Get a Free Ebook

Five Inspirational Truths for Authors

Try our Video Classes

Downloadable in-depth learning, with pdf slides

Find out more about My Book Therapy

We want to help you up your writing game. If you are stuck, or just want a boost, please check us out!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Author Interview ~ Debra White Smith

Debra White Smith's books, include: Romancing Your Husband, Romancing Your Wife, the Jane Austen Fiction Series, The Sister Suspense Series, and It's a Jungle at Home: Survival Strategies for Overwhelmed Moms. Debra has over a million books in print.

The founder of Real Life Ministries, Debra has been featured on a variety of media spots, including The 700 Club, At Home Live, Getting Together, Moody Broadcasting Network, Fox News, ABC Radio, Viewpoint, and America's Family Coaches. She holds an M.A. in English.

Debra lives in small-town America with her husband of 23 years, two children, and a herd of cats. For more information, visit

http://www.debrawhitesmith.com/.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

Book #5 of the Jane Austen fiction series is just releasing. It's titled Amanda and is hitting stores now. This book is a contemporary re-telling of Jane Austen's Emma. Like Emma, Amanda is a matchmaking meddler who can't seem to keep her nose out of everybody else's love life and can't seem to get hers straight. The book is set in beautiful Tasmania, Australia.


Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

When I sold my first novel, I simply received a contract in the mail. I had only been writing about 1 1/2 years. I was the ripe old age of 26. I was so excited, I started hopping around the room, screaming like crazy. I was wearing high heels at the time. I kicked them off, up into the air, and hopped around some more, screaming like a maniac...like I'd won 5 million bucks!

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

One of the things that was hard for me as my exposure grew was readers posting negative reviews on websites and slamming my work. Yes, it was hard not to take it personally. Every author receives the occasional negative letter. But that's private. You can throw that away and no one sees it. But, when a reader posts a negative review on a public website, it's a different matter. After I got a few of these, I started surfing other well-known authors to see if I was alone in this. I found out I wasn't. I saw that most well-known authors have readers who have posted negative reviews. Once I realized this it helped tremendously.

But, I still have to really talk to myself anytime anyone slams me. I've learned that many people think that well-known authors are celebrity types who have no feelings, won't read the review, and are open for target practice. There's nothing further from the truth. Most of us are just people who live in an ordinary world and who are trying to do their best to write their best. So, it's hard when readers take shots at you, and it can breed self doubt if I'm not careful.

What I have started doing, though, is examining the slam for any grain of truth and seeing if I can improve the area they slammed. Sometimes, the negativity is so ridiculous, it's funny. Sometimes, it's like iron sharpening iron and you can become a better writer because of it. So, I guess God uses everything!

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Hang in there. Don't quit, no matter how many rejections you get. One of my series got over 30 rejections, then was bought by an editor who'd previously rejected it. It came out as a 4-in-1 novel collection and sold over 100,000 copies.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

"Maybe publication isn't what God wants for you since you've gotten so many rejections." I believe this is a misunderstanding of the whole writing/publication process. Sometimes, it takes years to learn the craft of writing.

Rejection is often a big part of that process. I believe it's healthy for writers to expect rejections and roll with the punches until that call comes.

God can and does teach us through the rejection phase of the writing. He can teach us to be better writers as well as new depths of tenacity. I encourage writers to look at the rejections as a season in their writing process. It's something most all writers have gone through--almost like labor before giving birth. It's a given and part of the publishing experience.


What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Just getting published will not automatically earn you respect or recognition by a publisher. I thought that once I had a book, or a few books out, I'd get the same appreciation as some of the veteran authors did. Boy, was I WRONG!!

It can take years to build a reader-base and strong publisher recognition. Getting published is pretty much like taking your first steps in the writing industry. I think I would have saved myself a lot of frustration if I'd fully understood this.

I'm at about 50 book sales now with nearly 9 years of steady publishing, and I'm just now beginning to sense the respect that I naively thought I'd get at one, or a few book sales. It takes many years and lots of blood, sweat, and tears. If I'd understood all this, I probably wouldn't have taken the lack of regard so personally and been hurt much less. But this thing called publication is a very challenging and sometimes difficult process for everyone. I think a lot of us probably need therapy by the time we've gotten established! Ha!


Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

My favorite chapter in the whole Bible is Psalm 103. I keep that passage in my "hip pocket" at all times and when I've blown it I remember that the Lord is patient and kind and slow to anger and remembers that I am dust.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

After I sold my first novel, it was about 6 1/2 years before I sold another novel. Hundreds of rejections! Nearly killed me! But, I hung in there and kept persevering. The perseverance paid off. When I started selling books in 1997, they went like wildfire. Since 1997, I've sold nearly 50 books and have had over a million books in print. I'm SO GLAD I didn't quit during that 6 year interval.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

I love Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen but that's fairly obvious. I think my second favorite novel of Jane Austen's is Northanger Abbey, just because the heroine is so wacky. I love her!

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

I have no idea. But, I CAN tell you that I highly identify with Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh books and cartoons.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

As for novels, I'm very pleased with the Jane Austen series. I've had a blast writing those books. That series was a long-time dream of mine and it's been very rewarding. Within the series, I think my favorite book is Northpointe Chalet, based on Northanger Abbey, because the heroine is so hilariously scatterbrained and charming.

As for nonfiction, I've been very pleased with Romancing Your Husband and Romancing Your Wife. We have had tons of feedback from people who's marriages have been revolutionized by these books. My next book on marriage is releasing July 2007 and is titled Marriage Revolution.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I used to, but I've pretty much had all my pets peeves put to sleep. They're very bothersome pets, take up a lot of time, create high vet bills, slobber everywhere, eat too much of my thoughts, take up too much brain space. I really just try to manage what God has given me and leave the pet peeves to other people's care. Grins.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

It's like a scrambled egg. I have two kids, 9 & 11, whom I'm highly dedicated to and a full-blown ministry. There's no rhyme or reason to my writing schedule. When I'm under a deadline, I'm often up until 3:00 a.m. writing or get up at 3:00 a.m. to write. Of course, then my sleep schedule gets weird too, but it's all a part of the package of being a mom writer.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I love the steady flow and rhythm of C.S. Lewis. Very nice reading. His voice is so smooth and distinct that you feel as if he's there reading to you. It's like I can hear his physical voice. Very nice.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

When I first started writing novels, I had all sorts of grandiose thoughts. I guess now, after years of doing this, I'd just like my novel readers to have a pleasant reading experience and a few hours of enjoyment while also finding truths that can help them along their journey.

