Many of the books I read right now are self-published or published by small presses. I pick them up at book events because I want to know what is on the market and because I want to support the hardworking authors. I have quite a stack of books from big publishers and small presses I am working through. When I picked up the memoir Pathways of the Heart by Diane Yates, I thought I knew what to expect, a love story people with gentle folks from the Ozarks during the Depression years.
The book opens with a boy and girl in a one school house jousting for each other’s attention, they fall in love and a teenaged marriage follows which includes babies popping out like biscuits from a burst can. Okay, sweet but predictable, but somewhere along the way the characters of Kenneth and Clella become complex and challenging. I began to read in longer sessions, to return to my book whenever I could. This became such a powerful story for me raising lots of profound thoughts on the way. It was also a bit of a microspoic slimpse into my own ancestral people that I have loved and lost.
The author, the seventh child of the protagonist, gave me a character that will follow me through my days now just like Dorothy with her Toto, Laura and her Almanzo, and The One and Only Scarlett. Clella is another durable role model, a strong woman enduring struggles and knowing the meaning of the words home and family. Her battles become the reader’s own.
Although she now lives and writes from the middle of Missouri, Diane Yates has deep roots in the Ozarks as her book reveals. She is the present president of the Ozark Writers League. When the group began to crumble while redefining itself months ago, Diane stepped in and became the midwife bringing the group to a new life. She has agreed to a mini-interview about her book below.
What made you write the story of your mother and expose her to readers everywhere?
I felt like God wanted me to share the story of my mother and Kenneth. I
thought maybe it could help couples who are struggling in their relationships. I
believe in many ways Mom was the picture of the virtuous woman in Proverbs
31. I’ve heard from a few men who read the book and they admitted it
encouraged them to be a better husband, but the one that surprised me was
a young single mother who said when times were hardest raising her little one
by herself, she just thought of Clella’s strength carrying those buckets of water
and knew if Clella could do it, she could, too!
My mother was a private person, but if her story could help one person, she’d
be all for sharing it. Before I could submit it to be published, I sent the
manuscript to my siblings, and cousins for their approval. I had the complete
support of all my family.
You kept the stories of all the adults so balanced. How did you keep judgement of Kenneth or Clella from appearing in your work?
There is no judgement from me in my heart of Kenneth or Clella. I believe theirs is the picture of what happens when you don’t nurture your relationship. Marriage takes work. If one’s not careful, the love you once felt will slip away in the hustle and weariness of everyday life.
As a writer, you quietly captured the pain and darkness of both the Depression and the character’s lives. How did you choose what details to put in and what to leave out?
I started writing this story in 1996. After a few months, I didn’t like what I read. I put it down because I felt the story was too important for such amateurish writing. Finally, almost ten years later, I decided if I didn’t write it, it wouldn’t get written. I still, even after publication, find mistakes or want to make revisions. While doing my research, I made a list of all the stories I felt needed to be included. As for the Depression, Mother and Kenneth, and most of the people in that area, were made of tough stuff! They did what they had to do and made the most of what they had. Mother was the most resourceful person I have ever known. My husband says “she could always make something out of nothing.”
How did you decide to make this story a memoir instead of a work of fiction?
I thought about making it a work of fiction and almost did. I considered having her decide to stay with her husband as well. In the end, I felt like it needed to be accurate with real names. A testament to the strength, courage and character of the people whose lives touched one another. I was told the book was too secular to be published by a “Christian” publisher and too Christian to be published by a “Traditional” publisher. In the end, I am blessed to have found a Christian agent and a publisher who supports the book.
Thank you so much, Diane, for both the book and the interview!