Kathleen L. Maher writes Christian historical romance with an admiring nod at the Old South. A finalist in RWA’s Launching a Star contest in 2009 and 2010, she garnered second place both years. She semifinaled in this year’s ACFW Genesis contest with her historical romance, The Whitewash Bride, and received a request for her full manuscript from a final round judge.
Kathy lives in a rural hamlet in upstate New York, just outside of Elmira with all if its Civil War history. Her husband—who she insists looks just like Patrick Dempsey—plus two sons and a daughter share hearth and home, along with two rescued Newfoundlands and two cats. She works at Hobby Lobby supporting her addiction to gardening and decorating and holds a degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Home is Kathy’s century-old farmhouse (pictured below) with her many perennial gardens. In the midst of her happy chaos, she occasionally paints, crochets, and hunts for antique treasures at yard sales. Her muse is her autistic son, who supplies an unending source of delightful and original thoughts, such as “where on earth can you see the first star of the evening?”
Kathy the Writer
When did your love of romance and history compel you to start your first story? Did you give in quickly, or were you hesitant to write the first words?
My first story was actually a contemporary romance set in New York City. When most girls were singing Duran Duran songs and fluffing up their big hair, my teenage emotions gushed onto the page between seventh and eighth grades. When I sat down with my mom and sister that summer to watch Gone with the Wind, I felt compelled to read the book. At the same time I learned that my hometown of Elmira, New York held a dubious honor. It hosted a Confederate POW camp with the highest death rate on either side. After that, it was all about the Civil War for me.
How long did it take you to complete your first manuscript? Did it fly from your fingertips, or did the story emerge slowly?
My first historical took me years to complete. I started it in ninth grade, full of inspiration from secular author John Jakes’s family sagas. It featured an ensemble cast of a widower father and his four sons in the Civil War Shenandoah Valley, and topped out at over 600 pages. I completed the first draft in my twenties.
You joined American Christian Fiction Writers and made some great connections. In what ways has your involvement in ACFW helped you grow as a writer?
Oh, law, if it wasn’t for the amazing guidance of ACFW, I wouldn’t understand the difference between a vanity project and one that actually has a chance at publication. I learned about head-hopping, GMC, and all the craft-related disciplines of current Christian writing. But the people of ACFW have made the biggest impact. My critique partner Debbie Lynne Costello is surely an angel unawares, sent to encourage, equip and inspire mere mortals like me to better works.
You ventured into the contest circuit and met with success. How did you react to the news of your finals and placements, and what did you learn as a result of entering the contests?
Any good news along the lonely writing path has always been met by me with relief and resolve. Relief that I might have a chance at fulfilling a lifelong dream. And resolve that my temptation to quit needs to be shelved and my game needs to be honed. It is so easy to look at the sheer numbers of aspiring writers and contemplate surrender. But a wise friend once told me that there is room at Father’s table for all, and our gifts will make room for us.
Kathy the History Buff
What aspects of writing historicals do you most enjoy?
I am an old soul, and have always loved imagining the unspoiled life centuries ago, before modern conveniences. Human pluck and ingenuity inspires me, and each character is a portrait in perseverance, whether overcoming the death of a loved one or managing through a bad crop season. I become each one of my characters and could lose myself in their worlds indefinitely, until the phone rings or some other imposition of modern life intrudes.
What is it about the Civil War period you find most fascinating?
The young ages at which some of these men fought, some only 15 and 16 years old. They witnessed atrocious things, and yet returned to their agrarian livelihoods and families faithfully, taking it all in stride. These were men of a different caliber. I don’t find character and strength like that in many modern men.
And the same could be said of the women, baking bread before sunup, homeschooling a dozen children, assuming the men’s chores for four long, bitter years. I speculate the difference now is the general lack of deep religious roots and personal, sustaining faith.
I’m sure you’ve unearthed some interesting facts during your research. Would you please share a couple of them with us?
