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Interview with Anne Mateer

Between writing novels, short stories, and periodicals, Anne Mateer works as a freelance editor with a creditable client list. As a writer in a family of teachers, Anne used her crafting skill to create a fascinating story of a teacher forced to instruct music and coach basketball—subjects her heroine considers non-academic.

Anne, I read in an interview that your grandmother faced a similar situation and was the influence behind your Playing by Heart heroine. As a role model, what were your grandmother’s circumstances that she should inspire you in such a way?
My grandmother was a very godly woman who loved her husband and her family. She was involved in her church, teaching Sunday school and Bible studies, taking in foreign exchange students, and eventually working with her husband in a business they started with their best friends.

She received her master’s degree in the 1930s. Yes, you read that right. In fact, she and my grandfather both had their master’s degrees from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University)! They put a very high value on education and insured all their grandchildren would have the opportunity for college.

You might think with that bio that my grandmother was the stern and serious type. Not so! She smiled and laughed easily, had a hug for everyone, and was, frankly, a little ditzy sometimes! In fact, in her earlier years, her nickname was Fruity Lu. She was humble and gracious and generally easy to be around.

Was your grandmother’s situation common family knowledge, or did you discover it through family research?
I had previously written about an incident in my paternal grandmother’s life in Wings of a Dream and knew I wanted to explore the other side of my family history. I’d long known Grandmother’s story of teaching school in Oklahoma and being given the girls’ basketball team to coach when she knew nothing of the sport, so that became my jumping off place. My imagination took over from there!

Playing by Heart is set in Oklahoma during the years of WW1, otherwise known as The Great War. Were American males drafted at that time, or was the military made up of volunteers?
While many men volunteered, the US military relied heavily on the draft during The Great War. The Selective Service Act of 1917 enacted a selective draft of 21-30 year old males (Later the ages were expanded to 18 to 45.) in which one could not hire a substitute or pay a bounty, such as often happened in the Civil War. Patriotic fervor ran high, so even those drafted to fight in The Great War often went willingly.

So if a male, like your hero, chose to stay as a civilian, was he ostracized for not volunteering, especially if part of his job entailed coaching a sport?
My hero, Chet, had a special reason for staying behind, though he would have gone willingly if drafted, as his brother was. The level of ostracism for non-participants seems to have been much less than what occurred at the same time in England, but there would definitely have been a level of feeling “less than” if you chose to stay at home.

And now I’m curious…did you follow the family tradition in education or did you choose to learn as you worked through life?
I love learning, both in and out of an academic setting. I received a B.A. in history with a minor in English. (Imagine that!) However, I didn’t follow my family into education as a vocation. I took one education class and when I went to observe a high school classroom, I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a classroom teacher. But the legacy continues. One of my sons is a born coach and teacher. He will graduate from college in May and pursue that path. Teaching is just built into his nature.

Like your three previously published books, Playing by Heart takes place in early 20th century. What fascinates you about this period?
I kind of fell into this time period with my first book and have really come to love it. It fascinates me because it was a time of such tremendously quick change. And yet for those choosing to remain in a rural, small town setting, so many things didn’t change for another several decades. Some people owned and used telephones. Others didn’t. Some drove automobiles, others a horse and buggy. Some had electricity in their homes while others used gas to give light and heat—or even kerosene lamps! Such a wide variety of lifestyles gives a lot of leeway in imagination and a multitude of plot potentialities.

Who or what has been most instrumental in your writing/publishing career?
Tons of people have helped along the way, but I guess I’d have to say the Genesis Contest was the most instrumental to my publishing career. Not only did reaching the final round three times (in three different categories!) give me great feedback to improve, help me find the genre I love, and encourage me to continue writing, my first book contract came as a direct result of finaling in the historical category—even though I didn’t win.

A close second would be Nanowrimo. I had never actually completed a story until I participated in Nanowrimo in 2001, way back before there was a website and all the resources they have now. Then it was just a challenge that an online friend discovered and that we did together. Reaching 50,000 words and “the end” made me want to write another story—and another and another.

Please finish this sentence: If I could go back and travel in 1918, it would be by...
...automobile .

Any parting words?
I want to say a huge thank you to everyone for reading a little about me and Playing by Heart. I still find this writing journey to be a bit surreal and stand in complete amazement at all God has done through it to conform me more to the image of Christ. In the end, that’s what this journey is all about.

Thanks for sharing with us, Anne.

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