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Friday, July 31, 2009

Author Jennifer Weiner ~ Interviewed

With over eleven million copies of her books in print in 36 countries, Jennifer Weiner is one of the best-selling novelists of today and is beloved for her funny, relatable female heroines who feel like your sister, your daughter, your mother, or your best friend. She is the author of GOOD IN BED, IN HER SHOES, which was made into a major motion picture, and CERTAIN GIRLS. Her six books have spent a combined 150 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Weiner is the author of the weblog, "A Moment of Jen," which she launched in 2002, making her one of the earliest, and most popular authors in the blogosphere. A graduate of Princeton University, she lives in Philadelphia with her family. Find her online at Jennifer Weiner.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is the story of two girls whose lives are completely entwined until they hit high school, when they go through a painful BFF breakup. Flash forward fifteen years, and the beautiful friend who left town shows up at her ex-best-friend’s door with a terrified look on her face and blood on her sleeve. “Something awful happened,” she says, “and you’re the only one who can help.”

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

You can read the whole sordid tale on my website, but one of the lowlights included the agent who didn’t think GOOD IN BED should be about a fat girl (“because nobody will buy the film rights!”)

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.

Over the years, and now that I’m on my seventh book, I’ve learned my limits in terms of how open I can be to criticism. Gone are the days of obsessing over each Amazon reader review, hitting the “refresh” button like a bulimic bouncing on and off the scale, and feeling my mood rise and fall with my ranking. I swore off Amazon, cold turkey, in the fall of 2002, when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and didn’t need any more stress, and it was one of the healthiest decisions I’ve ever made.

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 was pretty naïve in my belief that colleagues would be happy for me, and that they wouldn’t regard my success as meaning less success to go around, and less potential success for them. I navigated the road to publication pretty smoothly – I did a lot of reading and research ahead of time, so I knew who to query and what I could expect as I tried to find an agent, then a publisher – but there was a year between selling that first book and its publication that was more stressful and less happy than it could have been.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

My life. My friends. My family. Things I overhear or imagine every day.

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.

I am not a fashionista, as anyone who knows me would be happy to tell you, so when I was researching IN HER SHOES, I spent an afternoon in the Saks shoe department, spending way too much time staring at/fondling/photographing the Jimmy Choos and Christian Louboutains. I’m sure the salespeople thought I was some kind of weird fetish girl.

Oh, and speaking of fetishes, as I so often do, the original cover of that book had the exact same image (two pairs of legs in high-heeled sandals) as a book called BEST FETISH EROTICA. I ordered the book from Amazon (I was too ashamed to ask for it at my local bookstore)…and for months, Amazon would give me some very odd “we found that readers who enjoyed this book also liked…” recommendations.

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

Again, I’ve got pages of advice on my website, but the simplest advice is, don’t give up. Getting published is like falling in love – not every guy in the room has to love you, as long as one guy does, and that one becomes your agent. That, and write what’s true to your heart. Don’t try to follow trends or please an imaginary audience. Write the book that’s inside of you.

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

My father was sort of a classically awful father – not physically abusive, but not a nice guy, and with an incredibly dark, mordant sense of humor. For good or for bad, I think he made me a writer, if you buy the idea that people who write fiction are drawn to try to impose order on a fundamentally disordered and chaotic universe. (I should also say that I’m very grateful to my mother, for passing along her sense of equanimity and humor).

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

My husband and I wrote what I thought was a very funny FAQ list for guests at our wedding (I think the questions included “I forgot to pack condoms! What now?” and “I’ve got this rash,” which we answered by explaining that while there would be doctors at the wedding, please not to bother them and go to the nearest ER).

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

There’s a lot of sexism, still, in terms of what books get reviewed and how, and I’m not sure I’d diminish that by calling it a “pet peeve,” which makes it sound kind of cute and lovable. It’s not.

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

I think it’s every writer’s dream, or at least it’s been mine, to have readers say, “Your books made me feel less alone,” and I’m so lucky to have heard that from readers all over the world.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

I don’t think I ever get over the thrill of walking into a bookstore and seeing something I’ve written there. It never gets old.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

Heh. Well, when your mother falls in love with another woman at the age of 54 and becomes a just-add-water totally radical and dismayingly clueless lesbian, you can’t really not write about. God would hate you if you didn’t!

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

I like to write in coffee shops – to just take my laptop, leave the house (and the kids) behind, and be somewhere with noise and music and other people, and scones.

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

My college had a literary magazine, and I was too chicken to even submit a piece, because I knew, even then, that I wasn’t writing the kind of artsy, imagery-laden, ambiguous literary fiction that was in favor among my peers. When I was writing GOOD IN BED, working full-time at a newspaper, not only did I not show anyone the book, I only told a scant handful of people that I was writing it – I was worried that it was terrible and that, even worse, I’d be that cliché journalist with a novel in a box underneath her bed. Eventually, I got used to the idea that if I was going to be published, that people were actually going to read my stuff, and have opinions about it, and I figured out how much of those opinions I wanted and could stand to take in. It’s been a learning curve, but I think I’m in a good place with it now.

