Friday, May 09, 2008

Chatting with Tristi

I first met Tristi Pinkston four or five years ago after I joined the LDStorymakers e-mail group. Since then, she's become a great friend and has been there to help me out more than once. But I love Tristi for another reason too, and that's because we both write historical fiction.

Her book Nothing to Regret is likely the most original perspective I've ever read about World War II, and I love the fact that she's got a new book out, Season of Sacrifice. Like her other books, it's a novel, but this time the story is based closely on her ancestors who were a big part of the Hole in the Rock expedition.

Several other bloggers have reviewed Season of Sacrifice already. I recommend you read some of those posts. This one is very much worth your time. So is this one. But this one is my favorite post I've found on it so far.

Today I get to host Tristi on her blog tour, so instead of posting another review of the book (okay, here's my review: It's great. BUY it!), I thought it would be fun to pick her brain a bit in an interview, one historical novelist to another.

Her answers are downright delightful. (My favorite: "I'm essentially one big walking quirk.") Read on to get to know Tristi and her book:

I know you did a lot of research for Season of Sacrifice by reading your ancestors' journals. What other research did you do?
My main sources were Incredible Journey by Lee Reay, At All Hazards by Brenton Yorgason, and Hole in the Rock by David E. Miller. At All Hazards is historical fiction (I'm sorry to say, Yorgason got a few things wrong), and the other two are nonfiction. Each of these books was tremendously helpful and they're listed in the back of my book as recommended reading.

Was it a challenge putting words into their mouths—and then hoping it's what they would have said?
It was a little challenging, but not as much as one might think. I already knew how they felt about things from reading their journals, so I just used their same vernacular and put their feelings into dialogue. Additionally, I truly feel their spirits were near to me as I wrote. I sensed, many times, the direction I should go.

Name at least one thing found during your research that you would have loved to include in the book but didn't for one reason or another.
Well, I don't know if I would have loved to include it, but Sarah's boyfriend from Wales actually followed her over here. He was in New York, working to earn passage to come out to Utah for her, when she wrote him and told him she no longer had feelings for him. I decided to leave that out—it seemed kind of mean. Not that she should have married him just because he came for her, but I didn't want the reader to feel that she'd led him on in any way, because she didn't. She had no idea how her life would change as she came to know the Gospel.

Without any spoilers, what is your favorite scene from the book?
All of my favorite scenes revolve around the intense faith these pioneers showed. I love the scene where Ben takes the wagon down the Hole for the first time to test it out. I also love the scenes toward the end as the tensions reach fevered pitch about polygamy. I really feel those passages contain some of my best writing ever, besides being testimonies of the incredible obedience of these faithful Saints.

Which character do you personally relate to most?
Sarah. I don't necessarily relate to her in a way where I feel we have a lot in common, but rather, I feel a connection to her. She's my great-great-grandmother, and we share the same blood.

What was the hardest scene to write?
There were two scenes that were very difficult for me to write. The first was the retelling of Stanford Smith's descent down the Hole. His wife, Arabella, tied herself to the wagon to try to keep it from going down too fast, and she incurred a serious injury, which she later recovered from. What made this story so touching was the faith of their children, who were left at the top while their parents took the wagon down. The oldest child told her parents that she had just waited there with God until they came back. My heart was wrenched out of me as I wrote that scene.

The other difficult passage was the one where Sarah decides to marry Ben. I've never been a fan of polygamy, and so for me to authentically write her change of heart was immensely difficult. I pretty much came to a standstill as I figured it out. What I finally realized was not that Sarah was converted to polygamy, but that she was converted to the Lord and wanted to be obedient at all costs. Once I made that clarification in my own mind, I was able to move forward.

Since the basic plot line was predetermined by actual events, how did you go about writing the book? (What was your basic method of attack? Did you outline the whole thing, write the new sections first or last, etc.?)
In so many ways, this book wrote itself. I read the family history documents I have, I read the books I mentioned above, and I took scads of notes. Then I sat down and just started to write. I began at the beginning and wrote through to the end, only going back to add depth and detail. This is completely out of the norm for me—usually it takes me months to come up with the finished product.

