The 4th annual Pamlico Writers Conference and Competition, at The Turnage Theatre is fast approaching. This year’s theme will be “Exploring the Writers Voice.” Our co-sponsors for this event are Arts of the Pamlico and NCArts.
Friday night, March 18th beginning at 6:00 pm (with Pitch to the Publisher, our Keynote Speaker,and open mike – authors interested in sharing their work.); Saturday, March 19th, 8:30 am begins the Conference. Don’t miss out, go to our website now and register at: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/.
Check out our facebook and twitter pages too: https://www.facebook.com/pwconference2015/
Now that I’ve gotten the business out of the way, I’d like to share with you an interview with bestselling author in Amazon’s YA Colonial & Revolutionary Historical Fiction category, Sara Whitford. Ms. Whitford will be presenting an afternoon workshop on “Penning the Past: Merging history with fiction,” and should be very interesting for everyone in attendance.
Ever since she can remember, she has been fascinated by the intriguing past of the region that has been home to her family for centuries. How could she not be, with stories of intrepid explorers, Indian kings, and ordinary Bath town boys-turned-pirates––like that notorious sea rogue known as Blackbeard?
Sara Whitford’s third-great-grandfather wrote their family’s lineage in a copy of Robinson Crusoe. Adventure, literature, and history are in her blood.
Ms. Whitford believes that Historical fiction is a powerful medium. That writing about the past, enables us to reshape our readers’ views about historical events and figures, and bring to light stories that have never before been told.
In her Adam Fletcher Adventure Series, Whitford weaves together colonial-era tales that incorporate true life (but often little known) historical facts with stories and characters inspired by her own decades of research. The first book in the series, The Smuggler’s Gambit, has remained in Amazon’s bestsellers for YA United States Colonial & Revolutionary Historical Fiction since it was published in March 2015, and its sequel, Captured in the Caribbean, launched in September 2015 is following suit. The third book in the series, Murder in the Marsh, is due out in spring 2016.
May I present to you, our interview with Sara Whitford:
Q. What fascinates you about history?
Even as a little girl, I always sat riveted while listening to family stories from “a long time ago…” Both of my parents instilled in me a deep love and appreciation for family history — even just talking about their experiences back during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights and Vietnam War eras — and I think for me it all takes root right there. It was my love of genealogy, even as a teenager, that ultimately made me to fall in love with history.
There’s just something about researching your ancestors, and you find a grandfather from the colonial era who was an orphan, and he gets forced into an apprenticeship, and you want to learn all about what that means. What was life like for him? Did he fight in the Revolution? How did he go from being this sixteen-year-old boy with no mother or father listed on the paper that bound him to a master until age twenty-one, to eventually becoming a successful shoemaker, land owner, and married to the daughter of a prominent county justice?
How can I not be drawn in by stories like that?
Q. What/ who is the greatest influence for your writing?
My fellow authors, I have no doubt, are naming all kinds of great writers who’ve had profound influences on their writing. For me, it’s always been more about just loving great stories.
I love the classics — stories like Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. They’re timeless tales. But as authors, we can’t write stories like that anymore. Readers don’t have the patience to read them like they did in centuries past.
If I really think about it, I’m fairly certain the greatest influence on my writing — the fact that I decided to be a writer — can be traced directly back to a fifteen month period in the mid-1980s, from about spring of 1984 to summer of 1985.
Here’s what happened: Romancing the Stone came out first. Of course it was about a mousy romance writer who finds herself in the middle of a real-life adventure, complete with her very own rugged, handsome hero. In autumn of 1984, the television show Murder, She Wrote made its debut. Jessica Fletcher was, of course, a prolific murder mystery writer who always found herself right in the middle of real-life murder mysteries that needed solving. In 1985, it was less about the writers and more about the adventures. The Goonies and Back to the Future came out in the same year. Can you believe it? Those are some fantastic adventures — both with youthful heroes!
I was nine then and those stories blew me away.
