Outside authors talk about love for Alaska

From coping with severe family illnesses to a love of Alaska and a passion for writing Christian fiction, co-authors Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse have bonded over their specific commonalities.

On their nine-stop, September book tour through Alaska the pair spent time at the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library in Soldotna to speak about their individual paths that brought them to the same profession- storytelling.

Woodhouse, began her portion of the talk with the story of her daughter Kayla. Kayla who suffers from Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy, which means she has trouble registering pain, non-functional sweat glands and a Chiari Malformation of the brain, where her cerebellum tonsils hang down into her spinal cord and as a result put painful pressure on her spine, she said.

“Everybody’s gone through something junky in their life,” Woodhouse said. “I bet everyone in this room has been through something junky.”

Taking care of her daughter’s needs shaped not only her family life, but the way Woodhouse tells stories and which stories she tells, she said.

After publishing a book she co-wrote with Kayla about her disease, and a book detailing her family’s experience receiving a home through ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” TV program, Woodhouse met who she calls the “prolific writer, Tracey Peterson,” she said.

Peterson was not only her favorite writer, but also willing and wanting to work personally with Woodhouse.

“Peterson has taught and guided many other authors,” Woodhouse said. “She has never been too good for any of them.”

Since meeting, the two developed a strong friendship and co-authored a depression-era novel set in Alaska, titled “All Things Hidden.”

The story is about a young girl named Gwyn Hillerman living in rural Alaska in 1935, Peterson said.

The character of Dr. Jeremiah Vaughan loses his medical license and then loses his engagement to Gwyn’s sister, Sophia, she said.

The U.S. government sends a group of families to Alaska and Gwyn’s father, Dr. Hillerman, asks Jeremiah to join his practice, Peterson said. Gwyn and Jeremiah eventually fall in love, but that soon too becomes threatened.

While Peterson is based in Montana, and Woodhouse lives in Colorado, the two made the trip to Alaska many times through out the course of writing their novel together.

Visiting is only one part of the writing experience, Peterson said. She learned to ride a stagecoach, assisted in a calf birthing that took place in a 30 degrees below zero day and has role played with her husband to get into the stories.

Both Peterson and Woodhouse supplemented their lectures with very person, vivid recreations of real life experiences.

Peterson began writing because her mother was trying to get her to be quiet in church. As she grew up, she fell in love with story and books were everything with 106 books written, and 103 of them have been published.

“With my books, I want to entertain, educate and encourage the reader,” Peterson said. “When an author can do that in a book they’ve really accomplished something.”


Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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