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Interview with Roseanna M. White

Roseanna White’s writing spans more centuries than a time traveler. Whether you’re a fan of Edwardian England, early American, or biblical fiction, Roseanna offers something for readers of all kinds of genres. Her latest novel is biblical fiction. (And she didn’t just pen her new release; she also designed the cover!)

Some writers are known as Regency fiction writers or Colonial only or biblical fiction, and there's some debate about whether being genre-specific is the way to go or whether diversifying is best. You are a woman of many genres—early American, Civil War, biblical, and Edwardian England. What led you in that direction? Did you start out with a plan to write in a specific genre? And what have you found beneficial about having written books in varying categories?

Mostly, I just love history. =) The first book I wrote was at age 13, and it was set in Victorian England. The first book I published was biblical fiction. Generally, history has always fascinated me. I would always sit in history class as a kid jotting down notes on how to turn the lesson into fiction. So as editors are looking for different settings or time periods, I just dive into the research for that particular era and start finding those fascinating factoids that bring the era to life. I’ve written contemporary novels too, but those are yet unpublished—and I really didn’t mind that it was my first love, historicals, that found a publishing home.

Thus far, I’ve never had a reader express regret that all my books aren’t one era or another. I think that even readers who have a favorite historical era are happy to try a new one if there’s something to draw them, and that can result in new readers who otherwise might have picked up a Civil War book but not a Colonial, when they come to trust an author.

Your most recent book is biblical fiction about a woman named Zipporah. What fascinates you about this time period? And what can we learn from stories set in the early days of Christianity?

I adore the ancient world! I went to a school that studies the Great Books of Western civilization, so that meant two years totally immersed in all things Ancient Greek, Ancient Hebrew, and Ancient Roman. It was like heaven to this writer! I think what I love most about it is that it strips away the centuries of tradition that Christians take for granted and forces us to look back at the start of our faith. To ask, “What would it have been like if we had only the Law, the Prophets, and Jesus? With no New Testament? No Gospels, just stories handed down from the generation before?”

In A Soft Breath of Wind in particular, I wanted the reader to experience the faith of a child…who doesn’t relinquish it as she grows up. Zipporah believes in the power of God fervently and purely—yet doesn’t always believe in herself. She can see what mortal eyes so rarely can—yet not her own worth.

And under it all is the theme that early Christians knew so well—Christianity is the Way. A way of life. Not a box to check on a form. It has to be a deliberate decision, one that should affect every moment of every day. How differently would we live if we knew that we could, at any moment, be targeted for our faith?

And it's the second in a series? How does it relate to the first book? Do readers need to read the first one first to fully keep up with the plot?

This book is about the children of the characters in the first book and stands firmly on its own two feet. I made it a point to have beta readers who hadn’t read A Stray Drop of Blood, and they weren’t in the least bit confused about the past history. However, I’ve also had A LOT of readers email me over the years asking what happened to Abigail’s family after the first book ends, and this will give them a glimpse into those lives they came to love before and see what happened to the family that grew into the Church of Rome. =)

You're also a cover designer and an editor! (How many hats do you wear?!) As an editor what do you look for in a good story? What's makes a book really stand out?

Well, I do love a good hat. ;-) It’s a real honor to be an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, and after representing WF at the ACFW Conference in September, I gotta say that sitting around listening to people tell me about the stories of their heart all day ranks as one of my favorite ways to spend my time. =)

What really makes a story pop for me is passion well-executed. I can tell within pages if an author has really dug deep into a subject, if it’s one dear to them or just one they tried on for size. And if they’ve put in their time learning the craft, too. WhiteFire’s motto (which I came up with, LOL) is Where Spirit Meets the Page, and that’s what I’m always looking for in books—stories that show the light of God through the written word.

We've all heard that you can't judge a book by its cover, but I'd suspect that as a cover designer, you might have a different opinion. What do you, as a writer, reader and designer, want the cover to accomplish?

Well, let’s be honest—we all do judge books by their covers, whether we ought to or not? Eh? Eh?? ;-) When I design a cover, I want it to shout at a glance what the book promises. Is it fun? The cover should be light and breezy. Is it a sweeping epic? The cover should have drama and depth. Historicals need to have glimpses of appropriate fashion or something to ground it in its era. Suspense should hint at action or threat.

Covers have become one of my favorite parts of the process, both as a writer and a designer. I love turning in a cover questionnaire to my publishers and seeing what they come up with, and I love working with my authors to find a “face” for their book! When you hit upon that winning combination…ah, it’s a feeling like no other!

Of course, I rarely design my own covers, since most of my books are through Harvest House and, starting September 2015, Bethany House. But I did actually design the cover for my first free novella, Fairchild’s Lady, and also for A Soft Breath of Wind…and it provided such much-needed inspiration for writing the thing!

When and where do you do your best work? (Morning/evening? Home/office/coffee shop?)
I’m without question a morning person, which continually baffles my night-owl husband. I get up at 5:30, perk my coffee, and plant myself at the kitchen table for my 2 hours of blissful writing time before I need to get showered and ready for our homeschool day. When I’m in a good groove I can keep charging through all day (as schooling permits) and into the evening, but in general it’s those morning hours that get me my day’s progress.

Any parting words?
There are so many reasons to write, none more valid than another. But for me, this is a calling and a ministry. It’s become my way of sharing the truths God reveals through His Word and His Spirit. My biblicals always end up being where I pour out the depths of my soul, so I always feel a bit vulnerable about these books. It’s my hope and prayer that God will use A Soft Breath of Wind to touch readers’ hearts as He touched mine through the writing. I never know what He has in store for a story, but I know that when I’m faithful in writing what He wants me to write, I’m going to be awed for years to come at what He does with it!

Thanks for sharing with us, Roseanna!

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