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Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Writer's Obedience

Marcia Lee Laycock is the author of One Smooth Stone, Focused Reflections and The Spur of the Moment. Visit her website -

A while ago my husband and I were surfing the channels on TV when we happened upon a biography of Henri Nouwen. I was moved by his story, by the humility he learned when he went from being an acclaimed professor and author to a care-giver for a mentally challenged adult at L'Arche Daybreak Community.

And I was struck by Jean Vanier’s words – “Henri’s call was not just to be with
Adam or just to care for him, it was to announce him to us, to the world.”

That made me think of another story I heard Philip Yancey tell, of how he sometimes felt guilty when his wife would come home after a busy day of helping people and ask him what he’d done that day. His answer – “Well, I found a great adverb!” - made him feel less than adequate.

I’ve had those same feelings from time to time, especially when a member of our congregation looks at me like I’m that two-headed writer who sits at a computer all day and doesn’t really “do” anything.

It’s at those times that Mr. Vanier’s words ring with a truth I try not to forget. When I feel misunderstood or even guilty, I remember that there were those in the Bible whose only role was to sit at the King’s feet and write down what He did. They were to announce the King’s greatness to their world.

We are to do the same in ours. Just as Henri Nouwen announced the beauty of God in the guise of a disabled man, we are to look for those people, places, things, where God is hidden, and reveal Him.

The best place, the best vantage point from which to do that is sitting at His feet, watching, listening, waiting, and then, writing. For the writer, this is obedience.

Sometimes I envision the Lord taking my chin in his hand and turning my head so I will see what He wants me to record. Sometimes I envision him touching my eyes so they can see.

And then I write.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Celebrate Valentine's Day with Jane Austen

(From Vision Video . . . )

Jane Austen is one of the most celebrated writers of the 19th century. Her extraordinary novels like Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility have motivated men and women of all ages to embrace true love and to avoid allowing the classist expectations of society to thwart one’s dream of enjoying the love of a lifetime.

Two centuries later, her masterpieces continue to hit the best sellers’ lists and have served as the impetus for scores of producers and playwrights!

This Valentine's Day, Vision Video is offering a special price on movies made from her novels. And having been a Jane Austen addict for years, I have to say these are my three favorite adaptions:

Click on the images to be taken to their specials.

Also, this week John Grisham gave his first interview to blogs to discuss his new book, THE ASSOCIATE, as well as some other controversial topics.
You can check them out here:

Also, check out John Grisham on Facebook here:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Author Ben Rehder ~ Interviewed

Ben Rehder wanted to become a writer ever since he was dropped on his head as a toddler. As he grew into a young adult and the vertigo gradually dissipated, his passion for literature grew. Ben longed to craft the type of soul-stirring prose that would touch people’s lives and help them explore new emotional horizons. But he went to work at an ad agency instead.

Throughout his rewarding and fruitful career in the ad business, Ben has been known to write such imaginative and compelling phrases as “Act now!,” “Limited-time offer,” and “Compatible with today’s rapidly changing network environment.”

However, there eventually came a time when, as unbelievable as it sounds, writing brochures and spec sheets simply wasn’t enough to satisfy Ben’s creative urges. Ben knew: It was time to write a novel.

What is your current project? Tell us about it.

My agent is pitching a manuscript I finished this past fall. Unlike my earlier books in the Blanco County series, this one's a standalone that takes place along the Texas/Mexico border. It's not the best time for my agent to be pitching it, so cross your fingers for me. In the meantime, I've been writing a few magazine articles and other short projects. Plus, I have a dream of becoming the origami champion of south-central Texas.

Share 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.

The short version: Made a New Year's resolution to attempt to write a novel. (Notice the word "attempt" in there; that would've allowed me to keep my resolution without actually writing a novel.) Wrote the novel in about a year and a half. It took that same amount of time to find an agent. (I have more than 100 rejection slips, so don't whine about rejection until you've joined what I call the "triple digit club.") Once I had an agent, she found a publisher in about seven or eight weeks. That phone call--when she told me we had an offer--qualifies as one of the best moments of my life. I didn't care how much money (or, actually, how little) they were offering; I was just thrilled that I'd be a published author. You know what? I'd say, eight years later, that I still look back on that moment with the same satisfaction.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you've discovered.

Sure, I still have doubts occasionally, but then I remember that editors and agents have doubts about their abilities, too, and that generally makes me feel better in a sick sort of way. But my doubts are less about my writing and more about whether I have any realistic chance of "making it big." It's a fairly brutal business, and nobody really seems to know what sells books, so that can get you down. Writer's block? No, I don't really get that. In fact...I...uh...let's see...I can't find the right words.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what's something you wish you'd known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

That's a tough question, because how can you really know what's a mistake, short of making a pass at your agent or telling your editor he's a pinhead? (I have done neither of those things, by the way.) My point is, when you make certain choices in your career, you're choosing NOT to go down another path. There's no way of knowing if that other path might've been a wiser choice. An example: My Blanco mysteries are comedic, even though the rule of thumb is that funny mysteries don't sell well. (With exceptions, of course.) But if I'd written a "straight" mystery, maybe I wouldn't have been published at all. Plus, as I'm sure some readers are thinking, there's more to life than sales. All you can do is make an informed decision at each critical stage in your career, then hope for the best.

What's the best or worst advice (or both) you've heard on writing/publication?

Everyone says to write from the heart--rather than to write something similar to the bestsellers--but you'll have to decide for yourself whether that's good or bad advice. It's probably blasphemy on my part to even question the "write from the heart" bit, but you don't see me on any best-seller lists, do you? Regarding promotional efforts, one thing that almost everyone says at some point is, "Well, it couldn't hurt." How about a tour? "Couldn't hurt." Postcards? "Couldn't hurt." Website? "Couldn't hurt." A tattoo of my book cover on my forehead? "Couldn't hurt." Again, nobody seems to really know what sells books, so there's a lot of wasted time and money.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

The ideas pretty much have to come from that idea factory between your ears.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you've gone through in your writing career you are willing to share? Or have you ever been at the point where considered quitting writing altogether?

