An Interview with Lisa Wingate

While in Jefferson, Texas at Kathy Patrick’s Girlfriend Weekend, I met another wonderful author–Lisa Wingate, who agreed to a short interview that I would post on this blog. I enjoyed hearing her speak,  and her wit and work caused me to think of her as a Texan version of  Carson McCuller.

Lisa Wingate lives in central Texas where she is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author of several books. Her novel, Tending Roses, sold out ten printings for New York publisher, Penguin Putnam, and went on to become a national bestselling book. Tending Roses was a selection of the Readers Club of America, and is currently in its eleventh printing.

The Tending Roses series continued with Good Hope Road, The Language of Sycamores, Drenched In Light, and A Thousand Voices. In 2003, Lisa’s Texas Hill Country series began with Texas Cooking, and continued with Lone Star Café, which was hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as “A charmingly nostalgic treat.” The series concluded with Over the Moon at the Big Lizard Diner.

Lisa is now working on a new set of small-town Texas novels for Bethany House Publishers. The series debuts with Talk of The Town, in February, 2008. A new series is also underway for Penguin Group NAL, beginning with A Month of Summer (July 2008).


Talk of the Town is a zany little tale about big dreams, small town life, fried food, and the making Hollywood superstars—not necessarily in that order. While the book has a serious side that looks at grief, recovery, the temptations of fame, and the value of community, it also has a lot of laughs thanks to the quirky, crazy folks of Daily, Texas. Daily is a place not unlike many small towns, and if you’ve ever lived in one or spent time in one, you’ll probably recognize some people you know in Daily, Texas. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop in at the café for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. Say hi to Imagene, Donetta, and girls for me. Don’t be surprised if they’re cooking up more than just red beans and rice. There’s never any telling, on any given day, what will happen in Daily, and that goes double now that local Daily Darling, Amber Anderson has made it to the top on the American Superstar show. Ever since the big news about Amber hit town, it’s been dig-in-your-spurs-and-hang-on-Sally, we’re going for a ride.


1. Your favorite author(s) and book(s)

In terms of classics, I love anything by Twain, because the writing is real and timeless. Reading Twain makes you realize that, when you take away the modern trappings, people really haven’t changed all that much. There’s a little Huckleberry Finn in all of us. I enjoy the writings of Will Rogers for the same reason. Rogers’ humor is dead-on today, just as it was when he penned it. I’ve loved sharing C.S. Lewis with my sons as they’ve grown up, as well. Gift From the Sea is another tiny, but favorite classic.

In terms of modern writers, I enjoy reading anything by Debbie Macomber. Luanne Rice, Adriana Trigiani, and others. I loved Nicholas Sparks and his novel, The Notebook, because it encompassed so many of the feelings I had while dealing with Alzheimer’s disease in my own family. I enjoy any story that explores life in a positive way and ends with the belief that all things are possible.

I’m currently reading Paulina Porizkova’s A Model Summer, after having met her at the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend. The story is keeping me up late, reading, and sometimes re-reading passages so I can soak in the descriptions, which, for me, is always the marker of a great book.

2. What is the most significant thing as a writer that you learned in writing this book?

For me, writing Talk of the Town has been a chance to explore the fabric of small community, the way in which the members mesh like threads in a weave that creates both a canvas and a safety net.

The original idea for this story struck me several years ago while I was out to dinner with friends. The subject of nearby Crawford, Texas (at that time, the brand new location of the Bush ranch) came up, and funny “Crawford” stories began flying back and forth across the table. Strange events take place when the world stage falls on a quiet little town that isn’t at all prepared for the spotlight. It occurred to me that, not only were some interesting culture collisions involved, but the stories were just plain funny.

The inspiration rattled around the back of my mind for several years. When I finally started writing it, I thought a reality TV show would be the perfect vehicle for bringing the press, paparazzi, and the bright lights to a sleepy little town that’s about to wake up in a big way.

3. What are your favorite lines in the book?

“A wiggle in the water don’t mean there’s a fish on the hook.”

“I’ve got a big mouth, and there’s no telling sometimes what’ll tumble out. I have to repent every five minutes or so. When I get to the pearly gates, I imagine the atonement line will be long with people who don’t. I’ll be in the short line at the express gate, because I’m on the repent-as-you-go plan. ”

“You know you’re best girlfriends when you check each other’s teeth without even thinking about it.”

“The plain kind of places, the ones like Daily, where the folks are friendly and folks are friendly and a good story will buy you a cup of coffee any day of the week, don’t ever really die. They only doze off like sage old hounds sleeping away the hot afternoon, awaiting the cool of evening to get up and throw back their heads, lope through the hills and bay at the moon.”

“Sometimes it’s convenient having an auto body shop and a beauty salon all in one building. You wouldn’t think so, but sometimes it is.”

“Don’t need no 60 Minutes here. We’ve got the café. Paul Harvey would be impressed at how quick the rest of the story gets told in Daily, Texas.”

Those are a few of my favorites, but really, Daily was just a fun place to spend time, all the way around.

4. News: Recent or future author events?

I do quite a bit of inspirational speaking, so there’s always a list of upcoming appearances and events on
Over the course of a year, I’ll usually speak to fifty or sixty groups of all different sizes. After spending so much of my time listening to the voices in my head and playing with my imaginary friends (who are all very real to me, so I probably need therapy), I enjoy the chance to visit with real people and talk about writing, life, and the stories behind the stories.

5. What else do you have in the works?

I have another book, A Month of Summer, coming out in July from New American Library, Penguin Group. Over the years, I’ve alternated between writing the lighter comedy of the small-town Texas books, and mainstream relationship-based stories like A Month of Summer. I love both types of writing. For me, humor and the serious emotions coexist on the page just as they do in real life. On any given day, in any random situation it’s possible to find a little of each.