MP: Hi Ro, I'm so glad you're here to get your brain picked. But before we begin, can you share an excerpt from A Stray Drop of Blood? Something to pique our readers' interest?
RW: Sure can. This is from the scene where my lead character, Abigail, meets Jesus on his way to Calvary, and where the title of the book comes from. It's one of those scenes that I had planned out in excruciating detail long before I got to that point in the book. For weeks I had these lines running through my head: "One little drop to soil her garment. One little drop to cleanse her soul."
Something within her drew back the closer he got, pulled at her until she wanted to turn and flee to escape his approaching presence. But Jairus was still at her side, gazing silently now at the man before him.
Jesus stumbled on a rock and would have fallen if it had not been for the centurion holding him up. All of her focus, all of her concentration was on the man who was falling toward his knees. Then an arm caught him, and he jerked against gravity. Jesus’s head flew back, his eyes turning to heaven and his mouth opening as if to speak.
The action broke open one of his wounds, and his crimson life dripped onto the ground. He was pulled to his feet, and his head was once again jarred. A stray drop of blood arched through the air and landed on the round of Abigail’s stomach.
Immediately, she felt a burning on the flesh beneath her garment. It was so quick, so debilitating that she could not even respond. A fire spread through her, devouring her, leaving in its wake a relief that brought tears to her eyes. She looked down at the stain on her clothes in disbelief. It was so small, so insignificant. One little drop of red, a perfect starburst against the faded blue of her woolen tunic.
One little drop to soil her garment.
One little drop to cleanse her soul.
MP: Thanks, Roseanna. That scene was very moving. Reminds me of my own moment in time when I first felt exposed before the Savior. Mmm, mm.
In a great interview with Carole Brown on Sunnybank Meanderings, you mentioned you wrote twelve novels during your college years. That confirmed my suspicions that you are a fast writer, not the plod-along type like me. From the moment you decide to start a new novel until you type the end, how long does it generally take you to complete the rough draft? And the editing/polishing phase? Did I remember correctly that in your BK (before kids) phase of adult life, you once wrote the rough draft of a 120,000 word historical romance in less than a week?
RW: Generally speaking, when I'm actively writing a novel it takes me two months. Also generally speaking, my first draft doesn't undergo major changes. I edit as I go, send the wip to my fabulous critique partners, integrate, and keep going. Once I get final critiques back, I'll make immediate changes, let it rest for a week, do a final read through, and then send it on to my agent. Sometimes she'll request changes that may take another week of work, sometimes she likes it as is. I think the most words I ever wrote in the least amount of time was 140K in two months.
MP: Wow! 140K in two months? Amazing.
When I critique your work, you give me the impression that you’re an undaunted whiz at research. You gobble up the facts and recall them with a minimum of effort. And if I question something, you staunchly defend it with numerous proofs that wipe away my concerns. Have you ever dropped a story premise because the research was too tedious, massive, etc.? Or decided to do the research, and then discovered that it needed way more effort than you first thought (but you stuck with it and followed through anyhow)?
RW: There are times when I put a story on the back burner because of the amount of research, but that's generally with stories that I'm not sure I could get an editor interested in. I wouldn't say I give up on them, though—I make myself a list of the books I need to read, take notes on the plot as I see it before the research, and then wait for the right time to write. When I really get the fire for a story and feel it's the project I need to be working on, I'll put my nose to the grindstone where research is concerned. I've been blessed with good recall, yes, so once I read something I can usually bring it back when I need it. Plus I horde books, so if I can't instantly remember what I need, I can just turn to my shelves and find it again.
MP: Accurate instant recall. Hmm, the more I write, the more I value it. And speaking of your stories, you’ve written historical romances set in Europe and the US in the Victorian era and the early-to-mid 1900s. A Stray Drop of Blood is a first century biblical love story. But you’ve also written humorous and introspective contemporary romances. In this wide variety of genres, do you prefer one over the others? Which period is the most challenging to write?
RW: Well, in that the contemporaries don't require as much time in research, they're easier, and writing the humorous ones is pure fun. Though they feel like vacation for me, I think my heart lies in more serious topics that dig into deep issues. For me, the most challenging period is any I haven't already written in or read original texts from. I really enjoy revisiting eras I've already learned, hence why I have another Victorian series planned, two separate 20s series, another biblical underway, etc.
MP: Bring them on, Ro. I'm looking forward to reading ALL of them. Next question: Do you apply the widely used advice to newbie writers, “Write What You Know,” to your writing?
RW: I'm going to sidestep and say, “Define 'know'.” LOL. If I were to write only what I know from firsthand experience, I couldn't write much—my life's been wonderful, and hence boring. But the fun thing about research is that it can help you know pretty much anything. I think the important thing is to base it all in what has never changed throughout history—humanity. Passion, emotion, longing toward the Lord even before we realize it's He our souls yearn for.
MP: So true. But let's switch gears for a moment. During the snow dumping of 2009-2010, how many inches of the white stuff fell in your part of the country, and how did it impact your writing?
RW: Ha! In December we got nearly two feet, and in early February we got 24 inches on a Friday/Saturday and then another foot on Tuesday. I can't say that they really affected my writing, in that I'm usually at home with my kids anyway. Although not getting out meant no access to temporary babysitters and no quiet time. In that respect, it may have actually suffered. At the very least my sanity did, LOL.
