Selected among Booklist’s Top 10 for two consecutive years, Lisa Wingate skillfully weaves lyrical writing and unforgettable settings with elements of traditional Southern storytelling, history, and mystery to create novels that Publisher’s Weekly calls “Masterful” and Library Journal refers to as “A good option for fans of Nicholas Sparks and Mary Alice Monroe.”
Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of twenty-five novels. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol Award nominee, a multiple Christy Award nominee, a two-time Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RT Booklovers Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award Winner for mystery/suspense. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Booklist summed up her work by saying, “Lisa Wingate is, quite simply, a master storyteller.” More information about her novels can be found at www.lisawingate.com.
Savanna: Welcome to the blog, Lisa. We’re so glad you could join us today. Congrats on your newest release, The Sea Keeper’s Daughters!
Lisa: Thank you for having me! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity to hang out on your online porch and chat with your friends awhile.
Savanna: The Appalachian setting is a character of its own in this book. Why did you set the historical portion of the book there?
Lisa: Appalachia is a place where the air fairly whispers with stories. So much of the world has become too fast-paced these days, too busy for sitting and listening, too preoccupied with the future to devote effort to retelling the past. But in Appalachian culture, there’s still a reverence for it.
There are still storytellers who can entertain a crowd at a ramshackle café, on a back porch, or at the kitchen table over coffee. That tradition of the importance of story is at the heart of Alice’s journey as a Federal Writer in the historical portion of The Sea Keeper’s Daughters.
Appalachia is filled with mist and mystery. It lends mood to a story. The mountains are dotted with isolated communities where people can live differently, undisturbed by outsiders. It’s also the place where mysterious “little races” like the Melungeons lived historically, and in some cases still do. Even today, the heritage of “blue-eyed Indians” discovered in the Appalachians by the first English and French explorers remains a mystery. What were the origins of their Caucasian blood? Were they descendants of shipwrecked sailors? Journeying Norsemen or Turks? The progeny of the Lost Colonists who vanished from Roanoke Island without a trace, decades before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock? The mystery fascinated me, and it pulled the story from me, and yes, both Roanoke Island and the Blue Ridge Mountains became characters in themselves as the dual storylines developed.
Savanna: Such a beautiful area! Just talking about it makes me want to visit again. 😉
What first inspired you to become a writer?
Lisa: A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, put the idea of being a real writer into my head. She found me writing a story one day at indoor recess, and she took the time to stop and read it. When she was finished, she tapped the pages on the desk to straighten them, looked at me over the top and said, “You are a wonderful writer!” That was a defining moment for me. In my mind, I was a writer. When your first grade teacher tells you that you can do something, you believe it.
I was only in her class for a few months before we moved again, but during that time, she left an indelible mark on my life. It’s funny how we have defining moments in our lives, and that time in Mrs. Krackhardt’s class was one of mine. For years, I couldn’t have told you what she looked like, or whether she was a young teacher or an old teacher, but I could have told you that she said I was a wonderful writer. When I left her class, she wrote on my report card, “Keep that pencil working with that wonderful imagination, Lisa!” and “I expect to see your name in a magazine one day.” I still have that report card, and I never forgot those words, or the way her confidence in me gave me confidence. Publishing is a difficult business, but I always believe I could do it, because my first grade teacher told me so.
Savanna: How did you write 25 books in 14 years with a family to take care of?
Lisa: I’ve always loved to write, but I didn’t get serious about freelance writing and selling until after I’d graduated college, married, and started a family. I wrote and sold various smaller projects between naps, diapers, and playgroups. And when the boys were older, during soccer practices, in carpool lines, while helping with homework, and in all sorts of other situations.
People often ask me if I need quiet in order to write. With boys in the house, if I’d waited for quiet, the writing would never have happened. I learned to lose myself in a story amid the noise of life and I loved it that way.
I asked myself what makes a story last, what really makes a story worth telling and worth reading? I wanted to write books that meant something, that explore the human soul.
One day, I came across a notebook in which I’d written some of my grandmother’s stories. I’d never known quite what to do with those stories, but I knew they were significant in my life. When I rediscovered the notebook, I had the idea of combining my grandmother’s real stories with a fictional family who is like and unlike my own family. That little germ of an idea became my first women’s fiction novel, Tending Roses.
Now that the boys are grown and the house is quiet, I’m redefining the writing routine again. Just as in books, life is a series of scenes and sequels, beginnings and endings, and new discoveries.
Savanna: What were your first writing efforts?
Lisa: My older brother was a good writer, and when you’re the youngest in the family, you want to do what the older kids do. When he won a school award for his poem, “The Bee Went Under the Sea,” I was so impressed by his literary brilliance (and the blue ribbon) that I immediately went to my bedroom and created my first book, The Story of a Dog Named Frisky. Frisky’s tale was cleverly illustrated and published on manila paper in multiple editions which sold very well in the grandparent market.
Savanna: How cute! You’re never too young or too old to tell a story. 😉 How long does it typically take for you to write a book?
Lisa: It takes about two or three months to complete a rough draft and about a month on the second pass. Then my beta readers take about two weeks editing and commenting. Cleaning up the rough draft may take from one to three weeks and then it’s ready for the editor. Usually the whole writing process takes about six months. Some stories are like Jiffy Pop and some stories are like a slow-boiling pot of gumbo. However it goes, the actual writing is always a journey of discovery.
Savanna: That’s great! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Any upcoming projects?
Lisa: My last few books have been dual time frame novels. The historical threads were based on real historical events. I love doing the research, finding little-known events and building on those. I imagine the people who were involved, what issues they may have faced, how they might have learned from their challenges.
I love having present day characters discover some historical mystery and telling a time-slip story allows the modern characters to learn life lessons from the past. I have at least one more book coming up along those lines. My lips are sealed at this point about the topic, title, and theme, but that book will be upcoming in hardcover from Ballantine in late 2016 or early 2017 and foreign rights have already been sold in several languages. I can’t wait for it to hit the shelves!
Savanna: Thanks for being with us today, Lisa. I’m looking forward to your next stories. 🙂
Readers, for a sneak peak of Chapter 1 of The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, go here…
This week’s giveaway is going to be a bit different. It’s a surprise! I’ll be giving one lucky winner 2 Christian Fiction books, from my bookshelves to yours. 😉
Thanks for entering! Contest is open only in the U.S. and ends October 27, 2015. The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody!