Jane Kirkpatrick: ‘Oprah Doesn’t Know My Name’

Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of twenty-three books and is a two-time winner of the WILLA Literary Award. Her first novel, A Sweetness to the Soul, won the Western Heritage Wrangler Award, and she is known for writing historical fiction based on “real” women pioneers.

Jane, I loved reading Barcelona Calling. This is a totally different book for you, even a different voice. Tell us how this book was inspired and how it evolved.

For years when I spoke to groups I teased that one day I was going to write a book about a writer who confused fame with fulfillment and that I would call it “Oprah Doesn’t Know My Name.”  One day my publisher heard me say that and suggested that I write that book.  I told them they wouldn’t like it because it would be so different but they insisted.  I wrote it.  They rejected it!  But one of the editors, after leaving that publisher, remembered the book and when he went to another publisher, approached my agent and wanted it. It went through huge changes during the four or five years as it sat in my document file never to be opened! I had a great editor and that helped a lot and voila, it arrived as Barcelona Calling.  It seems there is something about Oprah having her name trademarked??? I still think the title would have grabbed a few people but one adjusts as did the writer in the book.

I think every writer can see parallels in this story, trying to get published and then trying to get noticed by the “big leaguers.” How much of this is from your own experience? Sadly, quite a bit! Every time a book of mine comes out some well-meaning person says to me “Have you ever thought about getting Oprah (or Ellen or NPR etc.) to pick your book?  I bet that would help your sales.”  They mean well but it’s such a long shot. It’s like telling myself, “If only I could win the lottery then all would be well”…and of course it wouldn’t be. I don’t think I was quite as conflicted as Annie but sadly, some of the obscure things that happened to her (in bathrooms, at salons, on airplanes, etc.) have happened to me. I mean hasn’t every writer at one time had someone say “I always wanted to write a book” when they learn that they’re speaking to a writer? Yet neurologists rarely hear “I’ve always wanted to be a neurologist” after stating their profession. I did have to learn that I wouldn’t always get to choose my titles and that publishing is a team occupation and that was something that took Annie awhile to understand.

I loved learning a new word, “Bezoars,” for hairballs! What fun. How did you find this word? I read my alumni magazines!  There it was, people at the University of Wisconsin were doing research on cat food to reduce hairballs and there was the scientific name for it. It fit perfectly for my story. I was so happy!

Your current release is Where Lilacs Still Bloom, another historical novel. Who or what was the inspiration for this book? This book is more like what my readers are familiar with. Hulda Klager was a simple German housewife with an eighth grade education who had a dream…she wanted crisper apples easier to peel and that led her to the world of botany and hybridization eventually developing 250 individual varieties of lilacs. The garden she created is on the national historic registry and a descendant patiently but persistently suggested over several years that I write Hulda’s story. When I realized how generous Hulda was and how persistent I found it to be one of the most inspiring stories I’d ever encountered. People can visit the garden in Woodland, WA south of Seattle and 30 minutes north of Portland, OR. A real treat for everyone.

What is your next project? I just completed my latest historical novel, One Glorious Ambition: the Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix. Dorothea was an early reformer on behalf of the mentally ill. It’s also an amazing story of a woman who turned tragedy in her own life into energy to relieve the suffering of others. She was also an early teacher, starting a school when she was 15, for girls, a rarity in the 1820s of New England. I also have a novella I’m working on and a devotional for caregivers Promises of Hope for Difficult Times coming out in January.

Do you think you’ll do another contemporary? I wouldn’t say never, but I realized in this process that I rely heavily on the spine of history to tell my stories. It’s also true that a historical writer must create an unknown world that a reader finds believable (as do fantasy writers). In a contemporary, people bring their own “world” experiences to the piece. Everyone has a story about Starbucks or flying, for example, that affects how they see the contemporary world inside the book. In an historical novel people rely on the author to create experiences with stagecoaches or corsets, so I think it might be easier for the reader to step into the historical world leaving their own world behind for a time. The contemporary author has a more difficult job I think keeping the reader inside “their story” without us bringing “our world story” into the mix. Does that make sense?  Anyway, it was much more work than I had imagined though I truly learned a great deal in the process. But then stories are always teaching us, right?

That does make sense, something I hadn’t thought of before. I agree, as writers, we continue to learn and that’s the fun part of our chosen profession. Thank you, Jane, for sharing with us today.

Book synopsis for Barcelona Calling:

Annie Shaw is a writer with one bestseller, one book that tanked, a third book that isn’t doing all that well and a fourth book that may never see publication unless she can meet her new editor’s demands. She’s seeking fame and believing it will give her fulfillment and in the process acquires a dog, huge legal fees for unusual accidents and comes face to face with a love she left behind in Barcelona, Spain. “In Barcelona Calling protagonist Annie Shaw throws herself into all the zany ideas for attracting Oprah’s attention.  Along the way she forgets for a little while about what is really important and loses herself in schemes for fame and recognition.  This is a funny, entertaining story that brings home the message of being true to yourself.”  Deon Stonehouse, Owner of Sunriver Books and Music, an independent Book store in Oregon.


“Jane Kirkpatrick showcased her writing skills on Barcelona Calling, from outrageous to hilarious to inspiring words about the life of a novelist–and those people she touches. Bravo, Jane, for showing us what this life of writing is really all about–touching one heart at a time.” Hannah Alexander, author of The Wedding Kiss and The Hideaway series

“For years Jane Kirkpatrick has created wonderful, engaging characters and detailed plots that keep the pages turning. And she’s done it again with a completely new genre. Hats off to Jane Kirkpatrick for showing her versatility and humor and making me a fan all over again.”  Tracey Bateman, author of Thirsty and Tandem

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ohhhh, I have to read Barcelona Calling. Actually, I believe I’ve read every single one of Jane’s books except the last two and I intend to pick them up at the conference. What a gal!

  2. Wonderful women discussing Jane’s great books is lovely to read. I, too, enjoyed BARCELONA CALLING for the humor, romance and persistance of Annie. Then, there were her cohorts…such a gang of supporters that help writers to thrive. We could all do with such a team…well, maybe not quite so energetic!

    • I agree, Arletta. Annie’s team was maybe a little over the top! Their escapades sure did make me laugh.

  3. Thanks for hosting me, Heidi. Arletta’s right, we all need supporters and Heidi’s right too: Annie’s were over the top. But they loved her! That’s what friends are for, yes?

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