Regarding my nonfiction, I've written on a lot of topics, but my primary passion right now is to see a marriage revolution take place in the Christian community and to see the marriage concepts that are taught come in full alignment with the teachings of Jesus Christ. If I can see that happen in my lifetime, I will know I have fulfilled my purpose in being alive and in being an author.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Yes...during that 6 1/2 year interval between the time I sold my first book and my second. Now, I think of quitting every time I'm down to the last 50 pages of a book. I'm kicking and screaming and repenting of ever becoming a writer!

Ha! Then, I finish the book and I'm THRILLED to be a writer, so it's all this neurotic insanity that's part of the writing process.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I hate the last 50 pages of my books because I'm tired and I want to be through. My favorite part is receiving a new book and knowing my "baby" is now with me in all its glory.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I have a high-impact website that draws views from all over the world. If you develop a snazzy website, it draws readers and you don't have to do anything but keep it updated. It's a great perpetual marketing tool. I do quite a bit of cross-marketing. In other words, if I'm given a publicity opportunity, I milk it for all its worth for other books as well.

Since I'm a speaker, I also use my speaking engagements to promote my work. If your publisher doesn't provide you with publicity material, I say connect with a company who can. I hand out thousands of postcards and book marks with my book covers on the front. Think in terms of re-investing your first earnings into your writing career, as you would with any business. You can't be obnoxious enough when it comes to promoting your own work. Go out there, hit the pavement, and blow the horn about your books!

Parting words?

Being a recognized author and speaker is a lot of hard work! But it's worth it when you know millions are impacted and finding truths that are making a difference in their lives.

To read a review of Amanda, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Author Interview ~ Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris is a wife, mother, and author who has been writing both fiction and nonfiction for the Christian market since 2000. She and her husband, Scott, along with their three children, live in northern South Africa as missionaries.

Lisa’s sold over fifty articles, short stories, and devotionals as well as three novellas, and five full-length books. Lisa was voted one of the favorite new authors of 2004 for the 12th Annual Heartsong Awards. She’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and the co-moderator of the online Christian Writer’s Group South Africa.


What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

This month, I have book two of my Massachusetts series with Heartsong Presents coming out. From the windswept Boston seacoast to the lush Connecticut Valley, Massachusetts in the late 1800’s was a place of unparalleled beauty and rich history. This series follows the Johnson family on a journey of discovery, as they struggle to face life’s challenges and in turn find renewed faith and love worth keeping. Rebecca’s Heart is about discovering that sometimes God’s plans are not our own, but when we follow Him with all our heart, we will be able to discern what his will for us is. I loved writing Rebecca and Luke’s story because they taught me so much about love and trust.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I started writing shortly after we adopted our first son in 1997. He was the perfect baby who slept most of the time. My husband worked while I stayed home (without a car), so for the first time in my life I decided to do what I’d always dreamed of--write a book. After finishing several manuscripts and learning a whole lot about the craft, I sold my first novella to Barbour in the beginning of 2003. When I got the email I knew it was the beginning of a dream come true.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

I think all writers do from time to time, but I really try not to let those thoughts take root. I think that’s the key to not giving up because the writer’s journey isn’t always easy, even after you’ve sold that first book.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Make sure you do your research when searching for a publisher or agent. I actually received my first contract about a year after I started writing. I cried when I read the letter, until I realized that they wanted me to pay a percentage up front instead of my receiving royalties upfront. Thankfully, I did my research and turned down the contract, because I later found out that these publishers ended up in jail. There’s plenty of good routes to get published, but there’s just as many ready to take advantage of a desperate writer.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

I’m not sure that I’ve been given much bad advice, but one thing that come to mind is the advice that many people have told me throughout the years--write what’s on your heart. While this is in reality good advice, the truth is that you also have to write to the market.


I have a series I’m hoping to get published that’s set in Africa. This is where I live and my heart’s connected to this fascinating country, as I yearn for them to know more about God. But no matter how interesting I find the setting, for the most part publishers that I’ve talked to are not interested. So I continue to write other things that for the market, finding ways to incorporated what I love into these stories.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

The first few stories I wrote at first without knowing anything about proper form, query letters. . .I didn’t know anything. If you’re new at writing, join a group like American Christian Fiction Writers, join a critique group, find a local group, take a writing class, or go to a conference. It’s definitely worth the time and effort and will put you ahead in the game.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” This verse reminds me that I don’t have to be the next Francine Rivers or Dee Henderson. God has made me to write for Him using the talents He’s given me. If I stay focused and write the message He’s given me with all the passion and love I have within me, then I’m doing what God wants of me!

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

Where do I even begin? Recently I’ve enjoyed Ted Dekker’s The Circle Trilogy, Kristin Billerbeck’s Ashley Stockingdale novels, Rene Gutteridge’s Boo series, Brandilyn Collins Eyes of Elisha. . .I could go on and on!

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

I’d say the tin man, because I long to have an even deeper heart for God and His people. And I pray that through my writing and ministry in South Africa, many people will come to know of God’s love for them. To me, that’s what makes all the hard work worth it!

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

You’re limiting me again . That’s a tough one, so I’ll just have to choose one. One of the biggest accomplishment for me was learning how to weave in a strong spiritual message without sounding preachy. I love Strong Currents (not yet published) because for the first time I felt like I figured out how to balance the romance, with the action of the story, and manage to weave in the spiritual message--which isn’t easy.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I’d have to say the waiting. In this business you wait, and wait, then wait some more.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

As hard as it is at times, I do try to keep to a schedule. I get up about 6:30 and get my kids off to school. After straightening up the house, I check my email and have my quiet time. (I’m trying to get exercise into this time frame, but that hasn’t been working to well. ) By 8:30 or 9:00 I’m ready to start writing until my kids get home at two. Depending on my deadline schedule I like to limit my writing to the morning, but there are many other aspects like marketing, critique for my writing buddies, that have to be fit into the schedule as well, so I often take my lap top to the school and watch my kids ride bikes while I catch up on things.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I’d love to have the gift of weaving in a powerful spiritual message like Francine Rivers that stays with the reader for years to come.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I want to write a romantic comedy script that makes the big screen. And if I don’t ever get around to doing that, then I’d love to have one of my books made into a movie. I’m a very visual person and see all my stories in my head as real as a movie, music and everything, so to really have that happen would definitely be the frosting on the cake.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Toward the beginning, yes. I now realize just how hard it is to write and that writers have to learn their craft just like any other profession. When I started I didn’t know anything about point of view, or how to set a stage, or beats, etc. Now I know how much work is actually involved, but I’ve had to decide that it’s worth the effort as well as the rejections letters that still come.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I just love to write. I love the fact that I’m in control of the story and can push the delete button when I want or let the words just flow is so much fun!