When my original editor left my publisher, that was a blow. Not only did we work great together, we'd developed a friendship. Also, your editor is your champion within the publishing house, so when your editor leaves, that can mean trouble. In this case, my new editor was every bit as sharp, but I sensed that I'd lost some momentum within the house. So it was time to try something new, outside the series.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

You only get one debut. Make sure it counts. Is this the novel that will launch your career and help you meet your goals? If not, should you set it aside and write something else? I don't know the answer, but those are questions worth asking. In hindsight, I'd have to really contemplate if I wanted to "come out of the gate" with something more in tune with market demands.

Also, don't spend so much money on any particular marketing tactic without pretty good evidence it works.

Lastly, if you receive a call saying you've been nominated for the Edgar, remember how you felt at that moment, because it will be hard to surpass in the future.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

My background is in the ad business, and that's where I learned to write. There's one particular person--my first boss--who had more impact on my writing than anybody else. Her name is Mary Summerall and she is one great lady. Also, I got some pretty good writing genes from my mother, so she deserves a shout-out. And, of course, it doesn't hurt to have a tremendously supportive spouse, which I do.

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

I wrote an essay for Newsweek about a dog I used to have. Her name was Esmerelda and she was a pit bull. Very sweet and friendly, and she remained that way her entire fourteen years. The overwhelming majority of pit bulls are just like her, though you wouldn't know that from the media. Yes, I acknowledge the problem with pit bulls, but it's never good to generalize. I hope my essay got that point across.

Dean Koontz recently shared his take on the concept on "the writer's sacred duty." What comes to your mind at the mention of "the writer's sacred duty?"

Honestly, I'm not sure what that means. I don't feel any sense of a sacred duty. I'm not obligated to anyone to accomplish anything in particular with my writing.

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

See above. Nobody knows what actually sells books. Oh, except for Oprah.

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

Obviously, I want to continue to make a career out of it, whether it's with my novels, magazine articles, copywriting, or a combination of the above. Almost all authors want to be widely read, of course, and to get their books made into movies, and to make the bestseller lists, and to be interviewed on the Today Show. Those things would be nice, too.

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

Writing really is hard work. I procrastinate a lot. My least favorite part is actually getting started each day. My favorite part is reading a scene I just wrote and knowing I absolutely nailed it. Also, seeing your first book on bookstore shelves for the first time is a great rush.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

My wife and I own a small "ranchette" in Blanco County, west of Austin, and I built a cabin out there in 1996. I love to write out there, away from everything. It's possibly my favorite place on the planet. You can see a photo of the land and the cabin (if you look real hard) across the top of my web site.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Gerunds are always tricky. I went to a gerund training school.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

Make sure I understand WHY I'm writing the book. Where am I going with it? I don't outline, but I should at least understand the big picture before I begin.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you'd like to share?

When I'm writing a novel, I set a weekly quota, and it's appallingly low. Just two thousand words. But I always exceed it, and that makes me feel like I'm accomplishing more than I need to. Mind game.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Sort of a combination. As I mentioned above, I like to have a big-picture feel for the plot before I begin the novel, but as for specific scenes or plot points, anything can happen. My opinion is, if you outline too thoroughly, your novel begins to feel somewhat like a paint-by-numbers piece of fiction.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

I like to have a lot of subplots that appear unrelated but come together near the end. That can be difficult to pull off. Like many authors, I can be halfway through and start to panic. But it's always worked out. I don't write a lot of drafts, because I edit as I go along. If I'm not happy with a chapter, I keep at it until I am happy with. Sure, there are times when I make decisions that affect earlier chapters, and I have to go back and do some rewriting, but it's fairly minimal.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response? Please share.

I once received an email from a soldier in Iraq who thanked me for giving him a mental break and reminding him of his home state, Texas. That was definitely a highlight of my career. He included some photos of himself reading one of my books in one of Saddam's vanquished palaces. Pretty cool.

Have you had a particularly memorable peer honor? Please share.

Edgar Award nomination.

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

I've touched on this above, but here's one other thing: When someone asks you to do an interview like this one, do it!

Parting words? Anything you wish we would've asked because you've got the perfect answer?

Readers don't realize how much of an impact they have on the publishing industry or on a given author's career. By buying a book, you are in a sense "voting" for that author and saying you want to see more by him or her. Is there one particular author you like who isn't well known? Do you want to see more books from that author in the future? You know what you have to do to make that happen.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Author Interview ~ Erin Healy

Erin Healy is owner of WordWright Editorial Services, a Colorado-based consulting firm specializing in fiction book critique, manuscript development, and editing for publishers. Kiss, co-authored with Ted Dekker, is her first novel. Erin is the director of the Academy of Christian Editors and former editor of Christian Parenting Today magazine. She and her husband, Tim, are the proud parents of two children.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Kiss is about the redemptive power of painful memories. It examines the contradiction between the benefits and the tragic consequences of trying to wipe the slate clean. When the personal cost of remembering is greater than the cost of forgetting, which would you choose? What if your most difficult memories could save lives? These are some of the questions that haunt the main character, Shauna, who awakens from a coma missing six months’ worth of memories. She discovers on awakening that her family accuses her of having irrevocably harmed her beloved brother, with the intention of destroying her father’s political career. Shauna can’t imagine she’d do such a thing, but she just can’t remember …

You co-authored this book. Can you explain the process for co-authoring a novel?

The process probably looks different for each co-author team. Ted and I have worked together for several years as an author-editor team, and we have similar ways of thinking about what makes a strong story. So the foundations for the teamwork—trust and vision—had been long established. The majority of the process involved us talking on the phone for hours while he filled the story with great ideas and I tried to keep my cordless adequately charged. We verbally beat story questions and scenes and options nearly to death long before a word was ever typed. Then I laid down the first rough draft and a new process began with both of us, writing, tearing apart, rewriting, more rewriting, editing, etc. The book is roughly 100,000 words, but at least 200,000 words were written to get there. Gotta love it.

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

The Kiss that exists today is the sixth or seventh generation of the idea Ted and I started with. I came up with a concept for a story about a woman who can relieve people of their most painful memories, a mercy “angel” whose good intentions go all wrong. Maybe this story will find its footing one day in a sequel about Shauna. Who knows?