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

I wish I could tell you I had elaborate rituals – that I chant, or light candles, or invoke my Muse -- but honestly, what I have are two little kids, so I open a new Word file, and that’s about it.

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 find I do my best work when I leave the house – there’s something about the physical act of packing up the laptop, gathering my keys and wallet and heading out the door, that signals to my body or my subconscious that home-time is over and work-time has begun. Nothing too quirky, though, and I can write almost anywhere. I’ve written chunks of each book on planes, in hotel rooms, and, lately, in the minivan waiting for my daughter’s school day to end.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Combination: I’ll outline, but then let the story take its course.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Author Interview ~ Judy Christie

A former newspaper reporter and editor, Judy started her writing career as editor of "The Barret Banner" in fifth grade. Now a consultant and author, she spends her time helping people slow down and enjoy life more. The first place she ever drove alone was to the public library. She has kept a journal since she was 9 and still has all of them. Judy has written a series of Hurry Less, Worry Less nonfiction books, loves flea markets and is not much of a cook. Gone to Green is the first of a three-part series about Green, Louisiana. You can learn more about her at

Welcome to Novel Journey, Judy. It’s a pleasure to speak with a debut author, especially one whose book turns a new page in a publisher’s history. Abingdon Press had never delved into fiction before. How did you hear that they were launching a fiction line, and what made you decide to submit a proposal to them?

I heard through the grapevine (over lunch in Nashville) that they were considering a fiction line. I had enjoyed working with Abingdon on nonfiction projects and thought it would be great to be part of their launch. I also knew they would be encouraging partners on my new adventure.

Your book is the flagship for this new line. How are you handling the added pressure?

Thanks for reminding me … the butterflies in my stomach are rather large. I didn’t expect the nervousness – not only at being Abingdon’s launch novelist but also at being a fiction writer overall. I have great respect for the people at Abingdon and heartfelt gratitude for their choosing Gone to Green. How amazing is it to be part of something new like this? I am working hard on my end to get the word out and trying to remember my own advice to “worry less.”

How much marketing has been done in preparation for the launch of this book? What have you found has worked particularly well?

I’ve been marketing as much as I can – and always wish I could do more. Even though I sometimes wonder what Eudora Welty would say about Facebook and Twitter, I feel strongly that authors have to spread the word about their books.

Abingdon has hired a publicist to work with me and done a steady amount of marketing on their end, thank goodness. On my end, I’ve tried everything from e-newsletters to a book trailer to having “Green News-Item” pencils imprinted. I depend on the amazing support of friends and family to spread the word, and that probably has the greatest impact – and gives me much-needed courage.

I also accost strangers on the street, including Billy Bob Thornton’s mom, who sat next to me on a flight to L.A. not long ago, and a woman in the waiting room where I was about to have a root canal.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Gone to Green is about a corporate journalist at a big newspaper who winds up owning a twice weekly in rural North Louisiana. She expects this charming little town full of friendly people, but Green is shabby without the chic. She encounters prejudice and financial corruption – and meets some great characters along the way.

It’s a story about a woman changing a town and the town changing the woman and is the first of a three-part series set in Green.

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

My years in newsrooms large and small and my life as a southerner shaped this story. The what-if moment came several years before I actually started on the book, and I began to store ideas in my brain. I jotted observations and clipped articles and watched the premise unfold.

For decades, I knew I wanted to write a novel set in the South. I am always thinking about book ideas, carry a notebook with me everywhere and keep a variety of journals.

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

I got the main character started, and she developed herself – which is part of the theme of Gone to Green. I enjoy knowing and reading about strong women who struggle on life’s journey – and grow along the way. That was my goal for Lois. I thought about what her house looked like, what was in her office, what she snacked on and how she would react to a person or situation. I wrote a profile of her to get going, and then her personality took over.When I began, I did not know if the book would be in first-person or third-person, but Lois has a strong, clear voice, and it quickly became clear that the story would be told in first-person.
And, no, she isn’t me!

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

Most: I absolutely loved getting drawn into the story, inventing a town and people and watching them take shape. My husband would call my office and ask, “How are things in Green?” When a character or plot twist surprised me, I was giddy. The joy I got out of writing this book is almost embarrassing.

Least: Not knowing what I was doing. I had been a successful journalist and nonfiction writer and suddenly I was embarking on a different path. I didn’t know what POV was or an ARC or even back-story …

What made you start writing?

Is it too corny to say I was born to write a novel? I love words. I love books. Like many writers, I’ve been writing since I was a child. I really wanted to capture a slice of life in the South that I think is under appreciated and to write about how most people have something special to offer the world.

What does your writing space look like?