On the other hand, I don’t like the marketing part at all. My dream was always to live in a cabin in the woods and write to my heart’s content and let the publisher worry about selling my books. Today, you have to be a part of the entire process.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

Living in South Africa makes book signings difficult, though I’m a working to schedule them in this country as the readership base for Christian fiction is growing. I have a website and a blog. (www.lisaharriswrites.com & www.myblogintheheartofAfrica.blogspot.com ). I give away a lot of books and am starting now to do interviews like this one.

Parting words?


If you want to write, then WRITE. And never give up. Before I was published that was one thing that kept me going. I knew that even if I wrote dozens of books there was never any guarantee that I would be published. But I also knew that if I quite, that was no way that I’d ever hold a book of mine in my hands. Reach for your dreams, no matter what they are!















Saturday, February 25, 2006

S'up Saturday

What's up? Well, a whole lot.

Thomas Nelson sold

Howard sold.

Time Warner (book group) sold.

And if that's not enough, Publisher's Weekly announces in this article that Thomas Nelson is getting ready to launch a line of mass market paperbacks. That's huge folks. Or has the potential to be.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Looking back

I thought we'd take the day off from interviews and reflect.

I've done close to a hundred interviews in less than a year, counting the many yet to air. It's hard to believe!

The amount I've learned has surprised me. I feel so amazingly blessed to be able to pick the brains of fiction's brightest and then to share it with you all.

Each interviewee has taught me something. A few interviews stand out, (the telephone interviewees have an unfair advantage), though I appreciate them all for different reasons.

Interviewing Ted Dekker was a definite highlight. I mean, c'mon, it's Ted Dekker. I think I still have "Theodore Dekker" on my caller id. (I'll never wash that phone again.)

The funnest interview hands down was Robert Whitlow. The man is just so easy going and funny.

My favorite email interview was Athol Dickson. I'm a fan for life even without reading his books. (Though I intend to in the coming weeks).

Our most informative interview, in my opinion, is an upcoming one with Jack Cavanaugh. He taught me so much and seemed to hold back nothing. Again, I'm a fan for life now.

(He has a new release out next month, Storm, and it is AWESOME. If you've read Safely Home, that is what I'd compare it to in regards to the great story, charecterization and take away message. I was entertained, convicted and inspired! Gushety gushey gush.) I can't wait to share that interview with you and book review.

Of course Bill Myers and Karen Kingsbury were great to talk shop with also.

Some of the newcomers were great fun too because of their zest for the business and freshness they brought to the table. And any day I can interrogate author friends like Alton Gansky, Don Brown, Deb Raney, Gail Martin, BJ Hoff, TL Hines, Ron & Janet Benrey (etc.) is a good day.

Another highlight was an interview I just finished via telephone with Walter Wangerin Jr.--National Book Award winner. (The Book of the Dun Cow). This guy is legendary. I felt in awe listening to him speak with great passion about Christian fiction.

I hope I keep that kind of fire. Speaking of Mr. Wangerin--he has been recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of Cancer. I asked how we might pray for him and his request was for peace.

Will you take a moment right now and send that prayer up to our Father on our brother's behalf?

I'd love to hear which interviews stand out to you. What take aways (to quote Kelly Klepfer) you've received and if there are questions you wish I'd ask these authors that I haven't been.

I appreciate you all stopping by, leaving comments, encouraging me and authors who have taken time out of their lives to encourage us.

Stay tuned, some of our best is yet to come.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Karen Kingsbury Tomorrow!

Tomorrow begins our special two part interview with Karen Kingsbury. She reveals how she is able to write 10,000 or more words a day and the secret to writing emotional fiction, among other things.

This to me was the most fascinating interview we've aired yet!

Wangerin's, Jesus A Novel ~ reviewed


Jesus: A Novel
Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (November 1, 2005)
ISBN: 0310266734








Book Description:

“Here, in vivid language and rich historical detail, is the most important story of the Christian faith—the life of Jesus, presented in the form of a literary novel.”

Reviewed by Robin Johns Grant

This retelling of the life of Christ does not stray far from the Biblical accounts. Most scenes will seem familiar (Jesus healing the paralytic who is lowered through the roof of a home where he is teaching; Jesus calming the storm and walking on water; Jesus being tempted in the desert). Most of the words spoken by Jesus could be found in the Gospels. And yet, Wangerin has told this familiar story in a way that is altogether unique.

This author's prose is poetic and literary, setting a realistic picture of the time, though on occassion characters will say, "Okay," or "you big dope," or something that jerked me back into this century.

The events of Jesus’s life from boyhood to crucifixion and resurrection are seen through the eyes of two people close to him—his mother, Mary, and “the Beloved,” who is gradually revealed to be the disciple, John.


The novel opens with the familiar story of Jesus as a boy, accidentally left behind in Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph start for home. As a determined Mary confronts priests, soldiers, and anyone else who might stand between her and her lost child, it is apparent this is not the doe-eyed, saintly woman of Madonna portraits. This Mary is earthy and very human, a passionate fireball of a woman, that the mild-mannered Joseph isn’t quite sure how to handle.

And Mary is never quite certain how to handle this miraculous son she has been granted. Jesus is the center of her life, and yet she can’t fully grasp his mission.

After Joseph’s death, Mary travels with Jesus along with other followers, but their relationship is strained. Mary longs to be a mother to her son, to scold him and advise him and try to keep him safe. She’s frustrated that her “Yeshi” now belongs to all these others as much as to her, and that Jesus is so aloof, apparently intent on marching headlong to his destruction. There is a constant tension between the down-to-earth, practical Mary and the divinity of this man who was once her baby.

One of the most poignant scenes occurs when Jesus and the others receive word of the death of John the Baptist. Jesus retreats into the wilderness, but Mary seeks him out, knowing how he loved his cousin. At first he has little to say to her, as usual, but then Mary comforts him, and Jesus tells her a sort of parable that indirectly tells his mother how important she has been to him all along.

The book’s other narrator, the Beloved, is important mainly for the portrait he gives of other events and characters in Jesus’s life. For example, he draws an intriguing picture of Judas as a gawky, rash youth who thinks he is following Jesus but completely misunderstands his mission.

Wangerin’s prose ranges from poetic and striking to comic. In describing Christ’s passion and the turmoil of the Lord’s mother and followers after his execution, he is at his most powerful. This novel will leave you with characters and images that are not soon forgotten.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Author Interview ~ Kim Sawyer

Wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, author, speaker...
Kim Sawyer wears many hats. Some hats, such as mom to a special-needs child and long-time sufferer of chronic pain, have been oftimes worn with frustration. Hats she's found the courage to discard are the coverings of fear and shame brought about by abuse and welfare reliance. God's miraculous hand of healing in Kim's physical and emotional life is a source of inspiration which she would like to share.











