Whether you like curling up with a book before a blazing fire in the cold of winter, lounging on the porch swing, or relaxing at the beach on a lazy summer day, author Anita Klumpers has a book that fits the occasion. Her story settings cover both ends of the weather spectrum, from summer to winter, including Christmas. They fit quite comfortably into fall and spring, too. Whether you like to read at home, at a park, or in a cafe. With tea or with coffee. Or with a Coke and French fries.
I discovered Anita—or rather, she discovered me–when I first posted about my blog on Facebook. She recognized my name from about forty years ago when we were in the same class at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Writing Children’s Literature.
Now here we are, decades later, with teaching experience, grown-up kids, the same deep church roots and upbringing, and a passion for writing stories! Reconnecting with Anita—now as a friend and fellow author—made me miss the years in between that we never had together.
She likes to think of Buttonholed as light contemporary romance, which means light humor and light romance (very little smooching) in a sort of idealistic current-day setting. No dark, gritty realism here!
I’ve read all four books and enjoyed them immensely. You can read my reviews on Amazon when you click on the book titles. I know I’m in for a treat every time I read one of her stories.
And here’s why. She features an unusual cast of characters that are real enough to leap off the page. She can turn a phrase that makes me laugh out loud at her observations of the idiosyncrasies of human nature. She keeps the pages turning with plot twists. And she ties in her Christian worldview without getting preachy.
Join me for a little Q & A.
Where do your stories come from? Do they start with a character, a premise or plot line, or an image? Or something else?
Anita: Winter Watch started with a real person. We vacationed one winter (yes, winter) in northern Wisconsin and ate at the only local restaurant open in the off season. Everyone knew everyone—except my husband and I and a single young woman dining alone and reading a book. She was very attractive in profile, but when she put down her book and turned to look around the room, I saw that the other side of her face drooped slightly. My heart actually lurched in pity, and Claudia Alexander was born.
Hounded began with one line that came to me as I contemplated writing a dark and moody story. “This funeral was so different than the last one.” Somehow, though, it metamorphosed into a romantic suspense novella shot through with dark humor.
Christmas Passed was inspired after a tour along Milwaukee’s lakefront. I wanted to center the story on preserving an old home. Because history is my passion, I included an event from the past that leaves its mark on the present.
Where did you get your idea for Buttonholed and its heroine?
Anita: This story had its genesis during a trip to The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville, Tennessee. He fought in several duels (and even killed a man!). Most duels were fought for honor and to avenge aspersions on one’s character.
Watching a reenactment of a duel gave me the idea for Buttonholed. Add in a sermon my pastor preached on giving up our rights (and our good reputation) when it brings glory to God, and the story had a purpose.
Manderley, the heroine, is based on all the nice, peacemaking, people-pleasing women I know who also have a strong nature and convictions and do daily battle with calories.
Where do you usually get the ideas for your story characters?
Anita: I don’t believe I start out with an idea. The character develops as I write and I just go with it. I never quite believed that was true till I began writing.
What helps you to know your characters well?
Anita: They reveal more of themselves in each scene and with every sentence they utter. I’m sure subconsciously I have them sketched out, or incorporate people I’ve met, but in general, that is very subconscious.
My characters are slightly larger than life, but hopefully never caricatured! I suppose I want to escape real-world problems as much as possible when I write as when I read.
After you know your characters, then what?
Anita: Since I get to know them as the story develops, I just keep writing each scene and see how each character reacts to each situation, or why the plot develops in reaction to who the characters are.
It sounds like you are a pantser versus an outliner/planner. How do you develop your story?
Anita: Yes, a total, TOTAL pantser. I start with nothing more than a single line, a particular stranger, a glimpse of a beautiful home, and go from there. I don’t recommend this method but it’s the only way I can write!
What role does the setting play in each book?
Anita: Two books—Hounded and Christmas Passed, are set in actually cities, Des Moines and Milwaukee, respectively. But in Winter Watch and Buttonholed, I wanted to create an idealistic little world. A place that has a location, but you’ll never find it on a map. A place where evil can visit, but can’t thrive.
Sounds like you write the kind of stories that you like to read! How do you decide when your final draft is actual finished? And what steps get you to that point?
