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Tina Ann Forkner

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The Advocate

Tina Ann Forkner Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"When I am in the middle of a story, it doesn’t let go unless I get to writing." -- Tina Ann Forkner

Tina Ann Forkner writes contemporary fiction that challenges and inspires. Originally from Oklahoma, she graduated with honors in English from CSU Sacramento before ultimately settling in the wide-open spaces of Wyoming where she now resides with her husband and their three children. Tina serves on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board of Directors and enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors with her family, and works as a full-time writer.

C.J. I hear you've wanted to write since you were a little kid. What was it that first drew you to writing?

Tina: I loved to read and I loved to tell a good story when I was a child. I remember that after reading a book, I would feel very inspired to make up my own story. I even once made a picture book and bound it together with my mom’s needle and thread. My parents, especially my dad, told me I could write anything I wanted, so I started writing things down.

How did you know God was calling you to be a writer?

I just knew. There were other things I wanted to be too, like a doctor and an archaeologist, but those were careers I thought of because my mom said I would need a backup job. She informed me that writers don’t make much money. She is a wise woman.

Share with us the story of how you came to write and publish your first novel, Ruby Among Us.

I wrote Ruby Among Us in thirty to forty-five minute increments daily before my family got out of bed and long before I headed to my then full-time job. It was my husband who encouraged me to start writing early in the morning. At first I thought he was crazy, but I also wanted to show him that I could do it. He is a very left brained person and telling him I was a writer meant nothing if he didn’t see me writing. Once he saw the pages filling up and read some of my writing, he encouraged me to make the manuscript.

Before he came along, I was in a period of my life where time to write was limited and on most days wasn’t even an option. God had me focused on raising my daughter at that time and not writing. Being a single mom can be a challenge that way, but it is the time when the idea of Ruby Among Us was first conceived. I was sitting alone at my computer one night worried about my daughter’s future. That worry culminated into a few chapters that I laid aside until that fateful day when I set out to prove that I was really a writer.

The mother/daughter relationship theme runs through this book on every page. Was that something you set out to consciously write or did it come about organically as the characters evolved?

I wish I could say that I had the whole thing planned out and that writing about mothers and daughters was part of the master plan. It might have been part of God’s plan, but I was just free writing when I first conceived the idea. The mother/daughter theme was born organically as you put it. I have really strong relationships with the women in my family, so I’m not surprised that it came out in the story.

Ruby Among Us takes place in the Sonoma Valley. Why this setting?

During my mid-twenties I lived in Sacramento where I attended school at Sac State. During those years I spent quite a bit of time in the Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa areas. The setting just grew on me. I loved the gardens, the vineyards, the people and everything about the area. It just seemed to fit the story very well. I understand that people have also talked about the area being very symbolic to the story and I can see that too, although it isn’t the reason I initially chose the setting.

Ruby Among Us by Tina Ann ForknerWhat's a little known fact about this area that maybe you weren't able to include in the story but wished you could?

I’m no history expert, but apparently a man named Colonel Agoston Haraszthy is the founding father of California’s wine industry that began in the Sonoma Valley in the mid 1800’s. Haraszthy gathered the first cuttings in Europe that developed California's vineyards and wine industry.

Did you find it difficult to distance yourself from the characters in Ruby Among Us who might've experienced similar emotions and/or situations, or did you find your own experience was really a benefit to the writing?

I didn’t worry about distancing myself. Even though I was so close to the experience, I knew I had the freedom through fiction to do whatever the story needed. If anything, it helped me to write about it as I sought to understand things about the world, faith, and my own life. In fact, it was actually a benefit to the writing that I have had a single parent experience.

Kitty and Ruby have a harder time in the book than I had to have in real life. Many single moms have been through much worse and I’ve known several of them, so I have some very strong feelings about what that experience is like. As a result, I hope that by having gone through some of that myself, as sad as it is for me and my daughter to have experienced, I have been shown God’s grace and hope in it.

