Thursday, 14 December 2017

I Interviews

Interview: Jane Kirkpatrick

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All She Left Behind Book Cover

What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Sometimes a story percolates for years before it bubbles up to the surface of my brain. All She Left Behind is such a book.  I’d written a book titled Love to Water My Soul in 1996 and in it I’d mentioned the name of an early missionary in Oregon who was also an Indian agent. A reader wrote to me and said that the Indian agent was her ancestor and had married a woman some years his junior who became a physician. She thought Jennie Parrish had been the first pediatrician in Oregon, which we learned wasn’t the case. But she was passionate about caring for women and children and became a doctor while being married with three children. Her commitment through some very hard times intrigued me and a few years ago the idea of what she must have endured made me want to explore further.

What is the main theme of your book?  I think it’s about believing that each of us are called into service and that we have to find ways to leave behind the “baggage” that would keep us from pursuing a dream and God’s hope for our lives. Baggage such as fear, guilt, hurt feelings, unworthiness, guilt, anxiety and perfectionistic tendencies. Any of those sound familiar? They do to me! That’s my theme but of course readers will decide what the theme really is.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Matching history to story-telling for contemporary readers. This challenge became real through the discoveryof some details about Jennie’s life and first marriage and the addiction of her son and trying to have the story be hopeful while knowing that historically, the issues of addiction challenged that hopeful outcome. I don’t have to have a happy ending in a story but I do feel that a reader needs to feel that the story is hopeful (and worth their time in reading it!). I hope I accomplished that. I do know, and having some family experience with addictions, that mothers especially feel incredibly powerless when watching their children struggle with addictions.

How did you come up with the concept and the setting?  What you might not know about my novels, is that they are based on the lives of actual historical women.  So I’m blessed with history and finding facts that I then need to make sense of within a story arc. I learned, for example, that Jennie and her first husband lived with Jennie’s sister and her husband and that Jennie’s husband worked for her sister’s husband who was the head of the Oregon Correctional Facility. That got me wondering what it would have been like to have everyone living together and what kinds of pressures would there have been. The story then moves from there taking into account the social problems at the time related to alcohol abuse.

Is any part of All She Left Behind factual? Yes, quite a bit. In fact, as I found out that Jennie had lost a child, that her husband had divorced her (a terrible plight for a woman in the 1860s), that her son had an alcohol addiction, that Jennie’s second husband was 37 years older than she was, well, the facts were quite fascinating. I did talk with the descendants about what I’d found. They had had no clue of any of this but trusted that I would find the hopefulness in this story. And I did! Jennie is an amazing character and she did indeed become a physician graduating in 1879. In each of my books I include a section about what is factual and what isn’t which readers seem to like. I also include a list of natural herbs and oils Jennie used before she became a allopathic physician as opposed to a natural pathic physician.

How much research did (All She Left Behind) take? Let me say this about the research. Two years or so ago, a woman whom I had never met, sent me a letter saying she would love to be able to assist me in whatever way she could. Trained as a clinical social worker, as I am, her child was headed to school, her husband working and she thought she had some time to devote and her offer was in response to her own belief in service. It turns out, CarolAnne’s specialty was medical research!  How wonderful is that? She located resources on early medical history that were so helpful and when we thought we’d hit a dead end, she located the Methodist archives in Philadelphia who had a huge file on Jennie’s husband as an early missionary in Oregon. In that file were treasures like newspaper ads for Jennie’s doctor hours (she had a lot of hours!), programs of her children’s concerts and what they played, letters from her children to their father. Even the invoice for her medical books! I love research! And my research about a Dorothea Dix, an early reformer in mental health, was also put to good use in this novel.

What is the message you hope to get across in this story? That pursuing one’s God-given desire is worthy work Kirkpatrick Janeregardless of how long that pursuit may take. I also hope people will see how people we may not expect appear in our lives to help us pursue those goals. I guess to realize that we are not alone on our journeys.

What is your goal or mission as a writer? To tell the stories I’ve been given the best that I know how and to trust that I’m not alone in the telling.  I actually wrote a real mission statement a few years ago. Here’s what I wrote: to inspire and promote through speaking and writing the power of story to divinely heal and transform. That statement combines my writing, speaking and mental health life. I often use it to evaluate whether or not I should take on a project or not.

Is there a question you really wish someone would ask, but they never do?  If so what would be your reply?  Hmmm. I always hope people will ask what I’m working on now but they usually do :) I’d have to think about that question. Maybe your question is it and I’d answer by saying “I don’t know!”

What other projects do you have or are working on right now? Oh see, you did ask that question!  I’m working on a book I call Between the Lines. It’s based on woman who in 1911 wrote a memoir called Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage 1877-1898. It got rave reviews but there was something missing for me in that memoir: she didn’t really talk about how she felt about all the adventures she told about. And there was something mysterious about her relationship with her husband who was a railroad investor. So I start each chapter with a quote from the actual memoir and then I write from Carrie’s point of view what she was really thinking.

How can readers find you? You can sign up for my Story Sparks newsletter at jkbooks.com. And here are the other links. Come visit!

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I’m on facebook and twitter and of course for this newest release, #allsheleftbehind. #janekirkpatrick

 #pioneering healer

Who or what has influenced you most as a/an author/writer?  I had teachers throughout my life who told me that I had a gift with words. I didn’t really pay attention to that gift until we were preparing to move to a very remote piece of property and while I prayed about what I would do there (fearing I’d eat myself into oblivion!) this spirit voice said “Write.”  This startled me greatly and I decided to take a class at the local community college. My first instructor was Bob Welch, a faithful Christian man and phenomenal writer. His encouragement, his support and a life-long friendship led me to trust that perhaps writing was what God had in store for me. My husband has been a terrific supporter and readers have encouraged me as well. And I would be remiss if I didn’t add all my editors and publishers. They’ve all made me a better writer. There are so many people who have contributed to my career. I’m grateful. Thanks for asking.

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