Jodi Lea Stewart writes about triumph over adversity.
What was the inspiration for your most recent book?
Oppression is prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control. It doesn’t matter one’s age, gender, race, locality, or creed… oppression in any form is the dark enemy of both the human condition and of the beautiful spirit that lights our very existence. In my novel, The Gold Rose, an international, clandestine rescue agency operates under the auspices of a special group of people dedicated to fighting oppression wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.
Why did I write this novel? For many reasons, but the foundation, which exists in any book I write, stems from a deep personal pleasure of seeing a wrong “righted,” seeing the scales of justice balanced, and witnessing the greatest of all human dramas… triumph over adversity.
Are there TV shows or films that have influenced your writing?
Actually, I have been influenced both in my life and in my writing by many films over the years. To Kill a Mockingbird made a vivid impression on me as a youngster. I was already one to stand up for bullied children on the playground at school, which was surprising since I was a quiet, mostly shy little girl, that is, until I became riled up. That particular movie made me realize that the struggle for fairness was much larger than a schoolyard and also made me aware of my innate sense of desiring to see justice fulfilled. Both Secretariat and Seabiscuit, definitely movies for horse lovers, thrill me every time I see them because I love to see the unfavored or most unlikely animal or person win despite the odds. That carries over into sports movies such as Remember the Titans and We Are Marshall. Many others films have influenced my life, but I’ll mention just a few more: Born Yesterday (because of Billie Dawn’s educational awakening and her victory over her bullying boyfriend Harry Brock), Midnight in Paris (a writer’s treasure of a movie), and Hidden Figures (justice is finally served).
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The best money I ever spent as a writer was taking a correspondence course for writing magazine stories for children and teens. I was already a nonfiction business writer with a brief journalism background, and I thought I might challenge myself by taking this course and learning to write fiction. I did not believe I would be very good at penning fiction, and the thought of writing a whole book never entered my mind. When I got started, however, I couldn’t stop. I created a character, Silki Begay, a girl living in the modern-day Navajo Nation and wrote several stories about her. For the last assignment, we were to write three more short stories or write the first chapter of a real novel plus chapter summaries for the entire novel. I didn’t think myself capable of such an endeavor, but my mentor and instructor in the course told me I was definitely doing the book. I told her I could never write that much, and she reminded me that I had never been able to stay within the word limits of any assignment! I did what she asked, and it almost blew out my brain cells to write the chapters for a whole book and a summary for each one! When I was through, my fate was sealed. I became a novelist and wrote three novels featuring Silki and her adventures on the Navajo Rez. Afterward, I stepped into historical fiction writing, and my fourth novel in that genre launched this past February. Had I not taken that course, and had I not had the mentor assigned to me, I really doubt I would currently be writing novels.
What do you worry about in your work?
Nothing in my work bothers me except for the heavy requirements of authors these days to continually market their work in numerous ways. I yearn for a time when authors retired to rustic cabins by fish-filled, bubbling brooks or seaside retreats with ocean breezes blowing through the window to… do what? Write, for heaven’s sake! Switching one’s brain back and forth from the creative and researching side to the marketing and sales side can literally be exhausting at times. If we fiction novel writers were celebrities, motivational speakers, or if we wrote nonfiction books about some item or niche that the world was feverishly scrambling to buy or know, we wouldn’t have to “wave” so hard and so long to get the world to glance in our direction. It’s a challenge, for sure.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I suppose my greatest literary journey was when I accompanied my husband to England on his business trip many years ago. I had always been smitten with the novels of Charles Dickens, and, at that time, his museum was located in Rochester, England, exactly the town we were to be staying in for two weeks. I went to the Charles Dickens Museum almost every day. I was thrilled to see places and names in the town that were also in the Dickens’ books. It made me feel as if I were in my own movie and a personal friend to one of the greatest writers of all time.
Jodi Lea Stewart’s younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, and snipe hunting. At age eight, she moved to a large cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona next door to the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Growing up, most of her friends were Native American and Hispanic, with a few Anglos thrown in for good measure.
Her pastimes were singing to chickens, climbing giant petroglyph-etched boulders, hanging on for dear life in the back end of rattly old pickups driven over terracotta roads so washed out they qualified as mini-Grand Canyons, and galloping through the arroyos and canyons of her imagination. As a teen, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she didn’t want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three+ children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90-plus-year-old mother, a toddler, two Standard poodles, a rescue cat, and numerous large and bossy houseplants.
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Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.