Most of Gone to Green was written on an old laptop on a TV tray at a little cabin on Lake Bistineau in Louisiana. That was a great place to focus and tackle the challenge of writing a novel.

However, I needed something closer to home, so I now have a fantastic writing space/consulting office – a small standalone cottage with a built-in corner desk, a view of our backyard and a porch with a one-person porch swing. One wall is filled with books – including all my favorite how-to-write books – and a “Bionic Woman” lunch box and an old typewriter. My desk is cluttered with notebooks, dictionaries, file folders and a box of giant index cards where I constantly write possibilities for future novels, dialogue, characters, etc.

I have a quote from Anna Quindlen taped to my printer: “… Well-written stories with interesting characters manage to find an audience.” And perched on my desk a quote from Kimberly Willis Holt: “The only one who can keep you from writing is you.”

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

I try to take my own advice every single day – slow down; enjoy life more. I sit in the porch swing, walk in a nearby park, go to used bookstores, and scout flea markets for primitive antiques, preferably painted green. And, of course, I read, and write in my journal. I have a fun husband and great friends and family, am always up for a good meal and a movie, and have discovered “30 Rock.”

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

Getting started on my first novel took me way too long. When I turned 50, I promised myself I would finish a novel before I turned 51. Why didn’t I do that when I turned 30 or 40?

When I sat down and started Gone to Green, I was surprised at how scared I was. I have this very clear memory of sitting at my laptop and being totally frozen. I had all these grand plans to write novels, and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Once I got going it was quite a lot of fun.

The other challenge: Weaving fiction writing into my schedule. Now that I’ve seen how much I enjoy this, I want to do it all the time.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

This is a tough question because I think individual readers take unique messages from novels, depending on where they are in life. I’m quite curious about what readers will say they got from the book. I do hope it encourages readers to see life as an interesting adventure and to take a leap of faith or two along the way.

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

It’s fun to look back at this:

Finally committed to write a novel. Chose one idea from the tons floating around in my brain and focused. Let it gel, taking notes when details hit me. Decided how the book would start – and basically how it would end. Wrote a plot summary and profiles of key characters. Also, wrote a detailed description of the setting – the town of Green, La.

Sat down and started writing. Began to flounder and read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. Wrote notes on large note cards and shuffled them around. Put more words on paper. Re-read and revised. Asked two friends to read it for me and incorporated their feedback. Sent it to my agent. Took to heart her excellent ideas.

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 had known how much I could learn from a writers’ conference -- about the craft and the business of being a published writer (pitching to an editor, for example).

And I really wish I had developed a consistent fiction writing discipline much sooner, made it a habit like brushing my teeth or eating lunch.

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

Next up: Novels 2 & 3 in the Green series.

I’m nearly finished with No. 2: Goodness Gracious Green, due out in 2010. Green Through and Through will be out in 2011. I am crazy about Lois and the other characters in the Green series, and I hope readers will be, too.

I have several other fiction ideas I am constantly prioritizing in my brain or journal, and I certainly hope they’ll appear on the heels of the Green series. (Please go to your library or friendly bookseller and ask them what they have new from that Judy Christie woman.)

On the nonfiction front, my Hurry Less, Worry Less series continues, with Hurry Less, Worry Less at Work out in Fall 2009 and Hurry Less, Worry Less for Families out in Spring 2010.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Sit down and write. No one else in the world has your voice. Pick a project that matters to you and get started on it. As my agent says, “Guard your writing time.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Allie Pleiter ~ Guest Blogger

An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework She grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent fifteen years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois The “dare from a friend” to begin writing nine years ago has given rise to a career spanning two parenting books, six novels including the multi-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website or her knitting blog.

Dialogue Superpowers

Characters make us love books, and in my opinion dialogue makes us love characters Strong dialogue is memorable; everyone wants to be the hero who says just the right thing at just the right time You know when you think of that great comeback thirty minutes after the argument? One of the best things about being a writer is that you can go back and put it in (ah, if only real life worked that way)

I recently gave a workshop on Dynamic Dialogue at the Romance Writers of America Conference, and here are some basic points I shared there on how to give your dialogue strength and pizzaz.

  • Characters in stress will talk differently

Use regressed dialogue--shortened, simplified sentences, blurts, etc--to show your character’s growing tension The higher the stress, the choppier the dialogue.

  • One comment can say volumes about a character

Use what I call the “info dump” a dumb question, telling comment, or use of an endearment to sum up a character instantly. You know loads about a woman who’d call someone “dumpling,” don’t you?

  • Dialogue can establish a premise fast

Improv comics know the right sentence can set your scene “How much longer till the bus comes? I’m freezing?” Tells us as much as several sentences of description.

  • Lies reveal truths

What is your character willing to lie for? Why? Remember that a lie--especially a noble one such as a lie to protect someone he loves--can show the deep inner workings of your character. Particularly when your readers know the real truth.

