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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Author Interview ~ Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin likes baseball, football, needlearts, cream soda, video games but not elevators. I have three fabulous children and two baby grandsons. And I take care of a neurotic parakeet who thinks she's a chicken. I am a frequent conference speaker/workshop facilitator. You can find me at or

Tell us a little about your latest release:

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is the story of an unusual woman, Agnes Sparrow. No longer able or willing to leave her home, where she is cared for by her long-suffering sister Griselda, Agnes has committed her life to the one thing she can do—besides eat. Agnes Sparrow prays and when Agnes prays things happen, including major miracles of the cancer, ulcer-healing variety along with various minor miracles not the least of which is the recovery of lost objects and a prize-winning pumpkin.

The rural residents of Bright’s Pond are so enamored with Agnes they plan to have a sign erected on the interstate that reads, “Welcome to Bright’s Pond, Home of Agnes Sparrow.” This is something Agnes doesn’t want and sends Griselda to fight city hall. Griselda’s petitions are shot down and the sign plans press forward until a stranger comes to town looking for his miracle from Agnes. The truth of Agnes’s odd motivation comes out when the town reels after the murder of a beloved community member. How could Agnes allow such evil in their midst? Didn’t she know? Well, the prayers of Agnes Sparrow have more to do with Agnes than God. Agnes has been praying to atone for a sin committed when she was a child. After some tense days, the townsfolk, Griselda, and Agnes decide they all need to find their way back to the true source of the miracles—God.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow has been critically acclaimed and received a starred review in Library Journal.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

I didn't really have a "what if" moment. Agnes grew out of many conversations and many hours of day dreaming and ruminating.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

The main character is up for discussion. Some would say Agnes and others Griselda. I think it's Griselda. It's really her story of how she cared for Agnes through thick and thin (no pun intended—LOL) There isn't much thin. Griselda was just as fat emotionally as Agnes was physically. She just didn't know it until the end. And even then, she still has a long way to go. Secret: She will get there in another book.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

I love to dream and think about characters and let them take over corners of my mind. Characters, and setting—that's the best part for me. I don't know what I enjoyed the least. Maybe it's the household juggling that goes on to find time. I usually write for fifteen minutes, throw in a load of whites, write for fifteen more minutes, clean up the mess in the kitchen left by my son doing science experiments, write for fifteen more minutes—you get the idea.

What made you start writing?

I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old. It seems I was always reading and writing stories.

What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Video Games. I like to play RPGs. But seriously, if I wasn't a writer I'd probably have been a teacher. But I guess I am doing that, so maybe a speech pathologist or, I don’t know, I always wanted to drive one of those giant earth-movers you see at construction sites.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

Settling down to a plot. I'm what they call an SOP writer—seat of pants. So yes, plotting a story is really hard for me. I tend to let the characters lead and sometimes that can get messy.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Oh, I suppose so. By that I mean when I read my work I see where that has happened but I don't consciously set out to do it.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

Well, I don't really want to give anyone who might not have read it yet a preconceived notion of what to glean from it. But I do hope that folks have a good time reading it, enjoy the story and all that.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

It generally starts with a character, a name, and then a line. I set down a first line and then try to keep some kind of momentum while I'm discovering the story, researching things that need researching, sometimes brainstorming with friends. I call this my exploratory draft. And then once I know the story I start to write it. About half way through I make my version of an outline, really just a few notes of what I think needs to happen and then I keep going. Once this draft is finished I do the rewrite and that for me is where the real fun begins. I can change things up, perfect (read: agonize over) sentences, change or delete scenes. But I can do all that with the security of knowing the story is complete.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

The Great Gatsby—it's just a really good book, beautifully written.
The Princess Bride—A perfect story.
Anything written by Fannie Flagg—masterful storyteller.
Huckleberry Finn—Language, story, motion of words, depth
Peace Like a River—Again, beautiful writing.
Flannery O'Connor, Ray Bradbury, Mya Angelou, River Jordan
Too many to keep naming.