What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

Waiting for Summer's Return, my first full-length historical with Bethany House, will come out in late May/early June of this year. Summer's story simmered in my heart since 1981, when I stumbled upon a tiny central Kansas cemetery and a row of graves--all members of one family. The mother wasn't there, and I wondered what happened to her...? Waiting for Summer's Return is my imaginative answer to that question. It's set in a little German-Mennonite community, so I worked in my own family's heritage, using Plaut Deutsch (a German dialect unique to Mennonites), and had a great time taking Summer through a journey of acceptance.


Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I have always been a writer (I told my kindergarten teacher that someday people would check my books out in libraries!), but I didn't actively seek publication until the mid-1990's. After a crushing rejection from Zondervan (after several positive communications), I decided I wasn't meant to published, so I quit submitting. But I couldn't quit writing!

I started submitting again in 2002 at my dad's encouragement. My agent (Tamela Hancock Murray with Hartline) took over the submission process in 2003. March 17, 2005, in the middle of Parent/Teacher Conferences, I got an email from Tracie Peterson telling me Dear John had been accepted for the Heartsong line. It was pretty hard to stay focused on conferences after that!

Then, just two weeks later, my agent called to tell me Summer's story plus a second one were being purchased by Bethany House. I nearly passed out on that one! Between March and November of 2005, I signed contracts for three Heartsongs, four full-length historicals with Bethany House, and three full-length contemporary women's fiction with Barbour. After years of waiting, the floodgates opened. It's been a wild ride!


Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Nearly every day. I am always concerned about being "good enough." But what really helps is to have my Bible reading and prayer time before I open my documents to write. Being in tune with my heavenly Father puts my focus where it belongs--on pleasing Him with the words that come out of the end of my fingertips.


What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Deb Raney told me that getting published is both talent and perseverance. That kept me submitting even when I was tempted to throw in the towel. The second piece of advice is one everyone has heard a hundred times, but it bears repeating--write your heart. God gives us different voices for different reasons, so sing your own song.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

First, publishing is a waiting game. It is not for impatient people. lol! Second, writing the story isn't the end of your responsibility. I just assumed once a story was purchased, I was done with it. Not so! There's copy editing, and rewriting, and cutting words (major ouch!!!), and book signings and speaking and marketing.... It really is a business, not just a creative outlet. That kind of took me by surprise.


Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Colossians 3:23-24 "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance." This verse really brought me back into perspective recently.

I've been working on my third historical for Bethany House. It has a real emotional meaning to me since it involves orphan train children, and my dear step-grandmother was an orphan train rider. In my head, I began writing this story for Tantie, and suddenly the flow was gone. Words would not come out. I was extremely frustrated, and writing bogged down.

Then, in studying for my Sunday school lesson, I encountered those verses in Colossians, and the light bulb flashed over my head. Instead of writing the story for Tantie, I needed to be writing the story for the One who put me in this chair. Once I asked God to forgive me for my skewed focus, things got back on track, and the flow returned. So those verses are on a little card above my computer, keeping my focus where it needs to be.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

At the 2004 ACFW conference, an editor told me that "gentle stories of hope" were out of date. If I wanted to be published, I needed to write catchy, suspenseful stories. It absolutely crushed me. That isn't my voice at all. I wondered if I was wasting my time and my agent's time... I came very close to just quitting. Why continue to set yourself up for rejection?

But if you're a writer, you write. And that advice that's been stated a hundred times...write your heart...kept coming back to me. I decided that even if I never got published, God gave me these particular stories and He had a reason for doing so. If my own personal growth and edification was all I got from them, then that was enough. I found my peace with that.


What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

Some that I have read over and over and never tire of are To Kill a Mockingbird, Christy, and any of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. The Heirs of Anton series by Susan Warren and Susan Downs are recent favorites, as well as Tricia Goyer's WWII stories. I love the historical accuracy of these series. Plus I'm just a history nut--I love traveling back in time in my imagination.

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

I would definitely be the Cowardly Lion, although God and I are working on my tendency for timidity! I was a very bashful child, and it still plagues me as an adult. Being around writers, who are likeminded and encouraging, has helped bring me out of my shell.


What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I guess I'm proud of a little self-published novel called A Seeking Heart. From a literary viewpoint, it would never win awards. It was written before I knew any of the writing rules of staying in one POV or using -ly words sparingly or being cautious about "was," yet that story poured straight from my heart. Samantha's story of growth and change became my story of growth and change, and the limited readership has commented on the tenderness and sweetness, so I know my heart came through. It was the first thing I was brave enough to share with a larger audience, and I'm proud of this "Cowardly Lion" for finding the courage to follow through on God's prompting and allow it be "out there."


Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

Well, with a husband who is in and out, two cats and a dog which demand attention, and three teenage girls in the house, I'm not sure I have a typical day! lol But my planned routine is get up, get the kids out the door to school, have my devotions and prayer time, then open the file and write until noon. Sometimes, after everyone is in bed, I will reopen the file and write some more, but now that I'm home pretty much full-time, I am less likely to do that.


If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Well, she isn't a published writer (yet!), but I would love to borrow Ramona Cecil's gift for word-painting. With a few selected words she can put me directly into the center of a scene and make me fully acquainted with her characters. Her writing is alive and vivid, and being a very visual person, I really admire that.


Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

Of course, this is all up to God, but it would not bother me a bit to do this for the rest of my life--allow the characters and stories that fill my brain to appear on a computer screen and eventually between the pages of a book. God took me out of my fifth grade classroom--a place I dearly loved--and put me in this office chair, and I'm as happy as can be. So I know if He takes me out of this office chair and puts me somewhere else, it'll be all good. But for now, just writing and writing and writing is my dream.


Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Many times I thought of quitting submitting for publication, but quit writing? No. I can't ever remember a time in my life that I wasn't working on a story--first scribbled in steno pads, then typed on my dad's amazingly slow portable typewriter, and finally on computer... Writing is what I do. Even if the publishing stopped tomorrow, I would still write. I can't not write.


What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Least favorite... Writing is a very solitary activity. I taught for years--was around lots of people and noise and confusion--and this being alone in my office is sometimes quite lonely. I know there are others only an email away, and I make use of that probably more than is wise some days!, but I miss the connections with other people.

