Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage


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Jan Watson Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"I knew I was going to be a writer when the words wouldn’t stop coming." --Jan Watson

Jan Watson won the 2004 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest for her first novel, Troublesome Creek. Her other awards include a nomination for the Kentucky Literary Award in 2006 and second place in the 2006 Inspirational Readers Choice Contest sponsored by the Faith, Hope, and Love Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Willow Springs and Torrent Falls are the sequels to Troublesome Creek. Jan was a registered nurse for 25 years at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. She incorporated her nursing experience in the hospital's mother/baby unit into her novels. Jan resides in Kentucky.

I love asking writers about when the writing bug first bit them because so often God puts the desire in their heart at an early age. Was it like that for you? When did you know you were going to be a writer?

The desire to write came late to me. Being a voracious reader, I was quite content to let someone else tell the story. Then I began to toy with writing a book based on a memory from my childhood. The first three sentences of Troublesome Creek came to me as I sat in the drive-thru line at a local McDonalds: “Girl! You’d better get to the house. If your mam catches you in that creek again she’ll skin you alive.” I knew I was going to be a writer when the words wouldn’t stop coming. I wrote on napkins, discarded envelopes, around the edges of my husband’s newspaper, yellow legal pads—any piece of paper with a blank space was fair game. Finally, my husband set up an office for me with my very own computer. He said, “Now go tell your stories.” I’ve been writing ever since.

Share with us how you entered the medical field. What drew you to that profession?

A fascination with all things medical drew me to nursing. As a girl I doctored my dolls and Teddy bears. I remember drawing a safety pin on the rubber belly of one unfortunate doll so that I could practice surgery. My favorite Santa Claus gift was a doctor’s kit with child-size instruments and tiny vial of candy pills.

I waited until my children were all in school before I went to college to become a registered nurse. In order to pay my tuition, I shared a two hundred customer paper route with my oldest son. It was a privilege to work with mothers and babies until I retired.

How has your medical training helped you in your writing endeavors?

Nurses are great communicators. As a nurse you have to be able to establish an instant rapport with patients in order to get them to tell you their innermost thoughts and feelings. Patients must trust the nurse and want her to be a part of their history. As an author, I have the same responsibility that I had as a nurse. I want my readers to immediately bond with the characters in my book and I want them to trust me as the author to respect and care about their reading experience.

Troublesome Creek by Jan WatsonI hear you loved to read as a kid. When the book mobile came to town, what was your favorite book to borrow? Why?

I loved them all, though sometimes my mother would edit my selections. I hid in the hayloft to read Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. To think that a farm girl in Kentucky could open the pages of a book and enter the lives of peasants in China was and still is remarkable to me. I was generally ahead of the reading curve, always seeking the next good read.

One of the highlights of my life was seeing my first book Troublesome Creek, on the shelf of my local library in Mt. Olivet, Ky. Now I am privileged to do a signing there every year.

Your first novel, Troublesome Creek, was six years in the writing. After it won the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest in 2004, did you find it hard to write its sequels Willow Springs and Torrent Falls in a much shorter amount of time? How did you manage that?

My first version of Troublesome Creek included part of Willow Springs. On the advice of an editor I met at a writer’s conference, I cut my manuscript in half and entered the first part (Troublesome Creek) in the Christian Writers Guild First Novel Contest. So my second book (Willow Springs) was part of that six year process. Torrent Falls seemed to write itself. Sweetwater Run was my first strict deadline and I did have trouble meeting it. The secret is to write every day so that you stay in the story.

Speaking of
Sweetwater Run, after writing about your character Copper Brown for three books, did you find it challenging to write from the perspective of a completely new character in Cara Whitt Wilson?

Sweetwater Run was great fun to write. I first introduced the characters from Sweetwater Run in my third novel, Torrent Falls. It was a natural progression to write about Cara, Dance, Darcy and Dimmert. Sweetwater Run by Jan Watson

This novel is based on stories your grandmother passed down to you, correct? How do you go about creating a story based on real events without getting bogged down writing it “exactly like it happened”. Or isn’t that an issue for you?

Troublesome Creek was based on a story my granny told me, but loosely. The life-changing event that happened to Dimmer Whitt in Sweetwater Run (a man goes to prison after being falsely accused) happened to the father of a girl I knew very briefly when I attended a one room school in Piqua, Ky. My stories are 99.9 % fiction.

What surprised you most in your research for Sweetwater Run?

The conditions of the prison system during the late 1800’s surprised me.

I enjoy research because I learn so much along the way. For instance, while writing this book I learned how to construct a chicken’s roost so the bird’s feet won’t freeze. Now, if I just had some chickens. . .

If you could describe the message or theme of Sweetwater Run, and perhaps all your novels, what would you say?

