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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Spotlight on Olivia Newport

How did you get started writing?
I don’t remember a time I was not telling stories in my head. I’m old enough to have grown up in the years when every Sunday school class had a flannelgraph board. I remember using all the flannel pieces to make up my own stories! But it was only about ten years ago that I decided if I was ever going to get serious about trying to write novels for adults, I’d better get down to business. My first book released in 2012. 

How do you choose names for your characters?
Sometimes characters spring fully formed with names I can’t shake even if I try. Other times, especially if I’m writing something historical, I dig through Internet lists of names that were popular in the decade during which my character was born. I want the name to be authentic to the period. I also stroll through cemeteries and keep lists of interesting first names and family names. 

Tell us a bit about your family.
I’ve been married just about 38 years and have an adult son and daughter, and a son-in-law who joined the family 15 months ago. My daughter has an eight-pound “Morkie” dog that she has taken to leaving at our house during the day (we’re both at home) so the poor thing is not alone all day.

What does your writing place look like?
I’m fortunate to have a dedicated office in my home. My desk is a corner desk with a hutch with efficient shelving that keeps everything in reach—and distracting! A few months ago I hung curtains over the shelves in the hutch on both sides. I can close the curtains and focus. Above my screen are the silk flowers from my daughter’s wedding. I also have a desk in the living room that pleasantly masquerades as a more decorative piece of furniture but has a wide pull-out tray where I can use my laptop. From there I can look out at the flowers in front or the bird feeder. 

Is there one book of yours that you would like to do a sequel to?
Many of my books do have sequels. The Avenue of Dreams series has three stories, and the Valley of Choice series has three as well. The Amish Turns of Time series is a bit different. It has five stories, though technically each one is a stand-alone. What they have in common is that each one is about a time in Amish history when the Amish faced a cultural or theological issue that came to define them in some way. Hidden Falls is a nice thick contemporary story populated by characters I became quite fond of, and I admit I do find my imagination wandering back to Hidden Falls and wondering how they’re doing. 

What type of research do you do for your books?
When I can, I visit the place that has inspired the setting, such as the historical neighborhood in Chicago that is the setting of the Avenue of Dreams or the rural area of Colorado that is home to Valley of Choice. Sometimes research is an aggregate a number of small local museums, which are some of my favorite places, where I come home loaded with pamphlets and small books full of local color. And of course I use the Internet, though I always try to push sources back as far as I can—such as finding a description of a true-to-history parade in a newspaper from the time—and verifying facts with more than one account. Often people at museums are pleased to answer questions by e-mail about the history of their regions. I’ve even gotten train schedules for a particular route in a particular year and maps of land grants that way. 

What do you hope readers will get out of your books?
More than anything, I hope they find hope! Hope of God’s presence in their lives. Hope of their significance to others. Hope that they touch other people’s lives with kindness and compassion in ways that make a difference. 

Olivia Newport blogs at When it comes to social media, she hangs around the Facebook neighborhood more than anywhere else.

Don't miss Olivia's newest book:

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