Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston
Last month, I read Season of Sacrifice, a new book by historical author, Tristi Pinkston. I've been waiting for her blog tour (which kicked off May 1) to post the review. It was almost too long to wait because I was impatient to share this book with others.
Sarah Williams is a young Welsh immigrant, coming to Utah to join her sister Mary Ann Perkins. When the Perkins are asked to join the San Juan mission to pioneer a trail through Southern Utah, they take Sarah along to help care for the children. But a six-week journey turns into six agonizing months of hard work and toil as the Saints blast their way through a cliff to bring their wagons through what would become the famous Utah landmark "Hole in the Rock." Finally settled in the San Juan, Sarah's true hardship begins when Ben Perkins asks her to be his second wife. With their faith and testimonies challenged to the core, both Sarah and Mary Ann struggle to find the true meaning of Christ-like love and obedience. Will they make it through?
I was very impressed by the sacrifices Ben, Mary Ann and Sarah made. They struggled to survive, to stay together as a family, and to live according to their beliefs. Several times since reading the book, when faced with a challenge of my own, I have remembered their steadfastness and perseverance and it has inspired me to keep going. You can purchase this book of strength and courage at Tristi's website.
I'm excited to share this interview with Tristi with all of you.
What spurred your interest in writing Season of Sacrifice?
We've had a red family history book sitting around in my house for ages, and I just picked it up and started to read it one day. It was one of those things that I figured I'd get around to, probably when I was eighty, but for some reason the book spoke to me and I picked it up. I was immediately drawn into the story, and it is that book that provided the backbone for the novel I would eventually write. As I read, I felt compelled to tell the story of my ancestors in a way that would reach many people, and not just my family.
This book is really Sarah's story. She is your great, great grandmother, right?
She is. She and Ben had a daughter named Sarah Elizabeth, who was known as Sade, who then had a daughter named Thora, who had a son named Joel, who was my father.
How has knowing Sarah's story helped you with your own life challenges?
Sarah, to me, is the perfect example of unquestioning obedience. She really struggled with her decision to become a plural wife, but once she gained the testimony for herself, she never wavered. She did without for most of her life, not wanting to strain the overall family finances. She worked hard every day to provide for her children. Her testimony was her rock and her foundation. Whenever I feel sorry for myself or wonder just how I'm going to make it through, I think about Sarah and how her close relationship with Jesus Christ sustained her. And that helps me keep my priorities in check.
How did you find out all this information about your ancestors?
In addition to the red book, I was blessed to have another volume of family history loaned to me by my father. It had belonged to my grandmother, and when I opened it up, I found typewritten sheets that were my great-great-grandfather's journal and life story. From these sheets, I was able to take many quotes of things he actually said. I also found quite a lot online—as Utah celebrities, so to speak, they were featured on many websites.
I'm sure your family will cherish this book, but it really has an appeal and an influence on others as well. I was very inspired by their struggles and their commitment to continue on in faith, regardless of the cost. Did you know as you were writing it that it would touch others outside your family?
I didn't know it, but I hoped it, and so far, I've been proven right. I did have a lot of author friends say to me, "How sweet that you're writing a family history story, but you know, no one is going to buy it." They were looking out for my best interests, but I knew then as I know now that this isn't just any family history story. My reviews have been fabulous and I'm thrilled to be sharing the story in such a public way. It deserves to be told. These pioneers deserve to be remembered.
Other than the setting, how is this book different from your other two, Nothing to Regret and Strength to Endure?
Nothing to Regret and Strength to Endure are both largely fiction. I set my stories against a historical backdrop and wove factual details in throughout, but Season of Sacrifice is mostly history. I only added emotions and details—everything else in the book comes straight from history. I classify it as a historical novel rather than a historical fiction novel for that very reason.
Was the writing experience different because you are related to these characters? Did that make it easier or harder to write the story?
It was very different because everything had a personal meaning to me. I felt more of a compulsion to get it right. I didn't want to say anything that would lessen the greatness of their lives. I wanted this book to be a memorial to them and I felt that pressure keenly. At the same time, I truly felt that they helped me from beyond the veil. The entire book was written in eighty hours, which is unheard of for me.
Was there a moment in your life when you knew you were destined to be a writer?
For me, there wasn't a moment—it's been inside me my entire life. I started writing at the age of five and have never stopped. I just always, instinctively, knew this was what I wanted to do. I really identified with the characters of Jo and Anne in Little Women and Anne of Green Gables respectively—I knew how badly they wanted to be published and I felt their angst.
Are there any "tricks" you use to keep yourself motivated to write?
I don't try to force it. If it's not coming, it's not coming, and I can't make it. I'm a very from-the-guts kind of writer, and if my guts aren't in the mood, I don't write. This had led to several hiatuses, but they were needed. I do find that taking long baths and showers and just letting the story flow through my mind at the same time helps to keep the ideas coming.
What advice would you give a beginning writer?
Just sit down and write the book. Don't think, "I'd like to write a book someday." Write it now. Stop waiting for the time to magically appear, because it won't. Make it. Carve it out of stone, if you have to. And then don't be afraid to take criticism. Let people read for you and tell you how you can improve.
What do you have in the works? What book are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on a comedy/mystery called Secret Sisters. I'm having so much fun with this book and really feeling the joy of the craft. Then I'm going to be reworking a Depression-era novel I wrote a couple of years ago. I've got other things slated, but those are my two projects for right now.
Get to know Tristi better by visiting her blog. All of Tristi Pinkston's books are available for purchase at her website.