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Interview with Lisa Williams Kline, Author of Between the Sky and the Sea

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

My first guest on this blog is my dear friend, author Lisa Williams Kline. Lisa and I have known each other since 2006, I believe, when I first moved to Charlotte. Over the years, our friendship has grown, and we have been in the same writing group for quite a while now! And one of the most wonderful things is when Lisa’s book, Between the Sky and Sea, and my The Veil Between Worlds, both came out within a week of each other by the same publisher. Here is my interview with her - with so many great lessons for any writer!

Lisa Williams Kline

How did you get the inspiration for Daniel? Did you base him on a particular person? How did you come up with his qualities and what makes him a good love interest?

I knew resourcefulness was Daniel’s major character trait. The fact that Daniel lashed together two settees in the heat of the wreck of the Pulaski showed that resourcefulness. My father was resourceful – he could fix anything with duct tape, haha– and I probably subconsciously based Daniel on him. Dad was also pretty old-fashioned and gentlemanly in a southern way, and Daniel is like that, too. But Daniel also has personality characteristics like my husband – he thinks quickly without being distracted by unimportant issues, and he has a bit of a temper. Daniel is also somewhat mysterious, though, and that mystery is important for the tension in the story. The reader doesn’t really know whether he is the person he seems to be until the very end, which makes him a good love interest in a novel.

A lot of the scenes of Lavinia and Daniel early in the book were set during their time as shipwrecked at sea, waiting for rescue.  What interesting facts did you learn about being on a life raft that would help keep you alive?

Well, I gave Lavinia and Daniel a bottle of wine, which always comes in handy in a crisis. Seriously, I learned that we can go without food for much longer than we can go without water, so I knew I needed to include a rainstorm to give them some water while they were floating. I also thought about creative ways they could put their 19th century clothing to use – and I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out how!

What fascinated you about the manners of the era of the 1830s in the south?

I originally had an image of two people floating on a raft in a life-threatening situation but almost comically still maintaining their manners and decorum. One of my first inspirations for this story was the classic movie The African Queen with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. They were in devastating circumstances trying to steer this boat down a river, coming to know each other in very deep ways yet Katherine Hepburn’s character, Miss Rose Sayer, still formally called him “Mr. Allnutt” and not ever by his first name. In my story, Lavinia is from Savannah and Daniel is from New Orleans, so they both had southern upbringings. I think they would have been formal at first, and excessively modest, even floating on a raft. I got a lot of amusement picturing Lavinia removing some item of her clothing – such as an earring – or her dress -- and saying “Could you use this to save us, Mr. Ridge?”

You’re one of the most diligent writers I’ve ever met. Can you describe your writing habits? When you’re at work on a novel, what methods work best for you. Do you have a set time that you have “butt in chair,” or a set number of words you want to write in a day?

Most people write better in the morning, closer to their “dream time.” For whatever reason, afternoon is better for me. Circadian rhythm, maybe I can become obsessed with my writing projects. I think about them all the time, when I’m walking the dog, driving, showering, cooking, doing laundry or yardwork. My mother said I was always in a fog as a child, so I guess I was already thinking about my stories then. Once on a plane the flight attendant came and asked my husband if he could help with a passenger who had threatened to blow up the plane, and my husband agreed, and then, when we landed, agents came and handcuffed and escorted the person off the plane. All this time, I was buried in my work, and never noticed ANY OF IT. I mean, how bad is that? It’s a sickness. I can’t stop.

So, I rarely have to set deadlines for myself. I just annoyingly obsess over it until it’s done. Yes, I am in therapy.

Once I did work on a series, and had books due about every five months. During that time, I just did the math and figured I needed to write four pages a day to make my deadline. Sometimes I could easily write more than four, and other times even a sentence was agonizing. But those dry days I’d type out the four pages, knowing they were really bad, and assure myself I’d fix them the next day. My writing groups are essential. They keep me accountable for delivering the next chapter. They encourage and motivate me. My relationships with the women in my writers’ groups, like with you, Betsy, and the multi-talented Emily Pearce, are among the most treasured of my life.

You’ve now written for Middle Grade, YA, and now adult audiences. What do you find the most challenging?

When I had my own middle-grade stories, as well as my daughters’ middle-grade stories, and I was living in a house with middle-graders, “in the soup,” as you might say, writing about that world felt fun and natural. Similarly, writing YA when my daughters were in high school felt easy and normal. I was interacting with people that age every day. Once my daughters went on to college, though, I felt I lost touch with the middle-grade and YA mindset. It didn’t feel natural anymore. Plus, I’d run out of middle-grade and YA story ideas.

I decided to try the new challenge of writing for adults, because all my new ideas were for adult novels. Making the transition wasn’t easy. When Kathryn LeVeque asked me to revise and resubmit Between the Sky and the Sea for Dragonblade, she asked me to add more complexity to my sentences as well as my character’s thought processes. My husband thinks her requests were a euphemism for more sex. Anyway, I worked for

several months on that revision, and waited on tenterhooks to hear back from her. I must admit, it was fun, after all those years of middle-grade, to write a sex scene! I was thrilled when Kathryn wrote back, “We like what we see.”

It was a challenge to make the leap to writing for adults. But I think trying to continue to write authentically from the teen point of view might have been an even greater one.

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