Interview with Kathi Oram Peterson

I love, love, love people who use their talents to bless the lives of others. Kathi Oram Peterson is just such a person. She also has a new book out and was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me about her book and her background as a writer. You will love getting to know Kathi and you will especially want to pick up a copy of her newest book, An Angel on Main Street. I received a copy to review and couldn’t wait to interview Kathi about it!

Here is a bit about Kathi first, taken from her website:

Kathi Oram Peterson was born in the small town of Rigby, Idaho. Since childhood, she has loved reading and writing stories. After winning the Heart of the West (1994) and Golden Pen (1995) contests, she put her writing on hold to finish her English degree. Upon graduation, she worked for a curriculum publisher writing and editing concept and biography books for children. She now devotes her time writing inspirational fiction.

And now for the fun! Here’s my interview with Kathi…

C.S.: Kathi, you have a new book out. Tell us a bit about it.

 
KATHI: This story has been a work in progress for many, many years. I even wrote it into a screenplay, which took 4th place in a national contest. An Angel on Main Street is set in the 1950s and is about eleven-year-old Micah Connors. He’s been in and out of trouble since he learned of his father’s death in the Korean War. But as the book opens he’s trying to do better. 
 
Micah has promised his mother that in the new town of Bolton, Idaho, he would stay out of mischief. His mom has enough to worry about being a widow with two children, and her daughter, Annie, ill. As hard as he tries, Micah finds the trouble he promised to avoid. As the sheriff escorts him home they come upon a ramshackle stable. Someone is building a Nativity for the town, but no one knows who. While the sheriff and Micah’s mother are talking, Micah’s sister tells him she believes angels are building the Nativity and when baby Jesus comes, He’ll make her better. Worried that his sister might die before Christmas, Micah sets out on a quest to find the baby Jesus. But as he gets nearer to finding the Nativity builder, he learns that angels are closer than he ever believed. 
 
I loved writing this story. Though it is only 99 pages long I worked on it year after year, always at Christmastime, tweaking it here and there until finally it sold. I can’t tell you how very happy I am that it is finally in print. 


C.S.: Everyone who has read it remarks how touching it is. What was your purpose in writing it? And what was its genesis?

KATHI: I love Christmas and it only made sense to write a story about the holiday. I also wanted to write about growing up in a small town in the 50s. I was traveling to Colorado with a group of other writers. We were going to a conference. Everyone was listening to a speaker on tape. I was in the back seat and couldn’t really hear so I started thinking of stories I could write. I knew I wanted a time element counting down to Christmas. I wanted the story to focus around the Nativity. The story took off from there. It’s gone through many revisions, but the main thrust of the story is still the same as I thought of on that trip to Colorado.

C.S.: When did you first think about writing? As a kid? Later on? Why?

KATHI: I liked to write as a teenager. But I didn’t really set my mind to it until after my first child was born. My mother had given me some novels to read. The great ones by Phyllis Whitney, Nora Lofts, Mary Stewart. Jane Austin. I loved those books. One day as Mom and I were discussing the stories, she turned to me and told me that I should try to write a book. She encouraged me. So did my father. He loved to write. I soooo wish they were alive today to see my books published.

C.S.: That would be wonderful in deed. What are some of the ways you approach writing?

KATHI: I have to write to feel my life has purpose. There have been stretches when I haven’t written. During those times I become depressed, things just don’t go right. Knowing this about myself, I’ve tried to write something every day. When I’m working on a book, I try to give myself goals for each day such as a chapter a day or ten pages a day. I’m one of those writers who has to get the story out first, so my first draft is pretty rough. Then I read through it several times correcting punctuation, grammar and pumping up motivation.

C.S.: What are your purposes when you write? Is it part escapist? Is it to share feelings? Or something else?

