Roseanna M. White, author of two Biblical novels (A Stray Drop of Blood and Jewel of Persia) and Love Finds you in Annapolis Maryland (coming December 2011), makes her home in the mountains of Western Maryland with her husband, two small children, and the colony of dust bunnies living under her couch. After graduating from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, she and her husband founded the Christian Review of Books, where she is the editor. She is a member of ACFW, HisWriters, Biblical Fiction Writers, and HEWN Marketing.
Welcome, Roseanna! Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
Oh yes, always. Since I first learned to string subject and verbs together, writing has been my passion. For a while I would answer the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question with a compound answer: “A teacher and a writer” or “An archeologist and a writer,” but finally I said, “Who do I think I'm kidding? I just want to be a writer!” Thankfully, I fell in love with a man who supports that dream. Literally, LOL.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
Well, given that my first novel was finished at 13, um . . . forever? ;-) My first novel came out in hardback in 2005 and was re-released in 2009 as a paperback after substantial revisions. So I guess that means 10 years! Though I just signed my first contract with a major publisher, so if you're counting to that, then 15. Although I didn't begin seriously pursing publication until after college, which means 5. No matter how you add it up, it's been a long path!
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
Hmm . . . I think one of the biggest things I had to figure out was how to balance all that “taught stuff” with my instincts. So my tip would be to write like you. Don't be afraid that you're not following so-and-so's method precisely—you could very well be following someone else's without knowing it! The important thing is to write without fear—then rewrite with prayer.
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
My life is pretty much the same from day-to-day, so be prepare to be wowed. Ready? Here it goes. Somewhere between 6 and 7, one or both of my kids (ages 3 and 5) come bounding up the stairs. The wake-up varies from “Mwaaaaaaaa!” to “Mommy! Mommy, yake up! Is it morning? Mommy! Can we play?” (I prefer the second, LOL.) After pulling myself out of bed and down the stairs, I get them both breakfast, check my email, post my blog, get them some other breakfast usually, or a drink, indulge in a cup of coffee, force myself to suffer through a workout, shower, cajole my daughter to her desk for school, try in vain to squeeze some writing in, and pray for naptime to come SOON. ;-)
First, though, I must feed them lunch. At which point I realize I haven't yet eaten breakfast. I manage both, then get the boy-o into bed. I finish up school with my daughter, then finally, FINALLY get to open my work-in-progress. I write frantically until naptime is over (parrying requests from the girl-o for ice cream every five minutes), and when my son's up again I realize that, oops, I haven't planned dinner. After trying to get out of it for half an hour, I finally give in and go to the kitchen, where I put together a usually-pathetic-excuse for dinner, then look around and realize my house exploded while I was lost in novel-land.
So after dinner is often spent trying to pick up the wreckage, while the kids follow behind me pulling out everything I put away. We have a nightly book-reading ritual, I wrestle them into their jammies, hubby joins us for the pre-sleep hide-and-seek game and helps with tucking in, then I get my cuddle time with the man of my dreams. Unless a hockey game is on, in which case I get time to read or write some more. =)
Sounds like you keep busy! :-) Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
All the time. They've gotten nicer over the years, and often have little notes that invite me to submit something else, but yeah. Still get 'em. I've found they sting less now, though, for whatever reason. I think largely because I trust that I'm on the path the Lord placed me on, and I know that wherever it leads, it's in His will. That makes every rejection feel more like a closed window than a slammed door.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Jewel of Persia is the Esther story you never knew existed. ;-) Following the life of another of Xerxes' wives, Kasia leads us through life in the palace, the campaign the king waged against Greece, and the intrigue and heart-wrenching losses that lead to her childhood friend, Esther, coming to the palace and winning the crown.
Esther has always been my favorite Bible story, but I didn't want to approach it in the usual way—I wanted to look at it through new eyes, and I did so by combining it with the Greeks' account of the war, brought to us by Herodotus's Histories.
Kasia's story can pretty much be summed up by the book's one-liner: How can she love the king of kings without forsaking her Lord of lords?
If you could only share one line from JEWEL OF PERSIA, which one would you choose and why?
Let not my heart cost me my soul.
This is something Kasia prays at one point, and it perfectly captures the challenge that spurs Kasia through the book. She is a Jewish woman called to love her husband and king, a man who at once recognizes the power of her God and yet doesn't believe in him himself. Over the course of the story, her greatest struggle is finding a balance between her passion for the Lord and her passion for Xerxes.
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in JEWEL OF PERSIA that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
Hmm . . . these characters are less like me than some of my others, though I really wish I were as much a woman of prayer as Kasia! But I think the thing I stole most from real life is Xerxes' temper. He was renowned for it, and this made me laugh because boy do we have some temper stories in my hubby's family! They're Italian, and they've all got the passion to prove it. His grandfather once chucked a weed-whacker across the yard when it wouldn't start, his mother has been known to throw keys into the bushes when she spins into a temper before getting into her car, and my hubby himself has had to replace a hollow door now and then when he shoves it out of his way a little too forcefully. I happen to find this humorous—as does my heroine. Yes, people probably think I'm crazy, just as everyone thought Kasia was crazy. But like she observed—they who storm like no other also love like no other. I adore my by-marriage Italian family and wouldn't change any of them a bit. Most of the time. ;-)
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
I have two main bad guys—Haman from the book of Esther, and the former queen, Amestris (a.k.a. Vashti from Esther). Haman is genuinely nasty when looked at from Kasia or Esther's point of view, and sneaky and vindictive in general. But he genuinely cares for the king's brother, whose best friend I decided he should be (ah, fiction), and really does believe the Jews are the enemy of his god.
Similarly, Amestris is a genuine devotee of her god, Ahura Mazda. Is she right? No. But she serves him with more dedication than anyone else in the story. Another big key to her character is her children. Though she can be cutthroat and nasty, even to them, they are also her sole reason for living. Her problem is that if they cross her, she can decide in her mind that they're no longer her children and so treat them with the same coldblooded viciousness as any other enemy.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
Ah, a topic near and dear to me. I have to put a TON of research into my historical works, so I get very excited about my sources, LOL. For Jewel of Persia, my two primary resources were Histories by Herodotus and the book of Esther in the Bible. Plus a whole slew of secondary sources for daily life in Ancient Persia, layout of cities, etc. The British Museum has a wonderful introductory display they've digitized at http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/forgottenempire/index.html, and I also spent quite a while watching a documentary on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKX2EJFeHmg.
Because I like to think that others will be interested in these things that kept me intrigued for six months (riiiiiiiight), I put together a Companion Guide on my website at http://www.roseannawhite.com/index.php/books/jewel_of_persia/companion_guide/. It links to all my online resources and also has brief, chatty little articles about the people, places, and things relevant to the story—and where fact ends and fiction begins. =)
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I just turned in Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland to my editor at Summerside Press—it'll be out December of this year, and I'm very excited about it. This one is a historical romance set in Annapolis of 1783, when it was the nation's capital. After Annapolis, I'll move on to either the sequel to Jewel of Persia, a contemporary romantic suspense I have about half done, or, if an editor requests one of the other ten projects I have out right now, I'll give my attention to whichever of those sparks interest. =)
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
Get connected! Join writers associations, start making friends, learn the rules of the craft, and go to conferences. I wrote for years in a bubble, and while I found it satisfying, it got me nowhere. When I started connecting with others, I began to feel like a real writer. It's invaluable!
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
LOL—you already asked it! The questions I always dreaded most was the “what's coming next?” one, and I am so relieved to finally have an answer for that! Up until March, I didn't. =)
Roseanna is giving away a copy of her book Jewel of Persia. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!