I have a lot of respect for authors who can write historical fiction. It takes a tremendous amount of research to write in that genre. Ruth Chatlien has written a compelling story that won gold in the Readers’ Favorite International Award Contest. I am beyond happy she accepted my request for an interview.
Can you tell me about yourself?
I’m a native of northern Illinois who has worked in educational publishing as both a writer and editor for 25 years. I’ve also published several short stories and poems in literary magazines. My husband is a writer too; in fact we met in a writers’ critique group. We were critics of each other’s work for three years before we ever starting dating. Having this vocation in common really helps us to support each other. I’m also a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in December 2013 – the same month that my novel was published – which made for a real emotional roller coaster at the end of last year. Fortunately, we caught it at an early stage, and I finished treatment on March 21, 2014. The beginning of spring will always symbolize new life for me in an extra way from now on. In addition to writing, I’m passionate about gardening, knitting, art, football, and my dog Smokey.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I started my first novel when I was 10 years old – so long ago that I don’t remember why I did it beyond a love of stories. That first novel was historical fiction about forbidden romance and patriotic spies during the American Revolution. I finally finished the 120-page manuscript when I was in high school. After college, I spent 30 years writing literary fiction. Finally, a few years ago, I decided to go back to my first love: historical fiction. The best way to describe why I write is that it feels as though characters come up to me and say, “If you don’t tell my story, I will die.”
How long did it take you to acquire the skills to become a writer?
It’s a lifelong process. I majored in literature in college and took several writing courses. After I graduated, I kept writing on my own, and I joined the writers’ group I mentioned earlier to get feedback on my work. I don’t believe there is a point where you can ever say, “I’ve made it. Now I’m really a writer.” As soon as you start putting words to paper, you’re a writer, but then you have to work at getting better your whole life.
How many books have you written?
As an adult, I’ve written four novels and one young adult book of biographies. Two books have been published: the young adult book, Modern American Indian Leaders, and the most recent novel, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte,which is based on the true story of the American beauty who married Napoleon’s youngest brother, only to have the emperor become an implacable enemy.
Some writers go on long walks; others keep a journal, write at a café, or listen to music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?
Going for walks definitely helps me. We live about a block away from an old cemetery that has marvelous avenues of trees. I put the dog on a leash and go there when I have to think things out. I also play out scenes in my head as I’m weeding my garden. Having a physical activity to focus on seems to help clear out the cobwebs. And of course, I talk things over with my husband. Usually, when we have to drive somewhere more than an hour from our house, you’ll find us talking about our work.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing another historical novel with the working title of Captive Summer. It’s based on the true story of a white woman taken captive in one of the most brutal Indian wars in U.S. history.
Where can readers find more information about you and your books?
The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is available from Amazon and most other online retailers.