Wendy is a fascinating author. In her secret identity day job, she is a Genetic Geneologist. She has some wonderful things to say about that job.
She has used her day job knowledge in her writing and speaking. Her book – Once upon an Irish summer – uses some of that for a historical story.
You can visit Wendy’s website – https://wendywilsonspooner.com/
Welcome to Episode 15 of discovered word Smith, I hope you’ve been enjoying this podcast. And if you have if you found a writer that you like, if you found a book that you would have never found another way, please go get that book, follow that writer but also leave a review for this podcast. Those reviews, those stars Help others discover the podcast which will help these art authors be discovered. So today, we’ve got a author by the name of Wendy Spooner, who has a secret identity, as I like to say, of being a genetic genealogist which I found extremely fascinating. She has written a book called once upon an Irish summer, and she’s gonna tell us a little bit about it and her day job, and what she does besides the writer, so please sit back, listen, I hope you find this interesting. Go check her book out. If it sounds like something you would enjoy. And go back, listen to the other podcasts and all the other authors we’ve interviewed. So here’s Wendy. Wendy, welcome. Thank you. I appreciate you taking some time to talk with me today. And before to get started, tell us a little bit about yourself, because I’ve been super excited to talk to you because I really want to hear about yours. Secret alter ego, that is not the author.
Okay. Well, hey, I’m glad to be here, Stephen. And my alter ego is not a secret at all. Hopefully, you’re not disappointed there. But though, yes, I am a professional genetic genealogist. And I was halfway through my Master’s in marriage and family therapy some years ago, when I just didn’t feel like I was on the right track. And I thought, you know, I’m spending all my time researching my family lines and traveling the world tracking down records. And it’s the greatest adventure of my life. And I thought, maybe I’ll become a professional genealogist, and I can do this for other people. So I started looking for a graduate degree in genealogy. And I found one at the University of London that had just received its accreditation the day before. So I jumped on board, because timing there. Yeah, the Brits are insanely fantastic genealogists because of the feudal system. So they were exactly who I wanted to learn from. So that is where it started.
So what exactly do you do? What’s, what’s your day job with that?
So my niche is as a genetic genealogist, so 90% of my clients are adoptees, or people with unknown fathers. And so using DNA tests, and traditional genealogical records, I find their biological families for them. And the goal is 100% of the time is, the client wants to have contact with the biological family. But they always go in very tentatively, if they don’t want contact, they simply want to know their roots. They want to know who they came from.
Nice. So I’m not that prior anything. I would assume that you’ve probably witnessed a lot of amazed and happy people, finding others that they didn’t know existed or thought were long gone. That must be pretty fulfilling.
It is really fulfilling, especially because a very high percentage, probably 75 to 80% of people that are looking for their biological families are accepted with open arms because we live in a much more accepting society than we used to.
Yes, definitely. So besides this Really cool job. What else do you like to do? Besides writing,
besides writing? Oh my goodness. So I love to hike and camp. I love the outdoors. And my family are some of my best friends. So my husband and I have five grown daughters, and they all have their own families. So we just have in our immediate family, we have 21 people with our kids and their spouses and our grandkids. Wow. So they live in five different states. So we get around. Nice.
Yeah. And I definitely give your husband kudos for growing up with a household of women.
All I can say is he’s one of the best men I know.
It must be. I definitely have to meet him sometime. Yeah, he’s awesome. So
we’re just gonna say, besides me, I. Also I traveled to India for work sometimes, because I am the chairman of the advisory board for century vital records based in Bangalore, India. And so I’ve become very fond of the Indian people. And I become a Bollywood movie fanatic.
they are incredible movie makers. And so anytime, and because I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and we have a large Indian population here, our local movie theaters receive bollywood movies all the time. So
well, that’s pretty interesting. It is. And I just, I hope our theaters open back up sometime. I’m kind of using it. Yeah, yeah, they’ve started opening here a little bit. They’re doing a classic movie thing where it’s like five bucks, and you get to see a classic movie like return or Empire Strikes Back. Jaws, or Goonies or something like that. I would love that. Yeah, I think that’s wonderful. Um, so you live in Phoenix, Arizona, which I think is a wonderful place. I’ve been there a couple times. And you get to go to India. That’s pretty exciting. Um, so for your book and your writing? You do this great job. You travel? What Why did you want to start writing?
