How did you come up with the idea for "The Queen of Sleepy Eye?" Did you have a say so in the cover? What was the working title to this book?

During the book launch for my second novel, Always Green, my friend Margaret stepped up to the table with a snappy new hair-do and flashy glasses. I asked her, “Margaret, weren’t you the queen of cheese of something?” Her hand went to her chest and her chin tipped up. “No, I was the queen of Sleepy Eye.” I jotted the title down, and when it was time to come up with a new idea, I developed a story to go with the title. I’d never written starting with the title before, but I always thought it was intriguing. My work in progress has yet to be titled. I feel like it’s six months after my baby was born and the poor thing remains nameless. As to the cover for Queen, the fabulous graphic artist at B&H gave me at least six to choose from. With minor adjustments, the cover came together without a hitch.

Some writers plot out what they are going to write step by step and other say they write by the seat-of-their-pants, which style of writing best describes your style?

First, I immerse myself in research. I want to ooze the subject and area and time I’m getting to know. Then, I develop characters with strong desires. The research gives me plot points that I painstakingly work out using different colored sticky notes for each character on large foam-core boards. It’s a terribly archaic way to work, but it works for me. (Hmm? Am I…? Never!) I “outline” the story because it’s important to develop rising antagonism against the protagonist’s desire. For me, this takes deliberateness. This doesn’t mean my characters don’t surprise me now and again. Someone unexpected shows up or a spark of interest flies that wasn’t planned. These surprises don’t necessarily disrupt the plot plan, but that’s why they’re on sticky notes. I can “shuffle the deck.”

Is being an author everything you thought it would be? If not, what has been surprising to you?

I never expected writing to be so humbling. I depend on my critique group and my editor to find my imperfections (grammar gaffs and motivation blunders) before my readers do. And I love them for their partnership. They’re the unsung heroes of a good book. Also, I suppose every author believes the world is waiting breathlessly for their story to hit the stands. Since my sales are less than stellar (I’m here! I’m here!), I’ve had to redefine the notion of “success.” For me, when the circle between me and the reader is completed, for instance an e-mail comes that says my story rang true for the them, I count that as success.

Part of your new book takes place in a furneral home? What made you come up with the idea for that? How did you do your research? Enquiring minds want to know. I learned a few things.

A dear friend of mine married before she was out of high school. Family friends, the local undertaker, offered free room in exchange for caretaking responsibilities. The young couple took up the offer and gained many interesting stories. I had no intentions of using this subplot in my story until I went to the North Fork Valley where my story takes place to interview residents. I sipped ice tea on the porch of a log cabin with James Gall, a man who turned out to be an amateur historian. Toward the end of the interview, he said, “You know, you’re sitting on the porch of the former mortuary?” The home was the most beautiful log cabin I’d ever seen. I couldn’t pass up such a rich source of conflict and interest, so I plopped Amy in that mortuary with her mother, Francie. I also spent time with a local mortician, Michael Blackburn, who graciously answered all of my questions and gave me a tour of his business. I learned more about the mortuary business than I put in the book. Oh boy.

What was your favorite scene to write in your new book? What was the hardest scene to write?

I love the scene where Amy takes a collection of oils to the hospital to pray for Feather. Their raw faith encourages me still. The hardest scene was between Amy and a boy named H. I don’t want to give the story away, but I spilled many tears over that scene.

Could you please share some of your testimony with us? How has that impacted your writing?

I was an unchurched teenager wondering why I was trying so hard to be good if there wasn’t a God. My sweet Savior plucked me out of a potentially disastrous situation and landed me right in the middle of the Jesus Movement of the seventies. I love him for that. I surrendered my life to Jesus the summer of my fourteenth year, the very year I first heard I should be a writer. Writing to fulfill my purpose in His kingdom is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. Being a wife to my beloved Dennis and mom to Geoff and Matt has given me the greatest sense of joy and fulfillment.

How much of you is in this story? If you are in this story, does it make it harder or easier to write?

