23 February 2012

Getting to know you Thursday with Carolyn Williford

Today we welcome Carolyn Williford to my blog. Carolyn wrote one of my top ten books of 2011.

1.     Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Ohio in the States in 1953, met and married my husband while in college, and graduated with a degree in English for Secondary Education in 1975. I had planned to teach for a few years, but had a baby boy later that same year we graduated, and then another little guy followed in 1978. I was mostly a stay-at-home mom for many years, but I also taught various classes and seminars along the way, including Freshman English part-time at a college, and marriage, family and spiritual formation topics at churches, conferences and retreats. And I ALWAYS had my nose in a book! No matter how busy, I always found the time to read fiction, and often I would be reading non-fiction and fiction at the same time. When people ask me, "How do you have time to read?" I respond, "If I'm breathing, I'm reading a book!" I also enjoy spending time with my husband Craig and my family (4 wonderful grandchildren), fellowshipping with dear friends, bird watching, biking, swimming, hiking the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and being creative in some way - whether through writing a book, decorating my home or some other artistic expression.

2. When you were a child did you have a favorite book or books?
That's easy: A Wrinkle in Time. I'll never forget how I listened spellbound to my 5th grade teacher read it out loud, teasing us with only a chapter a day. What a wonderful adventure, and I could picture every scene so clearly in my mind.  We had a program where you could order paperback books (so inexpensive that they were very affordable) every week, and I would delightedly check off at least 5 books every week - and then couldn't wait for them to arrive....to dig in! (Jenny Here we had something similar but it was monthly, we had catalogues we could order out of and the books were affordable. I got lots of great books that way too.)
3. Do you have a favorite genre to both read and write?
I don't think I do; instead, I enjoy reading all different types, taking in the creativity different genres offer. One week I may be reading futuristic young adult (Hunger Games) and then the next, a historical novel - or even biography, like the We Two (story of Queen Victoria) I'm currently reading. And then I'll skip to allegory, since I'm currently working on one that I'm trying to sell.
4. Did you have favorite authors growing up who have influenced you?

As stated earlier, certainly Madeleine L'Engle (and countless other books of hers that I "absorbed"!) had a huge impact, as did Johanna Spyri (Heidi); Eric Knight (Lassie Come Home); Anna Sewell (Black Beauty); Laura Lee Hope (The Bobbsey Twins); Louisa May Alcott (Little Women, and many others); Margaret Sidney (Five Little Peppers); the Bronte's, Dickens....goodness, I could go on & on.  Recently I put my childhood books onto a bookshelf, and they are like treasured friends to me.  How I hope my granddaughter will read these classics one day!
5. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I fell in love with books the moment I learned to read. That love affair continued until I read my very first novel and then....well, I think I must've always wanted to write my "very own story" too.
6. How did you go about becoming an author?
Since I was an English major in college, I'd taken some creative writing classes. But I also kept a journal through the years....and wrote poems. So I guess all that was practice along the way. I think it was L'Engle who said, "If you want to be a good writer, read good books." So I have read and re-read the classics (books like Wuthering Heights and Madame Bovary and Les Miserables - at least 3 times each) and I constantly search the best seller lists and book reviews, trying to stay up with the latest new reads.

I wrote my first book proposal (it was non-fiction on family activities) because I had been teaching the material and people were asking me if it were written down; a sequel followed that before I began my first novel.  The idea for Jordan's Bend came from a combination of life experiences: what I felt God was teaching me at the time about his will and painful circumstances and the Watts Bar Dam where we lived near Chattanooga, Tennessee. At first, I only knew the basics of the dam’s history: that people once lived at the bottom of that huge lake created by the dam, and that they were forced to move because the dam would be built (by the Tennessee Valley Authority, a government organization to put people back to work during the depression of the 1930's), forever flooding the rich farm land they had lived on for generations.
7. If not a writer, what would you like to be?
A reviewer of books. I can't imagine being paid to read all day long :O)
8. Outside of reading and writing, what do you like to do?
As I said earlier, I so value relationships: with my God, my husband, my family and my precious friends. So I invest time in them all, nurturing those relationships the best I can. I also am someone who likes to be active, so I swim laps 3 times a week at a fitness center, and I lift weights and walk (with my energetic yellow lab, Maddy) at least twice a week. If it snows here in the winter (we are currently living in the Chicago area where my husband is president of Trinity International University), we love to snowshoe. In the summer, we travel back to beautiful Colorado to hike up in the mountains and bike the many trails out there. I love to get to the top of a mountain; the feeling of that accomplishment is like no other. It truly is a "Rocky Mountain high"!
9. Do you have a place you love to visit or would love to visit?
I just talked about Colorado and my husband's and my love for the mountains out there; it's also where my 4 grandchildren live, so that's another big draw for us. And once a year we try to get to a beach setting too as I love the soothing sound of the waves hitting the shore.  But we also love traveling to discover and explore countries around the world. Some of the places I've visited and loved have been Hong Kong and China, South Korea, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. I want to someday explore more of China and Italy, and I'd also love to visit your country—Australia, and New Zealand too. But I do appreciate the States and what they have to offer....and want to see more in California, Maine, the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, Utah, Montana. (I want to go to New Zealand one day also.)
10. If you could have a meal with 3 living people, who would you choose and why?

*Dr. Billy Graham - I have actually had the privilege of meeting this godly man, but I would love the opportunity to just pick his brain, asking him about his life and all the many incredible adventures he's been on. I would ask him to describe what he's learned about God, his greatest joys, biggest challenges, foremost accomplishments, last regrets, favorite memories and whom he most enjoyed meeting.

*Mary Doria Russell - Her books, The Sparrow and its sequel, Children of God, are two of the most impactful books I have ever read. She writes with such mastery of character development, story progression, research and most of all passion, that her stories will stay in a special place in my heart forever. She changed me through her writing. I can't imagine better writing than those two books exhibit, and so I would just love to learn from her.

*I always tell my husband that if I had only one person I could choose to have with me on a deserted island, it would be him, definitely!  He's my best friend.  But since I get to have meals with him all the time, I'm going to choose my son, Jay: He's a Senior Deputy District Attorney, and is always in the middle of or preparing for an interesting case. Since we plan on writing a crime/trial novel together sometime in the future, I would love to have dedicated time to brainstorm with him, coming up with possible plots and characters. And besides....I sure do love him, he's a wonderful friend, and he makes me laugh! :O)
My website is:
Here are a few of Carolyn's books.

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