1--What is the title of your latest release?
THE WAYS OF WATER
2--What’s the “elevator pitch” for your new book?
This coming-of-age novel takes the reader on an unforgettable journey with young Josie Belle Gore whose life is shaken by world events—economic boom-and-bust, war, and pandemic. Set in early twentieth-century New Mexico, Arizona, and California—where water means everything, it is a poignant testament to the meaning of family and the strength of the human spirit.
3--Why will readers love it?
Josie Belle is a brave, complicated protagonist that readers will root for as she overcomes barriers to make a life for herself during one of the most turbulent periods of American history.
4--What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
This story is inspired by my grandmother’s early life. She was not a diarist, so I had to piece together events from conversations that we’d had while she was still alive. I made the shift to historical fiction when I realized that there much I did not know about her life; and thus I’d need to create characters, events, imagine conversations, and alter time to sculpt a full narrative.
5--What do you love about the setting?
The environment sets the tone and mood for the story—from the haunting and harsh beauty of the western deserts…to misty San Francisco Bay, where Josie finds her way from a tumultuous past to a new life
6--What are 3 words that describe your protagonist?
Flawed, lovable, and tenacious.
7--Which supporting character would you most want to hang out with? (spoiler-free, of course!)
I would like a best friend like Eliza. She is compassionate and fun, always hopes for the best for me, and when she can, she intervenes to make it happen.
8--What’s something you learned while writing this book?
My research gave me a renewed understanding and respect for the courage, hopes, and sacrifices of my forebears and their contemporaries, as well as the losses of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest from settler incursions.
9--What’s your best piece of writing advice?
It was advice that Annie Dillard offered in The Writing Life. She said to not hold back in your writing, to spend it all, to not save it for later. Something else will fill the creative well when you need it.
10--Are you an early bird or night owl?
I’m a night owl. The muse often visits me in the late hours.
11--What’s your favorite snack while writing?
A bowl of roasted mixed nuts to snack on, a nice strong cup of Irish tea in the late afternoon, and chocolate, anytime.
12-- What’s your favorite genre to read?
I love historical fiction, particularly when the setting is unfamiliar to me and during a period of time I knew little about before.
13--Who are some authors you admire?
Many historical fiction writers—Wallace Stegner, Willa Cather, Charles Frazier, Annie Dillard, Jeanette Walls, Anthony Doerr, Molly Gloss, Laurel Davis Huber…too many to name.
14--What is an early book memory?
Every Sunday my mother took her five kids to the local public library where we were allowed to check out as many books as we could carry—a rare indulgence. My sister and I would read late into the night, using flashlights under the covers. A favorite book was The Secret Garden. I wanted to live in that world. The story held heartache, plot twists, surprise, spirituality, and reconciliation—qualities I still look for in a good book.
15--What’s your favorite movie?
A little known French film called “Bon Voyage” (2003) director, Jean-Paul Rappeneau. It is a perfect combination of exciting plot, great acting, and a subtle love story, loosely based on a WWII story of smuggling heavy water. And the protagonist is a writer!
16--What do you do when you have free time?
I play pick-up basketball, hike, bike, and walk a lot. I also do basketry in the winter, a kind of meditation to help me work out puzzles in my writing.
17--What would be your favorite writing retreat?
A cozy cabin (with a stocked fridge), with an inspiring view from the kitchen table.
18--What are you reading now?
A Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Egan
19--What is a genre you would like to try writing?
I love reading mysteries but have never written one. The writing process and plotting intrigues me.
20--What can readers expect from you next?
I am working on a memoir about one amazing year of my life and a collection of short stories that is place-based. I am thinking about my next novel.
As Josie Belle Gore, daughter of a Louisiana train engineer and Texas seamstress, journeys with her itinerant family through the deserts of the boom-and-bust American West and revolutionary Mexico, she learns that in her life, two things are constant: water is precious, and her role in her family is to save it.
When unforeseeable events force the separation of her family, Josie begins an odyssey that takes her from New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto to Bisbee, Tucson, Los Angeles, and finally post-WWI San Francisco—experiencing betrayal, pandemic, and survivor’s guilt, as well as the compassion and generosity of friends and strangers, along the way. Once she lands in San Francisco, like a river meeting the sea, Josie has nowhere else to run—and she realizes that she must make peace with the past and good on her promise to the family she loves. Inspired by the author’s family lore, The Ways of Water is a lyrical tale of loss, hope, and forgiveness set in the rugged beauty of the turn-of-the-century Southwest that, like Josie, is growing up in fits and starts.
Women's Fiction Historical [She Writes Press, On Sale: November 7, 2023, Trade Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781647425838 / eISBN: 9781647425845]
Teresa H. Janssen studied history and French at Gonzaga University and has an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Washington. She taught history and language for over twenty years in refugee programs, higher ed, and public high school. Her fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Zyzzyva, Chautauqua, Eastern Iowa Review, and Under the Sun, and in the anthology, Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis. She was a finalist for Bellingham Review’s Annie Dillard Prize and won the Norman Mailer/NCTE Award in nonfiction. She lives with her husband in Washington state where she writes, hikes, and tends a small orchard.
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