Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Roses and surfing? Interview with Author Tina Ann Forkner

A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting and one woman’s search for hope.

Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

A captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.
Tina Ann Forkner is the author of the novels Ruby Among Us and Rose House (Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House). Her debut novel, Ruby Among Us, was chosen as a book club selection for Books-a-Million and her second novel, Rose House, was described by as “a lovely rendering of working through grief and learning to live fully again, despite the abiding wounds of loss.”

Tina has a passion for libraries and has served on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board of Directors in Cheyenne, Wyoming for five years and is currently serving in the role of Immediate Past President. Tina has been a featured author at the Crested Butte Writing Conference in Colorado and presented at writing conferences for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Front Range Fiction Writers, the Wyoming Book Festival, and her local library. She speaks to public schools, women’s groups, and book clubs about the writing journey, blended families, and themes related to her novels.   

Tina is also a poet and her work has appeared under the pen name Tina Linde in the Sacramento Poetry Center’s literary journal, Poetry Now, and previously in various small literary journals. She graduated with honors from CSU Sacramento in 1998 with a B.A. in English and an emphasis on creative writing.

In addition to creative writing, Tina is a freelance writer and her stories and essays have appeared in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and the gospel music print publication, Homecoming Magazine, among others.

Tina grew up in Oklahoma before moving to England and eventually to Sacramento. After attending college, Tina moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming where she now lives with her husband, three bright children, and two loveable dogs. She loves to travel, cook, and garden. Her novels center around family relationships, the ties that break and bind, and the hope that makes the unimaginable bearable.
For more information about Tina Ann, visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook or Pinterest. To find out more about Rose House, click here.
Ten Questions with Tina Ann Forkner

What should readers know about your latest release? Does it differ from your past books, offer a new perspective on a familiar topic, or shed light on a unique situation?
I have found that a lot of people still haven’t heard about my second novel, ROSE HOUSE, so I’m thrilled to share more about it with readers of Pens on a World Map. As for how it differs from my debut novel, RUBY AMONG US, which was about intergenerational relationships between mothers, grandmothers, and granddaughters, this novel, set in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, deals with friendship and sisterhood and even has a touch of mystery and romance to spice it up just a bit.

Let’s be honest, what is an adventure without a little romance to go with it? On the serious side, ROSE HOUSE also deals with grief and regret. We all have regrets and must move on, and sometimes packing our bags and traveling to a new place can help us do that.
What was the main inspiration for the new book? Had the idea been on your mind for a while or just popped into it one day?

The idea for ROSE HOUSE had definitely been on my mind for awhile. After RUBY AMONG US, I knew people would want to know what else happened to Kitty and the other characters, but I also wanted to explore some brand new characters and a completely different story. I asked myself how my characters could be connected to the rose house itself, which was a house covered in roses from my first novel, and still have their own story in a standalone novel.

The solution came with an attractive and adventuresome artist, named Truman, who unwittingly observes Lillian during a secret moment as she spills out her grief in front of the ROSE HOUSE. Lillian has spontaneously packed her bags and traveled to La Rosaleda where she hopes she will be able to feel safe and put tragedy behind her, but what follows is a string of misunderstandings, serendipitous events and accidents that help her deal with her past. Readers of my first novel can also revisit the fictional town of La Rosaleda, as well as the adorable and eccentric Kitty.
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?

Hope. I want to write stories that challenge and inspire our preconceived ideas about people, faith, and life. I want my readers to turn the last page and feel glad for having traveled the road with my characters and to feel more hopeful about their own lives and circumstances.

How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
When I travel I take lots of pictures and collect magazines, newspapers, and take notes, but mostly I just absorb. All of it comes out later in my stories, although I almost always fictionalize it in order to capture all of the best elements of where I have been.

Both of my novels are based on the Sonoma Valley where I’ve traveled extensively over the years. The fictional town of La Rosaleda, which means rose garden, is modeled after a smaller and quainter Sonoma. I lived in Sacramento for five years and during that time visited some friends and relatives in Santa Rosa just about every other weekend. In order to get there you have to drive through wine country and I fell in love with the beauty and lifestyle of the area.
The people in the Sonoma Valley are so gracious and friendly. They don’t just love the wine produced in the area, but their love of the land, food, and art is apparent on just about every corner. I wanted to capture the area’s vibe in my new novel, so when I was ready to write ROSE HOUSE, I went back to the Sonoma Valley with my husband and on to Bodega Bay, which is also captured in a smaller way in the novel.

