October 8, 2014

To Find Your Voice, Go Back to Your Roots

By Tina Ann Forkner

“Roots are not in landscape or a country, or a people, they are in you.” – Isabel Allende

Some of the best stories in literature have been born out of locations that the authors not only researched, but also spent a great deal of time in. When an author spends a lot of time in one geographic location, everything about the landscape and culture becomes part of the author. It becomes part of their voice. It is as if, instead of the author’s roots going deep into the area, that area’s roots go deep into the author.

As an example, my first two novels were set in the California wine country. I live in Wyoming, but prior to moving there, I attended college in Sacramento where I lived for five years, spending every other weekend in the Sonoma Valley. After spending so much time immersed in the area’s culture, it was second nature to set my novels there. So you might be thinking that I must have found my voice in writing about California, but when it was time to write my third novel, my voice kept turning into a rural country girl. I recognized her. She was from my home town

I grew up in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, just a few miles from both Arkansas and Missouri. I have family scattered all around that three state area and for me, the landscape, the culture, the simple way of southern living all draw me back to visit year after year. Summers filled with creeks, iced tea, strawberry short cake, cool lemon meringue pie, and blissfully long days of climbing trees and picking wildflowers are the things I talk about most to my children. I can’t even tell you about it here without waxing sentimental, but after I got California off my mind, I decided it was time to write about the place that kept calling me home.

When I started writing my latest novel, Waking Up Joy, which is set in northeastern Oklahoma, it was as if the story just flowed out of my fingertips. Not that it was easy, because writing never is, but when it came to inspiration, it was right there. I only had to reach into a well of experiences that were easy to shape into fiction. 

When I finished Waking Up Joy, a writing friend asked me how I came up with that place. I couldn’t really explain it to her. It was just inside of me, although the part about the medieval charms concealed in an Inglenook chimney came from something I heard about while living in England. So you see? That’s just another example of how where you’ve spent time gets inside of you, and eventually into your stories. That’s how you find your voice.
Tina Ann Forkner is a Women’s Fiction writer and the author of Waking Up Joy, releases, today. She is also the author of Rose House and Ruby Among Us. While she was born and raised in Oklahoma, lived in England, and attended college in California, Tina makes her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming with her husband, three teenagers, and two spoiled dogs. Learn more about her and her books at


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