Ted loved the idea of memory stealing and transplanted that device into a story concept that had bigger political and relational stakes, and Kiss grew from there.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed her.

Shauna is a young woman who’s in danger and doesn’t know it, because she’s lost her memory. Ted and I tried a few approaches with Shauna: Was she overall an angry person? Contrite? Fearful? Aggressive? Focusing on the emotional terror of Shauna’s situation gave us the direction we needed.

What would it be like to be blamed for devastating the life of a loved one—and not remember what you’d done? Answers to that question were not hard to imagine. We isolated Shauna from her family and friends; we separated her from the truth of her past and forced her to make a choice: Would she rather live safely in the dark or at great risk in the light? Shauna answered that question for us: her love for her brother and her hope for relationship with her father pushed her toward risk, and her driving need to know the truth propelled her straight into danger.

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

Most: the rewriting. Maybe it’s the editor in me, but that part came pretty naturally. Manipulating a manuscript is like playing with Play-Doh.

Least: the rewriting. After revision number six (or was it seven?), all I really wanted was a glass of wine and a twelve-hour sleep. Is it just me, or do others also find the creative process riddled with such love-hate tensions?

What made you start writing?

I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I have a hunch it’s rooted in my propensity to talk too much, and as a child I needed to find an outlet that gave my parents and sister some relief.

What does your writing space look like?

I do most of my writing in my garden-level home office, which has a view of garden mulch and a tree trunk. The walls are an unfortunate shade of baby-poop mustard (I think the prior home owners were going for gold) that I have not had time to repaint. So I’ve covered this up for the most part with bookcases and my favorite book-lover’s framed prints, illustrated by Nishan Akgulian.

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

“Free time?” asked the working mother of a ten-year-old and a five-month-old. “What’s that?”

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

Making it a priority discipline. I have a business, a husband, kids, a dirty house, and a million interests. Writing gets squeezed to the margins, especially if it’s not attached to a contract.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Into my books, yes. They contain my curiosity, my love of a good puzzle, and a little of my hope-tinged cynicism. As for characters, I have no idea. I might not be able to answer that question for a few years, when hindsight might be more revealing to me. Either that or I’ll need to ask a psychologist for a professional assessment.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

I hope readers might begin to see their most painful personal memories in a new light. I hope they can discover grace in pain and see these experiences as formative events that God can redeem and transform into meaningful parts of their history.

When God told the Israelites to commemorate their suffering (such as with altars and feast days), He wasn’t telling them to wallow in it, but to remember Who delivered them from it. If our whole history—good, bad, and ugly—keeps us focused on Him, our future will make more sense. I really believe that.

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

Take a long, hot shower. Flip through the mental file for ideas while the water heater runs cold. Repeat daily for up to three months. When The One presents itself, spend more days (and showers) writing a synopsis and erecting a skeleton outline of the main characters and acts.

Spend a lot of time online distracting self with irrelevant research such as whether characters’ first and last names are true to ethnic origins. Write the first ten pages. Shower. Rewrite these ten pages every day for two weeks, and do the bulk of it mentally while under hot water in the shower.

Calculate the minimum number of words that must be written daily to meet the deadline. Recalculate and consider whether thinking of this number in terms of pages is less intimidating. Decide the deadline for beginning has come and gone. Shower. Write. Shower. Revise. Shower.

Rewrite the story outline based on new ideas and revelations and characters who will not behave themselves. Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Spend at least a week believing that the novel will have to be destroyed before the editor sees it and destroys the contract afterward. Realize it’s too late to prevent that.

Write the last twenty pages in one day without rereading them. Send the rough draft to at least two people who love you and would never say a negative thing about your work, and to at least two (different) people who have permission to tear the thing apart without apologizing. Await their replies in the shower. After receiving replies, cry in the shower. Then do the work. Fix it. Fall in love with the results. Send it off. Shower. Moisturize desiccated skin. Go to bed. Repeat.

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

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. The themes of belonging and integrity in the context of faith resonate with me as a Christian who doesn’t alwaysfeel like she fits within the traditional norms.

The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. What amazing studies of the pursuit of excellence taken to extremes. I’ve come to see Rand’s works as instructive portraits of a hope for perfection—beautiful and God-given, though hers was misguided.

Silence by Shusaku Endo, one of Japan’s leading novelists.

In the mid-1600s, a fellow Christian betrays a missionary priest to authorities. He is captured, tortured, and eventually he apostatizes. I was captivated by the question of what strengthens and weakens faith in the face of unimaginable opposition and physical suffering. In what do we place our certainties of faith?

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 wish I’d acknowledged sooner that fiction readers care less about technical perfection than they do about emotional brilliance. Good storytelling starts with craft but must end with the human heart. Ted and other talented authors have taught me this again and again by example in the years I’ve worked with them.

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

As Kiss is my first book, and it’s being marketed as a Ted Dekker book, my answers at this point will be limited: I don’t do any marketing; right now I’m riding coattails of Ted’s marketing. And anything that works for Ted works REALLY well for me!

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

I’m excited about Burn, which the next book from Ted and me. Burn is an intense, brain-bending story about a woman forced into making a critical, life-changing decision … and what might have happened if she’d made a different decision. It’s a novel about the dramatic stakes involved in dying to self, and what life on the other side of that action looks like, for better and worse.

After that, I’ll have a solo novel before (we hope) another venture with Ted. It’s the story of a hard-working, loving single mom who is haunted—and hunted—by an offense that she can’t forgive. Readers can expect my stories to be page-turning thrillers with sharp spiritual edges. Like Ted’s, but different. They’ll have more romance than Kiss or Burn. And they might also have more than one word in the titles.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Learn the craft. Learn how to respect it before you attempt to do anything subversive. Learn what moves your audience. Learn how to expose yourself and your work to the honest opinion of others, especially people who don’t like what you’ve written. Learn, learn, learn. “Your job,” write the authors of Art and Fear, “is to learn to work on your work.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


For fifteen years, Chicken Soup for the Soul, a world leader in life improvement, has been helping real people share real stories, bringing hope, courage, inspiration and love to hundreds of millions of people around the world. To help celebrate our 15th ANNIVERSARY, we╩╝re awarding 4 libraries with an assortment of exciting prizes.


