I'm delighted to welcome Kathy Wiechman to chat about her brand new book. LIKE A RIVER is a Civil War story, but it's so much more than that. The characters, the setting, and a story with such heart that truly leaps off the pages.
She and I met at a terrific Highlights Foundation workshop. Your own cabin in the woods. Fabulous food. Great camaraderie. Walks and talks.
Oh, and all that uninterrupted writing time!
Is there anything you’d like to share with your fellow writers about the experiences you’ve had there?
Kathy: I have been to many Highlights Foundation workshops, and I love them! I have never been to any other workshops that provide as much one-on-one attention with faculty members. I have learned so much from the faculty there, from people like Rich Wallace, Joy Cowley, and Patti Gauch.
And the setting there seems to be magical for finding the Muse. It’s also a great place for making contacts. I met my editor at a Highlights workshop. I have made many friends there too, who have the same love for children’s literature as I do. Some of the friendships I made there have blossomed into lasting ones. And I met you there, Augusta, and discovered the wonderful GLORY BE.
Augusta: Thank you, Kathy! Now let's talk books. Yours, in fact. You did such an amazing job of describing the wartime situations in a war so few young readers know much about. Can you tell us a bit about your research process?
Kathy: I studied the Civil War long before I decided to write this book, but once I mapped out my plan for it, I read dozens and dozens of books on specific aspects of the war. I visited the sites where my book takes place, sites in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi. I learned to load and fire a muzzleloader (at the Highlights facility in PA, where the workshops take place). I even had one arm tied behind my back and went swimming, so I could see how hard it would be for someone with an amputated arm.
Augusta: Now that's what I call research. Wow. Was there one thing about writing that was more difficult than anything else?
Kathy: I like happy endings or at least, hopeful ones. It was somewhat difficult to find the right balance, to write a novel that was accurate to the time of war and to do justice by those who suffered in Andersonville Prison and died on the Sultana without making the ending bleak. I hope I have achieved that.
Augusta: I think young readers will agree that you created the perfect ending. Now, what’s next for Kathy Wiechman?
Kathy: I recently signed a contract with Boyds Mills Press for a second novel and am still working on revisions of that. It’s called EMPTY PLACES and takes place in Harlan County, Kentucky during the Great Depression.
Augusta: I think I may have heard a tiny thing or two about that book! Another intriguing topic young readers will be eager to know more about.
Are there any other things about writing your debut novel that you'd like to share?
Kathy: During the early stages of writing the book, I found out that the husband of a friend is the great-great grandson of a survivor of Andersonville and the Sultana. He shared with me the family papers on his ancestor, and that ancestor (Jacob Zimmerman) became like an angel sitting on my shoulder as I wrote, urging me forward.
Augusta: That's a terrific thought to inspire other writers, Kathy. We never know what we'll turn up when we embark on a subject, but it always helps to have an angel sitting on our shoulders.
Here's Kathy's website:
You can order her book from your all the usual places, especially your local independent bookstore. Thank you to her publisher and editor, Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek, for supplying me with an advance reader copy.
Be sure to check out some of the workshops and the UNworkshops coming soon to Honesdale, PA. Wouldn't it be fun to see Kathy there?
Here's one of my favorite passages from the book. Powerful words.
"The army isn't a lark, son," the doctor said. "Our country is at war, and you'll be expected to work hard."
"Yes, sir," Leander said and forced the grin into hiding. But deep inside he was still smiling, thinking only of what folks would say when they saw him in uniform.