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Friday, August 17, 2018

Exploring life's greatest mystery through real love stories: Katie Kolberg Memmel's new book

Ever wonder what makes a marriage work? Mike and I just celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary, and I still wonder. People often act as if they understand it all, but I think love is the greatest mystery of life.

Katie Kolberg Memmel, a former writing student of mine, recently published a book called From This Day Forward. I had particular interest in her book because it was comprised of stories gleaned from interviews, like my own recent book, Young Voices from Wild Milwaukee. I know how hard it is to go from interview to book form.

I was curious, so I asked her about the book:

Gail: What’s the concept of From This Day Forward, and how did you “harvest” your stories?

Katie: Well, to be honest, I’ve dreamed of writing a book like this for more than 15 years - long before I ever became a writer. I’m “that person” who loves to hear about people’s lives, especially their personal love stories. Since I’ve always been a good listener, and am now considered a pretty fair writer, the project of interviewing and writing about people’s true love stories seemed to evolve and become more and more possible.

Keeping all of that in mind, I also deeply value marriage. I feel that in recent years, the concept of saying “I do” has taken a serious hit. With statistics of lasting marriage hovering around the 50/50 mark, I began to wonder . . . what is it that makes some couples throw in their marital towels, while others hang in there until death does them part? Seems to me, everybody loves the story of a couple who makes it to their 50th or 60th wedding anniversary . . . but what does that take? What are the tools of a good, happy, and lasting marriage?

I got brave, and asked some of the most solidly married couples I know to share their love stories with me. Through a lengthy interview process, I asked them questions. Along with all of their good times, I also asked them about tough times – how they weathered storms within their marriages – finances, jobs, schooling, growing families, etc.

Gail: Interesting. How many couples did you interview, and how did you choose them?

Katie:  There are eight interviews in all. I wanted to represent a number of age groups, so I spoke with a gentleman in his 90s, two women in their 80s, two couples in their 60s, and one couple each in their 40s, 30s and 20s. I also wanted to show that throughout life, people overcome a number of different obstacles. There are stories of long marriages where death has now parted them. There’s a story of losing a spouse and then re-marrying. One couple has been happily married for 40-plus years, and shares priceless advice. One couple went through the challenge and heartbreak of infertility, and shared how they decided to move forward, together. There are stories of two difficult divorces, and how two of the individuals ultimately found their best friend. One couple works together and needs to balance the goods and bads of what that’s like. And my youngest couple has interesting views of why they married young, and what that decision has led to.  

Each story is different. Each story bears a few similarities to the others. But most importantly, woven throughout each of these eight love stories is one common thread – faith. How does faith in God factor in to each of these healthy marriages? What difference does faith make? As the author, I’m sure you can tell that I personally believe it makes a significant difference.

Gail: What was your interview process like, and how did you eventually write the book?

Katie: The interview process turned out to be such an amazing experience for me. I spoke with each individual or couple prior to the interview, and explained what I wanted to do, and why. They each consented to the process. One-by-one, I scheduled a time for us to sit down together. Each person I met with started out quite nervous, so we’d simply chat for a while first, which eased any tension. Casually, I’d switch the conversation over to my project, and tell them I was turning on the recorder. By that time, they were fairly ready to go. I used a small, battery-operated recording device to catch their voice and inflections. I also sat poised with a notebook and pen to write down any observations such as body movements, facial expressions, etc. Each interview took approximately five hours; one took a bit more.

After each one, I’d go home, sit down in my office at the computer, and transcribe. Because people talk naturally, they tend to jump abruptly from subject-to-subject, and back again. I needed to capture all of that. Then, in my actual book-writing phase, I wove all the details of their stories into a cohesive and chronological piece.

Gail: Wow, Katie, eight stories. That process must have taken a lot of time.

Katie: It really was time consuming. All I can say is that I consider this book project to be a true labor of love, and worth every minute of the time it took.

Gail: Now that the book is done, what are your goals? What would you like to see happen with it?

Katie: I hope that my readers find it thought-provoking. I hope that through this book, people can find hope for their own relationships and personal situations. I hope that the natural advice that flows from these couples spills over, wraps around, and changes people’s minds about the way they do, and the ways they could, handle some of their own issues.

Gail, all I can say is that this book has changed me. As I listened to these couples and individuals tell me their most precious and heart-felt stories, I realized how differently we all handle similar situations, and that maybe – just maybe – even I, a woman married for 36 years, have a lot to yet learn and try. I guess that with God’s help, that is my hope for this book’s future.

Katie Kolberg Memmel is the author of three books: Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born with a Limb Difference; Silly Stories and Sentimental Stuff; and From ThisDay Forward. They are available through Amazon in electronic and paperback form. For more information about Katie, her family, and her writing, go to her website:  

Gail Grenier is the author of Young Voices from Wild Milwaukee, Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, Dessert First, and Calling All Horses, all available from


  1. It was fun to work with you on this interview process, Gail. Thanks again for this opportunity! I'll always value your input and advice on my writing. Much appreciated. Katie M

    1. Katie, I agree that this has been fun. Best of luck always in your writing. Your voice brings light to the world.