Today I’d like to welcome author Anne Mateer to my blog. Thanks so much for visiting and answering questions about your book and writing experiences, Anne! I’m thrilled to have you here.
Anne and I met through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) last year. I recently finished Anne’s latest release, Playing by Heart, a story I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend for historical romance fans. I hope to read her earlier stories soon, as well.
Anne resides near Dallas, Texas and writes historical romance with heart; her stories are replete with faith and family, and touched by skillful brushstrokes of historical detail on each page.
From the back of the book:
Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn’t even consider those real subjects! Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She’s returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet. However, the more time she spends around Jewel’s family, the girls’ basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she’s given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she’d expected.
My review of Playing by Heart:
Playing by Heart is a heart-warming read, a story that kept me turning pages and wondering what would happen next. The author’s engaging prose and just-enough historical detail dot the pages in time to a lively story with a sweet, fulfilling ending.
Lula is strong-willed, intelligent yet vulnerable female lead, one whose single-minded focus on academics has banished the passion dormant in her heart. I really enjoyed the author’s reminder, through a couple of emotional, musical scenes with Lula, that God will patiently bring us back to our heart’s desire if we step out of His way and allow Him to lead.
Chet’s character is solid, patient, and honorable, though he is driven by familial burdens weighing him down, which often affected his decisions. Chet and Lula’s relationship begins when Chet, the boys’ basketball coach at the high school in which Lula takes a job, offers to help Lula as she’s also given the job coaching the girls’ team. Lula’s initial indifference toward the game turns to passion and determination to win, just as her resolve to protect her heart from handsome Chet weakens as she gets to know him better.
Memorable stories are created on the foundation of imperfect characters the reader comes to care for, and Anne Mateer does a meticulous job with this aspect of writing. Lula and Chet ring true on the pages and off. The author paints Lula and Chet’s chemistry and their budding relationship in a tender, beautiful way, especially given the turn-of-the century time period in which their story is set (female teachers were not allowed to date). Secondary characters like Lula’s sister Jewel and Chet’s widowed mother add depth and authenticity to the story as well.
- Congratulations on your latest release, Anne! Has writing books been a life-long dream of yours? Did the child Anne ever imagine such a wonderful thing as holding your own book in your hands?
- Yes! I can remember the moment, sitting on my bed, tears streaming down my face, clutching my copy of the latest Eugenia Price novel that I’d just finished, and declaring that I wanted to write historical fiction one day! Writing and publication were a long-held dream, seeing that I didn’t see my first book in publication until 40 years after that moment! It was, indeed, a wonderful moment to hold that first book—and all the ones after that.
- What has been the hardest part of the writing journey for you? In turn, what part of writing a book do you enjoy most?
- The hardest part for me has been learning to balance family life and writing. There were many, many days when I just wanted to write but my husband or my kids needed me to be there for them. It was a journey to learn to trust the Lord for writing time without neglecting those He’d given me to love and care for. My favorite part of the writing process is the discovery of new characters or story elements as I write. I am truly a seat-of-the-pants writer, though I’ve had to learn to have at least an idea of an outline due to writing on deadline. I love when the story surprises me, makes me laugh or cry as I write. While I actually enjoy the revision process more than the first draft, I love those moments in the first draft that weren’t planned out beforehand.
- Now to your story. I was fascinated by the main characters’ names in Playing by Heart. Chet and Lula as monikers are both quite unique. How did you choose their names, and do you have a process for choosing character names?
- That is an interesting story that I don’t believe I’ve mentioned in any other interview! I knew I wanted to use my grandmother’s childhood nickname, Fruity Lu, but I didn’t necessarily want to use her name, Martha Lou. I went to the Oklahoma archives one day to research and found myself listening to a bunch of oral history tapes. One was done by a man named Chet. His wife’s name? Lula! It worked perfectly!
- I was pleasantly surprised that the story was written in first person point of view. Seeing the world through Lula and Chet’s eyes brought me into the story even more. Do you enjoy writing in first person?
- I do. I have written in both third person and first person, but it was my first person voice in Wings of a Dream that helped that book stand out, so I continued. I have some background in drama, so I find it easy to fall into seeing the story through my character’s eyes, much as I would a part in a play. Of course Chet is my very first attempt at a first person male character. It was tough, but I hope I did him justice!
- The bonds of familial love – and responsibility – run strong and true through your story, with both main and secondary characters. Does the theme of family and commitment tie strongly into all your stories?
- Yes, it does. If feel that a strong sense of family is one of the things that characterizes all my work. I think it stems back to that earlier question where I mentioned my struggle to balance family and writing. I love my family. They are important to me. I think in some ways all my stories revolve around family to remind me of that.
- I appreciate the strong lesson of learning to trust God’s plan that both Lula and Chet learn in Playing by Heart. How does your faith shape the words you put on the page?
- It is a “chicken and the egg” kind of thing with faith and writing. My writing challenges my faith. As my faith grows, it appears more starkly on the page. I’m never quite sure which came first! My entire writing journey has been more about growing in faith and learning to love and trust God more than it has been about the product that was produced from that journey. My constant prayer is that my faith on the page with encourage readers to look at their own faith and press in closer to Jesus.
- When she returns to her hometown, Lula ends up teaching two subjects she didn’t expect to – music and coaching girls’ basketball. I really enjoyed the exciting game scenes in the book, and giggled that the girls’ team was supposed to play a ‘gentler’ game than the boys’ team. (In other words, they weren’t supposed to run around and sweat during the basketball practices and games – where’s the fun in that?) What was it like researching the early game of basketball?
- I loved it! After years of watching my kids play basketball, it was so fun to learn some of the history of the game. Especially for the girls! My girl was as tough as they come on the court. She would have been very frustrated with that “gentler” game!
~ Quick Questions ~
Any pets? A dog, Abby, who is 12. But she is really hubby’s dog at heart.
Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving. I love the food and family and football.
A color we’ll never see you wear? Orange
A book you’ll never part with? My inductive study Bible. Too many years of notes in those wide margins!
Night owl or morning dove? Night owl. Which makes it hard being married to a morning dove!Favorite way to spend a lazy day? Reading, of course! Watching BBC shows or period dramas comes in a close second.
Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today, Anne!
Anne has graciously offered one commenter a copy of her latest release, Playing by Heart. Leave a comment either on my blog or in the comments section on Facebook. (If you leave a comment on my blog, please include an email where I can reach you if your name is drawn.)
The contest ends Friday, October 17th at noon. Entrants from the continental U.S., only, please.