Today we are in for a special treat! Sondra Kraak has kindly agreed to share a little about herself and the behind the scenes of writing her latest release, Such a Hope – the first book in her Paths of Grace series.
Washington Territory, 1871
Anna Warren grew up on the seat of a wagon, the daughter of Seattle’s busiest freighter. After her father’s death—a tragedy away from home—she returns to their cabin on the outskirts of Seattle, seeking the sense of belonging that eluded her childhood. But will her desire to pray for miraculous healing for the sick and wounded endear or alienate her to the community? Her most aggravating challenger is also her staunchest defender and has brown hair and eyes, stands six feet tall, and farms with unchecked tenacity. Tristan Porter. This farmer her father had befriended holds more secrets than Yesler’s Mill holds logs.
When ugly rumors arise about her spiritual gift and her property, Anna fears her quest to find belonging will be thwarted.
Tristan holds the truth to set her free, but revealing it will require him to face the disappointments of his past and surrender his plans for the future—a sacrifice he’s not sure he can make.
If you haven’t already, you can check out my review of Such a Hope by clicking HERE.
A little about Sondra
A native of Washington State, Sondra Kraak grew up playing in the rain, hammering out Chopin at the piano, and running up and down the basketball court. Now settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, blogging about spiritual truths, and writing historical romance set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She delights in sharing stories that not only entertain, but nourish the soul. Her debut novel, One Plus One Equals Trouble, was a Genesis semi-finalist (2015) and the winner of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Unpublished Women’s Fiction Award (2015).
Hi Sondra! Thanks so much for joining me today. Since you’ve already discussed much of the spiritual side of your novel in an interview with Toni Shiloh, I thought we’d stick to some fun, getting to know you and behind-the-scenes type of questions today.
I know that when I write I can often get munchy so I keep a bag of pretzel sticks on hand, along with some candy to reward myself at the end of a writing session. I’m curious, what’s your favorite snack to munch on while you write?
Chocolate chips. Peanut M&Ms. Gummy candy. It’s hard to write and eat at the same time unless it’s something I can pop into my mouth, like chocolate. Popcorn is my favorite snack, but I don’t eat it as I write. Sometimes I eat is as a distraction from writing.
Oooh. I love popcorn. My favorite is air-popped white popcorn with tons of salt.
I know some writers use different pen names for a variety of reasons. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Nope. It never crossed my mind, but it’s unfortunate I have a last name with a double vowel since most people don’t know how to pronounce double vowels. Kraak is pronounced crock, like crock pot. If I open a restaurant, I’m going to call it The Kraak Pot, and cook everything in crock pots. But if people pronounce my name like they usually do (crack), that name could be misleading, and I could get some interesting customers.
Ha ha ha! Oh I love that! I think I’d show up either way it was pronounced if only out of sheer curiosity.
My love of writing definitely began with my childhood love of reading. What was your favorite book as a child?
I have many fond memories of my parents reading to me. My dad read Hardy Boys mysteries to me, and my mom read the Ramona Quimby series. But picture books are my favorite, and my children now use some of my old books. (See the picture below.)
I had a few of those on my childhood bookshelves, too! It’s so special how the love of reading gets passed from one generation to the next. My parents read Wilder’s Little House series to me and my grandmother read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books to us whenever we spent the night at her house. I still have both sets.
I have read some very different ways that various authors come up with the names for their characters. How do you select the names for your characters?
I don’t have a fancy process. I use what names come to mind or what names I like. I love the name Luke (hero in Two Ways Home). Tristan is named after my husband’s favorite movie hero (Tristan from Legends of the Fall). Claire sounds sophisticated to me, which fits my schoolteacher (One Plus One Equals Trouble). Barrett . . . that was random.
In Three Words and a Kiss (this year’s release), my hero Cam experiences an identity crisis. His safe, routine life is turned upside down when the owner of his blacksmith shop, Samantha Klein, comes to town. Samantha’s nickname is Sam. I wanted their names to rhyme so that Cam feels like even something as fundamental as his name is being stripped from him (she doesn’t like how their names sound alike and asks him to change his. What?! He’s not going for that).
Hmm. She doesn’t like their names sounding alike? Seems a little persnickety. I’m trying to picture the kind of woman who asks her employee to change his name for a reason like that. Also, the kind of woman who takes ownership of a blacksmith shop with a male employee in that time period. Sounds like Cam is going to have his hands full! 🙂
BTW – As Luke is my husband’s name, I’m kinda partial to it, too. 😉
Can you tell me something about your story that you think only a few people will know?
Speaking of names, here’s a little secret about Such a Hope. Anna’s name wasn’t Anna to begin with, and in my mind, she’s still not Anna. Her original name was Ruby, but then another indie author released a historical book Healing Ruby about a young girl named Ruby with the gift of healing. Even though the time period, voice, and story is so different from Such a Hope, I wanted to respect that author by not also releasing a historical romance about a girl named Ruby with the gift of healing. That might get confusing to readers. So Ruby became Anna.
