AY: Can you tell me about your initiation into quilting?
JC: I grew up in Ohio, and nobody in my family quilted at all. But I always admired the beauty of quilts, the complexity of the patterns and the artistry that was evident in them. When I was engaged to be married in 1994, I really wanted an heirloom quilt to commemorate my wedding. But nobody was going to make me one and I certainly couldn’t afford to buy one, so I decided to make one for myself. Of course I had never quilted a thing in my life, and I only had the most rudimentary sewing skills―sewing on buttons was about the extent of it.. I bought a basic teach yourself how to quilt book, and followed the instructions step-by-step. What I ended up with wasn’t the beautiful heirloom quilt I had envisioned, but it was a nice little sampler. What it did do was to launch me into a wonderful community of quilters, and a whole new form of artistic expression.
AY: The Cross Country Quilters is the 3rd novel in your series, The Elm Creek Quilters. Why did you choose to base your stories
in the world of quilting?
JC: I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and when I felt ready to start my first novel, I followed the advice I’d always been told: Write what you know. What I knew and was fascinated by at that point was quilters― the intense bonds of friendship that they enjoy, and the sharing of personal stories that happens when people gather to work on a group project. It’s not an idyllic world, there’s a healthy dose of competition and bickering too. But it’s ripe ground to write about things I care about ― the lives and work of women, and the friendships that nurture them. Little did I know what a huge response my first novel would have, and that it would turn into a whole series.
AY: Each of the characters in “The Cross Country Quilters” has such a rich inner life and history. Are any of them based on
real people or true stories?
JC: Some of the characters are inspired by people I’ve known. Vinnie is loosely based on my own grandma, who’s outspoken and funny like her, and my favorite teacher when I was growing up had MS. After we moved away I never saw her again, and she’s stayed in my thoughts over the years. People often want to know much the book is true, and I always think, well I hope all of it is. Real life is secondary. I think we make up stories to try to tell the truth. These people don’t really exist, but I’m trying to get to some essential truth whether it’s about a relationship or something more internal. As a writer, I think my job is to tell the truth.