Author Interview: Roseanna M. White
Guys, the most amazing thing happened to me this past week! I had the wonderful privilege to interview bestselling and Christy Award nominated author, Roseanna M. White!
Those who have been following my reviews (or who know me personally) know that Roseanna is one of my all-time favorite authors! In fact, she has inspired me in so many ways--from what I write, how I write it, and why I write! She has helped me with so much over the last few years--from research to cover designing--and I am eternally grateful! She is an amazing author and even more so a fabulous person. Even though it took over a week to get through all of my many questions, I had a ton of fun getting to know her on a personal level.
Lord knows I'd like to go into detail on just how I first discovered her, how much I love all of her books, and just how sweet she is...but our interview is over 3,500 words long, so I'mma cut it short for y'all.
Before y'all get immersed into our super fun interview, I'd like to introduce the author and the novel to you--on a professional level.
Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.
On January 5th of this year, Roseanna released her twentieth and latest novel, Dreams of Savannah, and after reading and reviewing this lovely Civil War era romance, I had a few questions. We've got a lot of behind the scene goodies of Dreams of Savannah, which you can learn more about here, questions about Roseanna's writing journey, and even a few extras for the storytellers in us!
So, without further ado, here's the first question!
GJ: What first inspired you to write?
RW: I've been writing since I first learned how to string a sentence together in first grade! It was pretty much my true love ever since. 😃 By second grade, writing stories (about brilliant things like princesses with magical winged unicorns whose horns could tell the weather--I mean, obviously--and bunnies that lived in the clouds) was my favorite pastime, when I wasn't playing make-believe with my best friends. Ever since those days, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I used to pair it with other things: "I want to be an archaeologist/teacher/journalist and write novels." But eventually I realized there was only thing I really wanted to do, LOL. So here I am! Still writing!
GJ: Horns that could tell the weather? Wow! 😆 So what’s the driving force behind your writing now? (Unless, of course, there are still some bunnies hiding in the sky… 😉)
RW: Now, don't be silly. There are no cloud-riding bunnies. But don't tell that to Verita, my weather-forecasting unicorn! 😉
These days, the love of writing itself--the art and craft of it, the wordsmithing--is a huge part of my drive. I just love putting words together! And that pairs with a passion for digging deep into humanity's heart and showing it through fiction. I fully believe that stories--whether true or fictional--change the world. They teach us how to love each other and help us understand people who are otherwise so different from us. They help us see into our own hearts and souls. Then there's my love of history, which has always been one of my favorite things! Writing historical romances is really just part of who I am. I love the discovery, I love the challenge of identifying with people from long ago, I love seeing how we, humanity, have changed...and how we haven't. Mostly, I love taking all those stories, all those words, and putting them in God's hands. I never know what He's going to show me through each story, but it's always so much more than I imagined at the start!
GJ: That is amazing! You’ve describe the reason why every author writes so perfectly!
Now, I know from experience that you have a distinctive voice, and I’ve seen how your writing style has inspired my own. Can you name any authors that have inspired your voice in different ways? How can you see their influence in your writing?
RW: Well that makes my day. 😃 I strive to have an interesting and unique voice, so yay! As for authors who have influenced me...gracious, so many! Back in my younger days, it was L. M. Montgomery and Lori Wick. Then Francine Rivers--the way she digs down to the heart! When it comes to style, I think one of my biggest influences is Maggie Stiefvater, who writes mainstream YA with a paranormal bent. I read The Scorpio Races on the recommendation of my best friend and just fell in love with the way she strings words together. She has this way of pairing the unexpected with the mundane, twisting common phrases on their heads that left me breathless. And reminds me not to be lazy in my own wordsmithing. I'll frequently pull up one of her audiobooks or flip through a chapter or two of hers just to remember that lesson.
GJ: 😊 Oh, yes, Francine Rivers is fantastic! One aspect of your voice I love is how you’re not afraid to break a few rules. The one-word sentences you use are amazing at conveying emotion!
What are some of your most favorite books/genres—to read and to write? (Bonus question: have you ever thought of writing fantasy?)
RW: Oh, I read pretty much every genre imaginable (other than horror, I guess). And love most all of them. 😃 I've also dabbled with writing pretty much every genre (other than, again, horror, ha ha). Definitely including fantasy! I love diverging from my usual reading with something in the speculative realm, for sure, and have written a few short things in it for my own amusement. I have a couple maybe-someday ideas for full length books that would be fantasy-ish, but who knows if or when I'll ever get around to them, LOL.
