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Friday, February 28, 2014

Author Interview: James Markert, A White Wind Blew

Hi everyone! I am embarking on some new things here on Sassy Peach Reads, one of which includes author interviews. My first is with James Markert, author of A White Wind Blew.

I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to ask James Markert, author of the novel A White Wind Blew, and I jumped at the opportunity. I posted about the book not quite a month ago, and I was very taken by the beauty of the story and the characters. I was honored to ask James about his work, what inspired him, and specifically about Waverly Hills.

My first question is, what was your process in selecting this style of writing?
I actually think this style of writing chose me.  Up until A White Wind Blew, all of my fiction was more thriller/suspense, with some comedy as far as screenplays go.  But when a story comes to me I run with it, and this one had me leaning more toward historical drama.  I’m also a big John Irving fan, and I love how he takes his characters from childhood to develop them, so that we see many of the situations that make them the adults they become.  I wanted to do this as well, mostly with Wolfgang and Rose, and I thought it best to do it through periodic flashbacks throughout, bits and pieces at a time.  I think, years ago, once I stopped trying to write like other people and instead decided to write like myself, that is when I started to have success.

I was also very taken with the setting, and I know in blurbs about the book it is mentioned that you visited the Waverly Hills and found inspiration there. Can you speak to this inspiration, and what you felt most attracted you to tell a story set here? Was it there that the outline of the story came to you, or was it developed over time as you felt the initial crop up and sat down to flesh it out?
I grew up not too far away from Waverly Hills and was always intrigued because of its reputation as a haunted building.  The stories of ghosts drew me in, and I’d always planned on writing something scary that takes place there.  But when I visited, I was really taken in by the massive size of the building, the brilliant architecture, and the overall historical grandeur of the time when the disease was most rampant. I stood on the fourth floor solarium porch and watched the trees sway in the wind, and listened, and thought, “What if this place is haunted?  What if I am surrounded by ghosts?  What’s their story?”  I imagined the sound of a violin at that point, and then a piano and orchestra and a doctor to lead them.  The people who fought for survival deserved to have their story told.  I became more intrigued by the possible flesh and blood inhabitants than the ghosts.  The story came to me fast, so I wrote the screenplay first and used it as an outline for the first draft of the novel.  Ten drafts later we have A White Wind Blew. Now, after I finish my next book, I plan on rewriting that original screenplay to match the current story of the novel.  It always had a very cinematic feel for me, especially with the music.

Wolfgang was also a very interesting character, a man who abandoned his first love for his greatest, if you will, then when he lost his greatest love was so broken that he saw no other way to live than to go back into the priesthood. Did you ever consider another outlet for Wolfgang other than the priesthood? I believe that the need for his expertise forced the alternative of medicine on him, but I would love for you to speak to this particular choice and what inspired you to follow in this vein.
Originally, Wolfgang was just a doctor, but then when I started battling with his questions of faith, I thought, how could I really ratchet up that inner turmoil for him?  And then it donned on me: I’d make him a priest, and then that would complicate his emotions with Susannah as well.  So Wolfgang became a priest.  But then, near the end, before my agent sold the book, he suggested another slant: What if Wolf gang was not yet a priest, but in training to be one? At first I was skeptical, but once I dug into it I liked it better.  The patients called him Father because they assumed he was a priest.  Wolfgang here’s confessions from them because there is no one else on the hillside to fill that job.  So this causes him turmoil as well because he’s beginning to perform priestly duties out of need despite the fact that he’s not yet a priest, since his studies were interrupted by Rose and the epidemic.

Once again, a huge "thank you" to James for taking the time to explore the themes of his novel! I appreciate your time and effort, and thank you as well for the book. 

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