KATHI: My main purpose is to tell a good story. I hope my readers can escape into my stories as they read them. Feelings play a huge part of my writing. Not mine but my characters (Though I must admit that sometimes I cry with my characters. Don’t tell anyone.). I work hard to show my main character’s inner turmoil, how he/she grows and learns through the course of the story. As the years have gone by my main goal is to write inspirational stories that people can relate to and gain hope from.  

C.S.: What was one of the most enjoyable parts about writing this Christmas book?

KATHI: I mainly wrote on this book during the Christmas season. Working on Micah’s story helped me view the holiday through a child’s point of view. Actually, I don’t think I’ll ever grow up completely so it wasn’t that difficult. I love the wonder and awe of Christmas, the snow, the lights, the feeling of love, and mostly celebrating the Savor’s birth. I really enjoyed these aspects in writing this book. I hope I’ve portrayed that in the story. 

C.S.: What was one of the hardest parts?
 
KATHI: The hardest parts were thinking of the fear that must run through a child’s heart at the loss of a parent and the possible loss of a sibling. When I was a little girl, my mother suffered a heart attack while shampooing my hair for a dance recital. I remember how scared I was. We lived in an apartment over my father’s store, and many times I’d stand at the window looking down on Main Street wondering if she would be all right. She nearly died. When she came home she told us of a very spiritual experience she had. Through her experience I learned that death, while horrible for those left behind, is something not to fear.

C.S.: What are your thoughts on “writer’s block”? Have you experienced it? If so, what do you do?

KATHI: The only times I’ve had writer’s block was when I was trying to make a character do something they didn’t want to do or when I’ve deviated from the story. For instance, in one story I came upon some fascinating information about a historical person. As I wrote the story that character began to take over the story. I became blocked and couldn’t move forward. As soon as I realized what I’d done I had to throw out a couple of chapters, but it was worth it because once again things were clicking as they should.

C.S.: Have you ever been discouraged as a writer? Felt like quitting? What did you do?

KATHI: We don’t have enough time to talk about how often I have felt like quitting. But as I said before, writing gives me purpose, so even though I may become discouraged from a bad review or a severe critique I muscle through it and learn what I can from the experience. I might take a day or two to rethink, and then I’m back at it.

C.S.: What was your path to having this book published?

KATHI: It was a long, twisty path that had its ups and downs. Many times I felt like giving up, but then my friends would encourage me to work on it again. Every year a dear writing friend would ask me, “What are you going to do about Micah’s story?” And I would pull it out again. She can’t say that this year. Well, I guess she could in that I need to revamp the screenplay. Hmm…something else to work on.

C.S.: What words of encouragement do you have for those who are experiencing setbacks or trials at this time of year?

KATHI: It’s cliche, but true…never give up. If you think you have what it takes keep at it. Don’t let someone else’s opinion discourage you. I have a friend that quits writing whenever someone critiques her. You have to develop a thick writer’s skin to survive in this business, because if you can’t take the criticism before you’re published, what are you going to do when people critique your published book? Could be sad times. Believe in yourself. Always be open to learn new techinques that will strength your work and keep at it.

 
C.S.: Is there a scripture that is particularly meaningful to you?

KATHI: I love the scriptures. For my book, The Forgotten Warrior, I studied chapters 24 and 56 of Alma and their verses gained a place in my heart for the story they tell . For An Angel on Main Street it would be Luke chapters 1 and 2. I don’t have one particular scripture that stands out because at different times in my life they all do.

C.S.: What new project(s) are you working on now?

KATHI: I have several books I’m working on: another YA time travel, a picture book, a YA paranormal, and possibly a romantic suspense. Oh and a screenplay.
 
C.S.: Any final words for our readers?

KATHI: I appreciate those who read my books. In this day and age there are so many demands on our time and that they would steal away enough time to devote to reading my book I feel is an honor. Thank you!  

C.S.: An Angel on Main Street makes a perfect, inspirational Christmas gift. Where can readers go to find it?

KATHI: My books can be found at Seagull Book and Deseret Book Stores and at their websites. They are also for sale at Amazon.com.

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