Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marsha Ward Interview

Marsha Ward loves to write Western Historicals. I met her at the LDStorymakers Conference last April and thought an interview with Marsha would be great for the month of July. Read on and find out all about this amazing writer.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I was blessed to be talented in a lot of areas. My principle focus early on was vocal music, which I ended up using not for singing opera as I’d planned, but for church. I didn’t think about writing as a profession until the 1980s, when a gig as a journalist fell into my lap. However, I’d always written fiction. Even though I was the 4th grade class newsletter editor, I constantly wrote short stories and plays and began novels—I never finished them at that point, though!

Tell us a little bit about your new book.
Trail of Storms tells the story of Jessie Bingham and her sisters, Hannah, and Heppie, who are forced to leave the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with other family members shortly after the close of the Civil War. Hannah’s unfortunate incident with a Yankee ruffian precipitates their flight in a broken-down farm wagon. As the family members work their way across the continent to New Mexico Territory, they are dogged by both physical and emotional calamities. When Jessie hears that her former sweetheart, James Owen, took a wife, she accepts a friend’s offer of marriage on the condition that they wait to get married until they reach their destination. Her world is shaken again when she encounters James at a stop on the trail, and he isn’t married now.

Tell us about your other books.
The Man from Shenandoah introduces the Owen family and their neighbors in a post-Civil War context, and recounts their travels to Colorado and the adventures that await them there. Ride to Raton follows on, telling the other side of the happy ending of the previous novel. James Owen leaves the family to block out his unhappiness at losing something he held dear, and to make his own way in the world. Although the three novels make up a series, they can be read and enjoyed separately.

What inspires you and motivates you the very most to write?
Readers! Having people out there who expect a new book with new adventures for established characters is great motivation.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I’d say there are several Western writers who have influenced my work, such as G. Clifton Wisler, Elmer Kelton and Don Coldsmith, and I always like to tip my hat to Louis L’Amour. The closest thing I have to a mentor right now is my friendship with Jean Henry Mead. She is such a good example for me.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? I grew up in a town that was small at the time and became a metropolis that forgot its past. I always thought that was unfortunate. I lived there for over 50 years. Now I live in a very tiny wide-place-in-the-road in a pine forest on a mountain, which had a highway bypass a few years ago. It’s peaceful, but we get nervous during wildfire season. If I could live anywhere, it would be in this vicinity in a house with some room for a garden. If I had to move, perhaps I would find a place in a small town in Utah.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like?
For the most part, I write at my desktop, which sits in a corner on a horseshoe-shaped writing desk I bought years ago at a used-furniture store. You can see hardly any of the desk’s top, as I tend to cocoon myself amid papers, books, files, and maps. Above me are several shelves containing favorite books, including my Louis L’Amour collection. The wall ahead of me is a hodgepodge of papers hanging on a bulletin board. A calendar hangs on a nail. It’s always a cowboy or horse theme. A track light illuminates my desk and printers. A fluorescent fixture lights the rest of the room, which includes a bookcase stuffed full of research volumes, file boxes, office supplies, a utility cupboard, and my washer and dryer. If I listen to music, I find it on my computer or put a CD in one of the disk drives. I rarely write longhand anymore. Occasionally I’ll write at the library or a local coffee shop writers’ hangout (I only drink their excellent fruit smooties!) on either my laptop or my netbook.

Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing? I do watch a few television shows for recreation, but not usually for inspiration for my writing. My current favorites are “Deadliest Catch,” for its nitty-gritty edge-of-disaster feel; and “Castle,” which is about a mystery writer who teams up with a NYC police detective to solve crimes. I have a NetFlix subscription for accessing old movies and past TV series. I’m currently following “The Pretender.” I also have a large Western movie collection on DVDs. Those I do watch for writing inspiration and for getting into the feel of the Western period.

How has being published changed your life?
I’ve become acquainted with a lot more people who have read my books. It’s always a wonderful feeling to communicate with someone who admires what you have created.

What do you do to reach out to readers?
I have a website at and a blog at called “Writer in the Pines.” I update information about my work in progress on my blog, which many readers appreciate. I also post on two group blogs, ANWA Founder & Friends at and The Ink Ladies, at I have a popular Author Interview series on my blog, and participate in contests, giveaways, and book signings. I also take part in social media networks like Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter to communicate with readers and other writers. There’s a great immediacy in social networking that I find refreshing. However, I don’t pass up face-to-face opportunities to interact with people, such as giving talks to civic groups, and doing workshops and classes at conferences and retreats. I’m also available to talk to book clubs and other readers’ groups.

Thanks, Marsha!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for doing this interview, Kathi. It was great fun!




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