I reviewed Renee Russell's book Kate's Pride earlier this month. Following is the text of the interview she graciously granted.
LG: How difficult was it to assemble the genealogical information to write Kate's Pride?
RR: Due to Kate's personal circumstances, it was very difficult. No one in the family knew anything about her (or if they did they were not willing to share the info with me). I had to rely pretty much on public records and the information there was scarce because I dind't know the names of Kate's parents or siblings (and still don't).
LG: Was there really a manuscript left by your ancestor?
RR: Unfortunately, no. I truly wish there had been, but I couldn't find so much as a letter. Nothing she wrote exists today.
LG: All writers struggle to balance the demands of the writing life with family, and as in your case, the requirements of a "day job." What strategies helped you find the time to write?
RR: I block out time that is mine for writing - usually two hours each weekday evening and three hours each day on Saturday and Sunday. I'm not to be disturbed during those time frames -- unless, of course, the house is on fire or something of that nature. I don't have children, so I don't have that particular issue to deal with as so many other authors do, and my husband has always been pretty supportive.
LG: Do you enjoy reading memoirs in general, or do you prefer to read in other genres? What books have inspired you?
RR: As a general rule I don't read very many memoirs. I prefer fictionalized accounts of real people that contain historical fact. One of my favorite authors who does this beautifully is Phillipa Gregory. I read across all genres. Some of my other favorites are Sharyn McCrumb, Stephen King, Stephen R. Donaldson, Anne McCaffrey, Edna Buchanan, Martha Grimes, Jodi Picoult, J.A. Konrath, Allison Brennan, Martha O'Connor. The list goes on and on... As for what books inspired me, all of the above have inspired me in one way or another. They tell wonderful stories that pull me into their worlds.
LG: Aside from writing and genealogy, what pastimes do you enjoy?
RR: Would you believe I love, love, love to read? I'm happiest when I have a really good book in my hand. However, I do sometimes get bitten by the crafting bug. Not that I'm that great at crafts, but something about creating something with my hands gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I like to make things that were intended for a particular use and do something else with them. For example, I used those "stoneware look" cooking pots to make flower pots. I've used those "poodle soft" winter neck scarves to make valances for window curtains, etc. I like to see beyond the obvious and make something new. I suppose you could consider writing as creating something wtih your hands, but I think of it as creating something with my mind that flows out of my head through my hands.
LG: What's next for you? Are you planning to write another book?
RR: I've finished my second book, a romantic suspense with a paranormal element, which is currently being looked at by a publisher. I'm hoping to hear something from them soon. Book three is in progress and is the first in a cozy mystery series. I want to write another historical fiction and am currently doing research for it, but it takes a lot of time to get all the historical facts together to create even a fictionalized account of a real person.
LG: As a public library employee I have to ask, what role have libraries played, throughout your life, in enriching your love of books and reading?
RR: My sixth grade English teacher was also the school librarian (and my 1st cousin twice removed - sheesh!) and she forced me to read the classics when all I really wanted to do was read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and the Walter Farley books. She's gone now, but I know she'd be busting her buttons with pride that I had achieved publication of Kate's Pride. She was one of my sources of information. All through high school I would check out five or six books a week, read them all, then get five or six more the next week. In college I continued to read voraciously. To me reading is like breathing and if I don't have at least five or six books (or more) in my to be read stack I start hyperventilating.
Thanks so much for your generosity in taking the time to answer these questions, Renee!
Visit Renee's website for more information about her and her writing.
Kate's Pride is available through www.wings-press.com