Meet Sandra Wilkins
Sandra Wilkins is a home schooling mother of two daughters who finds time to write in spare moments. She hopes to show them that diligence and using God’s gifts as a light in the world will help them accomplish the desires of their hearts. Her passion for historical fiction led her to write the kind of romance novels that reflect the wholesome values found in Oklahoma at the turn of the last century. Gwen’s Honor is the third novel in The Heartland Romance Series from Montlake Romance. The entire series is set in Shawnee just before statehood came to Oklahoma. The first installment, Ada’s Heart, follows an actress, Ada Marsh, who quits her old way of life and befriends two other young women, Rose Dennis and Gwen Sanders. Rose’s Hope continues with their friendship while Rose must decide whether to turn her hopes toward a grieving widower with an infant or to another more persistent suitor. Gwen’s Honor continues the journey with Gwen forced to choose between society’s expectations and her true feelings.
Knowing how busy her life is, I was delighted when Sandra very graciously agreed to answer a few questions and tell the readers of this blog more about herself and her books.
When did you first know you were going to write professionally?
In the late 90’s I worked at an independent books store and met a local author that had actually been published. It was an amazing thought for me and when she wanted to start up a small writer’s group I was thrilled to join. With her encouragement and going to conferences to learn about the craft and business of writing, it finally seemed like the dream that I’d had since childhood could become a reality.
What part of writing do you find most satisfying?
I love when I have an inkling of an idea for a scene and the words flow onto the blank page in front of me. Even after writing several books, it still amazes me.
What part do you find most difficult?
When the words don’t flow! Seriously though, I’ve never been the kind of author that makes myself write every day no matter what. I take breaks and I think that helps with writer’s block. I can think about the story when I’m not writing and get back to it when inspiration hits me. Now that I’m home educating my two children, the spare moments seem farther between, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting?
It’s a mixture for me. For the Heartland Series—Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor, I had the idea about a series surrounding the friendship of three young women first. Close on the heels of that was the setting of a real town in central Oklahoma that I knew well.
Where do you find inspiration?
The inspiration for the characters in the Heartland Series came from a friendship I had with two women I worked with at that book store. Our different looks and personalities greatly influenced the descriptions of the main characters of the series.
In general, though, music inspires me more than anything. I love everything from classical, to rock and country. The intensity or tranquil nature of a song stirs something in me and I try to convey that mood onto the page. The lyrics of songs can also spark an idea for a scene.
Are your books based on personal experiences or are they completely fictitious?
The stories themselves are fictitious, but I’ve included tidbits that I remember hearing from my grandparents or other people. There was a scene in Gwen’s Honor where a character shows off his “weather rock” hanging from a tree. I remember seeing one of those at my great-grandpa’s house and it was so fun to incorporate something like that into my story. Once, I heard an author say that there is nothing of him in his books, but I can’t say that’s true at all for me. There is something of me in all my characters.
Do you do a lot of research?
My books are period pieces set in the early 1900’s, so I did quite of bit of research in general, but I since I was writing about a real town I scanned lots of old newspapers on microfilm at the library to find out what the city was like at the time. I also tried to include real events when possible.
Gwen Sanders has been engaged throughout the entire series to somewhat wearisome Walter Manning, but just as the date is finally set for the wedding an old childhood sweetheart comes back into her life. As the plans for completing her first novel come together, the rest of her life seems to be unraveling. Her honor is at stake as she faces an unthinkable decision about her future happiness.
What other projects are in the works?
I’m currently working on another series set in historic Chandler, Oklahoma in the year following statehood. It’s so much fun researching a new community and coming up with the new characters. My love for music is more evident in these stories as the most of the main characters play in an amateur band.
What other authors do you especially admire?
The list could be really long! But, right off I can think of Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and Margaret Mitchell. One of my modern favorites is Diana Gabaldon. She creates marvelous worlds and who wouldn’t love Jamie Fraser?
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Recently, I tried to learn the guitar but didn’t have the time practice it like I should—maybe someday. Schooling my girls and having fun with my family takes up most of my time right now.
Pantster or plotter?
When I write, I definitely fly by the seat of my pants! I will have ideas for scenes that I write down so I don’t forget them and generally know how I want the story to end. Somehow I find a way to connect everything.
What refreshes you creatively?
Listening to music refreshes me, motivates me, makes me sad and makes me happy. Life would be so hard for me without it!
A final word from Sandra Wilkins: “With my writing, I try to take the reader back to a simpler time, but I also hope to show how our lives today still parallel those from the past. Every generation of women and men must overcome obstacles in their lives. Life is full of uncertainty, but I try to show that with God’s help and a little determination those problems can be solved.”
Thank you, Sandra. Good luck with your life and your books.
Sandra Wilkins website: http://www.sandrawilkins.com/