So let me turn it over to Tina…
I grew up in rural Oklahoma in the same area that WAKING UP JOY is set. Not long after I graduated from high school, I left home to live in England for a few years, later moved to Sacramento where I finished college at Sac State, and eventually to Wyoming where I’ve stayed because it’s where I met the love of my life. I’ve been living in Wyoming for sixteen years with my husband and three teenagers, but I have to admit that while I love Wyoming, my heart is divided between my two home states. In many ways, I will always be a small town girl from Oklahoma.
There wasn’t one clear incident that sparked my interest in writing JOY. On one hand, I’m from Oklahoma, so that seems like a good enough reason to write WAKING UP JOY, but there are really a number of ideas that wove together to create my story. If I had to zero in on one thing, I guess it would be my fascination with near death experiences and interest in comas. One of my grandfathers, before I was ever born, claimed to have seen heaven when his heart stopped for a time. The story of that event was enough to spark an idea, but instead of focusing on seeing heaven, I decided to focus on what happens when one wakes up from such an event, and how it could be a catalyst for change in a person’s life.
Like Joy, in WAKING UP JOY, I’m from a small town in Oklahoma and there are many things about that area that have always intrigued me. For one thing, it is in the northeastern corner of the state, very close to the borders of Arkansas and Missouri, so we didn’t have the flat prairies that went on for miles and miles like most people think of when they think of Oklahoma. I grew up with hills, trees, caves, and creeks and those images shaped my story and gave it a more Southern feel. I also understand how small towns work, how people interact when they see each other almost every day, how there is a difference between vicious gossip and conversational gossip, and how people stick together through ups and downs, and of course your ups and downs are never secret in a small town. If I hadn’t grown up in that small town in northeastern Oklahoma, I don’t think I could have created the fictional town of Spavinaw Junction that is such a big part of WAKING UP JOY.
WHY HER STORY MATTERS
In writing this story, I’ve learned to always follow my heart when it comes to writing. I loved writing my first two novels, RUBY AMONG US and ROSE HOUSE which were set in an area I spent a lot of time in when I lived in California, but in my mind I think always wanted to go back to the South. I even had characters who were born in Oklahoma, but living in the Sonoma Valley in ROSE HOUSE. Those were fun books to write and those characters are still special to me, but when I finally listened to my heart and decided to set a novel in Oklahoma instead of just having a couple of Oklahomans living in California, it did something to my writing voice that felt very natural to me. WAKING UP JOY might contain a quirky family that is much crazier than my real family, but somewhere in there, I can feel my roots.
[Tweet “When it comes to writing, she follows her heart. Tina Ann Forkner, author of Waking Up Joy.”]
If I were to go through the writing process again, I wouldn’t second-guess myself so much and I would stop worrying about what the industry expects. I would only focus on my readers. The best way to be a writer is to be yourself and let it show in your writing. Readers can see when you’re being real with them, even when it’s fiction.
When people read WAKING UP JOY, I hope they will go away with a sense that it’s never too late to start over and live life to the fullest. Nobody is perfect. We all have some kind of skeleton in our closet somewhere, but we don’t have to let it keep pulling us backward. Most importantly, I hope people laugh. I hope people close the book and remember that no matter what Joy went through in the story, she never lost her sense of humor. That’s why I named her Joy.
Why does *story* matter to me? I can’t see life any other way. Everywhere I turn, I see a story. I love how we can learn from the stories of others and how stories in our lives intertwine with the stories we read. Stories teach us about what it is to be human and I like to explore that concept when I write. I think that’s why real life sparks ideas in a fiction writer’s mind. I know that’s what happened in WAKING UP JOY, and then the story took on a life of its own.
As for what brings me the greatest encouragement—my faith does, both as a writer and as a person. In my novels, characters often doubt their faith and I have done that too. It’s easy to do that because faith in God is such an intangible thing. You can’t touch it or see it, you can only feel it and it’s scary to step out in faith. But sometimes the veil lifts and we catch a glimpse of what might be on the other side, and it inspires us to keep going. This is what happens to Joy in her coma and what propels her to question everything about her life when she wakes up.
And by the way, I love to connect with readers! Here are my social media links:
Thanks for having me on your blog! Happy Reading!
Thank you, Tina! It’s been my pleasure to have you here today.
Friends, stay tuned–next week, my review of WAKING UP JOY. Here’s a little hint: LOVE.