Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Ann W. Jarvie and got her to talk a little about her novel The Soul Retrieval. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: What’s a typical day in the life of Ann W. Jarvie like?
Ann W. Jarvie: My children are grown. So I typically spend my mornings tending to my pets, meditating and going to Zumba. From mid-mornings to late afternoon, I’m usually working at my writing desk. My work includes research, writing, editing and marketing activities related to my writing. In the evenings, I will either cook or my husband and I will go out to dinner, often with friends and family. In between all of that, I usually have one to five books I’m reading, for fun and personal development. It’s a wonderful life, one I’m most grateful for.
KP: Tell us a little about your background?
AJ: I have a B.A. in journalism and more than twenty-five years’ experience as an award-winning writer in advertising and public relations agencies, both in South Carolina and Chicago. I now live near Phoenix, Arizona, where I spend part of my time as a freelance copywriter and the rest writing fiction.
KP: How did you become a novelist, and have you always wanted to write?
AJ: When I was a young girl, my mother told me a mysterious story about her mother, Henrietta, who once lived on a Native American reservation with her physician husband. From that, a curious writer was born … and a strange plot began to hatch. It later became The Soul Retrieval. But I have many stories in me just waiting to be written and told, and I’m lucky to be in a position to do it now. I love the writing life and everything involved in it. I have never “wanted to write.” I simply could not help it.
KP: How would you describe your writing process?
AJ: As a journalism major, advertising copywriter, public relations writer and fiction writer, I have different approaches based on what I’m writing and trying to achieve. But always my writing jobs start with an objective, of what I want to say and communicate. Then I brainstorm with myself to create a concept and/or basic storyline, along with charcters, testing them all along for “what if’s.” What if this happened or what if this character could be both wise and funny, what would that look like? How can I tie these two disparate characters or worlds together? I let those thoughts incubate, even as I begin to associate other concepts and ideas with them, for example, character traits with emerging subplots. I’ll then research everything for additional associations, factual backing and credibility purposes. From the research, I ask myself more questions even while I’m envisioning it and playing it out in my mind, writing, developing characters and refining drafts. In short, I question everything and talk to myself a lot!
KP: Just as your writing will inspire others, who are the writers that have inspired you?
AJ: My favorite author of all time is Pat Conroy: The Prince of Tides is beyond brilliant. It’s one of those rare jewels that never fails to inspire me as a storyteller and lover of words. I’ve probably read it a dozen times. There are too many others to name here, but a few who have positively influenced and inspired me in no particular order are Daphne du Maurier, Charles Dickens, Anne Rivers Siddons, Kurt Vonnegut, Paulo Coelho, Anita Diamant, Dan Brown, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Thomas Wolfe … I could go on.
KP: What do you think is the best way to influence others, through your actions and your deeds or through your words?
AJ: As writers, we are perhaps in a better position to influence others with our words. But, in our daily lives with others, I’m not sure it’s possible to separate our points of influence. We will influence others through our actions and non-actions, what we say and what we leave unspoken, and what we believe to be truth, whether it is or not.
KP:Do you believe in the old adage ‘Write what you know.’ Or do you think this shouldn’t apply to fiction writers?
AJ: I’m more of a proponent of writing about something for which you feel passion. In my opinion, you can always learn about any topic through research as long as you hold a curiosity and passion for it.
KP: What’s ‘The Soul Retrieval’ all about?
AJ: In a nutshell, The Soul Retrieval is a suspenseful novel of love, loss and healing centering on a traumatized southern woman, her spiritual journey, the Native American mystic who guides her, and the murder mystery that ultimately threatens to unravel her.
KP: What attracted you to Henrietta and why did you decide to tell her story?
AJ: My maternal grandmother, Henrietta, attracted me to and inspired the story. She lived on the Mescalero Indian Reservation with her physician husband until he mysteriously died there in 1919. I am a product of my grandmother’s second marriage, so by the time I became interested in this family mystery, she and most of those involved had already passed away. My mother was able to tell me a few stories about her mother’s positive relationships with Native Americans, but no one could answer the questions I had about her first husband’s mysterious and premature death. So I decided to make up a story about it. The Soul Retrieval is the result. But it’s about 95 percent pure fiction.
The only things the real and fictional Henriettas share are their first names, physician husbands working on Indian reservations in the Southwest, and the Victorian-style doctor’s cottages they both shared with their husbands and children while on the reservations. Most everything else about Henrietta Clayborn’s life and all of the other characters and events in the novel are unadulterated fiction, including her family members and the towns of Medichero, New Mexico, and Greenfield, South Carolina, where the story takes place.
KP: What are the qualities in Henrietta that you found best and worth emulating?
AJ: She didn’t give up in the face of almost overwhelming circumstances. She finds the courage to step into her own power, pushing through her fears of the forbidden and situations fraught with danger. And ultimately, she proves that it is indeed possible to heal from trauma.
KP: How much of research was involved to form the back story and to get the historical facts right?
AJ: I very much wanted to present the Apache characters in my novel with as much authenticity as I could because I respect, honor and value all Native Americans, their culture and their inherent goodness and spirituality. So I spent years researching the Apache culture and the Mescalero Indian Reservation in particular. On a visit to this reservation with my mother many years ago, we actually found the doctor’s cottage––an unexpectedly large Victorian-style house––where my grandmother, her husband and her children lived while he served as a physician for the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1919. The timing was lucky, because the doctor’s cottage was to be torn down the year following our visit.
KP: What was the hardest bit to write in this book?
AJ: The beginning.
KP:The ending of this book suggests a possibility for a sequel. Are you working on it?
AJ: Yes, I’m currently working on the next adventure of Henrietta, which also explores the secrets of Bears Repeating. Stay tuned.
KP: What are you expecting readers to take away from this book?
AJ: My wish and prayer is that readers will be entertained and be able to find something useful and inspiring within … themselves.
KP: Reading anything at the moment?
AJ: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and everything non-fiction by John Randolph Price.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time Ann W. Jarvie and all the very best for your book.
AJ: It’s my pleasure. I’m excited and grateful to be on and share this journey with you. Many thanks!