2 libraries will each receive 2 baskets of books1 basket for the library to shelve in their collection and 1 basket to raffle off to a member of the community. Each basket will contain 28 Chicken Soup titles, including, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution: Great Ideas for Your Mind, Body and...Wallet, to help motivate your patrons as we turn the corner on a new year.

2 libraries will receive 1 basket, each containing 28 Chicken Soup titlesCHECK OUT OUR NEW LOOK!To learn how you can receive a free newsletter or Chicken Soup for the Soul story each day delivered right to your inbox, visit us at
Chicken Soup.
Sweepstakes closes February 23(Open to librarians and library personnel only)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pulitzer Winning Novelist, John Updike Dies at 76.

Read the story here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

But I’m Not Painting “Newbery” Across my Chest

You might assume this is my dad watching the Superbowl.
It’s actually me, streaming award announcements from the American Library Association—the Printz (go Jellicoe Road!), the Caldecott, the Morris, the Newbery, annual medals bestowed on “distinguished contributions” to juvenile literature.

A great deal of Newbery criticism has surfaced in the past few months, however, as pieces in the School Library Journal, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg question the time-honored award: do winning stories actually interest children? Are they accessible to them? Are they overly grim, are they lacking diversity, are they even worth putting onshelf?

Yesterday, the ALA announced 2009's Newbery recipient, "The Graveyard Book," by Neil Gaiman (of Stardust and Coraline fame), a choice sure to spark more discussion across the kidlit blogosphere.


"The Graveyard Book" tells the story of Bod, an orphan boy raised and protected by the souls who inhabit his graveyard. While it’s certainly kid-friendly—in a witches, ghosts and vampire sort of way—the selection brings up quite another issue: was the committee possibly influenced by concern for the medal’s future?


It’s rare for a Newbery to be given to a book that has already spent months on the New York Times bestseller list. Certainly, fiction can be popular and well-written, but it doesn’t happen every day. The line between excellence and appeal is a blurry, interesting line, one that agonizes many writers, and, without a doubt, many Newbery committee members, as well.


But can one year’s choice—this year’s, or any year’s—discredit the merit of an award with the Newbery’s rich history?


Even when my dad’s favorite team doesn’t make it to the Superbowl (and that’s often), he gears up nonetheless. He anticipates each playoff result, and come January, eagerly brings out the chips and salsa. It doesn’t matter that he’s not a fan of either team. He’s a fan of the game.


Even when my version of “distinguished” doesn’t match up with the Newbery committee’s, I still follow the buzz. I still read the Newberys, revisit old winners, and root for a better season next year.


When patrons ask for “The Graveyard Book,” I'll put it in their hands. But like thousands of librarians, teachers, and parents, I can also reach for other books. "I'm not a huge fan of this year's winner. But here it is. And oh, you really have to try "Masterpiece," too. It didn’t win anything, but it’s great. So is "The Penderwicks on Gardam Street." And "Cosmic." You'll love them."


And here's to next year!


Noel De Vries is a youth librarian with a novel in her desk drawer—Edward Eager meets E. Nesbit. Or so she likes to think. Visit Noel at her blog, Never Jam Today.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Should Christian Fiction Provide Answers or Provoke Questions?

by Mike Duran

Paradox is not something Christians like to concede. We believe Jesus is the Answer, and as such, questions exist to be dispelled rather than nurtured. However, the universe rarely cooperates. There is mystery and wonder. Even the grayest of saints must, on occasion, plead perplexity.

Yet for the Christian author, paradox is not something we need fear. In fact, provoking questions can be a powerful apologetic tool. Jesus did this often. It is estimated that Christ asked over 80 questions. Obviously, He did this not to alleviate ignorance (His own) but provoke thought in His listeners. As followers of the Answer, Christian authors are uniquely positioned to frame life's most vital questions.

Problem is,
Christians often view their fiction as a tool to provide answers, rather than provoke questions.

Barbara Nicolosi, founder of Act One, an organization that trains Christians for careers in mainstream film and television, was once asked about "the most prevalent shortcomings in scripts by Christians." (You can read her entire answer HERE.) In response, Nicolosi broached the subject of paradox:
The biggest shortfall I find in beginning writers - Christians and pagans - is the failure to understand and harness the real power in the screen art form. Anyone who wants to write great movies has to plumb the depths of the multilevel nature of cinema and then begin to exploit the levels to create paradox.

The real power to help and heal the audience in a work of art is in paradox. We really want to haunt the audience in the way, for example, that Flannery O’Conner’s stories are haunting. She’s the one who created that phrase, saying that in order to make a story a work, she had to find a “haunting moment.” This refers to a moment in a story that is at once completely true and completely shocking. I have really brooded over this a lot, and it is clear to me that a work of art stays with an audience, and leads them into rumination, in so far as it incorporates paradox.

So, what happens in a movie is that the audience walks into the theater distracted, munching their popcorn, burping and scratching. Then, they encounter the movie, and suddenly they find themselves at the end with a new and irritating/pressing question: “Rats! I have a question now that keeps coming back to me!”

Too many Christians think we are supposed to use the arts to give people the answers. We’re not. We’re supposed to use the arts to lead them into a question. (emphasis mine)
Nicolosi's contention that Christians should use the arts to provoke questions rather than provide answers goes against the grain of much thinking regarding Christian Fiction. Leaving unanswered questions in the minds of the reader -- in particular, questions about God, Christ, the Church, the Gospel, sin and evil -- appears anathema for many religious publishers. Christian Fiction, so they say, should provide the seeker with clarity rather than just, as Flannery O'Connor put it, a "haunting moment." Nowadays, the Christian author must do more than just lead her audience "into rumination." She must articulate orthodoxy.

But simply exploring paradox seems antithetical to Christianity. The believer has, after all, arrived at a set of conclusions (via the Holy Spirit) -- conclusions that, most likely, inform / inspire her storytelling. Nevertheless, fiction that is bent on providing answers can potentially become preachy and propagandist. The story is submerged by agenda. On the other hand, fiction that only provokes questions can potentially become needlessly provocative and lacking a moral / theological center.