For kicks I like Mary Kay Andrews, Joshylin Jackson, Billie Letts, Garrison Keillor

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

I'd like to say, the exact date I would be offered a contract. But I suppose the best lesson I've learned is to be true to my story, tell the story I was put on planet earth to tell, don't write what I think will sell. Be myself.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Well, I have no money to spend on marketing so I do what I can on Facebook, staying faithful to my blog, website, book clubs, signings, events, whatever I can do to get out there. I pray a lot.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I'm just finishing up the second Bright's Pond Book—Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise. It will release next fall from Abingdon and then maybe a couple more Bright's Pond books after that.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Gee, well if there are writers reading this I guess I'd say to be yourself, write YOUR story. And for everyone I'd say to do good, eat pie and give God the glory. Thank you Novel Journey for including me on your fabulous blog. Soli Deo Gloria.


  1. Fabulous interview. If you haven't read Agnes run out today and pick it up. It's a fun and most touching read. Can't wait for Char's story!

  2. To God alone be the that! Thanks for sharing your insights (and a teensy little secret) with us today! May the Lord bless you in all of your writing endeavors.

  3. This was a great interview! I'm a real fan of Joyce's writing, and of this book. If you haen't had a chance to get to know Agnes and her sister, run DO NOT WALK to get a copy of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. You'll laugh, cry, and everything in between. I was blown away.

  4. Thank you Liz for doing such a great interview with Joyce!

    Agnes is awesome! I remember when she was just a working manuscipt, and Joyce was on a couch at the Montrose conference! How time flies when we're having fun!

    Congratulations Joyce. I hope you sell a million. Agnes is THAT good.

  5. I had the privilege of sitting on a couch with Joyce, too! At the Abingdon authors' retreat. Agnes was complete at the time, but I got a peek at her passion for writing. The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is a great, gripping read from start to finish. The smallest details drip with meaning. And the characters seem like a reality show that simultaneously does justice to a well-honed author's imagination.

  6. Great Interview, Joyce! Thanks for the book club plug! Savvy authors are learning that word of mouth resulting from book club visits can really drive book sales!

    Thanks! MTE
    Book Club Cheerleader

  7. A huge, amazing congratulations on the book. I pray it has much success, changes many lives, and connects you to interesting people.

  8. The best part of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is not even the fun read--it's the depth and the insight and the pointed understanding that some of the characters have into life. Check out Vidalia.

  9. I thought Agnes was a great read. When I lift up prayer concerns for my friends, I sometimes catch myself wondering how Agnes and Griselda are doing. Then I have to remember they're not real. But Joyce has made them seem so real that I still care about them. I think that's one of the reasons she's such a good storyteller!

  10. The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is an absolutely awesome read! If you haven't read it yet, then make sure you do. It's one of the best books I've read this year. Way to go, Joyce!

    Deborah M. Piccurelli

  11. As her editor I can tell you that Joyce is a real find--an author through and through. I can imagine her sitting at a table with Hemingway and asking him, "What's up, Hem?" Really, she's just as fun and quirky as her character-- full of angst and the best tadpole wrangler I've ever met. The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow will make you laugh, cry, and wonder over such a brilliant mind that could have conceived it. Here's to your success, Joycie!

  12. Ah gee, you guys are the best. Thank you so much for all the kind words.

  13. Chiming in with the Joyce-fest. I ditto Barbara Scott's comment.

    Joyce and I became friends at the Abingdon authors retreat, and we've had separation anxiety ever since. I trust her to always tell me the truth about my writing, and I Aretha Franklin respect her writer's gut response.

  14. I've read Joyce's writings from the first lines and have the priviledge to brainstorm with her sometimes. It always amazes me how she can figure things out and make the story better and better as she goes along! Yes, RUN, don't walk to your nearest bookstore and get The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. Everyone on your Christmas list will love it, too!


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