GJ: Personally, I would LOVE to see a Roseanna M. White fantasy! That would be beyond amazing, I think!
What do you do when you aren’twriting?
RW: Is "everything" an appropriate answer? LOL. My other jobs are cover designer, typesetter, editor for WhiteFire Publishing group, and homeschool mom (totally a job in itself!). Every few months you'll find my husband and me at the screen printing equipment producing T-shirts and tote bags for Bookish Tees and Totes, which is a surprising amount of fun. I love knitting (my husband jokes that I'm a little-old-lady in training), baking, and relaxing with my family--which might mean watching something together, might mean playing the Wii U, or could also see us huddled around the table with Clue or Monopoly out...or just laughing at the cats. Reading is obviously a big love, though it and knitting are usually vying for time in the evenings.
Let's just say I'm not one to sit around idly.
GJ: You certainly wear a lot of hats! 👒 You are awesome at everything you do, and it’s astounding to watch you balance all of that and still write the most wonderful novels! (The cover you designed for me is so beautiful, by the way!)
Looking back, what has changed for you as a writer—be it how you write or what you write about?
RW: Well thanks! And I do love designing covers--a fun way to be creative when I don't really have the solid chunk of time I prefer for writing. 😃
As for what's changed for me as a writer...I think there's the usual deepening and learning of craft, which is true of all of us as we keep working. And then just learning to juggle all the deadlines. This past week was a perfect example of what life can look like for me as a writing right now: I had a stand-alone novel release on Tuesday. The following Monday, I had the final edits for book 1 of my new series due back to my editor. And then the next day, the first draft of book 2 was due. So I was trying to do an edit, polish my draft for turning in, and focus on launching a book all at the same time. This is the sort of thing I didn't know to anticipate when I was first getting started! But I did practice at it before I was published--I set myself deadlines and worked hard to meet them, so that I knew how quickly I could write. Very helpful!
In terms of the stories themselves...I've tried my hand at every genre, pretty much, at some point or another, but historical romance was actually my first love, so I'm so happy to be writing here! When I completed my first book at 13, it was a historical romance. Actually, it eventually became The Lost Heiress, my best-selling novel, LOL. Underwent a few revisions over the years (ahem), but the core of the plot is still the same! So yeah...the heart of my writing hasn't changed. 😃
GJ: (This question is a personal favorite of mine…) Out of all of your books, which one is your favorite? Why?
RW: Ha! Your favorite...my hardest one! I can never pick just one, though the stories behind certain books make them hold special places in my heart. The Lost Heiress because I carried it around for twenty years, rewriting it several times, before it was published, and it's by far my most popular book, which I love; A Stray Drop of Blood because I wrote it over the course of six years, primarily when I was in college; A Soft Breath of Wind because I had it in my heart for seven years before I wrote it, and God moved some mountains around to give me the time to write it...in ways I wouldn't have chosen at the time, LOL. The Number of Love because Margot is the most unique character I've ever written, and it touched some deep chords with readers who have autism in their lives, and also with my Catholic readers--which in fact helped lead our company to begin a new imprint called Chrism aimed at Catholic readers...and now I feel like I'm not being fair to the other books I also love, LOL. See what you made me do? 😉
GJ: I know that The Lost Heiress and A Soft Breath of Wind are certainly some of my favorites of yours! Speaking of, do you have plans to write more biblical fiction in the future?
I just finished reading your latest release, Dreams of Savannah (it was spectacular, by the way), and I was wondering could you tell me a little bit more of the story behind the story? You first wrote it in 2011, right?
RW: I have quite a few ideas for more biblical fiction! All a matter of finding the time to write them though--they tend to be very intense stories that require a lot of time and attention, so I only manage to squeeze one into the schedule every few years.
And oh, Dreams of Savannah. Yeah, I originally wrote it in the summer of 2011. I had Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland coming out that autumn, and my editors asked me to come up with an idea for a story set in Civil War Savannah. So I did. But then the Love Finds You line was shut down, so I ended up with this completed novel just sitting in my digital drawer. As it continued to do for the next nine years, until I was looking through what I had lying around, trying to find something to use as a freebie for a newsletter. Well, I reached out to my editor at Bethany House to say, "Hey, I have this historical romance just sitting here...what are you thoughts on me using it for something?" To which he (thankfully, LOL) replied, "Do not even THINK about giving away anything full-length. In face, why don't you just let me take a look?" So I did. And BHP contracted it. And then the real work began, LOL. A lot has changed in nine years, in both my writing and the world! So while the skeleton of the story remained the same, I did a LOT of fleshing out and exploring new themes and prayerfully considering how I and my characters handled the sensitive subjects of slavery and freedom, of seeing the worth of those around them and of themselves. In the end, I knew very well that God had been working those nine years to bring this book out now. Still not sure why now is its time, but I do know that rewriting and editing it during this last tumultuous year had a huge impact on my heart and mind!