So what is it? Should Christian Fiction provide answers or provoke questions? Your thoughts...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Questions and Answers

Marcia Lee Laycock is the winner of the best New Canadian Christian Author Award from Castle Quay Books. Her novel, One Smooth Stone is endorsed by Marc Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Sigmund Brouwer.

In Bill Roorbach’s book Writing Life Stories, he tells an anecdote about one of his elderly students, a woman of 85. He asked her a flippant question, a question he did not expect her to answer. He asked, “Jane, tell us, what’s the secret to life?”
Roorbach writes -
“Jane smiled benignly, forgiving me my sardonic nature, tilted her head and said without the slightest pause: “Searching.”
An indignant Chuck (another student), said, “Not finding?” quite sure he had it right. “No, no, no,” Jane said emphatically, letting her beatific smile spread, “Searching.” (Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach p.53-54)

Frans Kafka once said - “One reads in order to ask questions.” Perhaps one should also write from that perspective, not to provide, but to seek the answers, those answers that will resonate deep and long as they touch that central part of our being where God resides; those answers that will lead us and our readers to more questions.
The trap of pride lurks, ready to ensnare us. It is in arrogance that we write believing we possess the complete unadulterated truth. Jesus is the only One who lives in that place. Jesus is truth. We are merely those, as J. Hudson Taylor says, who are seeking to bring our own souls under its influence.

Oswald Chambers, who has written one of the most popular devotional books ever written, said - "The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance."

I think the author who is most true to himself, and his readers, is the one who admits that truth has been dumbly struggling in her, as well. It is when we as writers struggle to give utterance, struggle toward that wholeness, that holiness, that we succeed, no matter whether the result is published in the New Yorker with an audience of millions or in a local newsletter with an audience of a few hundred.

John 14:6 - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Interview with Beverly Swerling

Tell us about your newest release City of God.

It was a book I took great pleasure in writing because it documents such a transition in the city, almost a kind of blossoming of the New York we know. The clash of culture and religion and gender is part of the warp and woof of the city today, and it really was born in the period between 1836 and the start of the Civil War in 1860 – the period of this book. Also, I really loved the characters. I hope readers will as well.

What brought about the desire to write fiction? Was it something you always knew you were going to write or was there a catalyst?

I’m one of those who was always going to write – it was obvious to the adults around me from the time I was a little kid, just about the only thing I was really good at – but I started out in journalism and had to muster the courage to set out into the uncharted waters that are fiction. Even book length non-fiction is much easier to write. It has natural paramaters. Fiction – at its inception, when all the pages are blank – has none.

How long does it take you to write a novel? Will you describe the steps you take in the writing and revisions?

Most of my books take about two years to write, but sometimes a book will come at white heat, and that is a process with its own demands. In the case of the City series I’ve been doing for Simon & Schuster, it’s easier now because I have developed a body of research and in each instance since City of Dreams I’m building on a foundation I have already laid. At least in terms of the research. The books, of course, can all be read as stand alone. And Shadowbrook really is to the side of the others. It touches the series in places, but it’s a separate thing. (And because of all the American Indian material, it was the most difficult to research.) Because I never write an outline – I would be too bored to write the book if I did that – I am changing and rewriting constantly. Now that I write on a computer and can keep rewriting with relative ease.. I do. I’m compulsive over commas, not to mention the story. And I’m always thinking of new things that I can add if I just go back and do a bit of foreshadowing here and plant a clue or two there…

Your books are known for their research. Will you walk us through the steps of beginning that laborious process? What do you do first and how do you organize your materials?

Every book begins for me first with characters, then with place, and then with plot. What if he does this and she does that… And then what if someone comes along who… But once I have those ideas – and I outline nothing except in my mind – I have to see how what was happening in the time and place I’ve selected is likely to impact my characters. To do that I start reading – generally a pile of books that overview the period and the conflicts. Once I’ve got a good sense of the highlights of the time, I dig deeper by using the Internet – what a Godsend that is! I can remember when I would trek from one library to another and wait while some librarian (all librarians are wonderful in my world) went and found me some dusty old something no one had looked at for years. Now the digitalization of resources is truly staggering. I thought I might do something in 1776 during the Second Continental Congress (probably won’t as it turns out) and I discovered that the Library of Congress in DC has on their site the entire diary kept by John Hancock while he was President of the Congress. In ordinary type and in facsimile. That is astounding. Just a few years ago I would have been figuring out how to get down to DC and if I could get to see the diary and get everything I needed in one day or if I’d have to stay over…

During your research, what fact or practice surprised you the most?

In the New York series, the fact that slavery was so prevalent in the North and that the entire economy of New York City was, for many years, built on the slave trade. In City of God you’ll discover that New Yorkers were violently opposed to the Civil War (and anti-Lincoln) because the end of slavery was going to cost them huge sums of money. And they were so self-righteous with it. But there were heroes as well. Many in the black community who were the guts of the Underground Railroad (and they had the most to lose if they were caught). Some whites also saw the terrible injustice and stood up to be counted. Of course most of my characters were in their number! Another thing that astounded me was the truly terrible fire of 1836. The city almost burned to the ground. It’s why there is so little of colonial New York left. And before I started working on City of God I knew nothing about it.

Which book are you most proud of? Why?

That’s easy. I’m always most proud of the book I’m working on right now. Anyone who has ever tried to write a novel will understand why that is. It’s really, really hard and you feel proud of yourself for trying every day.

Which book was the most difficult to write? Why?

Sorry, they’re all difficult. A dozen times in the course of a ms I think, my God… I’ve lost the thread entirely. I can’t do this. Why did I ever start.

Sol Stein argues the writer must never lose sight they are writing for an audience, while William Zinsser advises writers not to envision "the great mass audience." When you're writing, where do you fall on this scale?

I tell the story I want to tell, but I’m always conscious of never telling the reader an untruth (advice from a man now head of a major publishing house whom I knew back when he was a junior editor) and not making things so complicated the reader has no idea where you’re going. Most important, never, never, never bore the reader. That’s uppermost in my mind always. What would I want to know next? All that said, I write a book as I think it should be written and tell the story I want to tell.

Was there ever a difficult set back that you went through in your writing career?

Yes, indeed. But I won’t tell you about it. Too horrible.

