Q&A With Viola Shipman

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Q&A with Viola Shipman

Today I’m doing a Q&A with Wade Rouse who writes under the name Viola Shipman. Viola Shipman  is The USA Today and Internationally Bestselling author of 13 novels. Some of them are “The Secret of Snow: A Novel,” “The Clover Girls,” the recently released novel “The Edge of Summer” and the upcoming Christmas novel, “A Wish for Winter.” 


Q: So I read somewhere that your pen name Viola Shipman is inspired by your grandmother’s name? I think that is a very sweet way to honor her. I’m very close with my own grandmother. 


A: Thank you! Yes, I chose my grandmother’s name as a pen name for my fiction as a way to honor the working poor Ozarks seamstress whose sacrifices changed my family’s life and whose heirlooms and memories inspire my fiction. My grandma and grandpa (an ore miner) saved change – pennies, nickels, dimes – so that my mother would be the first in our family to go to college. After she died, I found her heirlooms boxed up in the attic – charm bracelets, quilts, recipe boxes – and I realized not only did these things tell the story of her life but also the story of many families lives. I also realized that she was never poor, she was the richest person I ever knew because she understood what mattered most in life. Choosing her name for my fiction is the smallest thank-you I can give to the woman who understood what matters most in life – the simplest of things and each other, as we’ve been reminded these past few years – and whose lessons are the foundation of every novel I write. My grandma used to say, “Life is as short as one blink of God’s eye, but we forget in that blink what matters most.” It’s my hope that in a hundred years, long after I’m gone, someone will walk into a bookstore or library, pick up a Viola Shipman novel, say her name – something she never dreamed – and perhaps asks a question of their elders, or reconnects with their family or history in some way, then my blink will have mattered. 

Q: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to become an author? 


A: The first is to overcome the fear that stops us from not only writing but also becoming our authentic selves. We are taught to fit in so often in this world, and, when we do, we lose our unique voice and gifts, the only things that we have going for us as souls and writers. What happens when we sit down to write for the first time? We think, “Oh, this will suck. I’ll never finish. This book will never sell. I’ll never earn a dime. There are so many better things I should be doing with my time: My real job, making dinner, mowing the yard, getting the kids to soccer practice.” And so we give up before we ever start. The only thing writers have going for us is that unique voice in our heads that talks to us. Writers all tell the same stories; it’s just how we bring them to life that separates us. So channeling your voice, having a unique voice when you sit down to write, is what matters most. Don’t copycat. Don’t write what you think will sell. Write what calls to you. And never, ever give up if you truly believe in your work. 


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?


A: Mind reader. I’ve actually turned down options on my work previously waiting for the right team who will love and care for my novels as much as my editor and publisher do. Let me say this for now: It’s getting very close. 

Q: Out of all your books if you had to choose, which ones were your favorites to write?


A: Books are like children. Each is special and has its own “birth” story. I will say that my debut novel, The Charm Bracelet, remains special because it was my first, took a long time to get right, moved me from nonfiction to fiction and was published across the world. I also loved writing The Summer Cottage because of its ties to my grandparents’ cottage and my grandma’s “summer cottage rules” as well as my first winter novel, The Secret of Snow, which was a new type of novel and deeply personal. 

Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you spoil what it’s about?


A: I have a new Christmas novel being published in November called A WISH FOR WINTER, and I’m currently writing next summer’s novel, tentatively titled THE VERY CHERRY GENERAL STORE OF GOOD HART (though that will surely change). 

A WISH FOR WINTER centers on a forty-year-old, small town bookseller named Susan, whose mother and grandmother both met their future husbands while he was dressed as Santa. Susan – along with her family, friends, employees and entire town – feels it’s her destiny (and curse) to do the same. She is coerced into entering a Santa Run in Chicago, where she has an instant connection with a man dressed as Santa while she’s dressed as Mrs. Claus. Before they can get each other’s names, or see each other’s faces, the race starts and they are torn apart. What follows is Susan and her friends’ hilarious and heartwarming search for the mystery Santa—covering twelve months of social media snafus (including the launch of a dating app behind her back entitled “The Single Kringle” that goes viral), authors behaving badly and dating fails—as well as a poignant look at family, friendship and what defines a well-lived and well-loved life. A WISH FOR WINTER has echoes of classic Hollywood love stories like Serendipity and An Affair to Remember, and it’s a winter charmer following the USA TODAY bestseller The Secret of Snow that is sure to tug on heartstrings and delight readers who love books about books, missed connections and the magic of Christmas.


In addition, my new summer novel is an intergenerational friendship story about an octogenarian who in 1958, at the age of 15, was the first woman to ever be crowned the 35thAnnual Cherry Pit Spittin’ Champion of Good Hart, Michigan, landing her in the Guinness Book of Records for establishing a record that has remained for sixty-five years. Cherry Mary was born, and she has remained in the same area, now running the Very Cherry General Store, part post office, sandwich shop and tiny grocery, that she took over from her mother and grandmother. Becky Thatcher (yes, like the Mark Twain character), an assistant elementary school principal in St. Louis, Missouri, has always played it safe, down to her longtime boyfriend. But when she thinks he’s going to ask her to marry her on the last day of school and doesn’t, she has a playground meltdown to rival those of the children she teaches. Becky vows to be more adventurous and sets out on a girls’ trip with her childhood best friend to have fun and heal in the resort town of Good Hart – set along the wondrous Tunnel of Trees in northern Michigan – the area she used to summer with her grandparents. When Becky learns she’s being sued by her ex for the big screen TV and outdoor furniture she purchased while he lived rent-free, she has one too many glasses of Chardonnay and enters the 100thAnnual Cherry Pit Spitting Championship, which the locals take very seriously. Not only does she win, but her pit flies a record-breaking distance that beats the century-old record. Becky thinks it’s all fun and games. Mary knows it’s destiny. As girls – decades apart – the two saw the same vision of four women walking on the horizon of Lake Michigan, a Michigan mirage known as “Fata Morgana.” But were the two – who have been long been hurt by the men in their lives – meant to meet?


A beautiful novel about an intergenerational friendship based on family heirlooms, Michigan lore and nostalgia, about what it means to believe in yourself, the importance of believing in dreams, how and why women judge each other, and whether you become the person you are meant to be because of family or in spite of them. 

Q: What were your favorite novels, you read this year so far?


A: With three books out this year (including my new memoir, MAGIC SEASON) and two more due, I, unfortunately, haven’t had the reading time I so love and enjoy. However, my favorites so far this year have included THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP by Susan Mallery and CRYING IN H MART by Michelle Zauner.

Q: What advice do you have for anyone who struggles with writers block or lack of inspiration?


A: Sit down and write. Not very magical advice, I know, but it’s the truth. It’s what I call simply putting your rear in the seat. I never have writer’s block. In fact, I can barely contain all of the ideas I have for new novels and memoirs. But I do have days where I’m exhausted and produce very little good work. Writing is not magical. It is hard work. Inspiration doesn’t just strike like lightning, and a muse doesn’t land on your shoulder. Sometimes it’s just like any other job. You have to show up, even when you are tired or aren’t feeling particularly inspired. Sometimes, you get a few terrible paragraphs, some days you get a ten magical pages, but it comes through hard work. Much of it is cumulative, like the first time I ran a marathon. I didn’t think I could run 26.2 miles much less ten. But you run five and think, “I can do this.” Same in writing: You start with a blank page, but once you get five, ten, fifty pages, you begin to see the progress, the effort, and you think, “Now I have something to work with,” rather than just having it be some mirage of “wanting to write.”  


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