Alison Winfree Pickrell – The Last Cordate

What is your most recent book?

My most recent book is The Last Cordate, a Christian fantasy set on another planet. The Cordate is elected every ten years to carry Grief from the planet. Talasa, who has been sheltered from the ways of the planet, is the last Cordate. As she journeys across the fallen, downtrodden planet, she struggles to fulfill her mission in spite of the resistance of many and the evil plans of Necrose. I tried to paint an allegorical picture of the Christian faith while addressing the state and heart of Mankind.

Tell us something about yourself.

I live in Statesville, NC. I have been married to my husband, Brian, for 31 years and have grown twin stepsons and one grandson, Cody. I was a special education teacher for 30 years and retired in 2006. Writing has always been my passion. Back in the ‘80s I wrote five manuscripts and had an agent who believed in me. I thought I would be published immediately, but, alas, it took twenty-four years of persistence and much prayer before my first book was published in 2007. My publisher, OakTara wanted to see everything I’ve ever written. The Last Cordate is the book I originally wrote in 1988.

What inspired you to write this book?

In 1988, I gave up writing for Lent. An idea for a book kept coming back to me, but I pushed it away until Easter Sunday, when I got a composition notebook and wrote “My Religious Epic Pilgrimage Novel” across the front and began taking notes!

How did you choose the title?

The original title for this book was The Last Myrmidon, but I was advised not to use that word because it has a lot of baggage from the Iliad. I searched for another word that would fit and found the adjective “cordate” which means heart-shaped. That fits my story since the god of this planet is the three-hearted Da-Dat-Shee. I use it as a noun in my book.

What obstacles did you encounter and How did you overcome them?

As I stated before, I originally wrote this book and four others in the ‘80s. After my agent was unsuccessful in getting me published, I was on my own. I would send out my manuscripts with much prayer and they kept coming back. I have a three volume collection of rejection slips (and those are just the ones I kept, the standard “Dear Author” ones went in the trash). I lost heart many times and put my manuscripts aside, but I kept pulling them out and trying again. I wrote a new book in 2006, Unto the Least of These. When it was accepted by OakTara (then called Capstone), they wanted to see all my others. At this point, three of the five books I wrote in the ‘80s have been published. Thank you, God.

How did you know you wanted to become a writer?

When I was very small, my brothers, sister and I would write books, comics, stories and draw the illustrations. I must’ve gotten the writing bug very young because my oldest book has “Complete with words,” on the inside cover!

Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t have any true rituals. I can write anywhere, including sitting beside my husband while he’s towing cars! For some reason, I was much more disciplined when I was teaching school and had little time to write. Now that I am retired, my disciplined routines have gotten slack. I don’t write every day, but when I am working on something, I write as often as I can get to the computer.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

The Last Cordate is different from my other books which are about people here on Earth. Because it is a fantasy, I wanted unusual names for my characters. I wrote the alphabet down one sheet of paper and tried to think of names or words with each letter. The rivers on my planet are the Eelfalill and the Eepaphaneepa. Those were my two E words. I also used the Thesaurus to name the classes of humanlike beings (which I call datta) on the planet. The Prolixites are word-worshipers and the Sylvanians, love animals more than people.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book?

I learned how to take notes and make lists and maps and character sketches that I would use. I went to the library and Xeroxed pictures of people in different costumes to correspond with characters in my book. I cut them into paper dolls and whenever one of the characters was in the scene I was writing, I’d stand the paper dolls around my Magnavox Videowriter (this was 1988, remember!) as I wrote. It helped me to visualize them!

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

A lot of the feedback I am getting from friends is that the beginning is difficult. I use a lot of unfamiliar words and, because it is set on another planet, my characters aren’t human, they’re datta. If I could do it over, I think I’d write a prologue or somehow introduce the readers to the planet first, so it wouldn’t be so hard! They all like the story, just have a hard time getting oriented to the setting.

What types of books do you like to read and who are your favorite authors?

I read a variety of books—thrillers, mysteries, children’s books, contemporary novels. My favorite authors would include C S Lewis, Anne Tyler, Alexander McCall Smith, Harper Lee, John Eldredge, and Dean Koontz to name a few.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

OakTara has the last two books I wrote in the ‘80s. The next one to come out, Taugh Bow, will be about a naïve school teacher in a small town who begins receiving mysterious letters in her PO Box that indicate someone is in grave danger. I am also co-writing a book with my husband, Brian, which is a new experience for me. I’m not ready to talk about that book just yet.

What is the best advice you can give other writers about writing or publishing?

From my own experience, never give up! It took me twenty four years and three volumes of rejection slips before I got the desire of my heart! If you believe in your work, keep plugging away. Also, don’t throw anything away! One of the manuscripts I have completed but not edited, was based on 12 pages of a short story that I got stuck on and couldn’t finish. Instead, I turned it into a complete novel! You never know when something old will become something new. Also, carry paper with you everywhere, especially to bed, so you can write down ideas as they come to you. You won’t remember them later!

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

The perfect reader for this book would be a Christian who enjoys fantasies with a spiritual message.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My website http://www.alisonwinfreepickrell.com/ tells all about my four books. I have videos on YouTube about each book that you can view from my website. My publisher’s website where you can find many other wonderful books and authors is http://www.oaktara.com/ Thank you for taking the time to read this interview!