Do you still experience self-doubts about your writing?

Every single day. Writing, at least for me, is a craft practiced in total isolation and without feedback. I cannot tell you how often I wonder if what I’m doing is any good at all. Henry Morrison, my wonderful agent of twenty-plus years, is usually my first reader and I wait to hear from him chewing my fingernails like the greenest novice.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long did it take before your first novel was published?

As I said, I started in journalism, then wrote a book of non-fiction, then dipped my toe in the fiction stream by writing a genre novel under another name. That was a good many years ago and I only stopped getting royalties on that book a few years back. It was, incidentally, a terrible book. Done rather like painting by numbers. I analyzed other books in the genre and followed the pattern. Got a second class agent and was lucky enough to have him sell it to a first class publisher.

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

G.B. Shaw – at least I think it was he. “All of writing is rewriting.” I’m a great believer in polishing and polishing.

What is the worst?

The sort of thing people say to the young who express interest in being a writer. “Oh, you’ll never be successful at that. Too hard. Sell insurance. It’s more secure.”

What advice would give a newcomer entering into the publishing world?

Have a decent day job (maybe selling insurance) and gird your loins to put up with a huge amount of rejection, but never lose faith in yourself. Above all, apply backside to chair and keep doing it. If one book doesn’t sell, throw it out and start a new one. Write every single day and never stop honing your craft. More books fail because of lack of craft than anything else. I occasionally mentor young writers and I’ve learned that good ideas for a novel are much easier to come by than the skill to actually tell the story. Novelcraft is rule number one.

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

I write very early – usually starting around 5:30 and keep going until probably 11 or so. After that I can’t write more. I can NEVER summon new words later in the day, though on occasion I can do such things as correct galleys, or edit a few pages.

Will you show us your writing space?

I wish I could. I have a small office and I work surrounded by tons of reference books. But I’m the last person in America not to have a digital camera. My cell takes photos but I can’t figure out how to upload them to the computer. I keep thinking I should upgrade, but so far I haven’t done it.

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

Not as much as I should. I’d much rather write. And my advice would be to not do as I do.

Parting Words?

Thank you for asking.

Beverly Swerling is a writer, a consultant to other writers, and an avid amateur historian. Her previous historical novels are Shadowbrook, City of Dreams, and City of Glory. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Author J.A.Jance ~ Interviewed

About J.A. Jance

J.A. Jance is the top 10 New York Times bestselling author of the J.P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, the Ali Reynolds series, three inter-related thrillers featuring the Walker family, and a book of poetry. Her books have more than 10 million copies in print.

In her latest series, Jance introduces Ali Reynolds, a 45-year-old television anchorwoman who’s just been fired for being too old in Edge of Evil. She’s mad as hell and, at the suggestion of her college senior son, starts a blog called She leaves LA for her hometown of Sedona, Arizona and before she knows it there’s a murderer in her sights. The third Ali Reynolds hardcover, Cruel Intent, will published by Touchstone in December 2008.

Jance is an avid crusader for many causes including the American Cancer Society, Gilda’s Club, the Humane Society, the YMCA and the Girl Scouts. A lover of animals, she has a golden retriever, Daphne, named for Daphne du Maurier.

Born in South Dakota and raised in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance and her husband now split their time between Seattle, Washington and Tucson, Arizona.

What is your current project? Tell us about it.

I'm currently on tour with Cruel Intent, the new Ali Reynolds book which is the fourth book in my fourth series. I have a joint Beaumont/ Brady book coming out next summer--a book that features two of my major characters. I'm working on Ali Reynolds number five for next winter. I also blog regularly at my website. That's sort of a window on the writer's life and times.

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 always wanted to be a writer but I wasn't allowed in the Creative Writing program at the University of Arizona in 1964 because I was a girl. And my first husband told me that there was going to be only one writer in our family. (He was allowed in the class that was closed to me but never published anything.) So I didn't start writing until the middle of March of 1982 when I was a divorced single parent with two little kids, no child support, and a full time job selling life insurance. I wrote every morning from four to seven AM before I got the kids up to go to school. The first book never sold to anyone. It was 1200 pages wrong. The second book I wrote was bought by the second editor who saw it. When I got the call from my agent, I called the school my children were attending and had the principal have them brought to the office so I could tell them on the phone. (The principal is still a friend of mine, by the way.)

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you've discovered.

Of course I experience self-doubt. Starting writing a book is hell. Somewhere in the middle the story will fall off the rails. What that usually means is that I have a problem with motivation as far as the actions of my characters are concerned. So I lie in bed, trying to sort it out. Night after night. I call that stage of writing "wrestling with the devil." Things usually get moving again when I finally change the most difficult thing there is for a writer to change--his or her mind.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what's something you wish you'd known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I tried to send an unagented manuscript. As far as I'm concerned, over the transom doesn't work.

What's the best or worst advice (or both) you've heard on writing/publication?

The guy who sold me my first computer, in 1983, fixed it so that when I booted up, these were the words that flashed across the screen: A writer is someone who has written today. And today I qualify. I spent last night wrestling with the devil and today I've added a thousand words to chapter 9. While I'm sitting in a hotel room in Houston. On a book tour. What can I tell you? I'm a woman, so I can do more than one thing at a time.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I've often found story material in my University of Arizona alumni magazine. That's not a real compliment, however. It's only when I'm deep in writer's block that I read the whole thing from cover to cover.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you'd like to share with us, the ones wherein you get "the look" from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

When the kids lived at home, we would often have dinner time discussions about the book I was writing, including a good deal of murder and mayhem. One day I went to a restaurant we frequented, and the waiter greeted me with a friendly smile. "I saw you on TV," he said. "You're a writer. I always thought you and your family ran something like Murder Incorporated."

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you've gone through in your writing career you are willing to share? Or have you ever been at the point where considered quitting writing altogether?