MP: Five feet of snow? That must have given you bouts of cabin fever. With at least a month to go, you must be seriously looking forward to spring. Moving right along, many writers cringe at the scary words writers block. Has that ever been a problem for you, and if so, what did you do to conquer it?
RW: I have days and/or weeks when I don't feel like writing whatever project I'm working on. My answer has always been, “Fine, don't.” I take a break, reread another of my manuscripts or get down a chapter or three in a new project. Then I go back to the troublesome book, reread that, and inevitably realize what the problem is in the place I'd left off. I can sometimes simply see where to go from there, but other times I have to delete a few pages and go a different direction. There are also times when I realize the project is just too flawed, and I abandon it. That's only happened when I had no idea where I wanted the story to go—a rarity with me.
MP: A Stray Drop of Blood (find the review in the December 22, 2009 posting of Mary's Musings) cooked on the back burner since your college days. Do you have other novels you wrote years ago that you feel are worthy of reviving?
RW: Sure do! I'm rewriting one now entitled The Stars and the Sands that was originally a contemporary. I've turned it into a historical and added some elements of suspense, but the characters and premise are the same. I'm also reworking a contemporary about musicians to fit the rules I now know, and there are a few others that I'll probably revamp at some point . . . assuming I ever find the time.
MP: You’ve mentioned in a recent interview that your husband is very supportive of your writing. What are some of the things he does that reflect this?
RW: Oh my, I'd be lost without him! While we were in college, he was passive-supportive, in that he encouraged me to write but never took an active role. Since we graduated, he's been reading my books as I write them, volunteering to help with research when I get hung up on details, and brainstorming with me. In good weather, we go for walks several times a week and devote half of each one to talking through my stories. When that's not possible, we'll use time in the car to that purpose—some of the only times when the kids can't distract us too terribly. =)
MP: He sounds like one of your wonderful heroes. (Sigh) You are so very blessed. Now tell us some things about your family and how they impact your writing career.
RW: Well, I have a four-year-old who alternately stands at my elbow begging for me to leave my laptop and getting out notebooks and pretending to write books for me. =) She has recently exclaimed with excitement that makes her jump and down that she wants to be a book-writer when she grows up (along with a fashion girl and a magazine writer, LOL). My son's advent into the world has affected me the most, though. He, like me, is a morning person. Which means that those precious hours of 6-8 in the morning that I used to spend writing are now spent chasing the little monkey around. It forces me to snatch random moments throughout the day to write . . . or to keep myself awake long enough to do it after they're in bed for the night.
MP: Ah, the joys of motherhood. Don't you love 'em?
Some authors like to create story boards with photos or magazine pictures that help them visualize their characters. Do you use a specific technique to help you?
RW: My imagination has traditionally been enough, but since people ask me what actors I'd choose to portray the characters in Stray Drop, I've taken to trying to pick them out for many of my characters. I usually just copy their picture from online and paste it into my notes for a manuscript.
MP: That obviously works well for you. Now tell us. Your works reflect a spirituality that goes far beyond the very prevalent Christian World View. How does this affect your novels’ salability?
RW: I've yet to get any complaints about the spiritual aspects from editors. Usually it's my settings that get me nixed. Though my works do indeed integrate the very real spirituality that centers a life in Christ, my hope is that I portray it in ways that make it seem integral to the characters and, hopefully, ignite the yearning in my readers to get in touch with those parts in their own faith if they aren't there currently. Readers themselves have praised the spiritual aspects of A Stray Drop of Blood as one of the elements that guarantee they'll read anything I write.
MP: I can certainly agree that. In that same vein, are your “take home” messages general or novel-specific? How do you decide what they’ll be?
RW: Well, each message or theme kind of just evolves from the story and characters I write, but they all tend to go back to the redemptive power of Jesus' sacrifice and the fact that our identities should be rooted in Him rather than outside sources.
MP: What one "take home” message would you like to give our blog readers today?
RW: That there's nothing beyond the power of our Savior's blood. Toss your worst at him—he can turn it around if you put your faith in Him.
MP: Beautiful, Ro. Thanks for sharing.
To learn more about Roseanna White and A Stray Drop of Blood, visit her at her website, http://www.roseannamwhite.com/, or her blog, http://roseannamwhite.blogspot.com/.
ROSEANNA'S GIVEAWAYS include:
A signed copy of A Stray Drop of Blood
A Companion Guide on the topics and texts referenced in the novel
For a chance to win the giveaways in our drawing on Sunday afternoon, Feb 21, leave your name in a comment on this blog or email me on my Facebook wall, Hotmail, or in Yahoo Groups--wherever you read the announcement about this interview.
And if your name isn't picked in the drawing, take heart. You can buy A Stray Drop of Blood at a discount from CrossPurposes ( http://www.crosspurposesbooks.com/index.php?module=viewitem&item=705523 ) To get 20% off, use coupon code BLOGGER and then shoot Roseanna an email at Roseanna@RoseannaWhite.com to get your copy personalized. Or you can purchase it from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0976544466/ref=s9_simi_gw_s8_p14_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-5&pf_rd_r=0B0A98N2FYG6QSKVW4RN&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470939291&pf_rd_i=507846
You can also get it from bookstores like Borders and B&N, though it would probably have to be ordered.