What is your typical writing schedule?
Typically, I answer my e-mails and check my favorite blogs first thing in the morning. I can't function if I don't do that; it's a weird mental hang-up I have. Throughout the day, I'll sneak to the computer as I'm able and maybe edit a little, answer e-mails, and the like. Then at night, I sit down around nine or ten and get to work. I check my mail again and then I write my blogs for (I'm a media reviewer, movie reviewer, and I also blog on topics of interest to the LDS people).

After that's done, then I pull up my work in progress. I'll stay up until two or three in the morning, writing. Sometimes if there's a scene that's just dying to be written, I'll manage to squeeze it in during the day, but my children are still young and I homeschool, so I don't have large chunks of time during the day.

Do you have any writer's "quirks" that help you get into the flow?
I'm essentially one big walking quirk. But to be more specific, I can't have music playing. It distracts me. I also have to check my mail. If I think someone may have written to me, and they're waiting for an answer, I can't work. I like to have a glass of ice water next to me (I'm an ice eater) and I also have some Vicks Vaporub sitting here (keeps my brain awake) and some lip balm (yes, my own brand) I also find that taking long showers or baths really helps get me in the creative mood—I'll often come out of the bathroom with whole scenes ready to go.

What has been the biggest surprise for you about the publishing industry?
The biggest negative surprise is that huge lines of people don't queue up to see you when you have a book signing. I used to envision doing a signing at the mall and having the whole hallway congested because there were so many people eager to meet me. Yes, I also did have the fond idea of all the guys who flirted with me, but never asked me out, coming to the mall, seeing me, and feeling so sorry that they never confessed their love to me. None of that ever happened.

The biggest positive surprise has been all the friends I've made. I truly feel so blessed for the interaction I have with other writers, with aspiring authors, and with those in the publishing industry. My life is rich because of the friends I now have—good, true friends I can turn to for anything. Of which you are one, Annette!

Aw, thanks, lady! :) Right back at ya. If you could give your younger writer self any advice, what would it be?
You know what, I would tell myself to get an ergonomic keyboard years before I did. The only problem with that is, they weren't invented back when I started typing. I would love to have saved myself all the pain I went through as a girl and young teenager. Rampant carpal tunnel, folks. I'm now using an ergo keyboard and take flax seed and vitamin B complex every day, and I feel great.

Any other advice . . . I'd tell myself to be a little less cocky. I went through a period of time where I thought I could do no wrong. Guess what—I can. And often. I know that now.

What's up next?
There's a lot still up in the air for me right now. I've got some contemporary mysteries that are just for fun—two completed and one in the "thinking about it" stage. I have a Vietnam-era novel I'm really proud of, as well as another family history-inspired novel set during the Depression. As far as what to write next, I've got about twenty books outlined and it's all a matter of time.

Me again. To purchase Season of Sacrifice, click here. Seriously. Click there. Now.


An Ordinary Mom said...

This book definitely sounds intriguing! Thanks for the fabulous interview.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done interview. It makes me even more eager to read the book. :)

Jenna said...

Great interview! So personable and fun! I'd love to read this book.

Unknown said...

oo, i love that, too about basically being one big quirk. adorable. great day girl, kathleenybeany :)

ps. thanks for your sweet comments lately. i love it when you come by :)

Unknown said...

I absolutely loved this book. It was a fascinating process to watch it come to fruition. Season of Sacrifice tells a wonderful story about Tristi's ancestor in 3-dimension, full color . . . it is a great book.

Love the interview. One of my favorite things about traveling to events with Tristi is her sense of humor and her quirks.

Ines said...

Can't wait to read it. Thanks for the great review!

Dan Olsen said...

I loved the interview. Thanks. I was privileged to meet Tristi at a recent writers' conference. I was awed to be sitting next to and actually speaking with a published author. We chatted over lunch and in between some of the sessions. She is very down to earth and was willing to give me lots of advice about writing.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Great interview! So happy for Tristi and can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I also highly recommend this book for all you historical fiction fans.

Also, just wanted to say I really enjoyed all the writing advice and seeing a bit more into Tristi's schedule. Thanks!

Great interview, Annette!

Unknown said...

Our next Blogging Babe get together will be:

Saturday ∙ May 17, 2008
11:00 a.m.

Golden Corral

Sorry, I've been so preoccupied with Alvin's surgery and recovery I forgot to plan anything. So let's meet at Golden Corral at 11:00, rather than 10:00. We'll get our usual room and just get together and visit. It'll be great to see you all!

See you Saturday.


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