Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Interview with MARSHA WARD

Marsha Ward, founder of the American Night Writers Association, and multi-published western novelist has a new book coming out and has conscented to an interview. Marsha, how did you become interested in the Civil War?

Marsha: Author Robert Newton Peck once said that every historical writer has their favorite war. While his was the French and Indian War, mine turned out to be the Civil War. I don’t know what sparked my passion for it. It could have been reading some of historian Bruce Catton’s work, or Gone With the Wind, during high school. My interest certainly did not stem from a personal or family issue, since none of my relatives fought on either side. If they had, they’ve have been Union soldiers, and my characters fought for the South.

 That said, my current novels actually have post-Civil War settings, dealing with the aftermath of that great struggle, so they fit more in the classification of Western Migration novels, or Settling of the West.

 Tell us about your novels.

The Man from Shenandoah begins as Carl Owen returns from the Civil War to find the family farm destroyed, his favorite brother dead, food scarce, and his father determined to leave the Shenandoah Valley to build a cattle empire in Colorado Territory. Crossing the continent, Carl falls in love with his brother's fiancée while set to wed another girl, but he might lose everything if the murderous outlaw Berto Acosta has his way. Carl battles a band of outlaws, a prairie fire, blizzards, a trackless waterless desert, and his own brother-all for the hand of feisty Ellen Bates.


Ride to Raton continues from there: after losing the heart of his fiancée to his brother, James Owen leaves home to make a new life for himself. The turbulent world of post-Civil War Colorado Territory is fraught with danger and prejudice that increase his bitter loneliness as personal setbacks threaten to break him. Then James's journey brings him into contact with another wayfarer, beautiful young Amparo Garcés, who has come from Santa Fe to Colorado to marry a stranger. Through a twist of fate, their futures are changed forever when their lives are merged in a marriage of convenience. James and Amparo undertake a hazardous horseback trek over Raton Pass to Santa Fe, battling their personal demons, a challenging language barrier, and winter's raging storms.


My third novel, Trail of Storms, goes back to tell the tale of a peripheral character from the first novel. Jessie Bingham and her family flee post-Civil War Virginia after her sister suffers a brutal attack, and together endure a perilous trek to New Mexico Territory. When she hears her former sweetheart, James Owen, has taken a wife, Jessie accepts Ned Heizer’s marriage proposal on the condition they wait until journey’s end to wed. But then Jessie encounters James again . . . and he isn’t married now!


Spinster’s Folly is the fourth book in the series, and tells Marie Owen’s story. Marie lives in a land that is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors. Her desire to get married before she winds up a spinster propels her into making hasty decisions that drive her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.
When is Spinster's Folly coming out?

Marsha: It's release dat is November 10th, just a few more days! (Dancing with anticipation!) You can find details on events regarding its release at:  https://www.facebook.com/events/333393153425853/

I've read most of your novels and they're very good. What kind of research did you do to make your books historically believable, and did you visit the locations where you set your novels?

Marsha: I read 150 books to research my first novel. Some I bought, but most came from the library. Over the years that I’ve been writing the series, I have been able to do some on-the-ground research, and I recently took a trip back East to visit Civil War battlefields and other areas in preparation to write my next book. I’ve also been amassing books on the Civil War in the last year. Lots of books!

 In the earlier years, I conducted several interviews with people familiar with the areas I wanted to learn about. Photographs were also helpful, as were the state guides produced as WPA projects during the Great Depression. I’ve found several very good online sources for research on my later books.

Are you a seat of the pants writer or do you outline your books carefully?

Marsha: I definitely write by the seat of my pants, once I have an idea for a story and know who my characters will be. I’m doing more planning now than I used to, though, so I don’t spend way too much time rewriting. However, I’ll never again write a complete synopsis early-on. That doesn’t work for me, because my brain then thinks I’ve already written the book.

While I’m writing, I make various charts and spreadsheets to help me analyze the number of occurrances of different points-of-view, and events within scenes. This helps the revision process go faster.

I now use a great writing software program called yWriter5, which allows me to focus on one scene at a time. This is important so that I don’t become daunted by the vastness of the project. A huge upside to using it is that the software is free!


That sounds very interesting. What is your writing schedule like?

Marsha: Very fragmented. I’m easily distracted, but when I’m white-hot in the initial draft, I can write for up to eight hours, broken up by short breaks. This is only possible because I live alone.
I wish I had a better schedule. Almost every writer I know wishes the same thing!


Writers hate this question, but why do you write?
Marsha: I write because I have something to say, I love language, and I want to express my passionate belief that good people can overcome adversity and evil.


What other things have you done in addition to your writing?

Marsha: Through the years I mothered my children, and then worked as a journalist, an educator, and in a retail store. I’ve also volunteered with several organizations, doing websites, newsletters, and a multitude of other chores.


How do you promote your books?

Marsha: I have a website and a couple of blogs, I’m active on Facebook and other social media venues, and I’m always looking for ways to let people know I’m an author, such as giving talks and networking with various groups. I find that word of mouth from enthusiastic readers drives the most sales, though.


Do you have any advice for anyone contemplating writing a Civil War novel?

Marsha: Do thorough research, keep accessible notes, then let the fingers loose.


How would you like to be remembered?

Marsha: As a kind person who could write a little.
Marsha, you are so humble! You will be loved and revered for ages into eternity for birthing the American Night Writers group known as ANWA, and for your loving nurture of so many wannabe writers like myself. AND, you better not even think of going anywhere any time soon! I can't even fathom what our group would do without you.
Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview.
Here are some links to get to know Marsha better - and to buy her books:




Marsha Ward said...

Thank you for posting this interview, Tina. You're so kind.

Joan Sowards said...

Marsha, you will be remembered as a kind person (for sure) who wrote wonderfully and inspired a lot of other aspiring writers to write.

Susan said...

I'm glad to get to know Marsha even more. Marsha, you are very kind and such a valuable asset to ANWA, which you birthed and are still nurturing. You are my go-to person for almost everything. I really appreciate all your help. Keep on writing!

Valerie Ipson said...

Always great to get to know more about a great author!