I was a country girl from Lincoln County Kansas. Our nearest small town was about 15 miles away, and our trips to town were usually once a week.
I had the freedom to roam the farm, to explore the creek, to walk or ride my horse to my grandparent’s farm less than a mile away. Anyone within a ten-mile distance was considered a neighbor and friend, making our rural area a rather close-knit community. I was seldom bored, as many of the animals on the farm were considered a pet. A horse, a dog, cats and kittens, rabbits, and even a milking cow that sometimes let me climb on her back. Except for snakes. I’m like Sarah in my book, Never Waste Tears. I hate and fear snakes.How does a one-room schoolhouse differ from a normal one? What was your experience studying there?
Keep in mind, this was over 60 years ago—yes, I’m that old. Union Valley School was on about two acres of land surrounded by a road on two sides, a pasture on one side, and a crop field on the other. We had one teacher for all eight grades. For my eight years of grade school, I was in a class by myself. Though I had a certain curriculum I had to meet, my teacher often let me participate with those in other grade levels.
Besides the schoolhouse, there was a boy’s out-house and a girl’s out-house with a storage building separating the two. Our playground equipment was sparse—a swing set, a merry-go-round, and eventually a slippery-slide. At recess, we played games and sports that often had their own set of rules. It’s where we learned compromise and many of life’s social skills.
The schoolhouse had two parts—a small cloak room and one large classroom. Our box lunches were on a shelf on one side of the cloak room. On the other side, we had a drinking/washing area. Every day we hand pumped a fresh bucket of water from a well outside the front door. A common dipper was used for our drinking water and for dipping water out of the bucket into a washing basin, where we could wash our hands.What were some of your career aspirations as a child or teen and have they changed over the years? When did you become a published author and what was the book that did it for you?
When I was very young, I wanted to be a mother, an artist, and a cowgirl. Then as a teenager, I worked as a nurses-aid for a while. I finally chose to go to a business school. I got married, had a family, and gave up my ambition of being a cowgirl.
I never had the lifelong dream of writing that so many of my writer friends had. So how did I get into becoming a published author? About 12 years ago I joined a writing group to learn how to express myself better. I first wrote a few memoirs and then tried writing fictional stories. I started having fun with words. So, I took a couple workshops and challenged myself into writing a manuscript. The result—I turned one of my short stories into my debut novel, The Rocking Horse.Do you write merely for entertainment or do you have a "message" or something you want to change through your books?
I’m selfish. I write for me. Because I’ve written in different genres, my messages are different, yet they have a few things in common.
In Never Waste Tears, I wanted to show the sacrifices and strengths it took for our ancestors to persevere. In Hush Girl: It’s Only a Dream, I wanted to show Nicki no longer letting herself be a victim. And in The Rocking Horse, Julie’s struggle to find her own identity made her a stronger person.What are some of the most intriguing crimes you've come across while doing research for a book or looking for new material?
The triple murders in The Rocking Horse were created by pure imagination on my part. My own emotions did a wild, roller-coaster ride because I felt I needed the murder scene to convey the heartbreak the family felt. That heartbreak became even more real to me after the book was published and I had the opportunity to talk with two people who had personal experiences with triple murders in their own families.Since the story "Never Waste Tears" was set in Kansas, your home state, how was writing this book for you, emotionally? What are some things you were hoping to accomplish or get out with this book?
I could see the land clearly, since the homestead claims Carl and Nathan filed were where I grew up. My own grandparents lived in a limestone house that was made from a quarry on their land. Therefore, it was easy to have the pioneers envision the dream of someday building a fine home out of the stone.
I wanted to remember my own ancestor’s struggles and hardships—their faith and dreams. I fear I wouldn’t have had the fortitude of Hannah and Sarah.Is there anything else you're passionate about other than writing? Do you think you could make a career of it if you weren't an author?
When I was younger, I loved to dig in the dirt. Gardening has taken a back seat now that it’s not so easy to crawl around on my hands and knees pulling weeds and transplanting things. So, now I occasionally pick up a paintbrush and apply colors on a canvass. And I’m always passionate about my family.
I doubt I’d ever make a career out of writing if I had to write for others. I love my readers, but I write because I love to create characters out of words.What was the inspiration for the book "Hush Girl"? What does the character Nicki mean to you?
I know someone who felt abandoned by her mother when she was a child. It had a lasting impact on the person she grew up to be. I took it a step further for Nicki by adding the abuse and the turmoil Sharon created for the family.
The title, Hush Girl: It’s Only a Dream, came from Nicki’s childhood when she had to keep secrets. She was a mess for a while until she confronted her nightmares and pulled herself out of the depths of darkness.Besides the process of writing itself, what do you enjoy most about being an author? What is an accomplishment you've made as an author that you're most proud of?
I love being able to take others with me on my journey through my writing. I’ve met so many readers who love my characters as much as I do. I’ve also met many other authors at book-signings, conferences, and workshops.
It took me three years to write Never Waste Tears. It’s a constant learning process to make a story touch people. I especially am proud when people tell me they didn’t want to put one of my books down.What is most special about your character Julie Hendricks from "The Rocking Horse"? How long did it take you to write and finish this book?
The Rocking Horse was my first attempt at writing a novel. It took about a year to write. Then I shared a chapter every week with my writing group. It was met with such enthusiasm that I spent six months querying for an agent. I received a bucket full of rejections, but many of them were encouraging enough that I finally decided to self-publish. It’s pretty clear in the beginning chapters of the book, who the murderer is. Julie’s self- identity is what drives the story. Her quirky, toy rocking horse adds a slight touch of paranormal.What is one book you wish you could've been the original author of? What is one thing that always captures your interest when you start reading a new book?
There are none. Though I love the journey other authors take me on, my desire for writing is to solve the mystery of my own developed characters. I’m hooked if I get to see true emotion and motives of a book’s characters.How would you describe your journey as an author so far? What are some essential truths a person should know before starting out as a writer?
My own journey is an unknown adventure through unchartered territory. I say that because there has been an explosion of new authors since I published my first book. We are all desperately trying to find readers that will enjoy our writing.
Let others help you learn. Join a writing group where you can give and receive critiques. Then make good use of the advice you’re given. Not everything you write is going to be as good as it can be. Keep writing and find your own unique voice.Lastly, if you were given the chance to either travel the world or travel to space, what would you choose?
The world. I want to go where I can observe not only the wonders of the Earth but the complexities of the humans that live there.
Country girl from Lincoln County Kansas, author Gloria Zachgo wanted to be a mother, an artist, and a cowgirl as a child. She worked as a nurses-aid for a while as a teenager, but finally chose to go to business school. She joined a writing group about 12 years ago and wrote a few memoirs and fictional stories, later challenging herself to write a manuscript, her debut novel, The Rocking Horse. She loves being able to take others on her journey through writing, which she describes as an unknown adventure through uncharted territory. As an author, she says it is important to let others help you learn, to keep writing and find your own unique voice. Gloria also loves gardening and painting.