And favorite... Writing is a creative outlet, but also an emotional outlet. I love being able to take all the thoughts and feelings and experiences of my 40(*ahem*)+ years of life and put them into other characters who grow and change and become the people God designed them to be. It is, in a very small way, like being a part of creation. Every day is a new experience, and it's exciting!


How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I have a website, although I'm not a real computer techie, and I have a quarterly newsletter for those who wish to receive it. When I self-published A Seeking Heart, I sent letters to every Christian bookstore and public library in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota. I also do speaking events, something I would never have imagined!, and that gives me a venue for sharing my writing as well.

Frankly, I would prefer not to market because that really isn't a comfortable arena for me, but it is part of the publishing world.


Parting words?

If God called you to write...write. Even when it's hard and you think you're getting nowhere...write. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it in His timing. There are no wasted steps on the writing journey, so walk with joy!
God bless~


To learn about Kim's current and upcoming works, visit www.KimVogelSawyer.com

"...We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand" (Is. 64:8b).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

S'up Saturday

First the exciting news: One of my critique partners, Lisa Ludwig, received the heart-stopping news that her cozy mystery was offered a contract...which of course she accepted! One critique partner down...

I also have good news. I am once again agented. I just signed with the wonderful Les Stobbe. Hooray.


Below is a link my critique partner Michelle sent to me. I'd love you to read it and comment either there or here and give your reaction. I had a strong one.
The post is titled Bashing CBA and Other Hobbies
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2006/02/bashing-cba-and-other-hobbies.html

Next week: special two part telephone interview with KAREN KINGSBURY! She gives an awesome interview. You won't believe how God has blessed this author. She explains how she is able to have a daily word count of 10,000 and write such emotion evoking characters. We also have the inspiring author, Kim Sawyer!

Anyone have news to share?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Author Interview ~ J.M. Hochstetler

Joan M. Hochstetler divides her time between writing historical novels and serving as an associate editor of adult general interest products at Abingdon Press. She graduated from Indiana University cum laude, taking a degree in Germanic languages.

Born and reared in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, Hochstetler currently resides in Dickson County, Tennessee. Her interest in the American colonial and Revolutionary War eras grew out of the experiences of her Anabaptist ancestors who immigrated to America from Europe seeking religious freedom. Daughter of Liberty, book 1 of Hochstetler’s American Patriot Series, was published in 2004.



Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

Native Son, book 2 of the American Patriot Series published in July 2005. It begins right after the end of Daughter of Liberty, and brings the story up to July 1776. After the British are finally forced out of Boston, my heroine, Elizabeth Howard, moves to New York City in advance of Washington and the Continentals in order to continue spying on Howe’s army. Meanwhile, Jonathan Carleton, now a brigadier general under Washington, travels far out onto the western frontier among the Indians, where he is first captured and enslaved by the Seneca, then rescued and adopted by the Shawnee. Native Son ends just after signing of the Declaration of Independence and during the build-up for the second major clash of the Revolution, the Battle of Brooklyn Heights.

Currently I’m working on bringing Elizabeth and Jonathan back together again in book 3, Wind of the Spirit—among other projects.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I started writing back in the late 1970s when my two oldest daughters were just tots. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that I began to think seriously about getting my work published, however. Of course, once I started submitting, I also started accumulating rejections. After going through a number of life changes and several periods when I was concentrating on working to earn a living instead of on writing, I got serious about this calling, and in November 2002 I finally received a contract offer. That’s a long journey!

When I got my first contract, I was still working full-time as an editor with Abingdon Press. That morning when I came into the office, there was a voice-mail waiting for me. The message was from the secretary of the editor at Zondervan, and she calmly asked me to call them because they wanted to offer me a contract!

Somehow I managed not to run up and down the hallway screaming my head off!

Of course, I immediately called my agent, who got in touch with the editor right away and then called me back with the terms they were offering. At that point I didn’t really care what the offer was. I would have accepted anything. I was totally in a state of shock that my dream was finally coming true!

This happened less than three months after my parents died as a result of an auto accident. One of the main things I was thinking about when I got the offer was that if it had only come through three months earlier, then I would have been able to tell my parents before they went home to be with the Lord.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Are you kidding? It comes with the territory. I don’t think you ever get over it. Every project you write is your worst—at least in your own head!

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Never give up! I absolutely believe that. If you persist and keep on working to become better at this craft, keep on networking with other writers, and keep on submitting your work to the appropriate editors, you will one day be published.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

To submit to one editor or agent at a time and wait for their answer before you submit to anyone else. Unless they specify they will not accept simultaneous submissions, send a proposal to everyone who’s interested in the type of project you’re pitching. Life is too short to engage in serial submissions. Get the word out.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Networking is key. Attend as many writers conferences as you can afford to and talk to every agent, editor, and author you possibly can. Check the workshops offered and the faculty carefully, of course, and make sure the conferences you attend will be of the most benefit to you personally as far as knowledge and contacts are concerned. And join online writers organizations to increase your network of contacts.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).

Is there a particularly difficult setback that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

There are several, but they’re very personal. Someday I may share them, but it’s going to be a while.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

Three of my all-time favorites, which I first read when I was a teenager, are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Even though when I first read them I had no idea of becoming a writer myself, these books have had the greatest influence on me as a writer.

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

I would be Dorothy because everything I write has as its most important element the journey home.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I’m the proudest of both Daughter of Liberty and Native Son because the founding of our nation is such a thrilling and inspiring story of God’s working in the lives of his people and the world. But today most Americans know so little, if anything, about the heroic struggle, sacrifice, faith, and vision of our Founders. I’ll be greatly honored if I can have even a small share in highlighting and honoring the tremendous accomplishments of our first greatest generation.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

The thing that troubles me the most is that nowadays authors have to spend so much time promoting their books. Publishers used to expect to invest money and effort in promoting a new author until he or she achieved name recognition in the market. But today unless you’re already a best-selling author or a celebrity, you’re expected to do virtually all the promotion on your books yourself.

I truly believe that’s why the market is saturated with books that are poorly written and edited, have little substance, and consequently have little staying power. How can you possibly write outstanding works that will stay in your readers hearts long after they put the book down, and that will profoundly affect their lives, when you have to spend the majority of your time promoting yourself? It’s a conundrum I haven’t figured out yet.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

On days when I’m not working at Abingdon, I’m usually up by 6 a.m. Generally I spend the morning doing my personal Bible study and devotions and then taking care of business details such as answering e-mails, making phone calls, or doing mailings. After a quick lunch, I spend the afternoon working on one of the projects I have going—right now I have three!—either writing or doing research. And often after dinner I’ll spend another hour or two writing before heading to bed between 9 and 10 p.m.

