Q&A with Jodi Thomas
1. What was your favorite part about writing Ransom Canyon?
I grew up surrounded by family who were ranchers and farmers. I always loved the way they loved the land. They saw themselves, not as the owners, but the caretakers. I loved writing a story where the land and the weather were almost characters. When I stepped into Ransom Canyon, the characters crowded around in my mind waiting for me to tell their story.
I think people all over are pretty much the same: we love, we dream, we worry, but I heard somewhere that people in the west are like sturdy furniture with some of the bark left on.
2. What was the most challenging part of writing Ransom Canyon?
Making sure I got it right which wasn’t easy since I hadn’t been on a ranch or farm for more than a dinner in years. I have a dear friend with a ranch where they do it all right so I spent the seasons watching, asking questions and talking to the men who saddle up each day to go to work.
Then, I turned a little house out back of my mission home into Ransom Canyon. I posted pictures on the walls, listed family histories all the way back to the 1800’s, covered every inch of space with whiteboards to chart the facts. Every night I go out to what we call the bunk house and step into my story.
3. What character do you connect most with in Ransom Canyon and why?
In the first book I connected with Staten Kirkland because I know ranchers like him. I know the way he thinks and how hard he tries to do what is right and not show his feelings. Some nights, in my little room off the patio, I swear he’d be leaning over my shoulder, hat pushed back, reading every word. Laughing when I got it right. Thumping me in the back of the head when I got it wrong.
Also, I connected with Jubalee and her feelings of having used up all her chances until now she’s even afraid to hope.
I understood Quinn when she closed herself away from people and Yancy when he hid his secrets afraid no one would accept him if they knew. I knew how Carter felt following a quest that made no sense. I’m Charley loving a child more than himself.
How can I explain? When I write I’m with all the characters. I AM every one of them.
4. Have you ever used real events or people to inspire character or events in your novels?
I wrote my mother into a book called TWISTED CREEK years ago. I watched her go slowly into Alzheimer’s. The journey offered heartache and blessings. Even now, almost fifteen years later, I sometimes stop and watch the clouds. She’d forgotten my name those last few years, but she never lost the wonder when she looked at the sky. I figure she’s still watching, just from another direction.
Many times I’ve felt like my life was research for my writing. A tumble from a horse left me with a slight limp I have trouble hiding when I’m tired. I witnessed a robbery when I was 17 and don’t remember being afraid, only fascinated at how terrified the kid robbing the store looked. My big brother was shot in Viet Nam and it seems like that is where all my heroes take a bullet.
If you met me, you’d meet a quiet person who watches people but I never put real people in books. My sister-in-law kept bugging me to be in a book. So a few years back I put her and my big brother in a book. I made them chickens.
5. Would you ever write a memoir? What are your feelings about writing a memoir?
I don’t think I’d write about my life. Not all that exciting. I married my first love, raised two sons and they blessed us with four grandchildren. I like traveling, working in my flower garden, teaching my oldest grand who is 6 to sew and my 4 year-old to cook.
If I did write a book it would be about my journey into writing. What it’s like to have a dream so strong you give up sleep for five years before you have any success. How it feels to live your life in two worlds every day. I think I’d call it RARE AIR, because I believe writers develop in rare air. I don’t think you can educate or make a writer. I think they evolve.