  • Blurts do the same

What your character says when they’re not thinking can often show their inner feelings and motivations If they’re under too much stress to think or guard their thoughts, the resulting dialogue can offer tremendous insights Even if they try to deny it later.

  • Make your last line count

Got a great line? Put it where it will be remembered Ends of chapters or ends of books can make us fall in love all over again with the characters you’ve created.

  • Surprise your readers with a line they didn’t expect

Set up a kiss and give your reader a punch Set up a fight and let them fall into each other’s arms Human beings often say one thing and think another--use that foible to give your reader a big, entertaining surprise.

There you have it Dialogue has the potential to do so much more than deliver information Use it’spowers to show off the fabulous characters you’ve built--your readers will love you for it.

ISBN 13#: 978-0-373-87538-2

Everyone in Middleburg, Kentucky lines up for baker Dinah Hopkins’s cinnamon rolls Everyone except her handsome new landlord, Cameron Rollings The jaded city man doesn’t like anything about small-town life--from the fresh air to her fresh-baked snickerdoodles And he clearly considers Dinah as quirky as her eccentric oven The way to Cameron’s heart is
not through his toned stomach But the Lord led him to Kentucky Corners for a reason And Dinah plans to help him count his bluegrass blessings.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Author Interview - Lynnette Bonner

The daughter of missionaries, Lynnette was born and raised in Malawi, Africa. After graduating high school from Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya, she attended Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington where she met her husband, Marty. They married in 1992 and moved to Pierce, Idaho a few years later.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd’s Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works from home.

NOTE: One person will be chosen at random from those who comment to receive a free e-copy of Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Tell us about your latest project.

Can that be “projects”? I’ve never been a writer who can only write one story at a time. Currently I’m working on the 3rd book in The Shepherd’s Heart series, Fair Valley Refuge. The first two in that series are contracted to OakTara. I’m also working on a romantic fantasy, two contemporary romances, and another historical romance set in Africa. So many stories, not enough time to write.

My first novel, Rocky Mountain Oasis, just released with
OakTara. I started writing that book during a time in my life when I was under a lot of stress. And for a long time I wondered if God had given me that story just to get me through those few years. The second book, High Desert Haven, is due out in 2010. So I’m currently working on promoting Rocky Mountain Oasis, and I’ll also be working on doing final edits to High Desert Haven.

We love to hear about your journey to publication.

I always loved fiction and would read for hours in high school. But I didn’t start writing until about 1993 after my first son was born. Even then, I didn’t seriously pursue the craft until probably 1999.

I completed Rocky Mountain Oasis around 2000 and shopped it to several (okay, about a million) publishing houses and agents. If they were in Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide and said they were looking for historical fiction, they probably got a proposal from me. Then the rejection letters started trickling in. Publishing houses said, “Unfortunately, we find we must decline the opportunity to publish this project.” Agents said, “With great regret, I must pass on this opportunity….” And I began to realize the mountain I was attempting to climb.

Then in late 2001 a small e-book publisher said they wanted to publish the book! I was thrilled. The contract was good and didn’t require me to sign my first born away, so I signed with dollar signs dancing in my head – after all, the internet was booming! Surely my wonderful story would take off and I would soon be known world-wide, right?

Well, ahem, I made about 90 cents before the company went out of business a couple months later, and those were sales to my neighbor down the street and my
brother, I think.

When the e-book publisher went belly-up, I was back to square one. By that time, I was homeschooling my two oldest kids and had a toddler to boot. Writing got put on the back burner. 2003 ushered in the birth of our daughter and in 2004 we moved from Idaho to Washington. I was still homeschooling and not writing. But through all those years I just kept praying about Rocky Mountain Oasis. I told the Lord the book was in His hands (I’m pretty sure He already knew this.) And that if He had given it to me just to help me through those tough, stressful years, I would try to be content with that. But I kept asking Him to direct my steps where the book was concerned. I specifically remember praying that if the Lord wanted this book to be published He would need to “drop a publisher in my lap” because I didn’t have time to shop it around again.

My mom is also a writer and she called me up one day in early 2007 to tell me about a new publisher on the scene, OakTara. One of her critique partners, Linda Reinhardt, had just gotten a contract with them. I checked them out and they had super simple submission guidelines, so I zipped up my file and fired it off to them. (Problem – their guidelines didn’t call for zipped files.) By December I still hadn’t heard from them – and I thought, “Well, I’ll try sending it to them with the files unzipped. Duh! So at midnight on December 23rd, 2007 I fired off another cover letter with my now almost 8 year old baby attached. They were the only publisher I’d submitted to in 6 years.

