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Interview with Author Pat Wahler

Eclectic author of I am Mrs. Jessie James

I have the great fortune of living in an area with many wonderful writers. I knew Pat Wahler long before reading I am Mrs. Jesse James. We both belong to Saturday Writers in St. Peters, Missouri, an absolutely phenomenal organization for writers of all levels. If you read Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, you’ve probably encountered her work since she’s a frequent contributor. I thought it would be fun to interview her so my readers might discover a new “must read” author.

Pat Wahler is the author of Western Fictioneers’ Best First Novel of 2018 and Walter Williams Award winner, I am Mrs. Jesse James; along with a three-book contemporary romance series and a Christmas collection of short stories. A frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies and Sasee Magazine, her work has also appeared in Reader’s Digest, Storyteller Magazine, and other regional and national publications.

Pat is an avid reader with a special passion for historical fiction, women’s fiction, and stories with heart. She lives in Missouri with her husband, a Peek-a-poo pup named Winston, and Bogey, a tabby with attitude. A fan of good books, history, humor, animals, and the arts, Pat draws inspiration from family, friends, and the critters who relentlessly supervise every moment she spends at the keyboard.

Welcome, Pat. Tell me about a book that made you cry. Why?

Any time a story includes a dog, you can bet at some point I’ll be bawling like a baby. It takes much more to wring tears out of me related to human characters, but a certain novel did the job well. Early in 2021, I read A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. A dual timeline, the book is set in two different periods: September 1911 and September 2011. The earliest timeline features a woman dealing with the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, while the more modern setting shows the struggles of a woman who still hasn’t come to grips with the loss of her husband ten years earlier during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The two narratives are related, and the reader discovers how as two women separated by time attempt to work their way through crippling grief.

I think my own emotional state regarding the events of September 11 helped to fuel my reaction, but I hasten to add the novel isn’t at all a depressing tale. Rather, it uplifts the reader, showing us there is a path from even the darkest night. I highly recommend it!

As a fellow dog lover, I completely understand about the bawling. I haven’t read A Fall of Marigolds yet, but am adding to my TBR.

How do you write? Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

My first step in storytelling is research and tons of note-taking, done the old-fashioned way—with pen and paper. In the same fashion, I prepare character sketches and fiddle with structure, as I try to decide in what direction the story will go. As ideas occur to me, I jot them down. I like the practice of starting the writing process in longhand since it uses a different part of the brain than typing. In my mind, this helps with creativity. Ideas flow more freely.

Once I have a decent grasp of the basics, I sit at the keyboard and type. That said, as a manuscript evolves, my plan can change. Nothing is set in concrete, and I’m always open to modifying the original plan if it serves the story.

We’re the exact opposite since I’m a discovery writer and research when I need it, but since you write a lot of historical fiction, pre-research seems like a must.

Do your novels carry a message?

Even though I don’t set out to deliberately convey a message to readers, some sort of theme typically emerges over the course of writing. For I am Mrs. Jesse James, Zee finds redemption, even though she’s married the most infamous outlaw of the Old West. Each of the Becker Family Novels has a character arc as well, whether it’s learning to trust again after a betrayal, pursuing a dream against all odds, or healing from the pain of grief.

Come to think of it, I suppose most stories have a theme. It’s why we read—to learn about ourselves through the lens of a fictional character.

I suppose they do indeed. Of course, for me, it usually takes an astute reader to point it out. Ha!

Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?

My favorite genre to read (and write) is historical fiction. My favorite authors are those who write compelling and well-researched immersive stories that seamlessly transport me into the past. A few authors at the top of my list are Susanna Kearsley, Kate Quinn, Marie Benedict, Melanie Benjamin, Stephanie Dray, Fiona Davis, Kathleen Grissom, Paula McLain, and Susan Meissner. There are others as well.

I loved Paula McLain’s When the Stars Go Dark.

I think a writer can’t help but be influenced by what they read, which is why it’s important to be familiar with the work of authors who are masters. Those who are at the top of their game. Reading a beautiful turn of phrase or unique style makes me eager to work harder on improving my own manuscripts.

What is the most special thing a reader has said about one of your books?

I chose to answer this question as it relates to my debut novel, which also happens to be my best-selling book, and the one that’s been honored with multiple awards. I am Mrs. Jesse James is the story of the woman who married a notorious outlaw. I worried about tackling this subject, as the James family continues to be of great interest to the public. Speculation, differences of opinion, and outright misinformation abounds. Would there be backlash over the way I portrayed Zee, or the way I pictured Jesse?

To my great relief, general reader feedback was gratifying. But how would those who studied the James family react to the book?

I got my answer when a bookstore owner located in northern Missouri where Jesse is alleged to have robbed a bank contacted me. She had read the book and reached out to let me know how much she loved the story because she felt I had treated Jesse’s wife with respect.

She couldn’t have said anything to make me happier.

I agree that was a tough topic to tackle, and you did it in such a way as to bring the characters alive.

What are you working on now?

I recently finished my second historical novel, which is currently out to several publishers on spec. I’m super excited about this biographical tale of another person from Missouri’s history, a multi-talented woman I found to be smart, funny, inspiring, and totally fascinating. I can’t wait to share her story!

While decisions are made on how the book will be released into the world, I’m currently writing my first dual timeline story. My work-in-progress is set during the Christmas season and is loosely based on events in my grandmother’s life. Stay tuned. It’s scheduled to be available to readers by Fall 2022.

I can’t wait to find out who this mysterious character is.

This has been fun. Thanks so much for hosting me, Jeanne!

Thank you for taking a break from writing to share with my readers.

Here are links to Pat’s books (click the pictures):

Contemporary Romance



To connect with Pat:Website — Facebook Author Page — Goodreads Author Page — Instagram — Twitter — Amazon Author Page — Bookbub Author Page — Pinterest

4 Comments

  1. Margo Dil says:

    You are two of my favorites. Thanks for this interview!

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Aww, thank you.

  2. Love your introduction of the author and your interview style, Jeanne.

    Pat Whaler is a talented author and a meticulous researcher. As a fan of her other books, I had to read I Am Mrs. Jesse James. It did not disappoint and made historical fiction another genre to incorporate into my TBR list.. I enjoyed getting to know Pat more through your interview. Kudos to both of you!

    1. Jeanne Felfe says:

      Thank you. I try to have fun with them.

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