GJ: I’m overjoyed that you still have plans for more biblical fiction!
I didn’t realize Dreams of Savannah was going to be part of the Love Finds You line—I read a ton of those and was sorry they had stopped with them. I’m so glad you were still able to publish it, though!
What was your writing process for DOS? Did you pants it? plot it? How long did it take you to write it the first time?
RW: It usually takes me 2-3 months of active writing time to complete a book--I know this one was in that range, though I couldn't tell you my exact start or completion dates at this point, LOL. And I tend to start with a synopsis (required for contract), so it's not totally pantsing it...but then I enjoy discovery writing for the first half, as I get to know the characters. By the time I reach the mid-point, I usually know what needs to happen scene by scene for the rest of the book, so I'll jot it all down in a Word doc to keep myself on track.
GJ: I actually use a similar process (which garners me strange looks from diehard plotters 😉), so it’s really cool that you do the same thing!
(I had a couple of questions, but you basically already answered them! LOL) On to the next thing… What is your most favorite character in Dreams of Savannah, and what endears them to you?
RW: Another hard one! LOL.
I do adore Cordelia's storytelling personality. But it always feels like a cheat to name the main characters--I mean, of course I love them! So in terms of secondary...I might go with River. He's at once loyal to Phin, who has always been a friend and not just a master, but also determined to help his people. But in a way that won't take him away from the girl who's stolen his heart until it can't be helped. He's deep and true and willing to fight however he must for those he loves.
GJ: I’m good at the hard ones, apparently! 😉
Speaking of Cordelia’s storytelling… Cordelia inspired a new project for you. Can you tell me about Seeing the Story?
GJ: On to the next question…Which part of DOS was the easiest to write, and what was the hardest? Where did you stumble and second-guess yourself?
RW: There's a scene where Phin is reading the Psalms and has a very spiritual moment--when I was writing that, I remember being so nervous about hitting the right notes...and, hilariously, I had a song based on the psalm in my head the whole time, LOL. As for second-guessing myself...I have to say that having a hero and heroine who are apart for so much of the book was nerve-wracking! And then in rewrites, I was just concerned with hitting the balance on the race issues just right.
GJ: I think I was actually nervous with you while reading that scene, but you executed everything perfectly! I come at the Civil War from a strange perspective, and so I was glad to see that you presented everything—the true nature of Southern people, the racial issues, and the real forces behind the war—realistically! Dreams of Savannah is probably one of the best Civil War novels written in modern times that I’ve ever read!
What do you want, most of all, for readers to take away from Dreams of Savannah?
RW: Well gracious, now you have me blushing! LOL. I'm so glad you loved how I handled everything! I think that what I ultimately pray people get out of it is that no matter the issue, there are multiple sides, and they're all valid. But when we take the time to really look at the people who oppose us as people, when we learn their stories and understand them, then we'll truly be able to love them as Christ does.
Have you ever endured any discouragement as an author? If so, what inspired you to persevere?
RW: Ha! That's a bit like asking a fish if they've ever encountered water, right? ;-) Oh yes. Plenty of discouragement in this journey! I've had my tearful days and my frustrated days and my days that just feel so hopeless. But I always remind myself that I'm not writing for my own glory. I'm not writing to please people. I'm writing to please God and to be a tool in His toolbox for touching others. I can only do my part--though I must do it to the absolute best of my ability, and then work to increase that ability! But ultimately, how it's received is not my business. I've tried to train myself not to meet discouragement by seeking its opposite--encouragement from people. But rather to greet it by turning it immediately over to the Lord.
GJ: No kidding! Wow, I got chills reading your answer!
What are your greatest aspirations for your future, be it as a person or as a writer?
