Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Q&A with Adele Holmes


Photo by Lori Sparkman Photography



Adele Holmes is the author of the new novel Winter's Reckoning. A retired pediatrician, she is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Q: What inspired you to write Winter’s Reckoning, and how did you create your character Maddie?


A: The inspiration to write Winter’s Reckoning originally came from two places: my desire to simply write and a tug on my heartstrings to pass on to my descendants what I’d learned from my ancestors, specifically through my grandmother.


It was in the image of my grandmother that Maddie was formed. Of course, once Maddie appeared on the page she became her own person with her own character flaws. While my grandmother was not much like Maddie in many ways, Maddie’s essence is truly and thoroughly the grandmother that taught me about life. It is this essence that I want my descendants, and all the world, to remember.


I might add here that many think that either Maddie or Hannah (the granddaughter) must be representative of me. Neither are. I personally exist in the etherland somewhere between the two—though definitely not the daughter, Jane.


Q: A review of the book in Chanticleer Book Reviews said, “Simply put, here’s a story that takes on issues whose harm remains with us today.” What do you think of that description?


A: My answer to this is a definitive, “Hurrah!”


As the story unfolded, our world became a much more divisive and hateful place. The issues Maddie tackled—racial discrimination, women’s rights, educational regression—are very real still today.


A theme of the story is showing how ugly our past as a nation has been at times, to help us see where we are now, and to spur readers to desire a better future. To cease the repetition of the sins of our past.


Q: Did you need to do much research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: Yes, I did tons of research. Before the pandemic, I was able to attend conferences—both medical and literary—where I honed in on information about herbalist healing. Being a physician, I knew about the disease processes, but I’d never paid much attention to the alternative medical healing practices such as herbalism, which was about all they had in the early 20th century.


Herbalism led me to exploring long past healing crafts: those of Native Americans, early Scandinavian, and medieval times. So, pre-pandemic I did a lot of physical backstory research. I was able to actually travel to learn.


During the pandemic, research entailed mostly online learning. I enjoyed tracking down copies of old of-the-time books (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the original World Books, Wells’s and Chopin’s novels, all of which were referenced in Winter’s Reckoning), learning about the newspaper business and linotype operations, and sadly, the history of the Ku Klux Klan.


There’s always so much to learn about a specific time period, and I find all of it fascinating.


Q: How has your background as a physician informed your writing?


A: The story of healing is paramount in this novel, and will continue in future works. They say “write what you know.” I’m not sure that’s a mandate, but if you love what you already know how to do, it’s such a pleasure to write about it. I’m not sure I could completely convey the crux of the illnesses I describe if I didn’t understand them to begin with.


Still, it’s fun to learn new things—like alternative methods of treating disease, ways that may have been used in the distant past, etc.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am so excited that I literally don’t know which way to go. Before Winter’s Reckoning I started on a novel that has a fictional medical mystery storyline. While researching backstory, I fell in love with Maddie’s tale and so put that first one aside to write Winter’s Reckoning as a debut instead.


Then, wouldn’t you know it, I fell in love with the backstory to Winter’s Reckoning.


I have started a prequel which tells the stories of four of the foremothers/ancestors to Maddie’s line. One each in early Norway (did you know there were witch trials in Bergen in the 1500s?!), Prague, France, and New England (again, witch trials). All places I travelled to gain insight.


So there you have it, a prequel/backstory and a sequel that ties it all up with a (fictional) scientific explanation for an inherited “gift” that ran through generations of women for centuries. I can’t say much about that without giving it away, but I can tell you it makes me tingle with anticipation.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My mantra is that if everyone would do what they loved doing, perhaps you could say what they were gifted with, then the world would flow right as rain. 


I loved my pediatric medical practice, I love to write to express my soul, I truly want to do my part to make this world a little better. Hopefully this book, and its prequel and sequel, will do that.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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