Author: Kathryn Magendie
Here is something I’ve never told anyone about Virginia Kate as it’s been my own little private “thing” – of which I’ve said there are tidbits and secrets and codes in Tender Graces that both can be figured out, and cannot unless I tell.
Virginia Kate’s name came from a combination of my name and my adoptive mother’s name; her name is Ruth Virginia. I did this as a tribute to her, for taking my two brothers and me in and then adopting us. She could have said no to my father and she did not. She wanted us.
I’d been thinking about a character who needed to find home, place, belonging. One who searches for love and acceptance and family, and once I had that name, the rest of the story began to fall into place. Virginia Kate has a very strong voice and it wasn’t hard to tell her story—which is her story, even if I did use something from my life as an idea.
2. What is your favorite line from the book?
Since I had a hard time picking one, I decided to flip through the book randomly. What my finger landed on is something Momma, Katie Ivene, says to Virginia Kate while Virginia Kate is in the holler preparing breakfast for Momma, who’s enjoying her coffee “with a little help in it.” Momma is trying to pump information about Virginia Kate’s “new life” in Louisiana and she’s not very nice about it. Every time I read this I laugh even though I shouldn’t. Katie Ivene has these little “Katie-isms” that are so irreverent and smart aleck; I find Katie Ivene fascinating and one day I hope to write more about her and about Grandma Faith, and about Rebekha, too.
“Tell me all about this Roo-becker and your pick-pack-daddy-whack. Are they happy go lucky in their happy go lucky home?”
3. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and how long have you been developing your craft?
There are some writers who say, “I knew when I was in my high chair that I’d be a writer and I made up all kinds of stories and wrote them down.” But I can’t remember that. My mother says I talked about it as a child and that I wrote stories, but I have only vague memories of some stories I wrote, maybe for school.
I put aside my writing for so long and wasn’t able to write steadily and seriously until I was in my late forties. It will take something bigger than I am, something I can’t control, to ever stop me from my writing dreams again. I am a writing machine, except unlike a machine, I have tender feelings (laughing).
4. Is reading a large part of your life? Which book made the biggest impact on your writing?
Oh yes, reading was always my greatest love (the only comparable love is the writing). That is something I can recall from childhood—my great love of books. The library was my sanctuary; oh how I loved (and still love) to read! I can’t imagine a writer who doesn’t like books and reading, although I suppose those may exist somewhere. I read every night—there has to be something unusual happen to where I do not read at the end of each day.
There is no one book that made an impact; all of them have made an impact.
5. What are your two favorite books?
The one I’m reading now.
The one I read last week.
6. Does storytelling run in your family?
You know, I believe it does! Although no one in my family writes, I see gifts in my brothers (they also have musical gifts and artistic gifts). I do have a vague memory of my father writing short stories and sending them out to a mystery magazine. He was rejected and I don’t think he tried again. I wonder what would have happened with his writing if he had kept sending out his work. (I wonder how many writers and artists with gifts have given up because of rejection.)
I wish I knew more about my kin, but they are clouded in mystery—I guess that’s why I write about families so much, for I want to create histories I do not have.
7. When creating the story, which is the most difficult, the beginning or ending?
The ending, because then I have to say goodbye to the characters I have come to love.
8. What is the writing process like for you? Are you a morning person or night person? Do you have a special place you like to go to for inspiration? What energizes you?
I write during the day; I have become a morning person as I’ve aged. This cove tucked on a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina is an inspiration; nature is an inspiration and I’m surrounded by it; the actual sitting down to write is an inspiration! All of this energizes me, too—that and knowing my book will be held in someone’s hands and read and perhaps they’ll love my characters as much as I do.
9. What advice would you have for emerging writers?
You are going to hear “never give up” at every turn, but you are going to want to give up, time and time again. After all, it’s hard enough to have your work published, and then on top of it all, the “publishing world out there” has become even more difficult to maneuver. I feel very fortunate that BelleBooks picked up Tender Graces. So, don’t give up; however, perhaps adjust the vision of your dreams. Things may not work out as you first envisioned, so open yourself up to possibility.
Don’t listen to anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself or your writing—get away from them. However, be open to suggestions that feel right to you—learn to trust your instincts.
Don’t be afraid to toss out words. There are always more words. I remember thinking I simply couldn’t delete words from my first “completed” Tender Graces. Well, guess what? By time I queried BelleBooks, I’d cut out almost 40,000 words. That’s a lot of words to take out of a manuscript that I thought was “finished” and where I thought I simply couldn’t delete any of my precious words.
It’s okay to feel some envy for someone who has reached a goal you are striving for—use that “envy” for motivation. However, do not let a little motivating envy turn into jealousy. Jealousy hinders your progress and makes you bitter. A little envy motivates you to say, “If they can do this; I can do this.”
10. What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
When readers contact me and tell me how something in my words touched them in some way. I had a couple of people tell me they called in sick to work just to finish Tender Graces—how could I not feel a sense of accomplishment and joy in that? Hearing readers say, “I couldn’t put down your book” makes me slap a big ole grin on and do a jig across the room.
I have to say, too, that the language, the writing, the characters finding their way onto the page and you know you have done this thing, this incredible thing, well, that’s pretty danged rewarding.
Thank you, Kathryn, for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview for us!