Well, I want to tell stories. And I come from a family of storytellers. And people have always told me that I tell stories very well. And I just thought that I wanted to tell the story of a specific ancestor. And I have a background in professional articles and some poetry. And I knew that transitioning to novel, historical fiction, in particular, would be a huge learning curve, but I wanted to do it so bad that I jumped on that train, and took me 20 years to write my debut novel. And I would do it out.
Well, that’s great. That’s definitely something to say that you’re doing it because you love the writing. So, um, tell us a little bit about the book a little bit more about the book, what it what’s what it’s all about, to get people interested.
Okay, so it is a doodle timeline historical fiction novel. So historical chapters, in and out of the present day chapters. And the historical main character is one my ancestors that I have researched extensively, where he lived in Ireland, what his life was like over there in the early 1800s. And then why she left his family behind, crossing the Atlantic alone, to fund his family to serve them. And then trotting to United States, he left quite a record trail, I must add, is so fantastic of who he became America, that if I had to tell his story, and I also want it to be a story that would be interesting to all age groups, especially teenagers, because I believe you for for many, many years, and I adore teenagers, they’re just kind of my people. And so I wanted to make a present day, fictional main character who was a descendant of this real person, and have her struggling teenager and have her research his life to the extent that it changes her path and helps her overcome her own struggles because there is a study that Emory University released that shows exactly this kind of experience for teenagers and kids. They base the study on 20 questions and can’t see the answers to these 20 questions about their family and ancestors. They were shown to have a high boost of self esteem They had higher grades in school, they had a greater belief in the success of their own family, and several other very exciting facts that we all want to have teenagers experience, right? We know that they are the population age that struggles the most. And so when this, when I read about this study, I was so excited about it, that this is why I made the present a main character, a teenager to show kids what researching your ancestors can do for your life and your own identity.
So, have you gotten a good response to that? Have you gotten feedback from your target group, that they’ve read it? And you’ve got across what you wanted to get across?
Yes, actually, I, um, so this book is probably 11 year olds to 100 years old. And the younger kids are asking questions about their ancestors. And can you help me learn how to research my own family and so these are some adding to my website to give people a jumping off point that have never delved into that kind of research before to help them get on her way. And they also, the younger crowd is also saying, I have such a crush on the main characters. Friend, that’s a boy. And the present day timeline. And this is just the best kid. He’s one of my favorite characters in the whole book. And he helps the main character on her journey throughout this summer, because he’s a total history nerd, and she hates history.
So, um, when you were writing the story, and you obviously did a lot of research, do you feel that there was a lot of historical nonfiction stuff that you left out? And I asked, because I’ve talked to a few other people that have done the same thing. And they found they put too much of the history and then had to pull it out for the sake of the story. So what did you find in that regards?
Oh, my goodness. Yes. So my editor said, this is great information, but it has nothing to do with this story. And, and that was all throughout my manuscript, when I got back from my editor. And even though that little clunky, feel like oh, no, but I really loved this chapter. Okay, I’m gonna have to take it out. You know, it’s kind of painful, but you do what you have to do so that the story always moves the reader through. And they’re not hung up on what is this part about? I knew exactly what I’m talking about.
Right? Yeah. So um, your your kids are adults with families of their own. Have any of your kids or grandkids read the book and what they think of it?
Well, my oldest grandchild is nine. He hasn’t yet but the we have my five daughters have read the book, and two of them are insanely interested in our family history. We’ll just put it that way. They will be completely following in my footsteps.
Nice. Yeah. So we’re gonna have more geneticists? Yes. These technologists? Okay, great. Yeah. But it sounds like in today’s world, that’s actually something we’re probably a profession, more and more people might be looking into our, you know, people have gotten so divergent from their original roots in history, it’s getting harder to figure it out. I can trace my family back, just on my father’s side only to his parents, and on my mother’s side, only to my great grandparents, because they came over from Hungary. And there wasn’t a lot of records after that. So I think you know, more people may look into that. Did you have the intent when you’re writing the book that you wanted to interest people in that or did you? Were you more interested in telling the story and the fiction part of it?
My reason for writing the book was to interest the reader who’s in their own family histories. My second reason was to tell Ellen Hamilton story. So I’m Stephen, my question for you is, have you been to Hungary?
No. Um, I would actually love to go there. And my wife has finished background and she’s in contact with some Finnish cousins and ancestors or, you know, Finnish family. So it’s on our bucket list to make it to Finland. And if we’re going to do that, I’m like, you know, we really should hit Hungary. I’d love to see the town where my great grandparents came from.
