Today we are thrilled to have the lovely Olivia Newport in the spotlight. You can also find Olivia here on the Inkwell every third Wednesday of the month.
Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (Revell, May 2012), Accidentally Amish (Barbour, October 2012) and the forthcoming The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (Revell, January 2013). Her novels twist through time to discover where faith and passions meet. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two twenty-something children. http://www.olivianewport.com/
Software creator Annie Friesen needs to protect her intellectual property from her scheming partner in Colorado Springs. In a split-second decision, she stows away in a truck, and when it stops she is is face to face with Rufus Beiler and the Amish of southwestern Colorado. Annie’s own ancestral connection to early Amish settlers unfolds in a story within a story, and her worlds collide.
A cabinetmaker by trade, Rufus has troubles of his own. Because of a competitor’s false accusations, his business is in jeopardy. And his sister, Ruth, left the Amish community in a shroud of questions.
Now Annie, an outsider, begins meddling in affairs that don’t concern her. When Rufus tells her she can’t hide among the Amish forever, Annie is torn. Will she return to her accomplishments in the high-tech, modern culture of Colorado Springs or embrace the humble simplicity of the San Luis Valley Amish?
And now, to learn a little bit more about Olivia…
1. Most writers have been writers since their early days. What is one memory you have of writing as a child?
I can remember when I was in early elementary school I would lie in bed and make up stories as I fell asleep—or was supposed to be falling asleep. A ten-year-old was a recurring character. When I myself was ten and entered the fifth grade, my teacher gave regular assignments to use the week’s spelling words in a story. I was always up to the challenge, and that was the beginning of writing stories down. I really had to stretch for “My Detergent and I.”
2. Your first book was The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. Where did you get the inspiration for the character Lucy Banning and her story?
I have a friend who is a docent at the Glessner House Museum on Prairie Avenue in Chicago. When he was doing his training, immersed in the house, he realized what the setting would offer to a fiction series and approached me about writing. Prairie Avenue was home to some of the wealthiest families in America in the 1890s, but I wanted to do more than just look in at their world. I wanted to engage them with the city around them. My friend and I had a great time brainstorming a character who would embody the sociological upheaval of the time and embrace hope for the future, and that was Lucy Banning.
3. If you could meet any author living or dead, who would you choose? What one question would you ask them?
That sort of depends on what mood I’m in or what kinds of themes are weaving through my heart on any given day. But I think it would have been personally enriching to know Madeleine L’Engle. I love the sense of spirituality that pervades her books, whether fiction or nonfiction. I would ask her to tell me about a favorite community she was a part of and what she loved most about it.
4. Your second book, Accidentally Amish, came out this month and your third is expected early next year. How has your life changed since reaching the goal of publication?
I have certainly seen what the interior of a writer’s life looks like! Rounds of editing. Being available for opportunities such as this Q&A. Building networks to help spread the word about my books—it’s still true that most people choose a book because someone they know recommended it. I find the greatest challenge is not so much about having time to do everything—and still write—but about being a good juggler. That means creating a rhythm of life that can respond to each project as needed, catching it when it comes down and infusing fresh energy for whatever is the next upward stage of its life.
5. What one writing resource do you recommend to people wanting to pursue writing?
Just one? That’s tough. I’m going to answer with one name. Is that cheating? In addition to being a successful fiction author, James Scott Bell has a number of small books on the craft of writing. I always find his books a shot in the arm. They help me find my weak spots and know what to do about them. If I get stuck, he’s probably going to help. He’s practical and sensible and understandable and actionable.
6. The burning question many want to know is coffee or tea while writing?
Ever conflict-avoidant, I refuse to take sides on that one! I am not much of a caffeine user, but I do indulge on Saturday mornings when I visit a coffee shop for a writing stint. At home it’s more likely to be herbal tea.
7. Karen Ball said at a conference once that she will often have a cup of coffee with her characters as a way of getting to know them more. How do you get to know your characters?
I suppose I respond to them in a way similar to how I respond to most people I meet. I’m a watcher and waiter. I watch and wait and observe and listen in the process of getting to know a new friend. Characters will sometimes surprise me with what they do—which means revising the writing plan, undoubtedly—but those moments are among the most delightful for me. My character will say or do something and I hear myself responding, “I did not know that!”
8. What Bible verse best describes your life at this moment in time?
Philippians 1:4–6 says, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV). These words describe my desire to connect with others, to support them in the good news at work in their lives, and to be confident together that God is present among and between and through us. He knows a future that we cannot begin to imagine.