Stephanie writes historical fiction, recently earned a master’s degree in history—and rides a motorcycle. She’s made a career out of playing with imaginary friends, and it all started in an abandoned pioneer cemetery on a tiny corner of land near where the Whitson family lived in the 1990s (mostly providing comic relief for the neighbors who had spent generations farming the land). That cemetery provided not only a hands-on history lesson for Stephanie’s home schooled children but also a topic of personal study, as she began to read about and be encouraged by the pioneer women who settled the American West. Since writing had always been a favorite hobby, it was only natural for Steph to begin jotting down scenes in the life of a woman crossing Nebraska on the Oregon Trail. Eventually, that story took on a life of its own, and Stephanie sent off a query letter—expecting instant rejection.
God had a different plan. He blessed Stephanie’s beginnings as an author, putting two of her three first books on the ECPA best-seller list and making two of her first nine books finalists for the Christy Award. With the spring, 2013, release of The Message on the Quilt, she will have two dozen novels and two works of non-fiction to her credit. In 2012, The Shadow on the Quilt, book 2 in her Quilt Chronicles series was awarded Romantic Times Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Inspirational Romance.
“The flip side of writing,” Stephanie says, “is being asked to teach writing and/or speak at various church and community events.” She has developed a menu of lectures and workshops that “provide opportunities for me to travel and get to know not only other writers and history lovers, but also students and quilters. I love sequestering myself in a library to do research, but the speaking part of my career has provided some unique and wonderful memories.”
And then there’s Kitty, the Honda Magna motorcycle. “In some ways I’m a sixty-something grandmother,” she says, “in others I’m probably about twenty-six. It all depends on the day.” On days when her virtual age leans toward the younger side of that equation, she’s been known to wake up in the morning and decide to ride Kitty to Canada or Colorado. And then she comes home and descends to “the catacombs” (the basement office in her Victorian-era home) and heads back into the past to play with more imaginary friends.