Anita: Good question! When I’m happy with how the plot eventually works itself out, when the climax and denouement are satisfying, and I’ve corrected the most obvious grammar and punctuation errors and plugged plot holes—that’s when it is final. Rewriting dozens of times is what gets me to that point.
What part has a writers’ group played in your development as a novel writer?
Anita: I owe almost everything to the writers’ group because of the challenge to not only begin, but bring a story to full completion. I never thought I could write a chaptered novel until I joined Friends of the Pen.
How has your experience been working with an editor?
Anita: Good! My editor, Susan M. Baganz, has practical tips and plenty of suggestions for changes while always encouraging me to write in my own voice and develop my own story.
Also, she invited me to contribute to two series: Hounded is the “Love is patient” part of the “Love Is…” series based on I Corinthians 13: 4-8. Buttonholed is in the “Ponder This” series centering on each virtue listed in Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatever things are noble, whatever things are just,
whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue
and if there is anything praiseworthy
—meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8, NKJV
Susan is easy to work with because she’s also an author and knows the writing end of the process.
Your work is in the category of Christian fiction. How would you describe what makes your story “Christian”? Primarily the worldview espoused? The characters?
I was raised on syrupy, idealistic Christian fiction because my parents believed children need a solid base and ideals. I get that, and read some of the Grace Livingston Hill novels so often I had them practically memorized.
I understand why my parents wanted me to get an idea of the “absolutes” of Scripture before I started deciding how to handle gray areas. They were wise people. But as Christian writers, we need to be in the world, even if we aren’t of it. We must treat the issues we face “out there” with honesty and humility, and recognize there are seldom pat answers to problems.
In Buttonholed I imagined a microcosm Christian community of people. They really are Christians who really love the Lord, but at some point they’ve grown complacent in a certain gray area and forgotten that love truly covers a multitude of sins. And then I tried to incorporate how decent people, when confronted by the truth of the Gospel, would deal with this centuries-old transgression.
What are some of your writing habits and routines?
Anita: Unfortunately, I only write regularly when under pressure. A deadline means I will spend a dozen hours a day writing feverishly, making notes, reading and rewriting the drafts. If I am writing simply with the idea that “I want to submit another manuscript,” I will find almost any excuse to get up from my laptop.
What do you like to read? What are some recent titles you’ve enjoyed?
Anita: I like escapist stories—cozy mysteries, romantic suspense, light-hearted books like those written by P.G. Wodehouse. Recently I’ve read The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, which is a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, and Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. I’m not a science fiction fan but I enjoyed this book!
Any tips for others who want to write?
Anita: Challenge yourself to choose what you want to write, then persevere all the way to completion. It might be ugly, but you’ll have written a compete first draft, and that is more than the vast majority of aspiring writers ever do! Now challenge yourself to go back and chip away at that draft, smooth and polish it until you can see yourself in its glow.
Great advice! Yes, that is half the battle—getting words on the page. Once you have a rough draft, you have the materials—the words—to shape and re-shape how you want. Like a lump of clay. Or possibly the way you would arrange and re-arrange a collage or mosaic—little bits at a time that must fit into a cohesive whole.
How do you bring creativity into your daily life in other ways?
Anita: I wish I were accomplished in household arts. I’m all thumbs at knitting, sewing, and crocheting, can’t garden with much success, and don’t have the gift of drawing, painting, etc. But I love planning unusual parties around unusual themes and coming up with original games and activities. And I enjoy decorating my home so it is pleasing to the eye, comfortable, cozy, and filled with items that remind me of my loved ones.
Anita’s bio: When not fervently wishing she had a more organized approach to writing, she spends time with her family, including three sons who should be used to her by now since she homeschooled them forever. She dotes on two lovely daughters-in-law and seven of the cutest grandkids you ever did see. Her church family and pastor are absolutely amazing and she thanks God for blessing her so abundantly. Whenever possible, she enjoys time with her husband and friends, all of whom are also pretty cute. Her deepest joy comes from the grace and knowledge of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Any questions for Anita? Or tell me about your favorite kind of story, or a favorite place to read.
Please add your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!