I hope that my experiences, through fiction, translate in a positive way to people who feel ashamed of their pasts or even to people who might have difficulty coming to terms with somebody else’s past. We are all human, after all.

Being on the foundation board of directors at your local library probably gives you a perspective about books other writers might not have. What have you learned in your time there that's helped you in your writing?

I love that libraries keep books alive long after the bestseller lists have given up on them or after booksellers have taken them off shelves. From what I have learned during my time on the foundation board, the librarians and their staff put their hearts into providing a great variety of books, programs, reading groups, and author presentations for their patrons. As a writer, being around the library and seeing the passion the librarians and employees really do put into their jobs increases my passion for writing. Knowing my book will eventually end up in their hands is encouraging.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, who are some of your favorite bands/artists?

Oh definitely. Sometimes, I will find myself in a writing funk. I will be staring at the screen and trying to figure out why my mind is lagging, then I’ll realize I didn’t turn on the music! There are so many different artists I love and it really varies to the point of strange when you consider the combinations. Some of my favorites are Amy Grant, R.E.M., U2, Point of Grace, Johnny Cash, Jewel, Joss Stone, John Mayer, Aaron Shust, MercyMe, Travis Cottrell, James Blunt, Michael Buble’ and Harry Connick Jr. And when I’m really on a roll I like to turn on Celtic Woman or Enya. Enya is really good to work to because the lyrics aren’t distracting.

I love listening to southern gospel music too. If it comes from the Gaithers, I will love it.

What is it that motivates you to get out of bed and head to your keyboard?

The need to finish the story. When I am in the middle of one, it doesn’t let go unless I get to writing. Tina Ann Forkner

Where is your favorite place to write?

In my living room with my laptop, facing out the back window. My laptop is on the fritz right now though, so I’m writing in my office. It’s a small room with a small desk, some nick knacks, a chair and tons of books. I have this bookshelf in my office that was built by my late father-in-law. It covers one wall and is full of books. I admit I don’t read them all, but there is something about the presence of books in my work area that inspires me. Anyway, it makes one feel like a writer to be surrounded by lots of books, doesn’t it?

Confession time! What's been your most embarrassing moment so far as a writer (if you're telling! :) ?

Only one? There have been so many! Every time I stutter or forget what I’m trying to say in a live interview I am mortified.

What was the lowest point in your career, and how did you get out of it?

I haven’t been at the business side of writing long enough to have had what I would call a true low point just yet. I am sure it will come, but right now I am just thanking God for every part of the journey and enjoying it.

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

Even though I write about Mother/Daughter issues and am very close my own wonderful mother, I am a Daddy’s girl. The second would be that I love to go fishing.

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

My husband and I love going to watch our kids in all of their events and take them to their school carnivals and all that goes with that. When I’m not doing that, I work in my garden and try to get something to grow here in southeastern Wyoming. We have a very short growing season, so it can be a challenge. I am a gardener, but not the kind of gardener that my characters are in my novel.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Shredded wheat squares with brown sugar.

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

My fridge is not very exciting. We always have milk, eggs, ketchup.

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

A tall, skinny, vanilla latte, please.

What's left unchecked in your "goals for life" list?

So many things, I can not list them all. One of them is to write a masterpiece. I hope I will write a novel that is very meaningful and life-changing by the time I am very old.

When was the last time you cried?

On the plane a few days ago when I was reading the opening chapters of the novel, The Shack.

Three words that best describe you:

I had to ask my hubby this one. He says, creative (of course honey, I’m a writer), witty (he is the only one who laughs at my jokes), and nerdy (so…what’s wrong with that?).

What's currently in your CD player/iPod?

Jewel’s newest CD, Perfectly Clear. I love her as a country music artist. It fits her perfectly.

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

Thank you so much for having me. I love this site! Come visit me at my site and blog at www.tinaannforkner.com

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.