Since OakTara’s guidelines at the time said to expect to hear from them within 8 weeks of submission, I pretty much gave up when I hadn’t heard anything by April. Then on June 9th, 2008 I got the email that stopped my heart for a couple beats before it started pounding again like a herd of wild children. (Ooops, horses! I meant horses.) Words cannot describe the thrill of reading, “Rocky Mountain Oasis is precisely the type of novel OakTara is interested in -- quality fiction, from a fresh perspective – and we’d like to offer you the opportunity to join OakTara’s growing stable of authors.” I didn’t come off that high for several days.

What is one weakness you have as a writer and what do you do to overcome it?

Oh, wow. There are so many, how do I pick just one? Hmmm… my biggest weaknesses are probably grammar and spelling. I get so into the story that I forget to pay attention to the rules sometimes. I overcome them by surrounding myself with critique partners who help me in that area and using spell-check and a lot.

What is one strength you have as a writer and to what do you attribute your success in this particular area?

I’ve been told I write a great story with strong dialogue, and if that’s true, I attribute much of my success to prolific reading of great authors. I also try to let a story sit for awhile after I’ve completed it, then I go back and reread it and make corrections where I don’t feel the dialogue is smooth, or the story-line needs tweaking.

If you could go back to the young writer you were when you were just beginning, what advice would you give yourself?

Well, in many respects I still feel like a young writer just beginning.

But one thing I would tell myself would be to keep writing to the finish, even through all the rejections.

I didn’t complete my second novel until after RMO was accepted. Although I started plenty of new stories as ideas struck.

What’s one publicity tip you can share that you’ve gotten a good response with in promoting your work?

I’d have to say, “Be bold.” Publicity opportunities don’t generally come knocking on your door. You have to go looking for them, and ask for help from others in promoting your book. I think sometimes we have this idea that it’s not “real” publicity unless it is offered to us on a silver platter. I know that asking for help with promotion (from a blog owner, for instance) isn’t always comfortable, but authors are a tight group and are generally very willing to help out another writer.

What do you do to improve as a writer?

I frequent – lots of great information there, I peruse writing blogs of all kinds – from agents to newby writers. I study writing books. I read books in my genre and books not in my genre. I try to attend a writing conference each year. And I do plenty of rewriting.

What are a few of your favorite books not written by you?

I’m a fiction junkie. I cut my reading teeth on the Peter Rabbit stories by Thornton W. Burgess. In high school, I read just about every Christian fiction book I could get my hands on – but the Thoene’s books stand out as my favorites from those years. Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion trilogy, Jeanette Windle, Linda Windsor and Linda Chaikin’s early works are all favorites of mine, too.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

As of the writing of this interview, the book is still not out. But I remember one lady who read one of the early versions of the story telling me that she cried at one spot in my book. It amazed me that I had been able to create such depth of emotion in her.

More recently, I had someone read the
excerpt from Rocky Mountain Oasis on my website and email to ask me when it would be out because they couldn’t wait to read the rest of the story. That was a very nice feeling.

Do you have a pet peeve to do with this business?

I suppose if I have a pet peeve it is that it is so hard for writers, even good writers, to get their foot in the door. But, as with any business, it takes dedication and perseverance to prove that you are serious, and I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

What’s your favorite part of being a writer/least?

My favorite part is that I get to tell stories. What better job is there in the world than that? My least favorite part is that I can’t only tell stories, I also have to promote them.

What has surprised you most about this industry?

I don’t know that much surprises me in this industry. I am intrigued by the speed at which publishing is changing. When I first started submitting Rocky Mountain Oasis, every publisher wanted paper copies and SASE’s. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a publisher that wants you to submit via snail mail. With the advent of the Kindle and other e-book readers, and bookstores struggling, and POD publishing on the rise, I think there are many more big changes in the near future. I’m excited to be along for the ride.

Advice to aspiring authors?

Of course it goes without saying that you need to work hard to make your writing the best it can be.

But my biggest bit of advice to aspiring authors would be to never give up. The publisher that just rejected your manuscript might not even have had the time to read it. They may be full up on your particular genre. The editor might have eaten a whole pizza the night before and not slept well. You just never know why your piece was rejected. Don’t give up.

Also, I highly recommend getting a good critique partner. There’s nothing like having someone else who understands just what you’re going through to encourage you and/or give you a kick in the behind when you need it.

Parting words?

I’d like to give a big thanks to Novel Journey for giving me the opportunity to be here today. I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey with your readers.