Yes. And I don’t know Know, the state of the archives are in Hungary, or I could probably put you in touch with a genealogist that can help you figure all this out. But a lot of the European cities, especially Ireland, they there, every single town has a professional genealogist that will help you out because it adds so much to their tourism. Find the same thing in Hungary. actually go to those towns and find records on your ancestors,
that now now it intrigues me even more, because that would be cool. Maybe, you know, all end up wanting to write a historical fiction book based on my great grandparents. Yeah. Especially hungry. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. And I know that my great, great grandparents, and even my grandmother would speak German. And I know we have a few items that are still, you know, roaming around here somewhere, like some doilies that they made and brought from Hungary, a little things like that. We do have a little connection still. Oh, that’s so fantastic. So with this book, do you have any plans for a sequel or a series or plans for other books in the same vein?
Well, I do. This is a trilogy. So the the second book, which I’m well into writing, goes back in time, to when the historical character in the first book, leaves his family behind in Ireland. And it is now the story is told through the eyes of his younger sister who he left behind, because I based a lot of this story on a 200 year old letter collection. That was, yeah, it’s written by this young man’s parent and his family who are left behind in Ireland for the 16 years that it took for them to be able to join him in America. And just the history of his letters alone, are worth writing about. But the letters also say that this younger sister was Alan Harrington’s favorite sibling. And I very close to my one only brother. So I am filling in the blanks for the story with how I feel about my relationship with my own brother. And when I was 13, he was he was five years older than me. And he moved out of the country for two years. And it killed me. I mean, it literally killed me, he was my best friend. He’s still one of my closest friends to this day. But anyway, so the second book is going to be told through the eyes of this younger sister left behind. And then the present day timeline will be the continuation of the story of the present day characters, which is very complex.
I have been finding, and I assume you learned a lot of things about your history in the past. But I’ve been finding that a lot of people reading these type of books are learning that history more than they did in school more than they knew. The example first one I remember reading was guns of the south by Harry turtledove. And I think I learned more about the Civil War through that book, even though it was fiction that I did in history in school. Were you trying to get some of that to the people, I assume and hoping and have people said, Hey, I’m learning about this history. Now. I’m interested.
Yes. And because another underlying theme of the book is the American dream. And we all of us have immigrants and families, right? Even if you are a Native American, your ancestors, some new tree, we’re immigrants. And this land should still be a land that has opened doors to immigrants and refugees. And we do and through due process, a ra is definitely the best way to come here, just like so. Our ancestors had to come through Ellis Island. That’s a really important element of it. But we just need to realize that this entire planet is one human family. And we cross paths all over the place.
I always think of my example, you know, 300 years in the future, we’ve got Star Trek, and they’re, they’re from Earth. It’s not from the US not from South America, they’re from Earth. And when they get other planets, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from, because nobody out there cares. It’s just from Earth. And I’ve made also made the comment that all these racial tensions all the tensions with LGBT LGB teach you and all that. If you take it to another planet, then suddenly it has no meaning. And people have no concern. If you’re dating somebody from Earth, they just don’t want you to date that other guy from Mars, or they don’t want you to date that person from alpha. So don’t worry, if you’re taking sci fi into that changes the thinking on it. That that’s awesome. Now that that’s always been my, and I don’t think it was an original thought I may have enhanced it some. So have you thought about doing some of these types of stories with other descendants from different countries? Maybe not your own personal ones? But like, for example, you know, I have descendants from Hungary? Have you ever thought of researching doing stories anywhere else? Or is that like, you know, I want to finish what I’ve gotten, then I’ll worry about
what basically, yes, so I will finish this trilogy, because it’s, it takes the readers on a journey. So the second book, genetic genealogy comes into it, and DNA research and through this 15 year old girl’s eyes how genetic genealogy works, and learn how she applies it to film history research. And then there are some awesome, amazing events that take place in the second book, because she was taking a DNA test. And so it, it can do show the all of these avenues of research that a lot of people don’t even want to think about because they think I don’t even know where to start with that. And so you start with that, and you also know where to continue with it.
I like how you definitely took what you know, and use it as part of the story. But, I mean, obviously, you don’t know what Ireland was really like or what this descendant was really like. That’s the part of the storyteller. So I think it’s great how you’re combining those and using those. So for your writing, what do you like to use and write with? I’ve talked to people that dictate people that use Word or Scrivener, what do you like to use?
