Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Author Interview: Karen Schwind

Let's learn a little about Karen Schwind, author of Her Life As She Knew It, just $1.99 on Amazon!

On all eBook Readers for $1.99 or on Smashwords for only $1.00 with code

Links and code at end of interview

Jennifer Walker: Why write about the year 1919? What about that year would interest our readers?

Karen Schwind: The year 1919 introduced the most fascinating period in American history to me. The Great War, which we now call World War I, had just ended. WWI was the first war since the Civil War in which Americans had been drafted, so that and the technological advances of the war completely changed America from being a rural, community-oriented nation to the more urban, mobile society we now take for granted. Of course, all of the changes didn’t occur at once; nevertheless, the mind set that led to them began around this time. To give one example, in 1918 almost all women had long hair. By the end of the twenties, 90% of them had “bobbed” hair! That represents not only a change in hair style but in social mores as well. Ads showed women smoking for the first time, and many of the men who fought in the war went to the cities instead of home to the country, so you had a mass migration. All of this makes its way into Her Life as She Knew It.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your protagonist. What will readers like about her?

Karen Schwind: Well, I like her because she’s saucy and quick witted. At one point, she says, quite correctly I think, that most people would rather sit on the front porch gossiping about their neighbors than discussing the Apostle Paul any day. She launches herself into the world and goes after what she wants, which I think most people like—she’s not one to sit around and whine.

She also loves her family and takes good care of her younger siblings. In the end—and this is important—we find that she’s willing to do the right thing when she sees what the right thing to do is. She’s no sugar-coated, goody-two shoes. She’s too real for that. But she’s essentially right-hearted and right-headed and because of that learns from her adventures.

Jennifer Walker: You mention the father/daughter relationship. How important is that to the theme of Her Life as She Knew It?

Karen Schwind: More important than I realized when I wrote Her Life. I’ve had readers refer to Caroline’s father as the hero and even imply that he’s the center of the novel. I don’t agree with either of those—he makes mistakes like any father—but he does provide a living example of the principles that Caroline sees are the ones she should live by, mainly Christian principles like love and compassion.

Jennifer Walker: What is specifically Christian about this novel? How does that make it different from the same story told from a non-Christian point of view?

Karen Schwind: First, let me say that I wasn’t trying to write a “Christian” novel when I wrote this and it doesn’t adhere to any association’s standards. People smoke because the men who returned from the war had gotten cigarettes in their rations and smoked when they came home, and people dance because dancing was an important part of the culture when people didn’t have radios, let alone television sets. I would say it’s a Christian novel because it embodies the most important values of the Bible, namely forgiving and loving your enemies and those who have hurt you.

Jennifer Walker: Some people don't like your portrayal of Caroline's mother. How do you respond to those readers?

Karen Schwind: The father used to be seen as the primary parent because people perceived him as being the better disciplinarian at a time when teaching right from wrong was a parent’s most important responsibility. Part of the self-esteem/happiness movement that began in the 1950s has been that we look more to the mother to provide those things and so families have become more mother-centric. In addition, historically, when we became a commercial nation rather than agricultural, which happened in the 1920s, fathers left the home and for the first time didn’t either work with their older children or have easy access to all the children every day. This was not only a major shift for our economy but changed the family in ways that I don’t think we’ve given enough thought to.

Because of our view of mothers being the center and often the leader of the family, we’ve built this kind of myth around them: they can do all things for all people and still look great at dinner. That puts a lot of pressure on men and women, but it’s also a false image. I guess to go back to another question, I would say that my being a Christian puts to rest for me the idea that any one of us can be perfect. We’re all fallen and all make mistakes; hence the need for Grace and forgiveness, mothers included. Caroline’s mother hurt her. Caroline has to learn to forgive her mother and stop using what happened as an excuse for her own behavior—not that the novel states this explicitly.

Jennifer Walker: Why did Caroline let Jenny persuade her to treat other girls so badly—ostracizing one girl, bossing the children at school around, deciding who's in and who's out?

Karen Schwind: Peer pressure has always and will always exist. Most of us would rather be on the top than the bottom. Also, Caroline’s mother put a lot of pressure on Caroline to be friends with children from the “best” families because the mother had grown up in one of the best families in Charleston, SC, an old Southern city. So Caroline felt the natural pressure we all feel to fit it and be popular, and she wanted to make her mother happy.

Jennifer Walker: What is the main theme of this novel and how would our readers change if they focused their lives on that theme?

Karen Schwind: The novel has a couple of themes. One influence on my writing is Southern Agrarianism or Jeffersonian Agrarianism, if you prefer. It’s the idea that people who are close to the land or who live in communities where they know everyone are more likely to live virtuous lives and to care about their town and the people in it. Wendell Berry is a modern agrarian. Part of Caroline’s—and Billy’s for that matter—struggle is whether to stay in Greensboro or join the great trek to New York City. Caroline has to decide for herself, as all people eventually do, what she believes and how she wants to live her life.

The greater theme, though, is love. Not romantic love. In fact, this theme is tied directly to the first because love must encompass more than one person. People who think the idea that love conquers all is hokey have never experienced a kind of absolute love, which in Biblical terms is represented by the Christ. We can’t attain that. Yet the closer we come to being sacrificial towards our family and community and even our enemies, the better the world becomes because we create the world we live in every time we choose to love or not.

Jennifer Walker: Some people are surprised at how funny your novel is. What kind of humor is in it?

Karen Schwind: The humor tends to be broad—not subtle at all, not sarcastic. Caroline tells the story when she’s older—I’m not sure how old—but she’s only 19 when the story takes place. Like most of us at 19, she had some silly ideas and throws herself into things in a way that an older woman probably never would, like the trip to New York City to march for prohibition when all she really wants to do is shop at Macy’s. One thing I will say is that, though she can be silly, some of her arguments turn out to be valid in the long run, and she has real insights that Billy and others lack. Readers shouldn’t dismiss some of her comic moments.

Jennifer Walker: Where can readers buy this eBook?

Karen Schwind: Her Life as She Knew It is an eBook, so readers can download it onto their eReaders—any of them—or download it onto their computers. Best of all, if they go to Smashwords, they can get it for only $1.00 until the end of May—the link is below!

Available for Kindle on http://amzn.to/gjYd73 $1.99

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/dHUnFi, coupon code we52m until the end of May

Blog: http://skoobpress.blogspot.com/

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