ABOUT AUTHOR: Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the coveted Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have been finalists for the Christy Award, Spur Award, Oregon Book Award, and Reader’s Choice awards, and have won the WILLA Literary Award and Carol Award for Historical Fiction. Many of her titles have been Book of the Month and Literary Guild selections. Jane lives in Central Oregon with her husband, Jerry. Learn more at

What was your favorite scene in A Light in the Wilderness? Which was the most fun to write? Which was the hardest? Why?

I loved creating the “wedding” scene because it had to be discreet and meaningful wrapped up with Letitia’s anxiety about being “found out.” They were breaking the law and yet I wanted it to be joyful. The Jewish peddler just showed up surprising them as well as me!  The hardest was the auction scene. In fact I reworked that scene so many times we were practically in the galleys before I felt settled. I worried my editor was pulling her hair out but I wanted Letitia not to be a victim of circumstances and for her to realize she still had control over what mattered in her life…how she responded to injustice. My editor kindly said she loved the scene change and felt it not only elevated Letitia’s character but touched her in ways that she could apply to her own life challenges. She couldn't have said anything better!

Can you tell me of two “Wow” moments you've had in your writing career? What made it a wow for you? 

My first novel won the Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. The letter arrived with the title of the book (A Sweetness to the Soul) saying I had won and to call with any questions. I called Monday morning and asked if it was like Publisher’s Clearing House and maybe I’d won. But it was for real. We flew back to spend the weekend celebrating other stories of the west, musicians, film etc. They treated my husband and I like royalty. That it’s an award also won by Barbara Kingsolver and James Michener was also a “wow” moment. The other Wow moments have been like snowflakes falling. There are so many and each so unique. I’m especially humbled when someone says a story I've written has brought them insight, encouragement and hope. I've been invited twice to speak to the European Council of International Schools. Each has been a wow moment. The invitations came because I agreed to have a signing at a small Oregon coastal town for a tiny 80+ woman who wanted me to come to her church. She was quite an organizer bringing in 100 people!  We had a great day celebrating stories and later I learned that her daughter was the CEO of the European Council of International Schools and she was seeking a unique speaker. Now that’s a wow sort of journey!

What authors have inspired you?

Frederick Buechner, Barbara Brown Taylor, Brent Lott, Susan Meissner, Willa Cather, Ivan Doig, Barbara Kingsolver, Molly Gloss. Louise Penny, Jacqueline Winespear, Sandra Dallas, Sandra Byrd…I could go on. Each of these writers has a unique voice and have made me a stronger writer because of those voices.

Pulitzer Prize –winning author Willa Cather once wrote that the emotions that drive great stories are passion and betrayal. What were the passions in this story? Where was the betrayal? As you think of your own life stories, how are passion and betrayal a part of them, or are they?
(This is one of your great discussion questions – I thought it would be fun to hear what you thought)

Two researchers Bob Zybach and Janet Meranda who brought Letitia's story to me. At Suphur Springs where Letitia drew healing water (Soap Creek Valley of Oregon)
The first great passion was Letitia’s desire to be treated with respect and to live free. Many of the challenges in the story were obstacles that got in the way or forced her to re-think what was important. She was passionate about the safety of her children and her struggle to stand out or fit in.

As for betrayal…I have to say that Davey did betray her. I don’t think he meant to but he struggled with his own sense of decency and love for her and yet wanted to “fit in” with a culture that discriminated against persons of color. That he lied about the first agreement paper and then lost it…which wasn't his fault, but then he didn't follow that up with a corrective action. Letitia had to find out another way. And of course Greenberry Smith betrayed her at every turn! As for my life story…passion is a huge part of my life. I am passionate about living a wholehearted life, being as authentic as I can be. I’m passionate about injustice, finding ways to address poverty and about the power of story to heal.

My career prior to writing was mental health related, working with Native American tribes especially with children who have disabilities. I write letters to administrators, congressmen, senators. Those letters make me sweat! But I feel compelled to bring things to the attention of others who might be able to make a change.  I've also experienced some betrayals, incidents too personal to share but let me say that I have always found a way to “grow new flesh” as the old medical term “incarn”says. A betrayal can’t keep us down unless we let it. It’s a lesson in living for how to find a new way to carry on.
Searching for Letitia's grave with Oregon Black Pioneers and the Southern Oregon contingent keeping Letitia's story alive.  Jane is second from the right.

Letitia says at one point in the novel, “Maybe that was what freedom meant, being in a place where one didn't fear.” Later she notes that freedom is having the courage to do what must be done. How would you define freedom? What about justice? (Love your discussion question can’t wait to read what you think,)

Freedom to me is having the ability to dream a dream and organize one’s life in order to move toward that goal with full acceptance of the consequences. I don’t believe a person can be in bondage whether in slavery, sex trafficking, an abusive relationship etc. and be free even in one’s best imagination because one lacks the control to take responsibility for one’s own actions. When we’re free, we are able to decide, achieve and suffer consequences of our own making. I agree with Letitia that one of the first requirements of freedom is finding a way to transform fear into courage for to live free requires courage and the ability to make changes.

Did you have a say in choosing the cover for this book? If so, how did the process work?