I work three days a week as an editor, and on those days I try to put in some time on my projects for an hour or two after dinner. That’s tough, though, because I have an hour’s drive each way into Nashville, and after spending the whole day on the computer, I’m usually pretty brain dead!

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I would love to capture the profound depth and originality of J. R. R. Tolkien!

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I have two great ambitions. One is to write the only truly comprehensive—and best-selling—historical fiction series on the American Revolution. The other is to write a fictional version of the story of my Anabaptist ancestors. The Hochstetlers came to this country in 1738 in search of religious freedom only to get caught up in the French and Indian War in 1757, with several members of the family being massacred and several being carried away into Indian captivity. A cousin and I are just beginning work on that project, and it’s shaping up to be a thrilling and inspiring story of faith and endurance through severe trial.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

I’ve quit more times than I can count. Probably most writers have done so at one time or another, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I hold the all-time record. The thought still occurs to me on a regular basis, but I’ve gotten better at ignoring those nagging little voices in my head and just blundering on.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite parts are doing research, and then editing once I’ve written the rough draft. My least favorite part is writing the rough draft.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I’ve discovered that it’s virtually impossible for me to put in large amounts of time doing promotion and do any serious writing at the same time. My brain just isn’t wired that way. I have to give my full attention to either one or the other. I’ve also discovered that doing a lot of traveling breaks my budget and totally wears me out, so that’s something I have to limit for both my financial and physical health.

I think it’s really important find a balance. If you spend a majority of your time promoting your work, you’re not going to have time to write excellent books that readers will want to buy and read and recommend to others. So you have to find the balance that works the best for you as far as getting the word out about your books and spending time actually writing.

If you write historials like I do, it’s especially hard because you have to spend huge amounts of time doing research before you even sit down to write. So I’ve found that I need to be very intentional about setting aside specific days or even a week each month to concentrate on promotion. I’m also learning to narrow my focus to the markets that have a natural interest in the kinds of books I write and let the rest go until I’ve fully covered those.

Parting words?

Never give up. If one door closes, look for a window or a path to another door. Find a way around those obstacles. There is a way to reach your goal, and with prayer and perseverance, you can find it!






Thursday, February 16, 2006

Author Interview ~ Diane Nichols


Diane is a speaker, writes non-fiction, children's books and has over 100 articles and stories in print. After a decade of writing short stories she decided to write a book. Her dream would come true...but it was bittersweet.











What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

“Prison Of My Own” – Cook Communications Ministries
The book is the true story of my family’s journey from devastation to forgiveness after my husband of 13 years murdered his mistress.




Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head. (Be as specific as possible with this question please)

I had been a freelance writer specializing in women’s magazines for thirteen years. I had written some fiction manuscripts for Harlequin, but none made the cut. When this tragedy happened to our family, I knew I had to share our story with people so they could also find hope and healing in forgiveness. I wrote the book in four months, signed with an agent who shopped it around for a year to numerous publishers, but we were met with constant rejection.


My goal was to self-publish the book if no one offered a contract by the end of that year since I believed in this book so much….right under the wire as I was about to self-publish, Cook Communications Ministries offered a contract and paid me the highest advance of any new writer they’ve ever had.

When my agent e-mailed me with the heading of his e-mail reading, “You’ve got a publisher!” I ran outside to where my daughters were walking our dog and we all laughed, cried and danced in a circle together over the news. They have made this journey with me and had many a frozen pizza while I stayed at my keyboard writing this special book….we truly celebrated together.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

I don’t doubt that my work is a gift and I can touch people with my stories….but, I do have moments of doubt when I keep praying I can make a living as a writer and not have to do anything else. So few get to have that honor, so at times, I wonder if I should get a “real” job and quit stressing between contracts. Then God opens another door and shows me I’m meant to do this and I keep hanging in there!

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

To absolutely not give up no matter how many rejections you may get. It’s hard to take those letters when they pop up in your mailbox and it may tempt you to lose faith in your manuscript, but if I had given up after months of rejection on “Prison Of My Own,” I wouldn’t be receiving mail today from people as far as South America and Australia thanking me for sharing my story because it changed their life. There’s no better feeling than that!

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

To write what you know. I believe you can draw on emotions that you have experienced and use things you know about in your writing, but the sky is the limit as far as the imagination goes. I’ve written feature stories for women’s magazines on topics such as rape, drunk driving and abortion, which I have had no experience with, yet researched before I began writing and got a feel for the subject. I even wrote one of my Harlequin submissions in a setting in Alaska, which I’ve never been to…..but, with good researching skills and a vivid imagination, you can bring any story to life and not limit yourself.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

That patience is key. Editors are slow to respond in most cases to queries and proposals because they have so many to sort through at a time. When I first became a writer, I thought once the submission was made, I’d sit and wait for the answer keeping my fingers crossed. Now I know to just move on to the next submission and keep up the rhythm and not drive myself crazy waiting on an editor’s answer!

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

My favorite is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” because that verse has seen me through some pretty tough times. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by being a single mother, frightened over finances, facing health problems, or anything that wears me down, I repeat that verse to myself over and over and it gives me the calm and the strength to weather any storm.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

After my husband murdered his mistress, our lives were shattered. I moved myself and our children from Ohio to Florida to be with my family and my writing came to a screeching halt as we dealt with our tragedy. I’ll never forget how my dad set up a typewriter in the guest room of their home where me and the girls stayed at first, knowing that writing would be healing for me and help me to pull myself back up. In less than a month, I was sitting at that typewriter, writing manuscripts again despite my world falling apart. I think when God has truly blessed you with the gift of writing, nothing can stop you from sitting at the keyboard for long!

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

I’m a major Karen Kingsbury fan. I love her style and her ability to make you feel those characters as if you’re right there with them. Favorites of hers are The Redemption series, Waiting For Morning and Oceans Apart. I needed a Kleenex while reading each and every one of them!

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made in this business?

When I first started writing for magazines, I landed a big contract with Woman’s World for a fiction short story called “Table For Two.” It paid $1,000.00 and at that time, that was the most I’d ever gotten from one short piece, so I was thrilled. My excitement was short lived when the editor called and told me they decided not to run it because the assistant editor felt it wasn’t what they wanted. They canceled my contract and offered a kill fee the day after my family took me out to celebrate my contract. I was so crushed that I lost my temper and let her have a piece of my mind, ruining my chances of ever submitting to them again. I learned that day not to burn your bridges, no matter what happens.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

“Prison Of My Own” is my pride and joy since it was so difficult to write and relive our family’s tragedy, yet has been hailed by reviewers as “a must read” and “grips your heart and steals your breath…this book will change your life!” But, I have a recent self-published release, which is a child’s storybook. It is called “It Hurts To Have A Daddy In Prison” and was created to help children to deal with the trauma of having a father behind bars. It is beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist, Melissa Hansen, and available exclusively on Lulu.com. Prisons are starting to order it for their visitation rooms, so I’m very proud. Children of prisoners have so little to help them deal with all they are experiencing.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Chapter outlines…..ugh! I’m the kind of writer who follows the movie in my head while I’m writing, so I often don’t know what is going to happen ahead of time. Mapping out an outline for a book proposal is very confining for me, but I struggle through it since it is required. I just keep my fingers crossed that if the book gets contracted, the publisher won’t mind if the story strays a bit from the outline since my writing takes unexpected twists and turns!

