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Interview with Gail Kittleson

Gail Kittleson knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she was teenager. Over the years, she has completed a variety of projects. The era that inspires her most is World War II. She shares about how that era speaks to her, the way she creates her stories, and her favorite quote of all time. Hint: it was spoken by a famous World War II statesman.

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Congratulations on the publication of your book, Land That I Love! What drew you to writing fiction?
After encouraging college students in their writing and writing memoir myself, I worked through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. What a powerful book! During that period, my first character came to me—a WWII woman who had lost her son in North Africa. She captured my imagination, and I began to write her story. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What is your favorite part of writing a novel?
That’s a tough one, because I even like the editing. But maybe the “magic” of having the character whisper her/his story in my ear is my favorite part.

You write primarily World War II fiction. What about this era inspires you?
People gave their all for a cause greater than themselves. They worked together with a make-do attitude until the gargantuan task was finished. Their ingenuity shone in the midst of tangible needs at every turn, and despite danger, discouragement, and sometimes despair, they still did their best. I feel we cannot honor them enough.

What is the most unique thing you have done in the name of research?
A few months ago, I visited the setting of Land That I Love in Texas Hill Country. There, the rancher who now owns the ghost town I wrote about gave me a thorough tour of the small town founded by tenacious German pioneers in the 1800s. History came alive for me—both the World War II era and the pioneer period nearly a hundred years earlier.

Where do you find your ideas?
My ideas come through researching the history of the time. I discover my characters’ experiences by learning what occurred in the area where they lived, and in the world at large.

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?
One fact I learned: some German-American citizens suffered mistreatment from the wartime government. We often hear about this occurring with Japanese-American citizens or those of Italian background, but not German Americans. Wartime tension can cause great inequities, and though this did not occur in the Hill Country, it did in the upper Midwest and the Northeast. So in Land That I Love, a secondary character’s close relative goes through this experience.

How did your writing journey begin?
As a teen, I knew I was meant to write. I did write a few magazine articles, some poetry, and an English-As-A-Second Language workbook, but it took decades to develop the confidence required to seek publication in memoir and fiction.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
From earlier questions, you probably realize I’m a pantser, guided by the whispers of my character. Who knows why characters rather than plots come to me first? I acknowledge that this has gotten me into trouble—at times I have spent way too much effort going back through a manuscript to make sure the timeline is correct, because those “whispers” became a bit overwhelming. But I still cherish those moments of sitting there typing, so immersed in my character’s pain that tears stream down my face.

You have a list of inspiring quotes on your website. What is your all-time-favorite inspirational quote?
For the World War II era, I love the Winston Churchill quote, “This is not a time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.” Don’t you love it when a concept from the past applies to us in some of our present struggles?
Jody Stinson believes every story deserves a happy ending—even if she has to write one herself. After an international upbringing, she continues to travel whenever she can. Her goal is to take her readers somewhere new, make them smile, and give them hope through Christ. She currently writes freelance including articles, devotionals, commercials, and even a client's wedding toast.

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