Where Willows Grow, softcoverWhere Willows Grow, softcover
Kim Vogel Sawyer

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In 1936 Spencer, Kansas, Anna Mae Phipps is struggling with the Depression, the drought, and a husband whose actions she can't understand. When Anna finds out that she is pregnant with their third child, her husband announces that he is leaving to build a castle.in Kansas. After days go by with no word from either one of them, each wonder if this is the beginning of the end of their marriage. Can their love conquer all, or is something else working to destroy their relationship? "Where Willows Grow" is a story that takes readers on a journey of struggles caused by lack and the promise of what hope, endurance, and love can bring. Kim Vogel Sawyer, softcover, 348 pages.

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How did you come up with the concept for Where Willows Grow?

This is actually a project that chose me rather than the other way around. I attended our chuch's annual hayrack ride and bonfire in 2004. The hayrack ride took us past an abandoned farmhouse, and I got a "zing" of awareness--I knew a story was there. Over the next hours, characters began making themselves known to me, and in a few days the story had come to life.

Is any part of Where Willows Grow factual?

Yes, actually, there are several "factual" elements in this story. During this time period in Kansas, there was an oil boom and an earthquake--quite unusual! The Coronado Heights castle was truly built by WPA workers, and it still exists if readers would like to visit it. Of course, the Depression was very real! The characters, their town (Spencer), and the situation, however, is pure imagination.

How closely is this Where Willows Grow based on your life?

Well, probably not very much when it comes to setting. I've never been a farm girl, much to my chagrin, but I've faced a similar situation as Anna Mae--my husband having to be gone for extended periods of time (due to military travel), so I think I understood her angst as she watched Harley walk down the road away from their home.

How long did Where Willows Grow take you to complete?

The writing of this story probably took three months including the editing.

Do you have a favorite character? Why?

The secondary characters in this story really endeared themselves to me. You'll meet Dirk Farley, a man whose childlike faith and determination to walk as Jesus walked creates life-impacting changes in those he encounters. Then I dare you not to wish Ern Berkley was your own grandfather--he's such a wise, tender counselor and friend. Of course, Anna Mae, Harley, and their five-year-old Dorothy are pretty special, too.

How much research did Where Willows Grow take?

Basically I just researched the area and current events for that time, so it took less than some other historical stories. I was fortunate to communicate with Harvey Kohr, the son of the Coronado Heights Castle's project foreman. He really helped me "see" the project site.

Is this going to be a series?

No, Where Willows Grow is a stand-alone story.


Do you prefer to write historical or contemporary fiction?

From the time I was a little girl, I've loved historicals. I never imagined writing anything except historicals. However, recently, God has been planting contemporary stories in my heart, too, and I've grown quite attached to some of the characters. Although my first love is still historical, I'm open to writing whatever God leads me to write, because I'm sure He has a purpose in every story.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

The solitude of writing can be hard sometimes. I miss being around people. Writing has always been my hobby--something I did for fun--so it can be a struggle to make the shift from "for fun" to "for work." I'm extremely privileged to be living out my childhood dream of being a full-time writer, and I praise God for it, but every "job" has its challenges. Writing is no different. There's a lot of juggling!

Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

Watch for an orphan-train story from Bethany House. I've tentatively titled it Ties to Home, but that's subject to change. Also, I'm working on the sequel to my first Bethany House historical, Waiting for Summer's Return, and it's exciting to revisit those dear characters and see the new story take shape. Also, look for the Sommerfeld Trilogy, a series set in a contemporary Old Order Mennonite community. Bygones should appear on bookshelves in March of 2007.

What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer?

I would give a writer the same advice I gave my fifth grade students--read, read, read! The more you read, the better your grasp of punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure becomes. Especially for someone trying to break into the fiction market, you need to be familiar with what is available, which publishers publish what kinds of work (from sweet to edgy to everything inbetween), and what has been done enough so your story is unique. Also attend writer's conferences whenever you can to meet with other writers and get to know editors and people in the world of publishing. Those connections are invaluable. And of course pray. Pray a lot. If this is God's call on your heart, you need to stay in tune with how He wants you to use your writing. So call upon Him, and listen to Him.

What message would you like your readers to take away from Where Willows Grow?

Life isn't always easy. Hardships--sometimes not of our own making--create a rocky pathway. But when we tap into the Source of strength, we are able to face those hardships and emerge triumphant. I'm so glad God doesn't leave us floundering alone!


What is your goal or mission as a writer?

My goal is to show the hope we can all possess when we place our lives in God's very capable hands. This world is temporary, but our relationship with Him is eternal, so that's where our main focus should be.


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