Although I don’t write with a theme or message in mind, looking back I’d say the message in my books is that every person has a story and that every story has value. For example, I thought Dimmert Whitt was an “extra” I created for Torrent Falls. Little did I know how important Dimm would be. Dimmert kept knocking on the door to my heart. His story became Sweetwater Run.

Torrent Falls by Jan WatsonDo you see yourself as a Christian fiction writer or a writer of fiction who happens to be a Christian?

I am a Christian always in all ways no matter what else I’m doing. When I first began to write I didn’t intend to write for the Christian market per se. I quickly discovered that I couldn’t leave who I am or what I believe out of my writing. This work has become my ministry.

Ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments at a book signing or while performing research?

Too many to count but I’ll share a few: While speaking at a church social I was heckled by the proverbial “little old lady.” No joke, she kept yelling out insults. I think she thought she was at a comedy club and I was a stand up comedian!

Early in my writing career, I drove miles out of my way on narrow country roads to do a book signing. My car radio blared tornado warnings as lightning flashed, the wind howled and hail stones pinged off the hood of my red Pontiac. When I arrived, I found to my chagrin that my expected audience had stayed home because of the weather.

This next moment was more heart warming than unusual. A library in a farming community invited me to speak/sign for a literary social. The library was full of ladies taking tea, all dressed up for the occasion. The event went well, and I was pleased to sign many books. As I was packing up to leave, a fellow in work shirt and jeans, apparently straight from the field, came in the door. “Just sign this to Bill,” he said, placing a well read copy of Torrent Falls on the table. I did. He left whistling and I left smiling.

Dog lover to dog lover, we’d love to hear about your Jack Russell terrier Maggie! When did you get her? What’s she like, and how does she help inspire your writing? :)

Maggie Mae is an eleven pound Jack Russell terrorist. My husband got her for me when she was a few weeks old. When he went to pick her out of the litter Jan Watson and Maggieshe licked his chin. She knew a good thing when she saw it. We didn’t know she was deaf until she was several months old. She understands doggy sign language, but if she doesn’t want to mind me she just turns her head.

Maggie happily spends her mornings chasing sunbeams and her afternoons keeping the mailman and the UPS guy at bay. At night she steals my pillows and makes herself a nest above my head. I wake up with a crick in my neck but she is so worth it.

As I write this she is sleeping on a pillow on my lap. She is on her back with all four paws sticking up. She doesn’t mind if I type around her. In a little while she’ll wake full of energy then we’ll have to take a break to play ball or go for a walk. Maggie reminds me not to take life too seriously and that there’s some kind of fun to be had every day.

What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?

A Christy Award winner like my wonderful writer friend Tom Pawlik did with his novel, Vanish.

Do you ever find it challenging to head to your keyboard every day? What do you do when the words don’t seem to come?

So far I haven’t experienced the dreaded writer’s block. Writing is so much fun I never tire of it. When I run out of words I’ll find something else to do.

Willow Springs by Jan WatsonWhere is your favorite place to write?

I write from my pretty yellow office. My computer sits on my late husband’s great-grandfather’s library table. My reference books are in my Aunt Marjorie’s bookcase. For a moment’s respite, I have a cane-bottom rocking chair over which is thrown a hand-pieced quilt. On a table close at hand are my favorite books for inspiration: the “King James Bible,” “Walking on Water,” by Madeline L’Engle, Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” “The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis” by Terry Glaspey and William Faulkner’s, “As I Lay Dying.”

My computer desk sits in front of a window so that I can watch the weather. Beneath the window is my rose garden. (Thankfully, they are Knock Out roses which can stand to be neglected while I spin my stories.)

What’s next for you novel-wise? We’d love to have a sneak peek!

I’m editing Still House Pond. I love the title of this book as I think it conjures up all kinds of mystery. This novel brings back Copper Brown Pelfrey and her daughter Lilly.

Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?

Thank you to everyone out there who reads my books and shares them with others. Having such a dedicated fan base is a writer’s delight. I wish I could be with each of you as you turn the pages. The next best thing would be for you to share your thoughts with me at author at janwatson dot net.

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

I’ve always wanted to work in a funeral parlor and I am addicted to the television show “The Amazing Race.”

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

My favorite non-writing activity is reading. I read for pleasure and for instruction. I have a collection of old medical books which I read like other women might read cookbooks.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Colby cheese, red grapes and Town House crackers.

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Gala apples, hard cheese and diet coca-cola.

You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

A to-go cup of Earl Gray and a blueberry cream-cheese muffin. Yum.

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

Dance lessons. Volunteer work with Hospice. Learning to speak Spanish.

When was the last time you cried?

The day is not over.

Three words that best describe you:

Quiet. Humorous. Content.

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

An iPod is on my Christmas wish list. My current faves are Kimmie Rhodes, Lucinda Williams, Emmy Lou Harris and Lynn DeShazo (Ancient Words.) Oh, and I could listen to Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train,” a hundred times a day.

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C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.