Also, I’d like to give away an electronic copy of Rocky Mountain Oasis to one commenter on today’s post. It will be the full book and you’ll get instant gratification because you won’t have to wait for it to arrive in the mail! You can read more about the book

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saving the Church from the Cornfield

by Mike Duran

"We want to take the hick out of the word ‘evangelical.’" That according to Marvin Olasky, provost of The King's College in New York City. Olasky's response was part of an exposé by the New York Times. Their article, In a Worldly City's Tallest Tower, A College with a Heavenly Bent, asks the question:
What is an evangelical Christian college doing in the middle of New York?
That question, like it or not, is as much a reflection of contemporary Christian culture as it is the secular mindset towards it. The inference on the part of the NY Times writer is that Christianity is out of place in a cosmopolitan urban center like New York City. Thankfully, King's leadership sees otherwise:
“We see ourselves as a value-adding school, where we are bilingual; we can speak ‘Christianese’ and also express our ideas in ways that change people’s views,” said Andrew Mills, the chairman of the college’s trustees. “We wanted a school that engages in debates, and it’s hard to have those debates from the middle of a cornfield in Iowa.”
Of course there's nothing wrong with the church in "the middle of a cornfield in Iowa." America is as much defined and shaped by rural, small city demographics (the Cornfield), as it is by its urban centers (the City). The problem is when the Church abandons the City for the Cornfield.

King's setting, college leaders say, was a deliberate move. They wanted students to be exposed to new ideas and hone their intellectual chops far from the “holy huddle,” places that are religiously and ideologically sealed off from the rest of the world.
The college’s mandate, Mr. Mills said, is to encourage students to engage people with differing viewpoints, and ideally to shape public discourse “in a way that is winsome, and not screechy from the Christian right.”
This concept of "engaging people with differing viewpoints" has always been troublesome for the Church. Cultural engagement, for many evangelicals, has become nothing more than societal critique, followed by condemnation, followed by retreat. Preaching to the choir is much safer than enduring the slings and arrows of the marketplace of ideas. Besides, the cornfield has fewer ears than the big City. Is it any wonder why a Christian college seems so anomalous to downtown New York? We've abdicated our role to the barbarians.

In some ways,
the misconception that the church belongs in the Cornfield rather than the City is the result of Christians, not secularists. Early fundamentalism was characterized by cultural withdrawal. For many, holiness came to be associated with abstinence from "wordly" pursuits and institutions. Refraining from drinking and dancing, movies and makeup, became articles of faith for Fundies. By the mid-20th century, Christians of orthodox persuasion were scarce at institutions where, in many cases, they were once prominent: newspapers, publishers, eastern universities, etc. There was a great exodus out of Hollywood, while Christian musicians brooded over Jerry Lee's hellraising and Elvis' hip-shaking. The metropolis came to be viewed as a Babylon or Gomorrah -- something to be fled from, rather than engaged. Fundamentalism, in part, forced Christianity into a cultural, intellectual, Cornfield.

We are children of our spiritual ancestors' flight, and the current Christian subculture is the byproduct of that retreat. Christian art -- film, fiction, literature -- emerged as an "alternative" to worldly art, something we could consume without feeling unholy.
Rather than return to the marketplace, we created an "alternate sphere" of culture; we left the City in favor of the Cornfield. Instead of sprinkling our influence throughout the culture, we distanced ourselves from it, created a parallel universe free from secular influence or critique. We surrendered the University to the heathen, established our own centers of learning, our own studios, publishing houses, and sound stages, far from Broadway and Nashville (spiritually speaking).

It's no wonder that the secular world sees Christianity as acclimating better to the Cornfield than the City -- we've given them little reason to believe otherwise. In this sense, the NY Times question --
What is an evangelical Christian college doing in the middle of New York? -- is indeed appropriate. The question facing Christian authors is this: Does contemporary Christian lit help us engage culture or withdraw from it; does it move us toward the City or remove us into the Cornfield of irrelevance?

The Longing for Greatness

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife, mother of three grown daughters, a speaker and author. Her novel, One Smooth Stone won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. Her devotional books have been endorsed by Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Visit her website -

Some time ago I watched a video that I’d heard a lot about. People said it was inspiring. They said I just had to watch it. Sometimes I ignore these kinds of messages, but eventually I gave in and clicked into UTube to see what all the fuss was about.

The small screen showed a rather plumb, unassuming middle aged man with crooked teeth. He stood at a microphone looking decidedly unsure of himself. Then the camera panned to the four judges watching him. Their expression seemed to say, “Let’s just get this over with.” Finally one of them asked why he was there. “To sing opera,” he said simply. The judges smirked. One of them rolled his eyes. But they let him go ahead.

Then the man opened his mouth and his voice boomed out as he sang from his heart and soul. The judges’ jaws dropped. Some in the audience began to weep; so did one of the judges. When he was done the audience was on its feet cheering for the cell phone salesman who had just demonstrated that you can’t always tell a book by its cover.

The man’s name was Paul Potts and he went on to win the competition called Britain’s Got Talent. He’s a star now, singing around the world. His is a fairytale success story that has captured the imagination of millions. It made me wonder why. Why have so many, and I count myself among them, responded so strongly to Mr. Potts’ performance? I think it’s because all of us have a tiny part in us that says, “there’s something great in me, if I can just find a way to let everyone see it.” Some might call that ‘delusions of grandeur.’ I think it’s something more. I think it’s a deep belief that we are more than we seem to be. Because we are.

