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Interview with Jayme Mansfield

Please welcome Jayme Mansfield, author, artist, educator. For seventeen years, Jayme has provided art instruction to children, teens, and women. She invites her students, especially women, to discover talents, rejoice in blessings, and find a peace that is often compromised in the hectic pace of life.

Jayme, as an artist both of words and paint, how do you find the two worlds converge? Diverge?
As writers, we are always reminded to “show, not tell”. To me, writing is another form of painting. It just happens in the mind and on the computer screen and paper—not a canvas. That’s why my blog is titled “Blank Canvas” as my writing and painting worlds really do meld. When we write, words and stories paint pictures of the tangible aspects of our characters and settings, but also the emotions of conflict and resolution. I find it amazing how the scenes of a story are “painted” in the mind as if they really exist somewhere outside of the pages.

Tell us about your main character and what you like most about him/her. Least?
Ella Moreau is the main character and I love that I have journeyed with her beginning as a five-year-old, through her childhood, as a young woman, and into her mid-adult years (further in the sequel that hopes to have a life someday). She is passionate and introspective, and as an artist, she makes sense of life’s challenges and losses through expressing the visual world around her. Although she is stubborn, tenacious, and often guarded, I love that she ultimately discovers there is only hope and peace in trusting the Lord and forgiving.

I love how you incorporated your love of art into your historical fiction, Chasing the Butterfly. Can you tell us how the idea for your novel came about?
Ella emerged first. I was in the early stages of writing classes through the Christian Writers Guild. The assignment was to create a character—simple enough, right? At the time, I had a pretty emotional challenge happening in my life. To be honest, Ella became the metaphor for certain aspects of my life. I’m not sure if she became me, or I became her. The time period emerged from knowing that I wanted to begin the story to span a long period of her life, and backing up in time, set the story partially during World War II. The imagery of Paris and southern France was the simple part. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to those areas several times and the photographs my husband and I took of the people, landscapes, food, homes…are stamped in my brain and served as the “paintings” to describe many portions of the story.

Because you work in two creative realms, can you share with us how your time painting inspires your writing? And vice-versa?
A significant part of my painting is hosting women’s art classes in my studio. Every class, I am inspired and gratified as the attendees find a renewed sense, or discover for the first time, the power in the process of creating. My writing, as with my painting, are gifts that I can give to other women to hopefully help them find peace and hope in our often demanding and hectic lives.

I teach fourth grade language arts as well and have the opportunity to incorporate lots of art in my classroom. The students have learned the symbiosis among writing, literature, and art is empowering. I’m convinced each inspires the other.

As much as I enjoy being with children and adults, I treasure the time alone in my studio to be inspired to paint – and, then, hop on my computer and write. It’s a great place to be and I can get lost in there for hours.

Plotter, Pantser, or Planser (both)?
I am a Panster at heart. That’s how I roll. However, I have found myself thinking further into the storylines of my other pieces I am developing.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
I confess I have an issue with letting things go. The combination of writing, the art studio, teaching full-time, and being a mom of three teenage boys and attempting family sanity and quality time is a challenge. Sometimes I think I have it together, and other times I am swimming in mud. However, I constantly have to remind myself of all of the blessings I have, suck it up, and make things happen, and then stop…and smell the proverbial flowers.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I don’t know if it’s unique or not, but I definitely enjoy writing in first person POV and being in the characters’ head and heart. My style is more literary in that I enjoy the sensory images. One agent told me my style was one to “sit by the fire and enjoy”. I’ll take that as a compliment because most of us probably need to do more of that. The irony of my writing style being such is that I lead a pretty fast-paced existence.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
I have always been enamored with family history, traveling to and studying historical sites, and reading historical fiction. Blending historical elements with a character-driven story is a nice mix for me.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing or painting?
I live in beautiful Colorado at the base of the mountains. I love to ski, ride horses, play tennis, and watch my boys play hockey. In the winter, we have a backyard rink, and if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I may take a spin or two around the rink. Since I am outnumbered in my home of men, I love time with my women friends for coffee or going on walks.

If you could spend the day with a famous author, whom would you choose?
This is a hard one! Of course, I would love to hang out with C.S. Lewis and talk all day about the Chronicles of Narnia (my favorite childhood books). However, I would love to talk with Billy Graham as someone who has led a life gifted with the power of words to dispense truth, hope, and inspiration.

What is your greatest desire for your readers as they read Chasing the Butterfly?
My hope is that readers will feel a strong connection to the story through the power of beauty in God’s creation. Most importantly, my desire is for the readers to embrace the peace and hope that comes when we learn to forgive.

Finish this statement: My greatest joy when creating, either with words or paint, is...
...the freedom to express on a very personal level, yet as a means to inspire others.

Any parting words?
Thank you for this opportunity to share. This novel, as for so many authors, was a labor of love for several years that has enriched my life beyond what I ever could have imagined. I hope it does the same for my readers.

Thanks for sharing with us, Jayme!

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