Monday, March 17, 2008
Author Interview: Tristi Pinkston
Our Author Interviewee today is award-winning LDS historical fiction author, blogger extraordinaire, and media reviewer, Tristi Pinkston. Her latest novel, Season of Sacrifice, was just published by Golden Wings.
Tristi's very popular blog is found here and the blog index for the work she does for Families.com is here.
Welcome, Tristi. It's good to have you here. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I've been writing since I was five years old, but I've only been writing anything good since the year 2000. I sold my first book, Nothing to Regret, in 2002, after two years of submitting and waiting.
What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
I make a careful timeline of the historical dates and facts, and then I fly by the seat of my pants within that structure. The timeline tells my characters when they need to be where, but I give them a lot of free reign the rest of the time. I'm what they call an "organic writer," meaning that I feel my way through the story.
How do you choose your characters' names?
I like checking out baby name books from the library. I also read credits on television shows and hit the baby name websites online. Any time I hear a name I like, I add it to a list I keep. Then, when I need a character name, I go to the list and find a name that fits. The Internet is great for finding names for older characters. Say I have a grandma who was born in 1910. I can go online and find out what names were popular for babies in 1910, thereby adding even more realism to the story. You wouldn't name a grandma something like "LaKeisha," for instance -- that name didn't come about until later.
You're a homeschooling mom. What type of writing schedule do you have?
I do the bulk of my writing at night between nine p.m. and two a.m. Because I home school my children and they're home all day, I write after they're in bed. Sometimes it takes them longer than other times to go to sleep, so I do what I can when I can. I can edit with them up and around, but if I'm writing a difficult scene, it's easiest to wait until the house is quiet. I don't write every day, but when I'm in the groove, I tend to put in a lot of hours. I get kind of obsessed.
I do tend to write my blogs during the day -- they don't require the intense concentration.
How do you handle life interruptions?
The same way I handle anything else -- with a hammer!
No, just kidding. Life is all about interruptions. Our plans are never someone else's plans. We have to be flexible or we'll never get anything done.
I essentially expect interruptions and work around them. I write blogs for Families.com, so I'll write a blog, make a sandwich and change a diaper. I'll write another blog, switch the laundry and check my daughter's math. I'll edit a chapter, fill the dishwasher and stop a fight. It's a constantly fluid effort. That's the only way it works.
Do you get blocked? Any hints on how to stave it off?
You bet I get blocked. I don't know how to stave it off, but the best way I've found to get rid of it is to put it to the side and not think about it for a while. Then I'll get in the shower or a hot tub and just soak and let my brain wander. When a writer gets blocked, it's usually because they're trying to rush the story. If you take a step back and just make conjectures -- what if the character did this instead of that, what would happen?
My very best ideas have come while in the shower or in the bath. I don't know if it's the fact that I'm actually alone and that it's quiet, or if it's the healing and rejuvenating properties of water, but I rarely remain blocked after spending some time in the bath.
What have you always dreamed of writing, but haven't yet?
I have got scads of ideas for books from contemporary to more historicals to nonfiction. I have an idea for a book I'm longing to write, but I have to wait until certain people die first. (Don't we all have one of those?) But you know what's great -- the things I want to write the most are the things I've written and am currently writing. It's the perfect job for me. Well, I don't really get paid for it -- so I guess it's the perfect volunteer effort for me!
What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
I love spilling my guts out onto a sheet of paper and having someone read it and really "get" it. I love being able to share my thoughts and feelings with others. I love researching the historical aspects of the story and learning from the experience. I really enjoy getting out there and promoting (I know that makes me weird)
What do I like least? Small royalty checks. Having to go back and edit for the 47th time to make sure I caught everything. Discovering later that I still didn't catch everything. How numb my bottom gets when I spend too long writing—my bottom always gives out before my ideas do.
What is your next project?
I'm working on two projects simultaneously. One is a contemporary comedy mystery (if there is such a genre) called Secret Sisters. The other is a Vietnam era book which also focuses on the Kent State Shootings.
What is your advice for other writers?
Write from your gut. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't write. Have knowledgeable people read for you and then take their advice, as long as it makes sense to you. Don't be so prideful that you can't make suggested changes. Don't be afraid to let others see your work. Don't be afraid to get out there and promote yourself. Have fun with the process and don't let it intimidate you.
Tell us about your new book. I understand you're going with a different publisher this time.
My new book, Season of Sacrifice, is the true story of my great-great-grandfather Benjamin Perkins, who engineered the passage through the Hole in the Rock in southern Utah. I have taken his life story and the family history stories that have been written about the event, cross referenced them with nonfiction texts on the topic, and written a dramatized version of the true events. It's a wonderful book, my favorite that I've written so far, and contains some of my very best writing.
I've chosen to self-publish this book. The LDS market is a little skittish of polygamy right now (stupid Warren Jeffs) and Benjamin did become a polygamist. But you know, that part is the best part of the whole book. I was able to explain it in a way that ties into the spiritual devotion these marvelous people had. That explanation came to me after a lot of study and prayer.
I'm excited to get this book out there. My good friend BJ Rowley of Golden Wings is allowing me to use his imprint and is helping me in more ways than I even understand to get the book on the shelf. It's kind of cool—his great-great-uncle was also a Hole in the Rock pioneer and features in my book.
What other work of yours has been published?
My first book is Nothing to Regret and was published by Granite in 2002. It's about the Japanese internment camps during World War II.
My second book is Strength to Endure and was also published by Granite, this one in 2004. It's also set in the World War II era, but over in Germany.
I have three other completed novels that have not yet found a home, as well as the two I'm currently writing and I have over twenty still on the drawing board.
You're awesome, Tristi. Thank you for the interview. Good luck with the book.
It was my pleasure.