I did have a choice! The publisher showed me two possible covers. One had a woman in a long dress with a shawl standing next to a covered wagon. While Oregon Trail stories do often show that covered wagon, I didn't really like the woman’s costume…it was too “upper middle class” though Letitia’s friend  Nancy Hawkins might have been that model. I did like that you couldn't see her face. I prefer letting readers imagine the character in their own minds and I really don’t like “floating head” covers that are so popular these days. The second cover they shared is the one you see. I loved the warmth in that cover, the costume for Letitia, the way the light sends a shaft onto her. It said everything I wanted it to say and it was the publisher’s first choice too! I think they nailed it, don’t you?

Why write Christian Fiction? What’s the draw for you? 
Building the Ranch 
I think I write fiction and I’m also a Christian. This is a good place for me because my stories are set in a time when most people were churched or they had a sense of faith though their beliefs were often different from character to character. I like to tell a good story but also find ways to help people explore personal beliefs about God, mortality, our spiritual journey. When I’m researching I always ask myself, “Where did that character draw her strength from? How did he keep going despite the setbacks?” The answers are really about a spiritual journey that each of us are on and I’m intrigued with how my characters both challenge my beliefs and inform them.
JD River near ranch we lived on for nearly 30 years

My husband and I spent 30 years on a remote ranch, building it from scratch. When we were building, I knew one day I would have running water, electricity, a phone, a roof over our heads or I wouldn't stay there. But the pioneers I write about didn't know that there might be an easier road somewhere else. They had to find their courage within their every day experiences. For many – and for me – that courage came from faith and coming to terms with mortality and living with uncertainty.


You are shipwrecked on an uninhabited tropical island with a group of Christians – all friends and relatives of yours. You all have to work as a team to survive. Many roles have to be filled. Which role do you think you’d play?

The assistant to the leader. I’m pretty good at identifying people’s skills, motivating, clarifying goals, sorting out irritations, making people laugh. I can step in and lead. I used to be the director of a mental health clinic and leading counselors was much like herding butterflies. I prefer to allow others who feel strongly about what we need to do to take the lead and work with them, standing in the shadows if needed. I call that leadership by influence rather than authority. 

A friend of yours has a time machine and they will let you use if for a while. Where would you go and what would you do?

Oh, wow! I’d go the Ephesus for a time, maybe tramp around with Paul, see what he was up too when he wasn't writing letters or in jail! Maybe sit in the crowd when the loaves and fishes were being passed, listening to Jesus’ words. Wouldn't that be grand? Then I’d go forward to the pioneering time. I don’t think I’d want to stay there very long…it was a pretty rugged experience…but I’d like to see if my image of what it was like fits at all with the reality. Maybe visit Laura Ingalls Wilder on her little house on the prairie! I’d also like to visit Europe when Monet and Rembrandt and others were painting their masterpieces and chat with the bard, Shakespeare, and see if he’d tell me who really wrote his plays. If he said he did, I’d believe him!

What two jobs have you had that would surprise people? Do tell!

I picked strawberries in Oregon the summer after graduating from high school. After the first day my friend and I got promoted. She took over the task of weighing in the berries (she later married the owner) and I was the field boss. I wasn't very good at it. The first person I ever had to fire was 11 years old because he was throwing strawberries all over spattering the other pickers. The owner made me hire him back because people had already moved on to the next crop and he needed pickers for his berries. Ah, capitalism!

The other job was a summer when I was eight years old in Wisconsin pickling cucumbers with my sister and two friends. Our pay was a night at the Barnum and Bailey circus at the end of the summer. I truly loved that job! I was fast and would work my way away from the rest of the kids so I had privacy, quiet in the hot sun. I can still hear the sounds of distant chatter, wind in the trees, the summer heat rising from the tumble of leaves as I searched for the nubby cucumbers. I day dreamed, made up stories and found myself in another world where no one bugged me as long as I kept working. It beat milking cows which I also did more times than I care to count.

Out of all the sounds in the world which are your favorite?

Birds chattering in trees. The contented snoring of my dogs. Wind chimes in a alto tone. Music both voice and piano especially.
Bodacious Bo - our wire-haired pointing griffin dog.

We all live busy lives and all of us are in different seasons of life; that as a given what part of your day requires the most patience from you to get through? Causes you to pray the most?

This will sound really strange but cooking is the worst time for me. My husband of 38 years and I are still working out our differences in kitchen combat. Writing that, it seems really trivial. But perhaps it’s more about finding a way for each of us to mutually respect the differences we both have without defensiveness, allowing two strong personalities to both thrive. I pray about that often as he’s had his share of major medical complications and there is much in his life he can’t control so we agree that he is hoping to manage what he can and often that’s how to fix the rice.

Why not? I’m not sure what “why not?” means. Why not take a deep breath and be grateful we are both together, still growing and learning and in love trusting that God as always is the only one in control!

I am so grateful for the readers who have found me, who share their books with others, who visit my Facebook pages, who come to my events. I am truly blessed! Thank you for making room in your lives for my stories. Oh, and feel free to sign up for my Story Sparks newsletter at 


Thanks Jane for stopping by and helping us get to know you and your books. I’m thrilled about the Giveaway Opportunity at TBCN starting the 20th of SEPTEMBER at . Looking forward to it to reading the participation between you and readers! It’s always so much fun! Everyone has to be a member of TBCN in order to participate. It’s Free and easy. Participate as your schedule allows.


Nora :o)

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
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