I knew way back then that I wanted to write stories like that. I wanted to write adventures and I wanted to write mysteries, and now I guess I’m finally doing a little bit of both with Adam Fletcher. (I guess now you can guess where the last name ‘Fletcher’ came from.)
Q. Your character Adam Fletcher is a teenager, and your stories are geared for YA, was this a conscious choice or did the character make that choice for you?
While the first couple of books in the Adam Fletcher Adventure Series fit the bill for YA Historical Fiction because of the 17-year-old protagonist and the coming-of-age themes, I actually didn’t write them with a YA audience in mind. The books have done great in that category on Amazon — and I’m thrilled about that — but I think the readers who have been most enthusiastic so far are actually readers who haven’t been in the YA target age for quite a while.
I ended up writing a 17-year-old hero because the character of Adam Fletcher was inspired by one of my own ancestors. (The one I mentioned above.) I think it’s a great age, and especially in that period of history.
Also, my son is in the seventh grade and I’ve been frustrated with what’s out there for boys in the historical fiction genre. Most of what’s coming out in YA Historical Fiction these days either seems geared towards young teenage girls, or they seem like the kind of stories that would be assigned in a junior high school English class with a unit on colonial American history. I do have a fellow author friend named Robert Krenzel who came out with a book last year called This Glorious Cause which is about a teenage boy who fights in the American Revolution. From what I understand, more books are also forthcoming in his series, so maybe we’ll start seeing more historical fiction in this category.
Q. You use the quote from Rudyard Kipling “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Is that what you are hoping to accomplish with your stories?
Yes! Most definitely! I’ll be touching on this in my lecture at the upcoming Pamlico Writers Conference, but one key thing is this: History is so full of incredible stories, there is no reason for any writer to ever say, “I can’t think of anything to write.” Let history inspire you, and you, in turn, can inspire others!
Q. Is there a genre you haven’t written in that you’d like to try?
I love C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I stand completely in awe of what they were able to accomplish in terms of world-building and storytelling. I’ll admit that I’m intimidated to take on such a monumental task as what is required of a good fantasy writer, but you never know, I may try it one day.
I think more realistically, though, once the Adam Fletcher Adventure Series wraps up, I’ll probably write another adventure series.
I’ve actually thought about a series set in the 1980s — with adventure and mystery, as well as humorous elements… sort of like Magnum P.I. in book form.
Q. Have you ever written anything that you hated? What did you do with it?
In college, I thought I wanted to be a screenwriter. I took a lot of film studies classes and ended up writing a couple of screenplays. They were awful. And I knew they were awful. I was never under any illusion that I should try to query them. Believe me, I did everyone a favor when I threw away the 3.5” floppies that housed those ridiculous things.
One was even a mafia story. What was I thinking? Sure, I’d seen The Godfather and Goodfellas, but I had about as much business writing a screenplay about the mafia as I would teaching introductory classes on speaking Japanese.
Q. What kinds of books do you read?
I homeschool my son and I direct the weekly class for the program he is in, so I spend a lot of my reading time these days on books that are part of that curriculum. Some of them, like Carry On, Mr. Bowditch are even in YA Historical Fiction, so you can imagine my delight when I saw that The Smuggler’s Gambit was ranked ahead of that one on Amazon.com.
Other than staying busy reading those books, I also love to read mysteries by Agatha Christie and ghostwriter Donald Bain (writing as J.B. Fletcher — I’m such a huge sucker for Murder, She Wrote!) and fun action stories by writers like Clive Cussler and Janet Evanovich.
And in addition to all of that, I also do a ton of research for my books, so I think the titles I probably read the most are either the Colonial Records of North Carolina or any of Alan Watson’s fabulous books on eastern North Carolina history.
Finally, there is one book I read in every single day and that’s the Bible. It’s something my son and I have done together every night since he was just a tiny thing, and it’s a habit I’m grateful we share.
Learn more about her books at AdamFletcherSeries.com.
Or on her website at SaraWhitford.com
by Kay Wilson