Today is part of a brief interview with Suzanne Waring, author of Searching for a Special Place. The book is a story of a little girl moving from city to farm in the 1940's and how she wanted to find her own special place on the farm.
1. Why did you write this book as a story as opposed to a memoir?
It's my understanding that a memoir is about a portion of one's life, so since my book covers one year of my life when I was five years old, it might have been written as a memoir. In fact, at first, I thought I would write a memoir for my family only—I have two grandsons who, I hope, will someday be interested in my childhood. Then my husband urged me to think more broadly. When I did, I thought I needed a story rather than the facts of that year, or the book would have been really boring. As a result, I used incidents that happened at other times, and some that never happened at all. Also, I wanted to include themes that all children have to learn such as patience, common sense, adjusting to change, and entertaining oneself without a lot of gadgets. I felt I could do that through fiction.
2. Your book interests readers in the SE Kansas prairie area, your home. What in your book would appeal to readers in the rest of the country?
It was my hope that I could depict rural life throughout the United States in the late forties—before electricity. When cities and towns were electrified, for-profit electrical companies were economically unable to run lines long distances into the rural areas to sparse populations. Besides motorized vehicles, farming families' lives remained fairly basic. It took the Rural Electrification Act (REA) of 1936 to modernize farms and ranches. This did not happen in our region of SE Kansas until almost 1950. Once electricity was available, the way we lived our daily lives changed very quickly.
I wanted to convey how we went about our lives during those few years after the war and what hand tools we used. I made an effort to take photographs of many of the common tools used by going to the History Museum in Great Falls, Montana, where I live and to the farm of Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Baack. This family kept everything ever used on the farm for the last hundred years, so I had a great time doing the photography.
Most of all, I wanted readers, especially, children to see the life of a child who was surrounded by a loving extended family of a mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather. They were people who sat down together three times a day to eat a meal. They took time for an active, curious child. Farm work was also team work. Because of the way many people live today, the setting and circumstances of this story might, at first, seem foreign, but as they read the book, they will know that it really could and did happen.
Rest of the interview tomorrow....