It was still as beautiful as I remembered, but being a little bit older this time around (not telling you my age!), I could afford some finer dining and good wine, and that experience came out in my novel as my main character’s passion for cooking.

Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?

Back when I first started this journey as a published author, I had a different answer, but this time I have to say my husband. He is the one that let me choose the vacation back to the Sonoma Valley instead of somewhere else and he is the one who keeps calling me a writer no matter how long I go between books.

What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
Probably the need to be out doing interviews and blog posts. As a fiction author, we are encouraged to build a platform although technically we don’t really have platforms, unless you count lying to people for a living! All of that aside, I did jump right on the blogging and social networking thing as soon as I had a contract even though it didn’t feel very natural to me at the time.

Over the years I’m learning to adapt and be more authentic with my readers. I enjoy getting to know them, but I want to be honest and not just do something to push my books to readers. I of course want readers to buy my books, but more importantly I want them to be interested in doing so.
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?

Not to take myself so seriously. I would tell myself to take it easy, don’t be so nervous, and most importantly, just be yourself.

Now to have some fun with travel…

What’s your favorite place you have visited?
Switzerland, hands down. I’ve been twice back in the nineties. Once was on a more corporate trip during which everything was scheduled and you’d better not be thirty seconds late or the bus would leave you at the foot of Mount Titlis, but the second time was best. I went to Lauterbrunen with a small group of Christian friends I lived near in England (I lived in the UK for three years at an Air Force base in my past life, but that’s another story!).

We all stayed in a youth hostel, which was really a loft in a barn. I am not kidding. It had running water and a stove, everything we needed and we literally took Peanut Butter and Jelly we bought in the UK all the way to Switzerland to save money. In the mornings we awoke to the clanging bells that hung around the necks of cattle as they were leisurely driven out to pasture at the foot of the mountains. We didn’t need anything fancy. We cooked our own food and walked everywhere. We didn’t even miss the luxuries of a fancy hotel at all.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?

I would love to go back to Lanai, Hawaii. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a tiny little island that used to produce pineapples for Dole. It has a couple of luxury resorts, but they really don’t ruin the beauty of the island at all. If anything, they provide jobs for local residents. The best part is getting away from the resorts and into the village to peruse local art, shops, and eat at their tasty diners.
My husband and I were on our honeymoon during an off season and were invited to attend a local luau held at the resort where we were staying. It wasn’t the coconut and grass skirt variety and seeing the older women in the community dancing in modest traditional outfits to tell the island’s story to the younger generation was amazing.

And my husband really got a kick out of all the little kids running around calling him uncle, which is apparently a sign of respect to adult men. The island has since been bought and so I don’t know if it would be the same as it used to be.

And now a fun tidbit—if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?
Of course it would be an island that only writers could live on. We would naturally call it Writer’s Gap after the Gap Year, which Wikipedia defines as “…time out to travel between life stages.” You would have to get there by boat and you couldn’t leave until you had written a full novel, but in your spare time there would be massages, healthy food, and you would be required to learn how to surf. I think mastering the surf board would be a good metaphor for getting over writer’s block.

Thanks so much, Tina Ann. I hope you had as much fun answering these questions as I had writing them! J Thanks for being my guest!
I enjoyed the interview so much, Morgan. Great questions! Thanks to you and the readers at Pens on a World Map. Happy Writing and Happy Travels!!!


  1. Thanks, Morgan! I loved recalling some of my travels and the research I did on the books. Love your blog. I'm honored to be interviewed. Happy Writing and Reading!

    1. Thanks so much for being my guest, Tina! Happy writing to you!!

  2. I read 'Rose House' last year and loved it! The cover really drew me in because it is so beautifully done. Having traveled to the California wine country also made the story more personal for me.

    A very well written story. I am looking forward to reading more from Tina.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Carole! :)