Monday, June 29, 2009
Interview With Marsha Ward
Teri: Marsha Ward is my very first interview for my LDS Forever Friends Book Nook Blog. Marsha sent me her three books, but I finally delved into these fantastic series of books. Her first book of the series is The Man from Shenandoah, with the sequels being Ride to Raton and the recently released Trail of Storms. From the title of your first book, it would seem this story revolves around the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Can you tell us what brought you to write about this area?
Marsha: I hope you’ll be able to fit my novels into your reading schedule very soon so you can review them, as you mentioned several places you’ll post reviews. I’m looking forward to reading your take on the novels.
My novels are set just after the American Civil War, and feature the Owen family and their neighbors who have to leave the Shenandoah Valley. I’ve always been fascinated by that bitter conflict. Author Robert Newton Peck told me that every author has his or her war, and just as his was the French & Indian War, so mine is the Civil War and its aftermath. When I read during high school about the devastation wrought upon the Valley by General Sheridan’s forces, something struck a chord with me and I knew I would write about it someday. The reason for the onslaught was sound from the Union point of view: the Shenandoah Valley was the breadbasket of the South, and those directing the war effort didn’t want the Southern troops to get any more supplies. Thus, they burned out the Valley’s crops, and a good many homes and businesses in the bargain.
Teri: You mention your experiences listening to your father's stories about homesteading in Old Mexico and Tucson. Can you share a couple stories with us?
Marsha: Well, there was the one about the fear Pancho Villa put into the Mormon Colonists. When my grandfather was offered work in the States, he decided it was a good time to move his family back and avoid the armed threat in Mexico. Then there was the “Bean Farm,” where the family raised pinto beans as a cash crop and for food.
Teri: What are a few of the stories you regaled with your chums over homemade sugar cookies and milk?
Marsha: Sorry. Those are lost in the mists of time. They probably revolved around cowboys, though, as that was a favorite topic of the era.
Teri: Did you ever get some of your creative thoughts on your writing through dreams at night?
Marsha: Yes, this happens. I’ve woken up from a dream and written down some of my thoughts. Recently, a character came and insisted that I change the point of view in a certain scene. She was quite insistent, coming back and bothering me for two nights until I did so.
Teri: How did you come to found the American Night Writers Association?
Marsha: When I was beginning to write seriously, I attended several writing groups. Some didn’t critique the writers’ work. Those who did usually were attended by writers whose work made me quite uncomfortable. I didn’t fit into the Christian group because my beliefs weren’t exactly in line with theirs. However, over the period of about a year I’d gathered the names of five other LDS women who wrote. It came to me as inspiration from Heavenly Father that I was to get them together in a sisterhood of LDS women writers. We met as strangers one night in October, 1986, and two hours later, we were sisters. The organization evolved from there, and has assisted many hundreds of women to magnify their writing talents, whether for publication or not, as they desired. I never dreamed I would be so heavily involved in ANWA for so long as this.
Teri: Would you share a bit about your days living on a farm with the chickens, citrus trees and anything else you can think of.
Marsha: We didn’t really live on a farm. I always wished we had. We lived on several city lots that amounted to quite large area and was out in the far suburbs in those days. We could have some of the pluses of rural living, such as a grove of orange trees, some grapefruit trees that made marvelous “alone” places under its hanging-down branches, burning our own garbage in an incinerator, and having the animals for food production. I remember we had a calf and chickens. One day we went somewhere with a few of the chickens and a man butchered them for us. He cut off the head of one, and it ran around the yard for a long time before it died. “A long time” is probably relative to my extreme youth. My dad laid down a concrete pad for a new chicken coop that was never built, and we used to roller skate around our own private rink. Roller skating in those days involved clamping the metal skates onto our shoes and winding the clamps tight with a special key. It was a tragedy if anyone misplaced or lost the key.
Teri: What's the most important thing you have learned from all your writing?
Marsha: Writing is a great opportunity to uplift others and give them hope that they can overcome obstacles and tragedies in their lives.
Teri: I really like the covers on your books. Who took them and where were they shot?
Marsha: I purchased the rights to use the two photos, which are on the covers of The Man from Shenandoah and Trail of Storms, from stock photo companies, so I don’t have any history on them. The cover of Ride to Raton is a painting I commissioned from a terrific rodeo and cowboy artist, JK Dooley. She did a great job for me. Her website is at www.jkdooleyart.com.
Teri: I really feel saddened that our school children are not learning about our American Heritage like they should. We are blessed with so much valued history, what with our ancestors leaving us an abounding legacy to learn from. Can we have your feelings on this?
Marsha: The school experience today isn’t like the one I had, and that’s indeed very sad. Children need heroes and role models, and they’re not getting good role models from the entertainment and sports sides.
One of the many jobs I’ve had was as a teacher at a charter school, where one of my classes was Southwest History. I enjoyed teaching the students about the heroes, the villains, and the “just plain folks” of that era. It’s my hope that I was able to give them new heroes and role models.
I try to put some history into my blog at www.marshaward.blogspot.com as well as in my novels.
Thank you for this interview, Teri. I hope your readers enjoy it and are motivated to go out and investigate my books!