Well, I have used screaming, screaming, but I’ve gone back and forth between word and Scrivener. And I just like really a little bit more. So I do use Word. But I also use if I’m now walking, or if I’m in the car, and I don’t have something to write with, I will text speak notes into my phone all the time, when I have ideas for something that I need to add to a story or something that needs to be edited. And then my editing process is I use school speak on my iPhone, I load my chapters into Google Docs, put them up on my phone, and then I listen to it with screen speak. So it’s like listening to it as an audio book. And I find errors that my editors miss all the time that way, or I find things that I want to tweak and change or add to that way more than reading out loud or just reading it.
Okay, so, um, when you’re you get your book out. What’s been How have you been doing the marketing? Have you been getting it out there as the way you feel it should or that you’re accomplishing good marketing with it. I
really well as a debut novelist, so, okay, I am traditionally published. So my publisher sends me marketing tasks and Marketing Leads all the time. We have a Facebook page for the authors with this particular publisher, and we give each other ideas and we share things and then our publisher gives us a lot of leads that way. And that this is also an international publisher. So my book is in all the English speaking countries, it’s in New Zealand and Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. So I just, I do anything my publisher tells me to, but I researched every what to give, like, Who’s this book? whose hands do I need to get this into? So I’m constantly reading every so much then creating an online course. That’s a hit the ground marketing course for people that don’t know what to do, because I hear that especially from indie authors, they just say I just don’t know what to do. So this is a fantastic course for if you’re an indie published or if you are traditionally published.
So who is your publisher,
Ambassador International, and are based in Belfast and, and then have been raft for years. And they established the United States offices in South Carolina in the late 1880s to better take care of their us authors. And I’ve been extremely happy with Ambassador. They’re fantastic. They are a Christian publisher. And I really wanted my book with the clean kind of inspiring books that Ambassador partnerships.
Okay, so with going this route with a publisher and writing your book, and you’re working on second, what are some things you’ve learned now that if you could go back you would change or what you are doing different for the next book? Okay. And what would you start doing earlier? As far as the marketing goes, is that? Yeah, yeah.
I tried to do all of the pre launch thinks. So. I honestly, honestly, I just would have started sooner, I would have created my Facebook author page, as soon as my manuscript was accepted, because it took a year from the time it was accepted for the book to be released. And so I would have just done everything sooner, if that makes sense. Yep.
And I hear that a lot. And I think that’s one of the great things about talking to authors who only have a book or two out, because a lot of authors are still struggling. don’t realize, Hey, everybody is kind of saying this. I should start my marketing now instead of waiting, and that seems to be common. Yeah.
I didn’t even know on the pre orders, because I just posted to my publisher and just just blindly, okay, yep. So you do that. Okay. I mean, so I did know, with my pre orders, but I still could have been doing things a lot sooner.
Got it. Okay, so, off the writing part. What are some of your favorite all time authors and favorite books, maybe some that have inspired your writing?
Well, the most inspirational author is Kate Morton. She’s a British do and multiple timeline writer and her books in her favorite, she moves, sometimes more than two timelines into a story. And the history and the way she writes is just she is my greatest inspiration. But I love books, I love fantasy books. I’m I love writing books. I’m just, you know, I read, I still get done with all my kids at midnight to get every single Harry Potter book. And I just love a lot of different genres.
And I think that’s great. I’m going to pass the Kate Morton over to my wife, I sent her the link to your website, and I’m gonna send her this one too, because she likes those type of books. She’s obviously into Outlander loves that, but she just keeps discovering more and more authors that have that historical time travel vibe to them, and she’s eating them up. So I love your book. It looks great. Thank you. Um, okay, well, before we go, any last words of advice to any aspiring authors?
I think I would just say, No, never give up. First of all, we have a right learn how to write so that people will want to read your writing, and learn how to write for today’s market. So take classes, read current blogs, sink your teeth into what readers want to me. And to to really kind of put that into a nutshell, you want your story to move. People don’t want to be hung up by info dumps that aren’t helping the story, or too many words. So just print her like for today’s market and write something interesting that you love yourself, because that will transfer to your readers. And I think that’s the advice I would give. Great. Well, thank
you and Wendy, tell us again, your website and where we can find your books.
My website is windy in person spooby.com. And you can find my books through my website or you can find them on funding ed.com or Ambassador internationals website, or Amazon or anywhere books are sold.
Great. All right. Well, I hope to talk to you again. Maybe in a year or so find out how the second book is going how things are going for you. Great, thank you, Steve. Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time today, Wendy