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Interview With Tina Ann Forkner

Debut author Tina Ann Forkner joins us this month to talk about her book, Ruby Among Us, a poignant tale of three generations of women set in the lush vineyards of Sonoma Valley.

Tina, share a little about your story and the journey Lucy embarks upon in search of her heritage. Did you see yourself in any of these characters?

In Ruby Among Us, the desire of Lucy’s heart is to know everything she can about her deceased mother. If only her grandmother wouldn’t hide the truths that Lucy so desperately needs to know, keeping them both imprisoned in a past that Lucy doesn’t even understand.

Lucy’s journey to find her heritage was born out of many questions and frustrations I had at one time about my faith, why I was raising my daughter alone, and how things had not turned out the way I had envisioned. The difference is that I had grown up with wonderful parents, a very strong faith, and probably knew the words to Jesus Loves Me before I could even sing them. My frustrations were difficult, but not compared to what Lucy, who doesn’t have her mother or faith to fall back on, must confront in the story.

The idea for Ruby Among Us didn’t come to me as a novel at first. When I wrote the earliest paragraphs, I really didn’t know if they would ever even become a short story, let alone a novel. I started out with a few paragraphs about a girl who has just lost her mom and because her father isn’t in her life, the only person left to take care of her is the grandmother, Kitty.

It’s difficult for me to talk about at times, but sure, I do see some of myself in my characters even though they are fictional. In fact, the inspiration for my story started when I was still a single mom. At that time, I was constantly worried that something might happen to me and that as a result, my little girl, a toddler then, wouldn’t have me in her life anymore. Even though she has a father, as a single mom I just felt a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility for my child’s future on my shoulders. It came out on the page when I was free writing those first few chapters.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey thus far?

It’s hard to reflect back since I have only been published for awhile and am still learning. I have been writing fairly steadily since I was very young, so I would say that practice has been a big factor in my journey. The more one writes, the better he or she will get at writing. I also believe that a manuscript can always be improved. For me, it’s never really finished.

The other factor is reading. I know I learned most of what I know about writing from reading. I also know I have more to learn, so that gives me a very good excuse to sit around and read more books.

You’re a full time writer, wife and mom of three. How do you balance your writing time with other responsibilities?

It’s not easy to balance and I’m constantly reinventing how I do it. My number one rule is to put my family and children first before my writing and keep God in the front of all that. I’m very blessed that my husband and family are completely on board with my writing. I try to write during the day before everyone is home from school and work, but when I break the rules and spend too much time writing at night, the kids let me know.

I really haven’t found the magic formula yet, so if anyone knows it, please email it to me.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

My faith in Christ has always shaped everything I do, including my writing. It’s only natural that a writer’s faith is going to come out in their stories and for me, it comes out in both subtle and what I hope are really big ways that might seem small when a reader first stumbles upon them. This is probably because that’s kind of how my own spiritual journey has been.

I want to write books that inspire, but I also want my stories to challenge readers. Faith isn’t easy. Life in general isn’t easy. We go through valley after valley and if we can still find hope after all that, it’s worth it. That’s what I want to show in my stories.

What would you describe as your biggest obstacle in writing and how do you overcome it?

I have more than one, but mainly it’s me. I am my biggest obstacle when it comes to writing. It’s easy to lose confidence and stew over how horrible or lackluster my writing is at times. The only way I know how to get through all that is to write through it. I just have to keep going.

What do you consider the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

I was on stage at my book launch just getting ready to talk about my book, when I looked out in the audience and my eyes landed on my parents, husband, friends and family. Seeing them there, smiling up at me, was my highest moment. They have always believed in my writing and it meant the world to have them there. It would not have been the same if they had not been with me that night.

Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

I guess life. My greatest inspiration comes from living and watching those around me. I have so many questions about things. I have to write to find the answers. I sometimes watch friends or family and wonder how in the world they can survive. I sometimes wonder how in the world I have survived myself. I write to find out. I can’t say I always find the answer, but I end up with a story anyway.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

Is it unique? It’s hard for me to talk about my own writing in that way. What I hope is that my fiction digs deep into the hearts of readers and says things they cannot say out loud. I hope it makes readers want to talk about things that they might not have been able to talk about otherwise. I hope that my fiction takes a reader on a journey that can bring them hope on their own journey in the end.

Finish this statement. The best part of being a writer is…

Being able to write in my jogging suit and not have to do my hair! At least that’s the practical part of it. I love that I am doing what I have always dreamed of doing. I’ve been in a lot of jobs including being a fitness instructor, a pre-school teacher, a substitute teacher, an Executive Assistant, to flipping burgers at a race track, but nothing compares to writing and doing what I love to do.

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

Spend as much time as you can in the act writing. Just when you think you are finished, go back and rewrite what you wrote. Then do it all over again.

Also, don’t spend much time trying to promote yourself before you are published. Blogs and the like are great, but the majority of your time should be spent writing your first book and perfecting it. Blogging and premature PR work can really rob a fiction writer of their creative juices pretty quickly. If you must have a blog, then be sure to get your writing in before you blog.

Thanks for sharing with us, Tina!
Thanks for having me!

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