Monday, April 16, 2012

Stephanie Grace Whitson
Author of The Key on the Quilt
(source - Stephanie Grace Whitson, & rhubarb in the garden)

This week it's my pleasure to introduce Stephanie Grace Whitson. Stephanie is the author of The Key on the Quilt She's made a career out of playing with imaginary friends, and it all started in an abandoned pioneer cemetery. That cemetery provided not only a hands-on history lesson for Stephanie's home schooled children but also a topic of personal study as she began to read about and be encouraged by the pioneer women who settled the American West.  

The Key on the Quilt
- Peek into Nebraska State Penitentiary history, where three women seek God's plan for their lives. The latest from Christy Award finalist, Stephanie Grace Whitson, the Key to the Quilt. Three women face trial, betrayal, and redemption in historic Nebraska. Convicted of murder, Jane Prescott begins serving her ten-year sentence. Will the prison doctor be able to balm her broken spirit? Mamie Dawson believes God has called her to be a matron of the women's prison dormitory. Are the attentions of a homely guard another part of god's plan for Mamie? Ellen Sullivan, the warden's wife, is teaching literacy to the female convicts. Can this endeavour change her preconceptions of these incarcerated women? What will a cryptic quilt connecting these ladies reveal about one woman's past and mean for all their futures?

Welcome to Ink Dot's, Stephanie. Tell us about yourself. Who are the most important people in your life right now? My family. My husband of nearly nine years (our first spouses died of cancer and the four of us were all very good friends) who works so hard to provide for us. The young parents seeking God’s wisdom as they raise my grandchildren, the young fathers working hard to provide, the moms learning to be the women God desires, the husbands and wives developing relationships that honor Him and serving their local churches and neighborhoods and co-workers.All together, they own center stage in my prayer life. That sounds like a busy bunch of favourite people! 

What inspired you to write The Key on the QuiltI heard an intriguing story about an actual quilt in a collection in Arizona and made arrangements to see it at a museum there. The “key on the quilt” combined with a couple of true stories I’d read years ago about the Nebraska state penitentiary women’s division from the late 1800s, and eventually three diverse women danced into my imagination and said, “tell our story.” Wow, that's some inspiration! 

How do you choose your characters’ names? Sometimes from collecting names off tombstones in historic cemeteries, sometimes from other historical archival records. I want my characters’ names to be authentic for the times, and yet they need to resonate with today’s reader. That can take a little bit of pondering as I get to know the character’s personality. Cemeteries have a way of whispering stories, don't they?

Have you been to Australia?  If yes, what fascinated you the most? Or...What would you like to experience if you had the chance to visit? I haven’t had the joy of visiting Australia but I adore travel and would love to visit someday. Of course we Americans are always fascinated by what we call the “accent” … I suppose we are the ones with the accent when we visit.   The size of Australia would be daunting to me as a visitor. I’m sure there wouldn’t be time to savor everything I’d like to experience. Sometimes, when I fall in love with a place, I really wish I could move there for a few months. Even then, I know there would be limitations in what I could learn/see/do. I know a few Australian quilters thanks to my quilting life who do astonishing textile work. If I visited I’d be about the historical sites and art museums … my husband would be about the diving. And we’d both enjoy the cuisine. You certainly wouldn't have any trouble filling your days here. I hope you get to visit soon!

What’s next for Stephanie Whitson? A Christmas novella collection called A Patchwork Christmas with Judith Miller and Nancy Moser releases in September along with book 2 in this Quilt Chronicles series titled The Shadow on the Quilt. And then book 3 will come out next spring: The Message on the QuiltAnd then … we shall see. I have proposal circulating … always historical fiction. That’s my passion when it comes to writing. The link to history. I'm so excited for you, Stephanie. I love all things history too, and quilts. I can't wait to read this series!

For your chance to win a copy of Stephanie's book, please leave a comment below and check back here on Friday to see if you're the lucky winner! In the meantime please enjoy this excerpt from The Key on the Quilt.

April 1876
Dawson County, Nebraska

                 If it wasn’t for the occasional night when he tried to kill her, Owen wouldn’t be a bad husband. Jane Marquis risked a sideways glance at him. Moonlight and shadows revealed an all-too-familiar expression on his weathered face, as Owen guided the wagon across the spring prairie toward home.

                Doing her best to suppress a shiver, Jane ducked her head and closed her eyes. Oh … God. It wasn’t much of a prayer, but it was the best she could do. God hadn’t seemed interested in answering her prayers for some time now. When the wagon lurched, she grabbed the edge of her seat with her right hand, lest she be thrown against him.

                From where she lay sleeping in a tangle of quilts in the wagon bed, Rose whimpered. She stirred but did not awaken as the wagon lurched back up out of the ruts on the trial. Thank God for that. If only Rose would sleep through until morning. By then it would be over. Owen would smile and tease her from across the breakfast table, and everything would be fine.