When God created the first man he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). He also created him “in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). Man is much more than just a bunch of bones, tissue and blood. We were created to house the very spirit of God himself, to be a temple and in a sense a representative of God. I think we all feel that and long for it to be fulfilled – it’s a longing for the nobility, the beauty, even the glory we were intended to have.

Writers feel it, this longing for greatness. We strive for excellence in our work, strive to depict the nobility and greatness we sense, then send it out, hoping someone will recognize that it’s good enough to be broadcast to the world. Yes, we want the recognition but I believe we long for something more – a connection to something beyond us that is indeed great. Every now and then we get a glimpse of it, as that audience did when Paul Potts sang. We respond to it, we stand to our feet and applaud it, and we weep because we long for it.

That audience will remember Mr. Potts’ performance but it will only serve to intensify the longing in them. As writers, we may sometimes receive recognition but it will be swiftly gone and the longing remains. Only a relationship with God will satisfy it, only striving to be like Him will fulfill it. The longing will never completely go away until we are face to face with our Lord. When we connect with the One who put that longing in our hearts, and serve Him by acting according to His plan for our lives, there is a joy and fulfillment that can come from no other source.

That short video of Paul Potts made me weep. I will always have that longing in my heart, because I am a child of God yet separated from Him. My encouragement comes from walking the path He has laid out for me and feeling His presence with me. My joy comes from striving to articulate that longing and His greatness. My hope lies in the reality that one day we will be reunited, the longing at last satisfied.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Grammar Saturday

I found this grammar guy on YouTube this week, when I was trying to brush up on the rules for using "like" or "as."

He takes his viewers step-by-step through grammar (including passive vs action voice for those struggling with the concept.) Since it's our job to always be improving, I thought this would make a great series on Novel Journey. Next week . . . Adjectives.

Author Mary Kay Andrews ~ Interviewed

Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling SAVANNAH BREEZE and BLUE CHRISTMAS, (HarperCollins) as well as HISSY FIT, LITTLE BITTY LIES and SAVANNAH BLUES, all HarperPerennial.

A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her "real"
name, which is Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida (and a diplomate of the Maas Bros. Department Store School of Charm), she started her professional journalism career in Savannah, Georgia, where she covered the real-life murder trials which were the basis of MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.

As a lifelong "junker" the author claims to know the location of every promising thrift store, flea market and junkpile in the Southeastern United States, plus many parts of Ohio.

She has a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia (go Dawgs!), and is a frequent lecturer and writ
ing teacher at workshops including Emory University, The University of Georgia's Harriet Austin Writer's Workshop, the Tennessee Mountain Writer's Workshop and the Antioch Writer's Workshop. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

My forthcoming novel THE FIXER UPPER, features Dempsey Killebrew, a fledgling lobbyist in a high-powered Washington public relations firm who unwittingly gets mixed up in a political scandal involving her boss and a crooked politician. When the dust settles, Dempsey is out of work, broke and homeless. Out of options, she accepts her father’s offer to help restore the old family homeplace he’s recently inherited in the Podunk town of Guthrie, Georgia, a place Dempsey has never been to. All it will take to return Birdsong, the family “mansion” to its former splendor, Dempsey is assured, is a coat of paint and some TLC. Dempsey, a big city career girl and novice do-it-yourselfer, is in for a surprise when she lands in Guthrie. The house is a mouldering dump, and it’s inhabited by an elderly distant relative who has claimed squatter’s rights and has no intention of moving out. As Dempsey dives into the restoration, she finds herself being courted by two handsome locals—and being stalked by the FBI, who want her to assist in investigating the congressman and her former boss.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

My journey as a writer has had some interesting changes and switchbacks. I majored in journalism in college, and spent fourteen years as a newspaper reporter, with most of that time being spent at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Unhappy with the direction of newspapering, I left journalism in 1991, and in 1992, my first book, a mystery called EVERY CROOKED NANNY was published by HarperCollins under my real name, which is Kathy Hogan Trocheck. I wrote eight installments of the Callahan Garrity mystery series, and then, in 2002, I switched paths again. I reinvented myself as a women’s fiction novelist, publishing SAVANNAH BLUES under the pseudonym of Mary Kay Andrews. I’ve been truly blessed to have been at HarperCollins for all 17 of my published novels, and to have had the fortune to work with two talented literary agents, Sallie Gouverneur , and for the past nine years, Stuart Krichevsky.

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.

Like most novelists, I struggle with self-doubts, procrastination and lack of discipline. It’s a challenge to stay on a book-a-year schedule and at the same time juggle the demands of family and career—and living the kind of fulfilling life that makes me a better novelist. I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I will admit to laziness and lack of focus. That said, I’m a deadline-driven creature who gives herself daily page quotas. When deadlines loom, I run away to our second home on Tybee Island, Georgia, and lock myself up to churn out the chapters. I also enlist the aid of my editor and agent to help keep me on track, by emailing them each chapter as I’m writing it.

