In this, the second to last interview of the year, I feature yet another Readers Favorite award winning author, Carol Bodensteiner. Like many of the authors appearing here, I met Carol online in Melissa Foster’s Facebook group, Fostering Success. It is a group of earnest Indie authors who, like Carol, Melissa and my previous interview’s guest, Michelle Weidenbenner, have distinguished themselves by going on to win numerous awards.
Carol Bodensteiner is a writer who finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. After a successful career in public relations consulting, she turned to creative writing. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. She published a memoir Growing Up Country: Memories Of An Iowa Farm Girl in 2008. Her debut novel Go Away Home was published in 2014. She’s currently working on contemporary fiction.
Carol, will you please provide us with Go Away Home’s premise and give us a sample?
A family scandal closely followed by tragedy ties Liddie Treadway ever more tightly to the family farm she yearns to escape. When she is finally free of her old life, she seems for a moment to have it all — the opportunity for global travel, unlimited adventures, and new passions. But the reappearance of an old friend leads her to question her choices and her future. Set in pre-World War I Iowa, Liddie’s is the timeless story of the fragility of what seems secure and stable and the discovery of what a woman’s heart truly wants.
Here she was alone for less than an hour, and she felt the rest of her life stretching out before her like an endless, empty road. If she wrote to her mother, what would she say? That she was sitting here feeling sorry for herself after they’d given her exactly what she wanted?
Doing something is better than doing nothing. The words popped into her head. Papa had told her that many times. I will do something, she thought.
She stood and looked around the room, her hands firmly on her hips, her head tilted to one side. The room was similar in size to the one she and Amelia shared, yet it felt so different. So sterile. Functional. Nothing more. The washstand held a plain white pitcher and basin. A white hand towel hung precisely in the middle of the dowel rod. Beside the bed, a straight-back chair offered the only place in the room to sit. A kerosene lamp on the dressing table would light the room at night. A three-drawer pine chest of drawers completed the furnishings.
The faded bedcover unsettled Liddie the most. Such a contrast to the crazy quilt on her bed at home. A riot of shapes and colors and fabrics, the quilt had been pieced together by her mother and aunt before Liddie was born. When she was supposed to be asleep, Liddie often told herself stories about the clothes each piece must have once been. She could smell her father in the wool, see her mother in the silk, hear the rustle of taffeta at a dance. In the dark, she had traced her fingertips along the feather stitches decorating each seam. Each bit of cloth from her family.
Memories of the quilt sent a dizzying wave of homesickness washing over her. She pushed her knees into the edge of the bed, steadying herself until the queasiness passed.
This was her room. She could do what she wanted, so she forced herself to action. She pushed the dressing table into a corner where the mirror caught the light from the window. She put the washbasin on the bed and the pitcher of water on the floor and maneuvered the washstand over to the wall by the door. Immediately, her mood improved.
You do a nice job of beginning to establish a character and her history while setting a scene. What brought you to your story?
Go Away Home was inspired by my maternal grandparents. My grandfather died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. Throughout my life, I’ve been intrigued by my connection to this major world event. Of course I never knew my grandfather and even though my grandmother lived until I was well into my 20s, I never asked her a single question about him or their lives together. And she was not the type to share. So, this story is fiction based on a few facts. It creates a life for the man I never knew and for the grandmother I only knew as a stern old woman.
Do you have another novel in the works?
My work in progress is contemporary fiction. My main character is forced to answer the question of whether she’s willing to risk everything she values to help someone else.
A good story centers around a dilemma. Do you find that the story ever stalls?
Peter DeVries once said, “I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.” Books get written because the author put herself in the chair every day and wrote. I don’t know that I’ve ever had writer’s block, and maybe that’s why. When it’s time to write, I write.
I agree with you. In today’s publishing world, after the work is completed it’s the author’s job to market it. What is your strategy?
I’m fortunate to have spent thirty years in the public relations and marketing business, so marketing comes more easily to me than to many authors. My marketing strategy is to do one thing every day to get the word about my books out to readers. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it has to be something. To some extent, successful marketing is a matter of persistence. Communication research tells us a customer has to hear about something three times to remember they heard the message at all. They have to hear about it seven times before they’re ready to act. So, don’t give up.
I’ve learned that no successful author writes in a vacuum. What is your writhing community like?
For the past ten years, I’ve been part of a writing group that meets every two weeks. Sometimes there are only two of us in the group, but we are committed to supporting each other on the writing journey. And there’s nothing like a deadline for keeping me at the keyboard. I credit my writing partners – their honesty, insight, and support – for much of my writing success.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I’m living exactly where I choose to live. I love Iowa, with its change of seasons, wide-open farm fields, and broad range of easily accessible recreational and artistic opportunities. I’m also a resident of the world. I love to travel, meet new people and see new things, so I get on the road often and the road always leads me back home to Iowa.
What inspires you, not just as a writer, but the broader you?
I’m inspired by the outdoors. I’ve live on a small acreage that affords room for lots of trees, a vegetable garden, flower beds, and a prairie. The prairie has taught me many lessons about life and is a great place to take visitors – both adults and children – to give them a taste of what Iowa looked like before it was settled by Europeans.
What a treat! Jumping all over the place, I’ll ask if you have a favorite quote.
I have many favorite quotes, and here’s one:
“It’s not our abilities that show what we really are. It’s our choices.” – Albus Dumbledore
Hah! To accompany that, what is your greatest life lesson?
As a public relations professional, the best advice I gave clients was: “Don’t write it down if you are comfortable seeing it as a headline in the New York Times.” In today’s uber-sharing social media world, we could also add: “Don’t share a picture with anyone that you’re not comfortable having everyone in the world see.”
Moving away from the serious, what makes you laugh?
Silly greeting cards.
And that brings us to our Lightning Round. As briefly as possible, please answer these:
The one thing I cannot do without is…
What is your defining trait?
Hard copy or ebook?
Ice cream. Iowa Nice.
1000 White Women, Cold Mountain, The Poisonwood Bible, The Other Boleyn Girl, Grapes of Wrath.
Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?
And you can connect with Carol at the following social links: