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Interview with Gail Kittleson

Gail Kittleson has several books published in the Historical Romance sub-genre of WW2, an era still remembered by some readers who give her a thumbs up for capturing the essence of that frightening time.

Welcome, Gail. Is your latest book, Kiss Me Once Again, part of your Women of the Heartland series, and if so, in what order?

Women of the Heartland is my brand, and the name of my primary series (Book One: In Times Like These; Book Two: With Each New Dawn, and Book Three: A Purpose True.) Just as many television series (Law and Order, for example), spawn spin-offs, this has occurred with Women of the Heartland.

Kiss Me Once Again is a spin-off from the series featuring another hometown girl’s contributions to the World War II effort.

Only my very first novel, In This Together, features an older heroine from a different locale. Also, this story takes place just after the war instead of during it.

What is the common feature in Women of the Heartland other than WW2?
Each heroine comes from the Midwest, geographically and culturally. By that, I mean they share a common work ethic and a rural grounding in family and faith. I call them “make-do” women, because they did whatever they had to in order to speed the end of the war.

What was the scholarship offered to your heroine, Glenora, from Iowa State University, and why did she let something so important go?
ISU offered her a scholarship to facilitate her dream of becoming a home-economics teacher. When Glenora was a teenager, her mother died, so she shouldered the responsibility or housekeeping for her father and younger brother. When her brother joined the Navy after the Pearl Harbor attack and her father’s health began to fail, she also took on his work at the garage.

Did Glenora enjoy working in the family garage business before the loss of the U.S.S. Arizona?
No, her brother worked there then. But Glenora wasn’t one to complain or bemoan her lot. The choice was clear—contribute to the war effort by sustaining the family business. Everyone was making sacrifices, so why shouldn’t she?

What memory comes first when thinking of your WW2 research?
When my first character came to me, I had no idea how much research I’d be doing from then on. This last May, my husband and I toured the WWII sites of England for our fortieth anniversary.

We stayed in Portsmouth harbor, where Allied soldiers debarked to invade Normandy, and walked the underground tunnels where Winston Churchill made many key decisions that directed the war’s course. Bletchley Park displays the work of the decoders who worked 24-7 to break the German enigma code.

I’d studied all of this, but standing in the historical spots added a unique touch of wonder.

From where did your love for this period in history come? Did you grow up listening to someone close to you talk about the war?
My mother used to hum or sing her favorite WWII songs as she worked around the house. My dad served four years during the war, but never discussed that with us. The war had a definite effect on the way we were raised, but as children, of course we had no idea of the impact.

My father-in-law took part in the raid on Cabanatuan to free the captives from the Bataan Death March, as well. But before I made writing my priority in my fifties, this era had no special hold on me—the first characters that came to me were Forties’ women—that was my first clue.

Are your stories plot- or character-driven?
Characters come to me first, and whisper their stories as we move along. Research tells me what was going on in their world on any given day, and imagination conjures how they might have reacted.

Where are you most comfortable writing?
I like quiet, but otherwise, just about anywhere will do.

How long did it take between the time you completed your first WW2 novel and the time it became a published book?
I think it was about a year. The editing and publishing process takes time.

What was the smartest thing you did that led to publication?
I kept writing, even though many times the temptation to give up taunted me. Many authors and others encouraged me, but the road was bumpy, especially in figuring out my genre.

It’s not romance, generally, although Kiss Me Once Again is a romantic novella. My niche is Women’s Historical Fiction, sometimes with a romantic thread. This is obvious to me now, but it took a long time to realize it. Finally understanding that made a big difference.

The best compliment a reader ever paid me is, “Thank you for writing these wonderful books, and for not giving your characters any pat answers or easy ways out of their troubles.” Ahh...lovely!

What is your biggest distraction when it comes to writing?
Mmm...I don’t really have one. Writing is my passion, maybe even an addiction. So it’s hard for me not to write. In a sense, I’m always writing. Scenes work out in my psyche during the night, and I often wake knowing what I need to do to “fix” a certain literary situation.

I’m a much happier person when I’m writing, and wish I had developed the confidence to pursue fiction earlier. For me, writing as an enormous gift.

Any parting words?
It’s so important for younger generations to realize the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made. The lessons they teach us are worth preserving in historical fiction.


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at and

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