Amy, the main character, is seventeen. What I remember about being seventeen is knowing the answer to everything. I had God all figured out and just about everything else. And that’s how I developed Amy. She isn’t smarmy, just earnest. Her pride gets her in big trouble, but she carries important lessons about grace and forgiveness into her adult years. Please note: a piece of me resides in all of my characters. That’s what makes them authentic and human.

I heard you had great fun at a recent book club meeting where they discussed your newest book "Queen of Sleepy Eye". Can you tell me something about that night? Any pictures you want to share from that evening?

Margaret taught school with me about ten years ago. I thought it would be fun to have a book club for her and 10 of her friends where she got the royal treatment for providing such a fun title. I provided tiaras and made red sashes for everyone, so we all felt like royalty as we discussed the book.

My sister made a crushed, red velvet throne for Margaret to sit on and appliquéd "The Queen of Sleepy Eye" on a sash that matches the sash on the book. Then we feasted on chocolate and more chocolate. Margaret loved it. We laughed and giggled all night. The picture I sent of the roses includes a picture of Margaret as the 1982 Queen of Sleepy Eye.

**WOW!! Patti; you have taken book club to a whole NEW Level Patti - You do look like you had a wonderful time. Thanks for the GREAT pictures**

What three things are you most thankful in your life for? Why?

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Is that one or three? As you can see, I’m not a theologian, but I am one grateful sinner saved by grace. I live in a crazy world, but I have hope for a glorious future, and I’m not alone, ever! He heals my wounded heart and provides me with companions for the road home. What more could a girl hope for?
Can you tell us what you are working on right now? Please give us a sneak peek! When will it be available?

I’d love to! I’ve gone from a 17-year-old narrator’s voice to a 72-year-old narrator. What a challenge! What fun! Birdie has macular degeneration, a form of visual loss that affects central vision, but is one independent gal, the woman I hope to be when I reach my seventies. She hikes weekly, dances as often as she can, and bakes pies for a local diner. Then she starts seeing things, things that aren’t really there. I can’t tell you anymore!


If you were trapped in a dangerous and life threatening situation, which fictional character would you choose to save your life? (this could be a cartoon, comic book character, a super hero, a movie persona, etc. ) Why them?

Definitely, Indiana Jones! He’s smart, strong, and always in the middle of the excitement. Besides, he looks great on a galloping horse.

What two places do you love to shop? Why?

I can’t wait for our local farmer’s market to start each spring with apricots and cherries. We go before it gets hot, and we always see tons of folks we know. We chat, munch on baked goods, and buy more produce that we’ll ever eat. It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to what I think old time markets were like. That’s one.

The other has to be a locally-owned bookstore. There’s nothing better than chatting up a good read with a clerk or another customer.

What special quality or talent do you have that would surprise people?

People in my hometown were flabbergasted that I could write a sentence, let alone a book! They said things like, “I had no idea you wanted to be a writer.” What I heard: “I had no idea you could spell ‘novel.’”

What special event have you experienced that would surprise people?

My mother took my sister and me (aged 11) to LAX to greet Robert Kennedy when he arrived in Los Angeles during his presidential campaign. He noticed I’d been pinned against his car by HUGE cameras. He reached down and shook my hand. Two days later, he was assassinated.

If you had all the time in the world (and just as much money);to do ANYTHING you wanted, what would you do?

Time and money? No limits? I’d write a story.

If money is not an problem where is your favorite place to have breakfast? What is your favorite thing to order there? Where would you go for dinner? What would you eat?

We have a quaint restaurant in Grand Junction called The Crystal Café. They make a Main Street Omelet with boursin cheese that I adore. That and the fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

Another locally-owned restaurant, Il Bistro Italiano, is my favorite dinner place. I always have their special, because it’s something inventive and fun. I adore their tiramisu.

But honestly, I love eating at home best. My husband is a fabulous cook!

**My husband is a great cook too - I'm amazed at how he can go into the kitchen and cook up the most amazing meal with whatever we have in the kitchen. I NEED the cook book, (with it's step by step instructions), all the ingredients go to with it. Sometimes it turns out! :D I'm so glad my husbands meals work 99% of the time!!! Just one of the reasons I LOVE that guy**

If you found a magic lamp and the genie inside was going to grant you three wishes, what would your wishes be?

