1. Tell us about your latest book, Fly with the Mourning Dove.
Edna and her parents arrive on a homestead given by the government to vets of WW I. It’s remote location in the high desert of New Mexico proves daunting to her mother Cassie, but Edna immediately falls in love. The book is a biography written like fiction. It begins with her mother’s journals and finishes with Edna’s writings. We spent more than a year exchanging stories and bits of manuscript until her story was completed to her satisfaction.
The family is often uprooted when her father comes down with TB. The ranch is near Taos and artists are arriving every day, so she grows up mingling with them. Though she dreams of becoming a horse wrangler her father sees that she attends college. She becomes a teacher.
She often hiked and rode the mountain trails, made her final horseback ride at the age of 85 and hiked a few years longer. She is a tough lady who lived through many adversities and had great adventures. Today Edna is 95 and lives in the San Luis Valley of Colorado near one of her ranches run by her daughter, her husband and a grandson. The family still owns a ranch in New Mexico near the original homestead.
2. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now?
I just finished two books. One is about the stories and people of the lost communities of the Boston Mountains in the Ozarks. The title is The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks. It contains 137 photographs. The other is an authentic Ozark recipe book that contains many stories as well. The title is Arkansas Meals and Memories: Lift Your Eyes to the Mountains. Right now I’m between books, but hope to finish soon a memoir of the 9 years I spent as a reporter for a rural weekly newspaper.
3. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Mostly in the people I meet. There are so many folks who don’t really understand what an adventure their life has been. I root out those adventures. Sometimes I turn them into fiction, other times they become creative nonfiction.
4. What is a typical writing day like for you?
I begin right after lunch, quickly go over Emails for anything important, then begin on whatever is scheduled for that day. On Monday it’s blogs, Facebook postings, any other promotional writings online and I work till five at least. On Tuesday I write my weekly newspaper column and work on any other short writings like stories, articles or essays. Wednesday through Saturday those hours are spent on whatever work I have in progress. I relax on Sunday. I try to schedule all my interviews etc., for mornings so they don’t interfere with my writing time, but that’s not always possible.
5. On writing, you say on your Website that “My biggest problem, I think, has been trying all types of writing. Maybe if I’d stuck to one I’d be famous and/or rich by now. But I wouldn’t have had near as much fun.” Is there any particular genre or style you haven’t tried but would like to?
I can’t think of any. I’ve written a horror novel, a mystery, romances, historicals, women’s fiction, paranormal and short stories as well as nonfiction in many forms. Guess there’s not much left except to continue with those I can get published.
6. You’ve been published in both nonfiction and under your pseudonym, Samantha Lee, in historical fiction. Do you have a preference for one or the other?
I was published under two pseudonyms, Elizabeth Gregg and Samantha Lee in historical romances, and while writing those and engaging in the promotional tours etc., I had a blast. Meeting the cover models was especially fun. As I grow older, though I think I enjoy visiting historical places and talking to a lot of people. I’m in the process of trying to find an agent to market my women’s fiction. All types have been extremely satisfying because they involved meeting people. If I go to a book fair and don’t sell a book I still count it as worth the effort because a few more people know who I am and I know something about them I might put in a book someday.
7. Self‑promotion is a necessity for all authors today. Can you tell us a little bit about how you promote your work?
I’m already beginning to promote my next two books by talking about them to anyone who is interested in that subject matter. After I get a release date, I will send post cards to everyone who has expressed an interest as well as all those on my mailing list letting them know when the books will be out. I send those cards to book sellers, libraries, historical societies, anyone I think might want copies of the book. I also like to attend writer’s events where many writers are invited to show their books and speak. Speaking sells books.
I can say to all authors, never miss a chance to talk about your book, but don’t bore people. A little taste is all they need. If they’re interested they’ll ask questions. Also look for all the promotional sites online and learn to use them. I feel that promoting online is probably the best way to go. Write blogs, get a website even before you have any books. Develop an Internet presence. I spent a few hours a couple of times a week all one summer learning how to promote online. I obtained interviews both spoken and written, I found people to review my books. I’m still learning how to best utilize the Internet. When we’re there we have the opportunity to speak to millions of people.
8. You’ve received several awards for your writing but what is your most cherished reader reaction to your work?
Nothing is better than the reader who walks up to my table at a festival or event and says warmly, “I read Fly With the Mourning Dove and it is a wonderful book.” Those few words, spoken spontaneously make my day, as they say.
9. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
When I first began I was alone writing away, not sure what I was doing, just that I had to do it. The words poured out of me. But I had no where to go with what I’d written. Then I attended my first writer’s conference, a small one, chosen carefully, and I began to meet other writers. Dusty Richards, double winner of the Spur from Western Writers of America, has probably helped me more than anyone, but I must credit the entire group of writers we have here in Northwest Arkansas. Without their encouragement I never would have approached that first editor which eventually led to the sale of my first book.
10. What part of the craft of writing has improved since your first book?
Computers. One word says it all. I wrote three novels on a small electric typewriter and I wouldn’t go back to that method for any amount of money.
11. You were born and raised in the Ozark Mountains and throughout the course of your life, you traveled and moved around quite a bit then you returned to Arkansas in the 70s. You’ve been there ever since so obviously home is important to you. When you travel now, do you have a favorite place to visit?
Our favorite place is the high desert of New Mexico where I spent so much time while I was writing Fly With the Mourning Dove. We return every fall, and just came back.
Is there any place you’d like to go but haven’t gotten to yet?
I’m a believer in touring the good old USA and have never had a desire to go abroad. We’ve been to a lot of places and enjoyed Montana and Wyoming second to New Mexico. I can’t think of anyplace I want to go where I haven’t already been. But I love returning to the places we enjoy.
12. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” and I believe that’s very true. Do you have a favorite Southern saying?
There are many I like, but I’ll tell one to you in a short anecdote. While interviewing an elderly couple who were approaching their 75th wedding anniversary, we sat on the front porch of their remote Ozark home talking. She was blind, and sat with her hand on my arm. As I finished and began to stir around getting ready to leave, she patted my arm and said, “Oh, stay more, stay more.” I think that expresses southern hospitality best of all.
To find out more about Velda and her work, please visit www.veldabrotherton.com