Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Kathleen is an award winning novelist and recipient of such prestigious awards as the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice award and Career Achievement award, and The Literary Times award for Literary Excellence in the Field of Romantic Fiction. Prior to her fiction writing career, Kathleen worked for many years as a registered nurse, and she also holds a Master's degree in counseling. When not concocting new and brilliant plot lines, she enjoys quilting, playing the Celtic harp, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren. Kathleen and her family make their home in Colorado.
Focus: Kathleen, thanks so much for joining us! Would you begin our interview by telling our readers when you first became interested in writing? Did you enjoy stories as a child? Or was it later in life that your interest surfaced?
Kathleen Morgan: I always loved to read. I remember one quarterly report card, in third grade I believe, where my teacher noted I had turned in 21 book reports. In time, my love of books evolved into writing stories that were probably the usual for girls my age--horse and other animal stories.
From second grade on, though, I wanted to be a nurse, so writing as a profession never entered my mind, or at least not until I was in my thirties and home with two toddlers. Then, after reading an article in a magazine on romance writers, something clicked. I started writing again, and haven't stopped yet, almost 19 years later.
Focus: Eight years ago, you faced an excruciating loss in the death of your youngest son, and came to a real crossroad in your spiritual walk. Would you be willing to share a little about that time? How did that time influence where you are today in your faith?
Kathleen Morgan: In June 1996, after a very short illness, my youngest son, Sean, died of a fast-growing, virtually hidden cancer. No one, not even his doctor, suspected he had cancer until it was too late. The shock and terrible grief involved in losing Sean was a blow I am still recovering from, and probably will be for the rest of my life.
It's been said the loss of a child is the worst grief there is, that the parent-child bond is one of the most powerful bonds there are. In so many ways, I agree. When I lost Sean, I lost a piece of myself. I lost my illusions that if I was a good mother and followed all the rules, I could always protect him. I lost my sense of order in the universe; that parents are supposed to watch their children grow up, and that parents should die before their children. And in many ways, I lost the future, and my concept of how life was and should be. I truly believe, in a symbolic if not actually in a literal way, I died when Sean died--as a mother, a woman, and a human being.
During that difficult time surrounding and after Sean's death, I found the strongest emotional support from the faith that had comforted and sustained me in my youth, and my family, friends, and the ministers who came to us. I was so moved by their kindness and generosity. Their actions opened up a whole realm of new insights about my fellow man. And there, in the hearts of those fellow men, I caught the strongest, purest glimpse of God that I had ever seen. Through it all, I was reborn.
Focus: You switched from a nursing and counseling career to being a novelist, and then transitioned from secular to inspirational fiction. Those are serious career shifts! Do you find it interesting that in the end, God just moved you from healing the broken in body, to helping Him heal the broken of heart?
Kathleen Morgan: That's an interesting take on the changes my life has undergone. I hadn't ever thought of it that way--guess I never saw myself as being capable of such an exalted calling. I began writing as an adult because I loved it, and I had all kinds of stories bursting to get out. Then, as I finally turned to writing inspirational fiction, my horizons began to expand. I saw it become a ministry, an obedience to a calling, and the gift from God that it had always been. If I can now act as a conduit for God's messages to His children, to heal the broken of heart, then though I'm an unworthy instrument, I'll do so gladly.
Focus: Your four book, Brides of Culdee Creek series was the first you wrote for the Christian market. Can you tell us the publication story behind the first book, Daughter of Joy? What steps did you take between the day you finished writing the story, and the day you were offered a contract for it?
Kathleen Morgan: About the time I was writing my last book for the general market, in the months after my son's death, I began to do some hard thinking about the course my writing life, as well as my life in general, should now take. For me at least, it was a natural evolution that as I turned back to the God of my youth, I should also turn my writing in another direction. I prayed about that decision for several months, knowing if my heart truly wasn't in writing for the Christian market, I couldn't just pay it lip service. I waited patiently on God and, in time, He seemed to answer my prayers when Baker Books bought Daughter of Joy. Writing that book was one of the easiest and most joyful books I've ever done. I also took that as a sign from God that I was on the right track. The next two books in that series, however, didn't end up being easy at all. Guess God decided the honeymoon was over after Daughter of Joy. :)
Focus: One of the things I love about the Culdee Creek series is the way you based the theme of each book on the meaning of its lead character's name. In light of that, how important do you think a person's name is? Do you believe people grow into their name's meaning?
Kathleen Morgan: The inspiration for basing the series on the meaning of the heroine's names came to me when my editor hinted they might not use the original title. I knew the theme of the first book, from the start, was one of joy. And, though I didn't realize early on that the meaning of Abigail was joy, I chose that name for my heroine anyway. When I finally looked the meaning up, and discovered the serendipity of the whole thing, the idea formed to continue that theme for the other books in the series.
Now, as far as people growing into their name's meanings, maybe that's true. I'm far from arriving at my name's meaning--Kathleen: pure, and Anne: full of grace. Guess it's good to have goals, though. :)
Focus: In 2002 and 2003, you released two fantastic books--Embrace the Dawn and Consuming Fire--both set in 17th century Scotland. Could you give us a quick synopsis of both?
Kathleen Morgan: Embrace the Dawn, set in the late-17th-century Scottish Highlands, is the story of Killian Campbell, a strong-willed Colonial woman forced to seek safety in the arms of the one man who could destroy her future. As she flees those who threaten her life, she must come to terms with God and the pain of her past.