I don’t know about genies, but I pray that God’s perfect will be played out in my life and the lives of the people I love, and that we would all know him as he really is, and that he would hurry up and get here. I can’t wait to see Jesus’ face.

They have recently invented a machine where you could change ONE thing about yourself; you have been given the opportunity to use that machine. What would you change? What would that change look like in your life?

I would whisper in 3-year-old Patti’s ear not to worry. “God is your father, now and forever.” Really knowing that and believing God was my Father would have saved me from trying to stuff so many God substitutes into that dark hole near my heart.

What are some of your favorite books you read as a child?

I still read a lot of YA fiction, especially since I was a teacher. As a child, I read every book printed about horses, fiction and nonfiction. Thank you, Marguerite Henry, William Farley, and Anna Sewell. I also remember loving The wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, and Harriet the Spy.

Say you were chosen to be a guest speaker on a TV talk show,which show would you most want to be on and why?.

Gee, Nora, doesn’t this interview count? I’m loving this! I’m in my pjs, blowing my nose like crazy (I have a cold), and my dog is nearby to offer a sense of calm. If you don’t mind, I’ll stick with you, Nora. No amount of makeup could cover my red nose!

**Gee Patti, A VIRURAL REALITY SHOW works for me. I'll look into doing that - Thanks for your encouragement!! I like hanging out with you too!! Who needs cameras?"**

THANK YOU for hanging out with me today Patti. I appreciate that you have helped my readers get to know you better. It's always fun to find about the author behind the story.


I’m just like you, full of self-doubt and often self-absorbed. I want my words to honor Jesus. Sometimes they do, and sometimes I put my big, fat foot in my mouth. Pray for me. I want to be conformed to his image sooner rather than later. I guess I’m not so patient either. And I especially want to take this opportunity for those who sacrifice their precious time to read my books. I appreciate you more than words can say.

Blessings on your writing and the journey the Lord has you on Patti. I hope it brings you to Atlanta!!

Nora :D

Want to win a copy of Patti's book? Writer to Reader is giving away a copy of The Queen of Sleepy Eye. Leave a comment on this blog, or, if you're on Nora's blog, enter a comment there with the words "Sleepy Eye Writer to Reader Giveaway" and Nora will send me your name to be entered in the drawing. Opportunity to win ends Thursday, February 12, 2009. Get your name in there!



  1. Thanks for sharing this interview Nora. I have looked at Patti's books previously but I haven't had a chance to read them yet. Very good interview.


  2. Nora, what a great indepth interview! I want to go out and get my hands on Patti's book! Thanks for this interview. I'll put it on my blog.

    ~Mimi B

  3. Wow, what a great interview. I can't wait to read Patti's books now. Funny, but I can so see Patti working on her research and putting together her ideas in my head.

    I look forward to reading Patti's book.

    Catherine S. Kinney
    Hoschton, GA

  4. What a great interview! Thanks for sharing.

    I look forward to reading this book.


  5. Thanks for the great interview with Patty. I have read a couple of her books and enjoyed them very much. Please enter me in the drawing for this new one.

  6. I've done some interesting research but never as out there as a mortuary, Patti! LOL I'll bet you learned some things. :D

  7. Thanks to all who stopped by today for the interview. Nora asks the best questions to get the most interesting answers. Thanks, Nora.

    The research for Queen led me to many amazing places, the mortuary being only one of them. I interviewed ranchers and pastors and hippies gone conventional. A cattle drive woke me up on one visit to "Cordial," and I ate lunch with girls who called themselves "townies." A close look at any community is fascinating. I loved it all, especially my weekend at a working cattle ranch. I suffer so for my art.

    Kindest regards, Patti Hill

  8. Sleepy Eye Writer to Reader Giveaway-Nora, Really enjoyed the interview with Patti. I love the title and can't wait to read the book. Thanks for helping us get to know Patti and introducing us to her books. Tisha

  9. WINNER: The winner in the drawing for The Queen of Sleepy Eye, by Patti Hill, is Carrie T. Congratulations! And many thanks to Nora St. Laurent for joining Writer to Reader for this giveaway. (Carrie entered through Nora's site.)