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I’m very fortunate to be able to work full-time out of my home office. I get up by 7:00 a.m. and get my 13-year-old to school, come home and have breakfast with Regis and Kelly, then settle down at my computer for a day of sending queries to magazine editors, writing features and promoting “Prison Of My Own.” When I am working on a book manuscript, I usually write through the week for 6 hours or so a day and save my magazine writing for the weekend.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Again, I have to say it would be Karen Kingsbury because her ability to write such gripping, warm stories that touch a reader’s heart is amazing!

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I would love to make the jump to inspirational fiction and write stories that incorporate the message of miracles, forgiveness and faith. I would also like to address prison issues in my stories, making people aware of the trauma prison families go through. I guess my dream would be to have my inspirational novels right along side Karen Kingsbury’s at Barnes And Noble!!!!

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

When “Prison Of My Own” got a year’s worth of rejections, I grew very weary and questioned my path. I went so far as to visit a technical college to try and choose another career path, but the God roped me back in and pushed me towards my computer again. He reminded me what I’m meant to do and then blessed me with that contract!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?


My favorite part is getting feedback from readers and knowing how my story touched their lives. I literally get goosebumps every time I get an e-mail from someone who says they have changed because of my story….that what I wrote made their life better. Wow. That’s the best reward for writing I can think of. My lease favorite part would be the unstable income and not being able to earn a living at it very easily. Even though I’ve been writing for magazines for 13 years for my bread and butter, I still struggle and often pay bills late when a contract is held up or I don’t sell an article.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I have done a lot of my own promotional work and marketing with “Prison Of My Own.” I never knew that was such hard work and a career in itself! But, I have set up my own book signings, sent press kits to TV & radio, e-mailed media sometimes for hours at a time. My efforts have paid off since I have landed a number of national radio interviews, some TV shows and even have Oprah and Dr. Phil interested in my book at the moment. It pays to dedicate yourself to your book and keep making those vital contacts. Another thing that has helped me to find interview opportunities is to ask authors who have a book similar to mine what kind of media they have done. I got three TV shows that way because similar books were featured.

What made you decide to write this story?

I first attempted to write “Prison Of My Own” after my husband’s arrest for murdering his mistress and I was in therapy to cope. My counselor knew I was a writer and thought it would be healing for me to do a book on my experience, so I tried. At that time, I hated my husband and was filled with anger, so tried to write it as a true crime story, but as I worked on it, I suffered horrible nightmares and stomach aches until I had to stop altogether and give up. As the years passed and God drew our family back together against unimaginable odds and taught us how to forgive, I knew the story I was meant to write. A story of hope, redemption and forgiveness. I finished the manuscript in four months…it practically wrote itself! I wanted people to be changed by this story. To find hope and healing in our journey, as well as see that it is never too late to put the past behind you and find happiness again. I also wanted people to see what happens when a loved one goes to prison and the struggle the children and family go through. That is a side of crime that is seldom addressed and needs to be brought out in the open.

How difficult was it to relive?

It was extremely difficult. I remember sitting at my keyboard, shaking and with tears in my eyes, feeling the old wounds reopening. Even after it was published and “Prison Of My Own” first came out, I was having to tell what happened over and over in interviews and ended up literally in bed for two days ill from reliving it. But, my husband called from prison and reminded me to focus on the beauty of this story…..that God brought us back together against all odds and is using our story to change lives all over the world. That alone makes everything it took to write the book worthwhile.

Did you worry that you would offend family or friends in telling your story?

That was a huge issue for me. I didn’t want to cause any pain to the family of the girl my husband murdered, so I asked my publisher to change her name and protect her identity. I also worried about how my story would effect Bobby, a dear friend I married during our healing process, but later divorced when God led us back to John. He had an drinking problem and we went through a lot of pain, which I was very open about in my book. But, I spoke with him before its release and he promised me that the truth isn’t anything to be afraid of. That he is proud of me for writing the story as it happened and not to worry about offending anyone. I know his mother read it and I worried so much how she would take it, but she still welcomes me with open arms and loves me and the girls. It hasn’t changed anything, which I’m grateful for.


How is writing a memoir like writing a novel?

When I first found my agent, he told me the reason he contracted me after reading my manuscript was because the story was powerful and it read like a novel. I use a lot of description, emotion and dialogue so the reader isn’t hearing about what happened in our lives, they are literally living it with us. In both fiction and nonfiction, it is vital to have the ability to hold your reader’s interest by making your characters real to them, describing scenes so they feel they are there and ending each chapter on a cliffhanger so they can’t wait to read on. So many of my readers said they could not put this book down, so I knew I accomplished that in my writing.

How is it different?

The difference is that in a memoir, you must have your facts correct and not fabricate. The recent scandal with James Frey and “A Million Little Pieces” certainly shook up the literary world and emphasized how wrong it is to fudge on things just to make the story better. In a memoir, you must also worry about protecting identities, which isn’t an issue in novel writing. Also, memoirs are a harder sell than novels. Not many publishers take risks on true life stories, although I believe they are gaining in popularity.

What kind of reader response have your received?

I keep each and every e-mail and letter that I have gotten since the release of “Prison Of My Own” since they are such a gift to me. I have heard from both men and women, saying they could not put the book down and that it was one of the most powerful stories they have ever read. I have heard from people in Australia, South America, New Zealand….even Iraq! I’m constantly amazed to know how far my story is reaching people and thank God for this blessing every day. I also keep a list of reader responses that I use in my press kit to acquire more media attention, which I think is a powerful tool. Still, I keep pinching myself to make sure this is real. Knowing our story is changing lives all over the globe is nothing but a prayer come true! All the glory goes to God for showing us how to turn our tragedy into a gift to help inspire others…..thank you, Jesus!

Parting words?