I went through one very tough time. Someone in publishing out and out lied to me. Someone at another publishing house pulled my feet out of the fire. I never considered quitting even when that first person told me that I couldn't write my way out of a paper bag. By the way, he's NOT in publishing any more.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

Learn to be a public speaker. Plan on being on the road promoting your books. Who is going to be a better advocate for your book than you are? If people don't come to signings, don't be a baby. Bookstores can't REQUIRE their customers to show up. Be nice to the people who work in the stores. They sell your books when you're NOT there.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

I would say that Alice Volpe of Northwest Literary Agency, my agent, has been a constant presence in my writing career. Didn't change it. Helped create it. She's been my agent from the time she didn't sell my first book. (For good reason.) When an agent doesn't sell a manuscript, a lot of wannabe writers, fire the agent and send the manuscript to someone else. I fired the manuscript and kept the agent. She sold my second book, not my first one. An all the books since then.

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

My book of poetry, After the Fire, is something I wrote while I was going through some tough times. It was published in 1984. In 1985 I did a poetry read of that at an event where I met the man who would become my second husband. We just celebrated our 23rd anniversary. I've had several people tell me that reading that book changed their lives.

Dean Koontz recently shared his take on the concept on "the writer's sacred duty." What comes to your mind at the mention of "the writer's sacred duty?"

As far as I'm concerned, the ancient sacred charge of the storyteller is to beguile the time. I'm honored when people tell me they've used my books to get through tough times in hospital waiting rooms or through deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are times in need of beguiling.

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

Yes, people who tell me they don't "read fiction." What they're really saying is that their so self-important that they couldn't possibly waste their valuable time reading for fun. Their loss.

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

I want to be PD James when I grow up and still be actively writing and creating when I'm 88 years old.

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

My least favorite part is starting a book. My favorite is finishing it.

How has your unique life journey prepared you to be an author? What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

Spending 60 days being stalked by a serial killer in my later twenties changed my view of the world. Once I strapped a weapon to my hip and was fully prepared to use it, my mindset changed. I was a different person when that time in my life was over.

My parents worked hard and taught their children to work hard. I didn't much appreciate those lessons back then, but I do now.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

I write in an easy chair in the living room. Or the family room. Or wherever. I was one of seven children and learned to do my homework at the kitchen table in the midst of a certain amount of chaos. That experience has served me in good stead. If it's too quiet, I can't write.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Writing dialogue. Starting out I read what I wrote aloud to make sure it sounded like people talking rather than like people delivering speeches.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I open the name file, bringing in the continuous name file I've used for that series of book. Having that file available helps me maintain continuity as far as characters and their various personal foibles are concerned. That file also maintains a time line for the new book so I know what day of the month and week it is and what time of day even if I don't do into detail about the year.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you'd like to share?

I'm a founding member of the pajamas media. I work in my robe until what I'm writing stops working. That's when I shower and dress. I work on a laptop in my lap. Wherever I am. Today I happen to be in a hotel room in Houston. But I am in my robe--which I brought along.

I don't have a goal for number of words per day. What I do have is a deadline assigned by my publisher. I think not having a deadline makes wannabe writers think they have all the time in the world to finish that first manuscript. The truth is, they don't. Life is uncertain. Some day they will be dead. If they have spent their entire writing career rewriting the first few chapters of their first book, they will definitely have missed their DEADline. If new writers don't have deadlines from a publisher, they need to give themselves one and then meet it.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

I hate outlining. I start with someone dead and I spend the rest of the book trying to find out who did it and how come.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

All parts of books are difficult. In a series, the beginnings are always the most difficult because you need to capture new readers and give them enough information that they don't feel lost while, at the same time, not giving away too much of the plots of previous books--so they'll go out and buy those, too. This is further complicated by not including so much detail from previous books that your regular readers will be bored to tears. It's like walking a tightrope--without a net.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response? Please share.

My books are written in the kind of everyday language that is straight-forward and relatively easy to read. One of my most memorable reader comments came from someone for whom the English language was not her friend. "I have read every book you have wrote. I have loved every book you have wrote."

So not only was she able to read my books, she thought enough of them to pass along her opinion. And didn't feel self-conscious about doing so.

Have you had a particularly memorable peer honor? Please share.

I am notoriously low on awards. I'm never nominated so I never win. Actually, I was nominated once, but I didn't win that time, either. So what? I just keep writing my books and people keep buying them. I don't have a problem with that.

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

Two books a year. Two book tours a year. I've done a minimum of 30 signings per book. This is my 37th book. You do the math. I work hard. That's how I've become an overnight success in twenty-five short years.

I work hard, and I'm a believer in that old saw, "If it is to be it is up to me." Oh, and I answer all my own e-mail, too. Readers write to me in order to write to ME, and I owe them the courtesy of a response. Unless they really really torque me, that is. Oh, well, the one who did that ended up in a book, and not as a nice person, either.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would've asked because you've got the perfect answer?

Of all my books, which is my favorite? That would be Hour of the Hunter. It's the story of a woman who's a teacher on an Indian reservation but she really wants to be a writer. Like me, she had a first husband who told her there would only be one writer in their family. He's dead at the beginning of the book. As for the crazed killer? He turns out to be a former professor of Creative Writing from the University of Arizona.

That's the magic part of being a writer. Everything is usable. Even the bad stuff. Sometimes especially the bad stuff.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Miralee Ferrell ~ Revisited!

Miralee Ferrell heads the local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers serving the Portland, Or-Vancouver, Wa area. She is a published author in both women's contemporary fiction and historical romance. She's married and has two children, loves to garden, read, ride horses and sail with her husband. She was a guest on Novel Journey back in October of 2007. Miralee, welcome back to Novel Journey!

When you’re writing, whom are you writing for? What type of reader do you envision picking up your books?

That depends on the genre I’m writing. On my first book, The Other Daughter, I hoped to minister to women who’d been hurt in their marriage, felt betrayed in some way, or were struggling with their own spirituality. It dealt with a married couple who discover a young girl standing on their doorstep claiming to be the husband’s daughter.

My newest release, Love Finds You In Last Chance, CA, is a bit different. I can see both men and women picking this up, as it has more of an “old west” flavor and theme. The spiritual thread is woven through out the story, but isn’t ‘in your face’. People who love peeking into the 1800’s and love an entertaining read without getting bogged down in heavy historical details, will enjoy this story. But I believe it will also minister to individuals who might be struggling with who they are and where they fit in life, especially if they’ve had issues with acceptance.