RW: I have so many dreams and goals! I'd love to see Seeing the Story really take off. I'd love to have a book that just explodes sometime in popularity--though that one may be a bit too prideful, LOL. I'd love to run retreats with my husband where we encourage other creatives in their dreams. Ultimately, though, my biggest dream is just to be faithful to the call God has put on my life, and to be ever listening for the next part of that call. Right now that means writing, designing, running WhiteFire, homeschooling my kids...but even in the last year, I've begun to see more of what He wants of me. More reaching out, less folding in. So that's what my current aspirations would include--the wisdom, inspiration, and compassion in my heart to help me reach out to others and inspire them to follow their own path ever nearer to God.
GJ: That’s amazing! I’m sure a lot of that has changed and grown over the years, so what would you say that being a writer has taught you—about life, God, seeing the world?
RW: Everything. 😉 I know, I know, not an answer, LOL. But seriously, I see the world through the lens of writing, of words. I'm always trying to put each new sight or experience into a beautiful phrase. And trying to make a career of it has taught me patience, perseverance, the value of working hard for what I want, creativity--not just in coming up with stories but in how to get those stories into readers' hands--and has really taught me how to pour my heart into my work but then step back and let it go. To value it for the work it can do for God and not with pride at what I have done. That one is something I'm continually working on!
GJ: That is SO true! After all these years of writing, what would you say to aspiring authors about writing and publishing?
RW: Respect the dream. (I totally stole that from a post my best friend wrote on Go Teen Writers years ago, but it's SO TRUE.) Give it the time it deserves to learn the craft and master it. If you wanted to be an engineer or a teacher or a missionary or a doctor, you would spend years upon years learning, studying, practicing, and perfecting--the writing dream deserves every bit as much of your time and energy. Don't expect to become Shakespeare overnight. Dedicate yourself to becoming the best you can be, and do that by constantly practicing. Which is to say, WRITE! It's the best thing a writer can ever do. I don't know how many people I've talked to over the years who want to write a novel "someday" but don't actually take the time. Or who let the everyday tasks get in their way. But if this is something you really want to do, grab hold of that. Treat it as sacred. Respect it. And then chase the dream every day of your life.
GJ: Stolen or not, that’s a fantastic way to see it! Can you tell me a little bit about some of the services you offer writers?
RW: Sure! I have a series of classes available on my website at roseannamwhite.com/classes-and-workshops which cover everything from how to keep your heart in the right place through this journey to the nitty-gritty of publishing. (You can get them individually for a few bucks each or buy a lifetime subscription that will get you all of them forever, including when I add new ones.) I teach at conferences around the country. I'm a frequent guest at the aforementioned Go Teen Writers. And when you're ready for publication, if you decide to go indie, I have design services--cover design and typesetting. You can see my portfolio at RoseannaWhiteDesigns.com. If you're looking for a small press publishing experience (traditional publishing, just smaller company), my husband and I also run the WhiteFire Publishing group, which now has four imprints. And soon we'll be launching marketing intensives as well (if you're interested in that but don't see it available yet, feel free to get in touch!) So...lots of stuff going on. I don't seem to know what the word "down time" means. 😉
GJ: That is a lot on one plate!
You are an amazing author, Roseanna, and I have so enjoyed interviewing you, learning more about your writing journey and your latest novel! Thank you so much for joining me! Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
RW: It's been fun! Thanks so much for having me! And I think we covered everything. 😉
GJ: I think so too, unless you’d like to say something about what you’ve got coming next. You’re welcome, and thank you! This has been an amazing privilege!
RW: Oh, duh. LOL. Coming next. Yes. 😃
Next up for me is The Nature of a Lady, book 1 in The Secrets of the Isles. It releases in May and is SO much fun! We have a mistaken identity, a hunt for pirate treasure, an absolutely gorgeous English island setting, and of course, romance. (Two, actually!) It's set in 1906, so I'm getting away from war for a while, which was a nice break for my brain. 😉 I'm really excited for this series to begin in the spring!
GJ: Eek! I know I can’t wait! And two romances??? Yippee!
I hope I've piqued your interests in Dreams of Savannah! You can snag a copy at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Christian Book, and Roseanna's online store (copy will be signed by the author)! Click the link and order NOW!!
Want more updates on Roseanna M. White's upcoming releases? Follow her blog or check her out on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or her website. Interested in more of her books? Check them out here!
I had the most fun interviewing Roseanna, and I hope you enjoyed it too! Maybe you'll go out a buy you a White novel now! 😋
Anyway, I know this makes for two interviews in one month, but it was worth it! I loved getting to know Roseanna, and I can't wait to bring more authors to y'all as time goes on! Stay tuned!