I think we, as writers, are very blessed to have the ability to take what is in our hearts, our souls and our imaginations and turn it into something that can touch other people’s lives. No matter how hard the journey or how long it takes to reach publication, keep your passion for the craft alive and know that quitting isn’t an option. Remind yourself that all dreams worth achieving never come easily. God will send you your blessings in His time!








Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Author Interview ~ Mindy Clark

Mindy Starns Clark is the author of the "Million Dollar Mysteries" series and the "Smart Chick Mystery" series. Her books include A Penny for Your Thoughts, Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels, A Dime a Dozen, A Quarter for a Kiss, The Buck Stops Here, The Trouble with Tulip, and Blind Dates Can Be Murder. A singer and former stand-up comedian, Mindy is also a popular speaker and playwrite. She lives near Valley Forge, PA, with her husband and two daughters.






Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

BLIND DATES CAN BE MURDER, the second book in the Smart Chick Mystery series, will be released March15th. This is a three-book series, the first of which came out last July, THE TROUBLE WITH TULIP. This series focuses on Jo Tulip, a household hints expert who uses her knowledge of hints to solve crime.


Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

It took a long time to write a book that was good enough to try and get published, but once I had done that, the rest happened fairly quickly. I graduated from college in 1982 with a degree in English and the desire to be a novelist. Eighteen years later, I finally wrote a book I was proud of! (I did many other kinds of writing in the meantime—such as technical writing and scriptwriting—but the art of novel-writing eluded me for quite a while.) When I finished writing A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS, I decided I had finally "arrived." I secured an agent within several months, and he sold the book about a year later.

The life-changing phone call came on a Friday afternoon, while I was driving home from a vacation. I was checking my voice mail, and there was a message from my agent telling me he had sold my book and my series—but no other information than that. I was ecstatic, but when I tried to call him back, he had already left for the weekend. Needless to say, that was the longest weekend of my life!


First thing on Monday morning, however, I finally got him on the phone, got all of the details, and began a wonderful relationship with Harvest House Publishers.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Only when I'm about half finished with a book. At that point, it's the worst drivel anyone's ever written. Once I'm finished with it, however, I think it's the best masterpiece anyone has ever created. About a month later, my opinion lands somewhere in the middle, as it should.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Write what's burning like a fire inside of you—not what you think the market wants or what someone else says you should write. Life's too short to waste your time and creative energies on a long-term project that doesn't thrill your heart.

Also, the most important thing a writer can do: Sit there and write. Period. That's also the hardest thing to do! How much easier is it to read, email, blog, wash the dishes, walk the dog…

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

To use this method or that method to write a novel (as far as outlining, word quotas, etc.) What works is what works for YOU. I'm friends with dozens of successful writers, and none of them does it the same way—but they are all publishing great stuff. So find your own system and concentrate on tweaking it, not using someone else's "formula" for success.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I recently took an informal survey, and the average age for a first published novelist was 48! I wish I had known that when I was 25 and thinking it should've already happened. This is a phenomenally competitive business and it takes a loooooong time to succeed. I wish I had known how long it takes, because I would've developed a primary career other than writing. Financially, I would've been a lot better off.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

The last book I wrote, BLIND DATES CAN BE MURDER, was the hardest book I've ever written, simply because I couldn't seem to leave the "real world" and make the full leap into my imagination. I struggled with that book for months and months, hating every minute of writing it. I thought it was a disaster. Even as I was writing the exciting conclusion, my brain was torn between the story and all the things I needed to get done around the house! I was miserable.

Once it was finished, however, both my husband and my editor think it's probably the best work I've done. So I've learned that feelings and emotions are not a good indicator of the quality of writing.

I see that difficult process as a setback, however, because that's the first time that ever happened. Writing has always been great fun for me, and this experience was definitely not fun. I sure hope it never happens again!
What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

I'm an extremely picky reader, but here's a few…

BODY AND SOUL by Frank Conroy
THE BLACK ICE and THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly
MURDER IN A NICE NEIGHBORHOOD by Lora Roberts
The MCNALLY series by Lawrence Block
A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson
HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

Actually, I'd be Dorothy, because I have spent much of my life looking for that perfect place to live, only to find that the best place is among my loved ones, no matter where we are.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

THE BUCK STOPS HERE was my favorite in the Million Dollar Mysteries series, and I'm quite proud of it. I set the story in Louisiana, my home state, and I think it captures the sense of place exquisitely—even though I was quite afraid I wouldn't be able to pull it off. The book also nicely ends the whole series. Every time I read the last chapter, I sit and cry like a baby—in a good way, of course!

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I go nuts with people's perceptions of an author's income. Because I am a "successful" author, (ongoing book projects, books all over the world, bestseller list, etc.) folks think I should be rich. They don't know that the average income for even successful authors is shockingly low. It's just that the big deals make the papers, so they assume we're all getting 7-figure contracts—when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. It's a living, but it isn't a fortune.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

First half of the workday: Get the kids off to school, sit down at my desk, devotion and prayer, email, promotions. (Promotions can include interviews, articles, book sales, lining up speaking engagements, sending out mailers, networking, etc.)

Break for lunch and exercise.

Second half of the workday: Write. Write until the kids get home.

Rest of the day: Chauffeur, wife, mother, housekeeper, homework, etc.

Not all that glamorous, but I love it.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I would write poetically, almost musically, like Sue Monk Kidd or Anne Tyler. There's such a beauty to their sentences that sometimes it makes me ache. I have other strengths, but poetic language isn't one of them.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I'd love to see my books made into movies—not just for TV, but as full theatrical releases. That would be so cool!

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

No, I just went to other kinds of writing. When I got tired of the low pay of playwriting, I switched to the higher-paying marketing and copywriting. When I wrote my first mystery novel, I decided I wouldn't write another mystery unless that one sold—and I switched to writing a women's novel instead. I could never give up writing completely. I would shrivel up and die!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Favorite – the beginning of a novel (when the ideas are swimming around in my brain and I pull the pieces together into a coherent plot line) and the finish (when all the work finally pays off and I get to tie up the loose ends and then type "The End.")

Least favorite – the "other stuff" you have to do that no one tells you about, like promotions, marketing, etc.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I used to do more, but right now there are so many demands on my time other than my career (parenting teenagers is a full time job in and of itself!) that I've been doing less. So I've been trying to get the most bang for my buck, focusing on my key audience, my website, and bookstores. There's always more to do; the trick is to get the word out, but don't do so much that your writing suffers for it. There are only so many hours in a day.

Parting words?

To aspiring writers: Patience! God has a big plan for you, and if you have the desire to write, He's the one who put it there. Use it for his glory and trust in his timing. I wish I had trusted more and worried less. If you are persistent and keep your eye on developing your craft, it will happen for you…eventually.