Ora is an artist, genealogist, seamstress, lover of a good book, traveler, antiquer, upcycler, and history buff. She’s one of those people who always has a project she’s excited about. Although she’s lived in Arizona since 1986, she spent her early life in Lake Tahoe, California, where her passion to write blossomed on a tranquil riverbank with a beautiful backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
She recently received her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She writes both children’s books and historical fiction. She placed first in a short-story writing contest sponsored by Writers Unite to Fight Cancer in partnership with the Virginia G. Piper Creative Writing Center at Arizona State University. Her historical novel, White Oak River, won first place in the 2017 Phoenix Rattler Contest sponsored by Christian Writers of the West (an ACFW affiliate).
Ora’s been a wife and mother for more than thirty-eight years, raising four sons and one daughter. She has the three cutest grandchildren in existence with a fourth on the way.
For more than twenty years, Ora’s taught family history research at conferences and to individuals. Read an article she wrote for the online magazine, Almost an Author, about “Using Ancestor’s Stories in Fiction.”
As a mother, genealogist, artist, and faithful follower of Jesus Christ, Ora blends her understanding and unique skills to create faith inspired stories that she hopes will give others an added testimony of God’s goodness.
How did you get started writing?
Even though as a child I dreamed of being a writer, in undergraduate school I initially majored in Clothing and Textiles. I had (and still have!) a great love for costumes and watching movies with great historical clothing. I’ll watch a bad movie if it’s got good costumes. Once I was married and had children, the dream of both writing and researching my family kept persisting but I feared I’d ignore my children if I delved into these interests. After they went to bed, I’d do research into the wee hours of the night and eventually started taking research trips to North Carolina one time a year for about six of seven years. In all, I spent twelve years slowly researching my first book, White Oak River, a novel about my ancestors who gave away a child. (It will not be the first published, however.) After my five children graduated from high school, I went back to school for a Master of Art in Creative Writing.
What is your writing process?
I can hardly go a day without writing. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about what I will write or doing research for an upcoming book. I have a wonderfully comfortable recliner that adjusts for my bad back and a desk that swings in front of me with my laptop on it. I can and do sit in that chair for hours a day. My son bought me a Fitbit to vibrate when I sit too long.
Do you do anything other than writing?
I love to create. I am an artist and sometimes find time to paint, mostly with oils. I’d love to learn watercolor. I have traveled for two art workshops, one to Ireland, the other to Door County, Wisconsin, and I thoroughly enjoyed both. Fingers crossed that I get to do another to France in 2021.
Babysitting grandchildren is one of my favorite activities these days.
I also love to travel.
I still go to movies to check out the costumes.
Eating good food is perhaps too high on the list of things I like to do.
How long does it take you to write a book?
As I mentioned, White Oak River was the first and took twelve years. The second, Unacknowledged, was written in a year because it was my master’s thesis and had a timeline. The third was my children’s picture book, and although I wrote it in a few months, the paintings took about a year. I wrote it for my grandchildren and it was kind of a fluke that it got published. My fourth was another historical novel, The Pulse of His Soul, which will be my second released and took me a little over a year to research and write, and then another year to revise and learn how to market. I had come up with its concept about eight years before, however. I get caught up in research and can spend days on one topic.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m a slow writer. I plot and outline and dream and educate myself along the way. I use an old (free!) program called YWriter where I keep all my notes on what I think I want my chapters to be about. I thoroughly research and imaginatively develop my characters and write long sketches about their personalities and what experiences shaped them to become who they were/are. Sometimes I paint their portraits.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Family history for my novels and my Christian faith for my children’s books. I’ve never had writers block and I have a long list of books I want to write.
What does your family think of your writing?
None of my four sons have an interest in historical fiction. I think (hope!) they enjoyed the picture book because I used their children in it as my models. They all love SciFi, which I like too. I like most all genres, however, I read historical fiction and memoir the most. My husband thinks of my writing as my hobby. My daughter is supportive and encouraging with all my endeavors and I love her for it! My siblings and mother are supportive. Most are advance readers of my books and have had helpful suggestions. I have two brothers who also write. My (now deceased) father taught middle-grade history and English. Both of my parents loved history and took us eight children across the USA numerous times during my father’s summer breaks. We stopped at every historical marker. I have been to 48 states, most multiple times. I have a deep love for America and its people. *Maine and Alaska—I’ll see you two one of these days.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That all books are hard to sell. Even really good ones. Publishing with the traditional market is almost impossible for the majority of writers. Also surprising is how much marketing goes into selling a book whether published traditionally or not.
What do you think makes a good story?
An author who is determined to make it a good story. You need interesting characters, setting, and conflict in the plot—all that good stuff. My stories are strong in character development. Not just in how I create them, but how they grow throughout the novel. Since most are based off my ancestors, I try my hardest to understand them and look at them with respect, as real people should be considered.
What are your greatest desires for your writing career?
I wish I could meet every person that reads my books and sit down to have a good, long conversation. I love getting to know people. I’m writing for them. I’m also writing for God because in all my books I want people to feel Him and know his true nature of love. I want there to always be hope that no matter how hard the road, there will be peace and joy at the end and a Father who loves us.