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Interview with Anne Schroeder

Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself?
A. I’m a calorically challenged Virgo with a reputation for bringing the reader into my stories. Married since I was a teenager. Mother of three, and now a proud grandmother. I love hiking in the Pacific Northwest, visiting historical museums and antique stores. I spend summers touring the American West, tracking down details for my latest book. Have Trailer will Travel. My writing motto: “I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a pebble.” 

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
A. Sweet Norwegian Sage, a historical romance about five Norwegian immigrants who came to Santa Barbara in the 1880s, one of which was my great-grandfather. They bought land together, and became known as the “Norwegian Colony.” So proud of this one. 

The Caballero’s Son will be released by Five Star, in June 2021. A historical romance in the 1860s about a young Spanish- Indian boy driven into life as a bandito after Americans conquer his native California (a sequel to Maria Ines, a historical romance about his mother. Both hardcovers for libraries.)

Q.3 How do you come up with the title of your books?
A. I begin with a working title. After the ms. is complete, I fire every possible title on the page in a desperate stream-of-conscious attempt to tap my subconscious. Sometimes the title I love is not loved by my readers. Cholama Moon is an example. It should have been, “The Patron’s Daughter.” 

Q.4 Among all the protagonists of your titles, who’s your favorite and why?
A. Definitely Mary Rodgers and Lucas Sayer, protags of Walk The Promise Road. Their dance is a slow, cautious waltz of two people fighting the customs and prejudices of the time.   

Q.5 What about the supporting characters? Who does think is dearest to you?
A. Ginny Nugent, a young girl in 1860s California, in a hardscrabble life with an addicted, emotionally distant father. She forms a family of a crippled ranch hand and an old Indian woman until fate offers an opportunity. I love her spunky triumph over adversity.

Q.6 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite among them?
A. Thirteen. 10 novels (some pending or unpubbed,) Gift of Red Pottery, a collection of short fiction, and 2 memoirs. The current favorite is Boy In The Darkness, a just-released novella. I love Ordinary Aphrodite, a collection of personal essays about the small steps of the woman’s journey.     

Q.7 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A. To put me in each one’s head, authentically, to bring the reader into the story, and keep them there. Harder than it sounds.

Q.8 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
A. Butcher paper! Pinned to my writing room wall. As I read books and articles about the topic, I scribble them on the paper. I rough-out character profiles. Scribble a chapter outline on lined paper. Nothing too formal. I let the characters write their story. Really, it’s a miracle that my books and stories ever win an award.

Q.9 How do you select the name of your characters?
A. The characters tell me. Sometimes one channels me to tell her story. Maria Ines was like that. I never wanted to write about California Mission Indians, but I relented. I worked with the elder women of the Salinan Tribe to tell their great-greats’ stories.

Q.10 Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?
A. I have three unpublished novel manuscripts I’m cleaning up. I am fascinated with the broad sociological conflicts of my characters with their time and place. I love writing about minorities and women whose stories are never heard. I will continue to write about faith, love, pain, and grit because these are what life is about.

Q.11 Does your family support your career as a writer?
A. Ummm, my “kids” are busy with careers. My husband will catch the movie version. But they love that I write and speak. They would probably ride in the limo to the award show.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
A. Never suffer. I hike, garden or walk on the beach, and think about deep story ideas. I start typing until my character jumps in and takes over. 

Note: A historical requires one write-through for the true elements, and another for the fictional storyline. I’ve never managed to do both at the same time. If I’m stuck on a story, I work on true settings and events. 

Q.13 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
A. Oh heck yeah! Every one of them. I’m flabbergasted by the depth of readers’ analysis of my work. I’m so grateful when anyone posts a review. It’s not easy for them. Never had a bad one, so I can’t speak to that. But Walk The Promise Road was selected for the Crappy Cover Award on someone’s blog in England. That sold a lot of books. 

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
A. I’m a by-the-bootstraps kind of writer. I have no fear. None. I type really hard. I wore the keys off several ergonomic keyboards until someone turned me onto the springy style keyboard. I’ll let you know how it works. I worked with a Windows 6 computer because I don’t want to change until nothing worked with it anymore. I deleted my Solitaire icon when I saw how many games I’d played. Now strictly business. 

Q.15 Do you hide any secrets in your book that only a few people will find?
A. Nope. No cats or red high heels. Every red herring, C-story point and dead-end is polished and tied-off so the reader isn’t carrying it in their brain, waiting to see if I remember.

Q.16 What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
A. 1. The Amazon monopoly. 
2.The distribution game with Ingram. Bookstores should buy with no return rights like every other product in the world. 
3. Consignment sellers who don’t pay, hoping the author will forget. 
4. Screenwriters steal an author’s work with no reimbursement. 
5. Reprinting books by China, Romania, etc. pirating with no payment. 

Q.17 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
A. Becoming a polished writer takes years and dozens of rewrites. Don’t be in a hurry to publish until you have something unique to offer the world for the 10-15 hours of a reader’s life you will take from them. Enjoy the process. Consider your legacy.   

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Mary Magdalene. She could teach me much about faith, love, pain, and grit.

Q.19 What is your favorite book and why?
A. LaVeryl Spencer’s Morning Glory because I read it, and everything clicked. I started writing the next day. The test of a good book is when you can’t get it out of your mind for days or ever.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A. In the 80s, I joined a writers’ group. Began attending writers' conferences. Networked. Wrote short stories and submitted them to national markets via snail mail. Had a couple dozen published in large and small markets. Collected a shoebox of rejection notices. Won some awards. Wrote essays that ended up as Ordinary Aphrodite

In the 90s and 00s, I began using these well-developed character stories as B-stories for longer novels. In the 10s, I served as President and WILLA Awards Chair for Women Writing the West. Began speaking to groups about women of the West. Judged Western Writers of America contest. Presented at workshops and conferences. I spoke with agents, but they asked, “Where in the bookstore would these books be shelved?” Creative non-fiction? (My characters are imaginary.) Romance (In the age of bodice rippers, gritty didn’t fly. And English romances conquered the market.) Western? (No gunfights or Indian massacres.) Historical western? (The category involved real-life or famous people whose actions and dialogue were embellished to sound possible.) 

It wasn’t until Women’s Western Historical Romance took off (thank you readers!) that what I wrote gained acceptance. The Romance category expanded to include any novel with a relationship storyline and a happy ending. Over the past 20 years, “Women Writing the West” organization has expanded awareness. My historical romance, Walk The Promise Road, earned the Will Rogers Medallion Award for best western romance against a field of other excellent novels. Women’s stories are being told. But we have further to go. Maria Ines was eliminated from the Historical Western category in a national competition because the protagonist wasn’t a real person, per contest rules, even though her character is recognized as an authentic compilation of the Mission Indian story. I continue to write the untold stories of little-heard people. My next release will be of Norwegian immigrants in a hard new land, who suffer, laugh, and die in realizing their dream.   

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  1. Thank you so much for this really entertaining interview! I really enjoyed discovering more about Anne, a talented author!

  2. I had a lot of fun with this. Should have mentioned that my favorite supporting character, Ginny, is actually the heroine of her own story in CHOLAMA MOON. Named "Best Non-Traditional Western" by True West Magazine the year it came out. Yippy ti-yi-yo!

  3. Wonderful! I'm so proud of my WWW sister!