For today’s Sunday Dinner, author Roseanna M. White is back to talk about story. Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award winning author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. If you missed Part 1 where Roseanna told us about her latest release, Shadowed Loyalty,you can find it here.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
You’ve often talked about story … can you define that for us? When you use the term, do you mean fictional story or something else?
While fiction is my heart and what I generally mean, “story” to me can also be any story, true or fictionalized. And I maintain that there is serious power in STORY. Whether that’s the one in my imagination that I can use to explore themes and truths or YOUR story—how you came to be who you are, where you are, doing what you’re doing. No matter what the story is, telling it, hearing it, sharing it is how we learn to empathize with each other…which is, in turn, how we learn to love each other as Christ instructed us to do. It’s no coincidence that He told stories to illustrate the Truths about the Kingdom of God! Storytelling is a powerful and integral part of the human experience, and one we need in order to open our minds and hearts to thoughts we may not have considered before.
How can our story impact someone else?
Ah, that’s the beautiful thing, right? When we tell our stories—openly, vulnerably, authentically—we show them who we really are. We invite them in. We confess our weaknesses and share what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown. When we tell our stories, we are building bridges between us and other individuals…and those bridges change the landscape of the world! Just presenting people with object lessons or takeaways usually just makes them bristle. But when we tell a story, we’re inviting them to live it with us, so they too can be changed by it just as we were.
Do you have a Biblical example of the power of story?
I really want to say, “The Bible.” LOL. But seriously, the Old Testament is made up of SO MANY stories! Why? Why did the writers tell us the story instead of just listing the rules? Because it was important for following generations to relive the story of their people. That’s how the identity of that people is preserved! And in the New Testament, we not only have the earth-shattering story of Jesus himself—told to us from four different points of view, no less!—but we also have all the many stories that Jesus told. Parables were his preferred teaching tactic, and for very good reason!
How do you include the power of story in your novels?
This is something I keep exploring over and again, I admit. I have had so much fun including a variety of storytellers in my books. From adventure-novelist Peter Holstein in A Name Unknown to oral storyteller and writer Cordelia in Dreams of Savannah…and then in my Secrets of the Isles series, we have the characters’ grandfather telling outlandish pirate and ghost stories, but also a project that their mother and brother had begun, of collecting family stories and legends from all the island families, to preserve them in written form. I love the idea of doing this!
What do you wish others could know about the power of story?
I wish that pondering it, and thinking about how stories have changed their lives, that they would take the time to tell their own stories, their family’s stories more. I feel like that’s something we’re in danger of losing as our world becomes more and more full of digital media. Are we still taking the time to sit around a campfire or dinner table and listen to the stories of our elders? More, are our elders still telling the stories?
A couple months ago, my grandmother told me something about her family, and my jaw literally dropped open. “Seriously?” I said. “I didn’t know that!”
To which she replied, “Hmm, I guess we don’t talk about that much. There are a lot of things we just don’t talk about.” But why? Why do we choose not to tell our own stories?
How much of who we are, of our own history, is just “not talked about”? From either embarrassment or the idea that we have to protect someone long gone, or even disinterest? How many dark times do we just gloss over or try to forget? But if we leave holes in our stories, we take away their impact. We don’t allow the next generation to understand how and why we are the way we are. Which means they don’t understand, and they reject things, and the perpetual cycle continues.
If readers would like to learn more about this topic, where should they go?
I invite everyone to contribute to the website I recently created for story collecting! It’s called Seeing the Story and is a place where you can record and share the stories of your family, community, and your own life, so that those beautiful pieces of identity aren’t lost. You can find it at www.SeeingTheStory.com.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. If you’d like to connect with Roseanna and learn more about the stories she writes, you can always find her at www.RoseannaMWhite.com or on social media @RoseannaMWhite. She’d love to hear from you, learn YOUR story, and get to know you!
Sunday Dinner will be off next week for Memorial Day Weekend, but we’ll be back the following week. I hope you have a save and restful holiday! See you in two weeks!