Today we have an OAAA newbie. She’s written about the Civil War and other historical events. Welcome to the blog, Kathy Cannon Wiechman!
1. Hi Kathy, welcome to OAAA. As a newbie to this event can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Kathy: I have been a writer since the age of five, beginning with poetry. My mother was a published poet and my first writing teacher. It took decades of writing to hert down the kind of work accepted by the publishing world, but it was worth the wait.
2. You have two books, LIKE A RIVER and EMPTY PLACES, can you tell us a little bit about them?
Kathy: LIKE A RIVER (winner of the 2015 Grateful American Book Prize) is a Civil War novel told from the perspectives of two underage Union soldiers. It deals with the harsh realities of war, Andersonville prison, and the Sultana disaster, but it’s also a story of loyalty, survival, and friendship.
EMPTY PLACES is a story set during the Great Depression in Harlan County, Kentucky. It follows the daughter of a coal miner and her efforts to keep her family together after her alcoholic father drives her brother away after a drunken rage. She also seeks to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance seven years earlier and retrieve her own lost memories of that time.
3. What is your ideal writing spot?
Kathy: My office at home is my usual spot, but my ideal is Cabin 21 at the Boyds Mills facility of the Highlights Foundation. It’s a place where I can spend hours of undisturbed writing time and allow myself to be absorbed into my historical settings.
4. What are your favorite kinds of books to read?
Kathy: I love historical fiction, any good book that makes history live and breathe. I will also devour any book by Richard Peck or Jerry Spinelli and any book that makes me cry.
5. What kind of research is involved in your writing process?
Kathy: Because my books are historical fiction, they involve a lot of reading about history, often finding interesting facts in dry tomes. But I have great fun in my research too. For LIKE A RIVER, I learned to load and fire a muzzleloader. And because the book has a character who loses an arm, I interviewed amputees and even swam with one arm tied behind my back. For EMPTY PLACES, I visited coal mine museums and drove a 1928 Model A Ford. And with all my books, I travel to the places where the events took place, even though those places look much different today from the way they did in the times I write about.
6. When you finish a book who is the first person you allow to read it?
Kathy: I belong to three critique groups who give me feedback as I go along. A few members of those groups, as well as my sister Reene, are willing to read the whole novel before I submit it. My go-to person when I need a quick turn-around is fellow author and friend Tracy VonderBrink.
7. How do you deal with rejection and criticism?
Kathy: I learned to deal with rejection in those long decades when the publishing industry wasn’t interested in what I was writing. I took classes and workshops to learn how to get better and to make helpful contacts. Kent Brown of the Highlights Foundation told me not to think of it as rejection, but as just not being chosen yet. That simple change of terminology can ease the blow. As far as criticism, I try to learn from it if I can. If it’s criticism on a book already published, I remind myself not to take it personally.
8. What advice would you give to young writers?
Read everything you can get your hands on. Write every chance you get. And love the process. If you don’t enjoy doing it, it will be tough to stick with it through countless revisions and possible “rejections.”
9. What do you do when you aren’t writing?
Kathy: I am a voracious reader and a member of a large, close-knit family, so you will usually find me with my nose in a book or at a family gathering, where card playing is a common activity. My husband and I also love a road trip, and we often turn those into research jaunts.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about? (Promote anything you’d like, or talk about whatever you want. No limits.)
Kathy: My third novel with Calkins Creek, NOT ON FIFTH STREET, is due out in October. It is loosely based on my father’s experiences in the record-breaking Ohio River flood of 1937. I am also working on a new novel, another Civil War story. And I am still speaking to groups about LIKE A RIVER and EMPTY PLACES. I will be signing books at the Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus, OH, on April 8, where I will also take part in a panel discussion on writing for teens and tweens. And I will be on the faculty of a Highlights Foundation workshop on historical fiction in May.
Check out the massive giveaway to win something from Kathy.