One of my favorite books in high school was a book called The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts, by Burke Davis. Another source with great factoids was Ken Burns’s PBS documentary on the Civil War.
I recall one story of a man who was shot and killed as he mounted his horse. Apparently rigor mortis froze him in that position and he was discovered thus by his regiment. Another ironic story involves two men struck in the chest by Minie balls. Both had tucked items in their breast pockets, one a pocket Bible, the other a deck of cards. One bullet pierced through the Bible, but the deck of cards stopped the bullet for the other and saved the man’s life. I have to speculate that the man with the Bible was ready to meet his Maker but the gambler still had debts to reckon. 🙂
You’re part of a group of Civil War writers. What have been the biggest benefits of joining forces with others writing your period?
I learn new things all the time from my co-members. We have such a diversity of expertise, from a gal who does living history in Louisiana to a gentleman who participates in reenactments in
Texas and all over the east coast. I am one of the few Yankees in the group, but we all have a common love of the Lord and for our history, so there is much more we agree on than not. The camaraderie is wonderful, and I feel like a part of a big family.
Kathy the Marketing Maven
In today’s publishing world, a writer has to be savvy when it comes to promotion. What are some suggestions you would offer a writer eager to develop a web presence?
The beauty of the internet age lies in its diversity. There truly is a place for everyone, whether blogging, social networking, special interest yahoo groups, writing book reviews, or just commenting on others’ sites. The idea is to find a place where you can connect with others, boost your name recognition, and begin to develop a niche. Every contact is a potential sale, so even if your online and offline activities are not writing related, they still contribute to platform.
You are the co-owner of a group of historical authors, helping them with their marketing needs. Please tell us how Crown Fiction Marketing came about and what services it provides.
CROWN stands for Civil War, Reconstruction, and Other Historical Writers Network. My CP Debbie Lynne and I recognized an opportunity to build a mutually benefitting community among historical writers to promote one another’s work and help spread buzz about members’ new releases. For us pre-pubbed authors it was a chance to acquaint with seasoned authors and hopefully make a good impression. It never hurts to have friends in this tough business.
Let’s Learn a Little More About Kathy
If you could spend a day with one historical figure from the Civil War, who would it be?
Jeb Stuart. That dashing cavalry commander seemed to know where to find fun and was rumored to have a way with the ladies. Swoon!
If a friend gave you an all-expenses-paid week in your favorite city, which would it be?
Charleston, South Carolina. But only if my CP could share that week with me and give me a guided tour! No other city says Old South charm to me like Charleston.
If you won a $1,000 shopping spree at your favorite store, which would it be?
Oh, Hobby Lobby, for sure! My employee discount there would make me the bargain baroness and set me for life in art supplies and home decor. Squee!
If I arranged for you to spend a weekend with your favorite romance author, whom would you choose?
That’s not fair to only get one! 🙂 Right now I am completely enamored with Karen Witemeyer’s books and would love to glean from her intuitive characterization and expertise in psychology.
If we were to peek inside your clothes closet, what would we learn about you?
That I lock my closets. LOL Seriously, you would see that I am either behind in my cleaning or that I am an optimist, thinking I will return to sizes of yesteryear.
Kathy’s Question for You
Being a romantic, I have often wondered about this myself. If you could go on a dream date, where would you go and with whom, fictitious or real, past, present or future?
Kathy has offered to give away Karen Witemeyer’s newest book, To Win Her Heart
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Kathy by midnight July 18th and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process.
On July 19th, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address.
Congratulations to Golden Keyes Parsons, winner of the drawing!
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Prize will be mailed to US addresses only.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Kathy
Visit her website ~ http://kathleenlmaher.webs.com
Visit her personal blog ~ History repeats itself
Visit her group blog ~ Look for one for CROWN to come soon.
Friend her on Facebook ~ Kathleen L. Maher
Follow her on Twitter ~ @Mahereenie