Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interview with Kathy Leonard Czepiel, Author of A Violet Season

Kathy Leonard Czepiel is the author of A Violet Season, a historical novel set on a Hudson Valley violet farm on the eve of the twentieth century. She is the recipient of a 2012 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, CALYX, Confrontation, and The Pinch. Czepiel teaches in the First-Year Writing Program at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their two daughters. Learn more about her at, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter at @KLCzepiel.

When did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing since before I could write. When I was a little girl, my mother would make stapled booklets and I would dictate stories to her, then draw pictures to go with them. Later I graduated to clacking away on an old manual typewriter after school, a very dorky childhood pursuit, but one that has paid off!

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

My writing schedule is somewhat unique. I wrote A Violet Season mostly over the course of four summers. I teach during the school year, and I have two kids at home, so it’s hard to squeeze in time to write. I reject that old piece of advice that you have to write every day. Write whenever it works for you, but try to be disciplined about it. That said, in a sense I do write every day. I’m always writing in my head and grabbing a moment to jot down ideas for later.

What is this book about?

A Violet Season takes place on a violet farm in New York’s Hudson Valley at the turn of the twentieth century. It tells the story of a mother, Ida, and a daughter, Alice, who are struggling to help their family keep its share of the farm. Both of them are pushed to make increasingly great sacrifices which eventually set them against one another in a lifelong struggle for honesty and forgiveness. It’s about life in that time period not just for these two particular women, but also for women in general, who had shared struggles to overcome.

What inspired you to write it?

I grew up in the Hudson Valley, but it wasn’t until I returned to my hometown as an adult that I learned the area had once been known as the Violet Capital of the World. I was intrigued by the fact that such a booming industry could have existed and then so utterly disappeared. Learning more about the violets was the original seed of the novel, and the mother-daughter story quickly followed. I am, of course, a daughter, but I am also the mother of daughters. While Ida and Alice’s story is fiction, I think it contains some emotional truths about mothers and daughters and the ways in which they can fail one another without ever meaning to.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

I’m partial to Ida, of course; you have to like your protagonist because you’re going to spend a lot of time getting to know her and working with her. Despite her flaws, I admire Ida’s resilience and her strength. Of the minor characters, I’m especially fond of Mrs. Schreiber. She’s the kind of woman you want to have in your life, someone who isn’t afraid to be different and who knows the right thing to say and do, even in difficult situations. I want to be like her when I grow up. I like Claudie, too. She’s a little bit sassy. I enjoyed putting her in dialogue with the more reserved Alice.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

The main thing I’m doing differently in the process of writing my second novel is outlining more. I spent a long time thinking about the story and tinkering with it in outline form before I began drafting. Like many writers, I thought this might stifle my creativity and the element of discovery, but what I’m finding is that the first draft is coming much more easily because I’ve put in more forethought, while at the same time those little discoveries and surprises are still happening. They’re just not happening in such a big way that they change the entire trajectory of the novel. At least not yet! All that said, I don’t think I could have done it this way the first time out. The first book is inevitably going to take longer and require more fits and starts before you get it right.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Always think first of your local bookstore, if you still have one! Be sure to support them if you value having them in your community. A Violet Season is also available from several booksellers online. You can visit my website at and choose any of the links on the home page to purchase it. A video trailer for the book is also there. Thanks for asking!

What is up next for you?

As I mentioned, I’m working on my second novel, which is set in 1929 and post-World War Two. This time, the inspiration comes from the story of the building of my grandparents’ house, which I loved visiting as a child. I hesitate to say much more, since it’s only in its first draft, and anything could happen!

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A Violet Season'
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A Violet Season'
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Price: $15.00 paperback, $9.99 ebook
Pages: 272
ISBN: 9781451655063
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release: July 10, 2012

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1 comment:

Tribute Books said...

Cheryl, thanks for hosting an interview with Kathy. A great post for historical fiction fans, fellow writers, etc.