Turn the Page Westfield recently hosted author Wade Rouse, a.k.a Viola Shipman, who talked about his latest book, “The Wishing Bridge,” published by Graydon House, an imprint of HarperCollins, and released Nov. 7.
“We read one of his books for book club a few years ago,” said Jamie Deglar, owner of Turn the Page. “We had a Zoom with him, and everyone fell in love with him. Ever since then, he has always made sure that my store is part of his book tours.”
During his visit to Westfield, Rouse sat in a vintage, Queen Anne wingback chair on the stage at the Basile Westfield Playhouse and talked to a crowd of approximately 60 about the inspiration for his writing in general, and his latest book in specific.
Rouse grew up in southwestern Missouri, “just before you fell into Arkansas,” as he described it. He spent a lot of time with his grandmother, Viola Shipman.
Rouse said his grandmother didn’t graduate from high school, but she volunteered at the local library and pushed books into his hands as often as she could. A seamstress, Grandma Shipman spent some of her meager income to buy him an aquamarine Selectric typewriter for Christmas one year when he was still a young boy.
When he was older, Shipman’s health had begun to fail. Still, she managed to drive him to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where he would earn his master’s degree at one of the leading journalism schools in the world.
“I’ll be gone in the future,” Rouse said. “But people will still be saying my grandmother’s name, and that’s what I wanted.”
Though Rouse grew up in the Ozarks, he now lives part of the year in Palm Springs, Calif., and part in Saugatuck, Mich. His 12 Viola Shipman novels are set in Michigan.
“Reading Wade’s books are like coming home,” said attendee Lisa Richter, who drove from Kokomo and whose parents are from Grand Rapids, Mich.
Noted as a humorist, Rouse published three memoirs prior to writing his first novel as Viola Shipman. “The Charm Bracelet,” was named a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year. Now, the Shipman books have been featured multiple times as must-reads on the NBC Today Show and translated into more than 20 languages.
In 2021, Rouse released his first Shipman Christmas novel with a bonus Christmas novella. Since then, he has released two novels a year, with one being set at Christmastime or during the winter and including a novella. He said “The Wishing Bridge” took about four months to write and about two more months to get “just right.”
“The Wishing Bridge” is set in Frankenmuth, Mich., largely in an iconic Christmas store.
“I love Christmas,” Rouse said. “We’re those people who put up 10 trees. We have hundreds of bins or red and green that we pull out. We take out ornaments and talk about who gave them to us.”
As far as his other books go, Rouse announced to an eruption of applause that he recently signed a contract for his 2021 fall release, “The Secret of Snow,” to be made into a movie starring Candace Cameron Bure.
“The ‘Secret of Snow’ just meant the world to me,” Richter said. “It was the first time I have highlighted a fiction book. The quotes meant so much. When he announced that’s the one being made into a movie, I almost started crying.”
Readers can follow Viola Shipman and Wade Rouse on social media and find Rouse’s weekly Facebook Live, “Wine and Words with Wade,” where Rouse interviews, and drinks wine with, fellow authors.
Rouse encouraged guests to support Westfield’s local bookstore, Turn the Page.
“Jamie is beyond great,” he said.
Turn the Page is at 149 N. Walnut St. in Westfield and can be found online at TurnThePageWestfield.com.