Wow. That must have been difficult to adjust to. I’ve heard stories of publishers telling authors to change their character’s names and it always makes me shudder. These characters become so real to us as writers, it’s almost like someone asking me to change the name of one of my children. That said, I can definitely see why you made that tough decision and I applaud you for it.
In a previous interview with Toni Shiloh you mentioned that you “edited out a bunch [of history] that ended up unnecessary to the story.” Can you share some of what you edited out?
A lot of that editing meant shortening scenes, for instance in the beginning when Tristan is talking with President Hall (who was a real person) from the Territorial University. I needed enough about the Morrill Act and farming inventions to show Tristan knew his stuff and was passionate, but not too much, else readers get bored. Same thing in other scenes where Tristan talks to farmers.
Also, I had to not get distracted by all the real people and places in my story. I didn’t want to inundate readers with extra information. One example is Conklin House, which is briefly mentioned several times. It was a beautiful building shipped from Georgia and had an internationally known proprietress who was rumored to cuss in seven languages. She even chased off some government surveyors once by throwing sticks and stones at them. Though it was a hotel and served as the courtroom and town hall for a while, it was also a brothel. The history is so interesting. The house will show up much more in my second book in the Paths of Grace series, but in Such a Hope, readers didn’t need to know all that history. I had to delete some descriptions and commentating.
In case readers are curious, these people and places that show up (or are mentioned) are real: Arthur Denny, Doc and Catherine Maynard, Dr. Smith, Carson Boren, Rev. Bagley, Thomas Mercer, Dexter Horton, Henry and Sarah Yesler, Captain McRedmond, Skid Row, Yesler Hall, Matthias and the Railroad House, Brown Church and White Church (yes, they were distinguished and called by their exterior paint colors). And all the towns, cities, and universities referred to. However, all words and actions in the story are entirely of my own imagining.
Wow. You have clearly done your research and I certainly appreciate the restraint you showed in deciding what to include and what to leave out. I think you did a great job giving me just enough information to understand what I needed to without ever feeling like I was being educated instead of entertained. Also, that is a long list of real people to include in one story, yet while reading the novel I had no idea so many of the characters were real. They blended in seamlessly with your fictional characters. Good job!
What’s your favorite part of being a writer?
Well, other than the relationships I’ve made with other authors (more on that in the next question), my favorite part of being a writer is creating stories. I like to think about characters and their wounds and desires and how Jesus will heal those wounds. And I love making two people fall in love because that’s such a beautiful process of coming to see another person in a deep and honest way (and being known in a deep, honest way). I often take notes during sermons through the eyes of a character, like “oh, that’s just what Lorna’s struggling with. This can be a break through moment for her!” Which is a bit funny to sit in a pew and apply the Word of God to imaginary people, but really, applying truth to my stories is a way to process that truth and apply it to my own life. That’s what fiction is about for me.
That’s awesome. Now I want to sit behind you in church and peek over your shoulder at your notes! 😉
What other authors are you friends with and how did they help you become a better writer?
Jennifer Rodewald is probably the most influential author for me because she helped me choose the indie path (independent publishing). Watching her indie publish was the main reason I became interested in it. She’s also my critique partner, and her input into my stories and writings is invaluable. I’m also in a critique group with several other aspiring authors, and their friendship and encouragement is beyond compare. The people I’ve met through conferences, ACFW loops, and social media have enriched my life so much. The act of writing is done solo—others can’t write your story—but being a writer is not a solitary endeavor.
I love what you said at the end, there. That is so true. It’s like the saying about iron sharpening iron. In a healthy writing community, we all work together to make each other better and stronger.
I’m always looking for new authors to read and one of the reasons I do so many book reviews and interviews is because I love sharing the news when I find a great one. Can you share another new or new-to-you author whose book you read this year and are excited about?
I’m reading Crystal Walton’s Write Me Home, and I love her voice. It’s sharp and witty, and she writes in deep point of view. You feel like you’re right there in the character’s mind. I’m also looking forward to reading Tammy Gray soon. I have some of her books on my kindle but haven’t gotten to them yet. My reading time is limited, so mostly I stick to authors whose voices I love and identify with and can learn from: Ronie Kendig, Susan May Warren, Denise Hunter, Karen Witemeyer, Tamera Alexander. After growing up on historical, I find myself reading way more contemporary now days. Interesting, huh?
I haven’t read anything by either Crystal or Tammy. Now I’ve added them to my list! 🙂 I do think it’s interesting that you are reading more contemporary lately. I find I naturally go through phases where I read just historical romance or just contemporary or even just dystopian or fantasy/sci-fi for a while and then I switch.
Okay, that’s all the questions I have for today. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Sondra! It’s been fun getting to know you a little better.
Well readers, Did you enjoy the interview? Do you have any additional questions for Sondra? What was your favorite book as a child? Let me know in the comments below!