Friday, June 8, 2012

Short Straw Bride and Interview with Karen Witemeyer

Christy here, pleased to introduce one of my newest favorite authors. I was introduced to Karen Witemeyer's stories last year after my good friend and critique partner {Dianna} called me to tell me about this great book she was reading that she knew I would love.

Not too long ago, Dianna called me. The phone call goes something like this:

I answer the phone.

Dianna is laughing. "Listen to this line."  Dianna reads me a line from the book and then continues to laugh out loud.  

I giggle along with her. "Who's book are you reading?"

"Another Witemeyer book."

I agree, because I love Karen Witemeyer books. Short Straw Bride is her latest release. It's out now and I thought it would be fitting to feature it on FAITH today, especially since it's June and we're talking about weddings. 

I love stories of childhood sweethearts. Short Straw isn't exactly that type of book, but it begins with Meredith, a ten year old girl who finds herself on Archer property. The Archers have long been feared in her town, but when a bully throws her lunch pail onto this strange property, this determined little girl won't return home to face her mama without her lunch pail. Meredith finds herself lost, looking for the pail and soon gets her foot caught in a trap. Her rescuer is Travis Archer, a boy who lives and runs the feared Archer property. But Meredith sees him as kind because he saves her foot from the trap and goes beyond his property lines to see her home safe.

Fast forward ten years to a young woman who has lost both of her parents and is in the care of her aunt and uncle. Her aunt and uncle are intent on Meredith marrying Roy Mitchell, a land hunting scoundrel, although the aunt and uncle have no idea the evil that is buried in this man's soul. Meredith finds out Roy is going to burn down the Archer's barn in hopes to get the family to sell their property. Feeling she owes Travis Archer a long standing debt for saving her from the trap all those years ago, Meredith sets out on her own journey to return to Archer land and warn the family of this impending danger. 

You are going to enjoy the romance between Travis and Meredith. And goodness, Meredith is a woman constantly getting herself into trouble. Her determination is unable to be contained. This was one of those stories I didn't want to let go of. 

Now, on to the interview!  

CS:  Karen, I noticed you have a master’s degree in Psychology. I imagine your studies could help in character development. Do you agree or is it totally separate?

KW: I haven't used my psychology training in a professional counseling capacity in over ten years. However, I do feel that my educational background helps me on a subconscious level as I develop my characters. It is especially helpful when I need my characters to react to things in a different way than I naturally would. Having this insight into human nature allows me to keep the characterization real and believable. As of yet, I haven't dug out my DSM in search of the perfect neuroses to plague my characters with, but who knows? That day might come.

CS:   When did you realize you wanted to write? Care to share your journey?

KW: I had always been an avid reader, and as I grew to adulthood, I toyed with the idea of putting my own stories to paper. I'd daydream romantic plot lines and jot down my ideas in a journal, but I never committed myself to writing. First, college kept me busy. Then kids entered the picture. But in 2003 when my husband learned his job was being cut, the urge to turn someday into this day became too strong to ignore. I originally thought I could help supplement the family income with my stories but soon realized that it would take years before I could actually make any money at it. That same year, I went back to work full-time outside the home, so the busyness didn't disappear. However, the Lord had sent me a wake-up call, and I knew I had to answer. Six years later in 2009, I signed my first contract with Bethany House.  

CS:  Historicals are so popular now. What are some research tips you’ve learned along the way to make your stories so authentic?

KW:   I do extensive research at the outset of a new project in order to make my plots as plausible for the time period and location as possible. This involves researching the occupations of my characters, studying the historical backgrounds of the town I'm basing my setting around, looking into key industries of the time that would affect the story, etc. During my preliminary research for Short-Straw Bride, I learned that in the 1880s, Texas was the third largest lumber producer in the US. This shocked me since I live in an area of Texas that has few if any trees. However, the Piney Woods of east Texas was prime lumber land in my time period and thanks to surge of growth in the railroad at the same time, demand for lumber skyrocketed. Northern investors swooped in to buy up land, sometimes even taking advantage of "use and possession laws" to seize protperty from families who had owned it for generations. This research tidbit became the central hinge for my main plot conclift between the Archers and the greedy lumberman, Roy Mitchell.

CS:  When creating a new book, what comes first – the character or the plot?

 KW:  That's the writer's equivalent to the age-old chicken-and-the-egg debate, isn't it? Usually the two develop in such an intertwined manner for me that it is hard to separate them. If I were forced to pick, I would give a slight edge to characters for each of my previous novels. However, for Short-Straw Bride, plot would win out by a nose. Action drives this story and shapes the characters, constantly pushing them to stretch their boundaries—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Without it, Travis and Meredith would probably still be living separate lives, and what a shame that would be.

I agree, that would be a terrible shame!!! Karen, thank you for being here today!

Karen Witemeyer is a two-time RITA® Finalist and winner of the coveted HOLT Medallion.
CBA bestselling author, Karen writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House, believing that the world needs more happily-ever-afters

She is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:   


  1. Christy and Karen--Great interview. I love historicals!

  2. Hi, Lindi. I'm an historical junkie myself. That's pretty much all I ever read. Once in a while someone can twist my arm into reading a contemporary, but my passion is in the past. Thanks for coming by today!

  3. Karen, thanks so much for this great interview! The books sounds so fun.

    You know, I love stories where the characters share a past, whether it's dating or being friends. I love your take on that in this story. A nice twist! I look forward to reading it!

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  6. Great interview ladies!
    Loved hearing that Karen's books made you both laugh!
    Congratulations on all your success Karen!

  7. Hi, Missy. We all have those girlhood crushes, don't we? It's rare that one actually gets to capture that older man later in life. I couldn't resist giving Meredith that chance. :-)

  8. Hi, Eva. Thanks for the well wishes! I'm so glad readers "get" my humor. My biggest fear is that I'll write something that sounds hilarious in my head only to have it leaving readers frowning and scratching their heads.

  9. Thanks for stopping by ladies! Thanks for being on FAITH Karen!
    Looking forward to many, many more books from you!

  10. Karen--I grew up reading historicals--when I had to buy my own books they were the thickest and I wanted the most for my money--I love history as well.
    Oh, and congrats on all your awards, and for being a RITA finalist. :)