Here's the backcover blurb: It's 1877 and Alexia Travers is alone in the world. Her father has died unexpectedly, leaving her burdened with a heavily mortgaged horse ranch. Marrying one of the town's all-too-willing bachelors would offer an easy solution, but Alex has no interest in marriage. Instead, she dons men's trousers and rides the range, determined to make the ranch a success on her own.

But despite Alex's best efforts, everything seems to go wrong: ranch hands quit, horses are stolen, and her father's gold goes missing. Alex is at her wit's end when wrangler Justin Phillips arrives in Last Chance with his young son, looking for a job. But there seems to be more to Justin's story than he's willing to share. Will Alex ever be able to trust him? More importantly, will the independent woman finally learn to depend on God?

What other books have you written, whether published at this time or not?

As I mentioned, my first release was a women’s contemporary, The Other Daughter. I’m currently working on its sequel. The working title (subject to change) is Past Shadows and is also women’s contemporary. It’s set to release fall of 2009 and follows Jeena, a secondary character from the first book. I’m also working on another historical and have started writing the third book that follows Past Shadows.

I see this is your first historical. Was it hard for you to switch from a contemporary to a setting of over 100 yrs ago?

I thought it might be and wondered when I pitched the book to Summerside if I’d be able to pull it off. I saw myself as a contemporary writer and six months earlier would have said I’d never write a historical. In fact, I pitched the story line as a contemporary, but after brainstorming with my editor, we agreed it would be better served as a historical. I loved writing about this time period and had so much fun fleshing out the variety of characters in the book to fit the old west theme. It’s not your typical ‘prairie romance’, as it does have a bit of gun play, one fight scene (but none of these are graphic), and a suspense thread. I grew up reading Zane Grey books, which colored my writing style somewhat.

What kind of special research did you do for this time period and setting?
My husband and I flew into Sacramento last summer, then drove 1 ½ hrs to our B&B on the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mtns where we stayed for 3 nights. A wonderful archeologist who works for the National Forest offered to take us another 1 ½ hrs into the mountains to visit the ghost town site of the once booming mining town of Last Chance. We’d never have found it on our own, as it’s simply a wide spot on the forest road now, with one small building. We spent a couple of hours scouting the area, taking pictures, and another few hours chatting with our guide. We poured over maps of the area, and I found books depicting the time period with scant bits of history on the town and surrounding area. A local museum in a nearby town helped with a little more information, as did the local library and our hostess at the B&B.

This is one of the books in Summerside’s ‘Love Finds You In…’ series that are set in real towns across the nation. How did you happen to end up with a ghost town set in the Sierra Nevada mountains?

I had the story line in mind, but originally planned on setting it in Idaho, as the inspiration for the main character was a woman who successfully owned and ran one of the biggest horse ranches (owned by a woman) in the 1800’s, Kittie Wilkins. Rachel loved the story but they weren’t planning any books set in Idaho for the first few releases. Last Chance was one of the titles they planned on releasing first, so we decided to set the story there.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book and were there any surprises along the way?

I loved bringing the old west to life and getting acquainted with some of the specific history of that time. And yes, a rather big surprise. We assumed that since Last Chance was in Central Ca., that it might lend itself to a horse ranch theme. It wasn’t until I started seriously researching the area that I discovered it was set high in the mountains and a horse ranch might present a problem.

I wanted to keep the story as true to the history and geography as I could and wondered if I’d have to turn the plot into a mining story, but had my heart set on the ranch theme. I dug deeper into history and discovered an old diary entry from the 1860’s, just 10 yrs before the time period I’d chosen. It stated that there was a wide plateau just a couple of miles out of town, stretching for 3 miles, and treeless. Perfect spot to put a ranch. When we visited the area we found the plateau, now completely covered with large trees. Had I not found that diary entry I’d probably have had to change the story. God is indeed good to us writer’s, isn’t He!

Do you plan on returning to contemporary, or will this be a permanent genre change?

I think I’ll be doing quite a bit of both. My next two books with Kregel will both be contemporary, but I have two books in mind that I’ll be pitching to Summerside (and others) that are set in the time period between 1900 and 1929. Not quite the old west, but still definitely historical.

Do you see yourself strictly as an author, or do you envision your career broadening in any way beyond writing?

It’s funny…when I started this journey a little over 3 yrs ago, I envisioned myself as heading more toward speaking than writing. Now, I’m writing nearly full time and haven’t seen as much happening in the speaking arena. I’m hoping to turn that around and even it out this coming year, as I approach historical societies, schools and women’s groups and offer to speak.

Are you involved in any ministries that are related to writing in any way?

I’m a licensed minister (not a pastor), serving on staff at our church part time and minister to women one-on-one with counseling and prayer. One of the reasons for writing my first book was the hope that God would use it to reach women who live in a marriage where their spouse doesn’t know the Lord, or who are raising step children and need to know there’s hope and help through Christ. All of the spiritual threads woven through my writing are there to minister to the reader. And as my writing career expands, I’m fully expecting my speaking ministry will grow, as well.

What kind of activities to you like to do, that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I’ve been an avid horse lover all my life, but didn’t get my own horse until I was 20 and my husband bought me a two-year-old Arabian. That began my love affair with Arabs and I’ve owned anywhere from 1-9 since. My daughter inherited my love for horses and while I only have one trail horse now, she and her husband have three. Our property adjoins theirs, and we have wonderful wooded riding trails that extend for miles next to our property where we ride about 8 months of the year.

I also enjoy working in my garden and flowerbeds, as well as sailing with my husband. He’s been restoring a 51’ double-masted, live aboard sailboat for almost 5 yrs and we’re hoping to head up to the Inland Passage of Alaska within a year.

Where can readers find your newest book, Love Finds You In Last Chance, California?

At bookstores everywhere, including Borders, Barnes and Noble, Sam’s Club, some WalMart stores, Lifeway, and most Christian stores. And of course, any online bookseller that you choose. I do hope your readers here at Novel Journey will pick it up and send me a note when they finish. You can also keep an eye on future releases by visiting my web site at, and be sure to drop me a note, I’d love to hear from you! And thank you, Elizabeth for taking the time to chat and inviting me here with you.