he so set against her meeting Harv’s wife? Because she would embarrass him? That was it, she knew it. Kent Reed was ashamed of her.
Flustered, she said, “I don’t know the horses.”
“What’s that mean? You can’t ride?” Harv studied her closely.
She shook her head. Her eyelids felt stretched wide in a stiff, terrified face. Surely they wouldn’t make her get on a horse and ride off right now to accompany this old man to meet his wife, when she’d never been on a horse in her life.
Broadbent shook his head sadly. “Kent’s been neglecting your education, Francesca.”
Caroline: That sounds intriguing. Where can readers find your books?
Alethea: WILLOW VALE is available in paper at Amazon:
In paper at Barnes and Noble: http://ww w.barnesandnoble.com/w/willow-vale-alethea-williams/1108091581?ean=9780982557419
From the publisher: http://jargon-media.com
On Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Willow-Vale-ebook/dp/B0075R4IH2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1341954104&sr=1-1
On Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/willow-vale-alethea-williams/1108091581?ean=2940014614160&format=nook-book
Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?
Alethea: I blog on writing, writers, and historical Wyoming at http://actuallyalethea.blogspot.com/
Visit my Facebook pages at: https://www.facebook.com/actuallyalethea
and https://www.facebook.com/AletheaWilliams.author Twitter: @actuallyalethea
Thank for sharing with us today, Alethea.
Readers, thanks for stopping by!