Consuming Fire, its sequel, is set in the Scottish Highlands of 1694, and tells the story of one woman's struggle to find true freedom and love. Deceived by her father and betrayed by the man she once thought she loved, Maggie Robertson must turn to God for refuge. With the help of a neighboring clansman, Maggie must ultimately find that true love, peace, and safety can be found only in God.
Focus: Writing about that time period for several years in a row must have been like being caught in a time warp:) Did you ever find yourself saying "Wheesht" to your husband, or yelling "Och, by mountain and sea!" if you burned your toast?
Kathleen Morgan: Grin! No, I didn't, but then my mind's always on the next book I'm planning, and I wrote All Good Gifts after Embrace the Dawn , then The Christkindl's Gift after Consuming Fire, so I was jumping from Scottish historical to contemporary to Scottish historical, then back to Colorado circa 1913.
Focus: Embrace the Dawn and Consuming Fire are such amazing, interconnected stories, I can't help but hope for a third book. Is something like that in the works, perhaps with Maggie's sister Cora as a heroine?
Kathleen Morgan: When I wrote Embrace the Dawn, I wrote it as a stand alone, mainstream women's fiction historical. Then, just as I neared the end of that book, a spin-off idea and character from it hit me, which, in turn, became Consuming Fire. So far I have no plans for a third book, but if and when an idea hits me, I'd love to return to the Campbells and MacDonalds. And you're not the first person to suggest Cora as a heroine, by the way.
Focus: In Consuming Fire, both Maggie and Adam face immense challenges in the area of forgiveness. What is the greatest truth you've learned in your own struggles to forgive?
Kathleen Morgan: Forgiveness, like so many other things, isn't always a black and white affair. Frequently, just because you say you've forgiven someone doesn't mean you fully and truly have, though forgiveness can solely be an act of the will. It's a will, however, that must be grounded in love and trust in God, and in utter gratitude for what Christ did for us in dying for our sins. To be reconciled is to restore friendship or harmony. Sometimes the need for reconciliation isn't reciprocated. Then, the harmony can only be found within ourselves, and in the knowledge that we've done all that we could. That's enough, though, to satisfy God, and hence should be enough to satisfy us.
Focus: One thing your readers might have considered unforgivable is never being told what happened to Ian from the Brides of Culdee Creek series:) Can you tell everyone how you plan to remedy this problem within the next month?
Kathleen Morgan: Wow, what a perfect opportunity to mention my upcoming book! The Christkind's Gift is a stand alone, hardcover novella, that's being released in September 2004. It's set in the Colorado Rockies in 1913, and is Ian Sutherland's story. (I always meant to give the dear boy his own book!)
The back cover copy says it all: "When an injured stranger shows up one snowy December night in 1913, young widow Anna Hannack wishes he hadn't. But as she helps rugged Scotsman Ian Sutherland recover, she finds unexpected healing of her own." Besides a delicious romance, I've also included several recipes of German dishes in the story:)
Focus: You've also got another historical series--set in the century prior to Embrace the Dawn and Consuming Fire--releasing early next year! Would you give us a sneak preview of Child of the Mist, and tell us which clan your readers may recognize within the story?
Kathleen Morgan: The two clans in Child of the Mist are the MacGregors and Campbells, just not the same Campbells as in Embrace the Dawn and Consuming Fire. It's the story of Anne MacGregor and Niall Campbell, and of their battle against superstition and treachery when Anne's work as a healer is misconstrued as witchcraft, and some unknown traitor seeks to see Niall dead in order to seize the clan chieftainship from him. Child of the Mist is an historical romance with a touch of suspense, and is the first book in a three book series, entitled "These Highland Hills." Its release date is February 2005.
Focus: Besides all the great historical fiction you've written, you've released All Good Gifts, the contemporary story you mentioned earlier, and rumor has it there's even a science fiction plot brewing in your head. Your reading lists must be incredible! Are there any particular titles or authors you consider top favorites?
Kathleen Morgan: Though I love writing science fiction, and hope to do so again someday, the plot that's been brewing in my head is actually a three book fantasy series, which I'm happy to say I've just sold to Baker/Bethany. The first book in the "Guardians of Gadiel" series will be out in Summer 2005, and the next two will be interspersed with the other two historical romances in my "These Highland Hills" series, hopefully with one of each kind coming out each year. I've also just sold two more novellas, so there may be more Culdee Creek spin-off's coming!
As far as favorite authors go, I read all sorts of fiction. Kathy Tyers wrote the most fantastic Christian science fiction series, the first book being Firebird. Karen Hancock's Arena is also a gripping science fiction story, and she's now writing a fantasy series, the first book being Light of Eidon. And Donita K. Paul's new release, Dragonspell is a sweet, clever, humorous fantasy that will appeal to older children as well as adults.
Focus: With all the new projects on your horizon, what's your biggest prayer request right now, and how can your fans be an encouragement and support to you?
Kathleen Morgan: I'd appreciate prayers that I continue to always seek God's will in my life and work, and not let frustration and doubt get in my way.
Focus: Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Kathleen Morgan: I deeply appreciate all their support and prayers. Without them, it would be so very much more difficult to continue on this frequently isolated, self-doubting, and humbling undertaking.