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 think a writer has to travel a certain path before they can understand the journey they’re on. My first literary agent was amazingly helpful at teaching me how to be a professional novelist and at helping me hone my craft, but I gradually came to understand that commercial fiction was not her strong-point. I only sought a new agent when she sold her business. In hindsight, maybe I should have left earlier. But then again, maybe I wasn’t ready to change career paths until I did.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I don’t have a single favorite source for finding story ideas. They come at me from everywhere—overheard conversations, news articles, dreams, and from just observing the everyday foibles of life in my little corner of the world.

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 I was researching SAVANNAH BREEZE, I got the idea that my protagonist should try to steal a multi-million dollar yacht. So I walked into a yacht brokerage in Savannah and asked the salesmen there…”How does one go about stealing a yacht?” At first they looked at me like I was nuts. Then they told me it was impossible. I left, went to a nearby bookstore and bought one of my own books, to assure them that I was not just some kook off the street. Finally, once they were convinced that I was actually for real, they let me pick their brains and figure out just how the impossible could become possible. All I can say is, thank God for author photos.

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

If I were giving myself advice about starting this journey again, I’d tell myself that the path to publication is just plain hard work. There really aren’t any shortcuts. You have to approach the business of writing and selling a book….like it’s a business. And at the same time, remember that writing is an art. I’d tell myself to ask questions, seek the advice of the pros, and continually push myself to stretch and grow my artistic horizons. And I’d remind myself not to embrace failure.

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

Switching genres—from mystery to mainstream women’s fiction, changed me as a writer, gave me new challenges and forced me to grow. At the same time, working with a new agent who really pushed me and challenged me to try a new direction was amazingly helpful.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

When my older sister was killed in a traffic accident on the way to visit me on July 4 weekend two years ago, I wanted to let the world know about Susie, and why it would miss her. I wrote a piece which was published in our hometown newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times, and which I also later read on Georgia Public Radio.

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

Pet peeves? About publishing? Only one? I’m annoyed by “celebrity authors”—rock stars penning children’s books, spoiled pro athletes writing tell-alls. I’ll never forget the year Pamela Anderson’s “book” released the same time as mine—since fiction is shelved alphabetically I spent months staring at the lurid pink jacket of her “book” right next to mine. I did some teeth-gnashing for sure.

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

I’d love to have a New York Times number-one best-seller to prove to my former managing editor that I really can write.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?

The greatest buzz is having readers email me that they found or rediscovered a love of reading through my books. Of knowing I spread a little joy on a gray day.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

As a journalist I had the opportunity to ask tough questions of lots of folks—from drug lords to crooked politicians to everyday housewives. Observing people in difficult situations helped me to better understand—and write convincingly about people under pressure.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot.

I love to stretch out on the sofa in my sunroom with my laptop propped up on my lap, and an aromatherapy candle burning.

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

Tight plotting is the most difficult thing for me. I don’t know that I’ve conquered it at all. I wrestle with story structure each time I start or finish a new book.

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

The first thing I do when starting a new book is come up with the title. It’s gotta be great. Not just okay, great, memorable and a perfect fit for the characters and plot.

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?

Quirks? I have to write two pages before I save a document and call it a chapter. I send each chapter, as I write it, to my editor and agent. I give myself daily page quotas. When I’m plotting longhand on a yellow legal pad, I write the date, chapter and the location of where I’m writing.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

I’m a pants-plotter.

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?

Saggy middles are the bane of my existence. That and my regrettable tendency to rush an ending. I shape it up by plodding along, trying to tighten as I go, and by keeping an eye on the finish-line. And I always know I can go back and cut or expand.

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

SAVANNAH BLUES was nominated for an Edgar award for best mystery of the year, and HISSY FIT was nominated for a Quill Award.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

I don’t have any real secrets for marketing or promotion. I’ve invested heavily in having a great looking website, try to blog regularly, and am now on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, I do a good bit of public speaking and am represented both by my publisher’s speaker’s bureau and an independent speaking bureau. I try to promptly answer reader mail, and I have a great publicist, Leslie Cohen, who stays on top of requests for events or publicity. In addition, I recently hired my own free-lance marketing professional.

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

Parting words? If you can’t be good, be lucky. Both would be better.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The winner is

Patricai W. is the winner of Diann Hunt's book Hometown Courtship.

Please contact me so we can mail this book to you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Guest Blogger ~ Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She admits to seeing the world form a slightly different angel than most, and she will do just about anything for chocolate. Since 2001, she has published three novellas and fifteen novels, including a Women of Faith novel. Diann lives in Indiana with her real-life hero-husband of 33 years who continually lavishes her with chocolate—well, she can imagine it, can’t she? She's a fiction writer, after all.

To win a copy of Hometown Courtship or On the RIght Path, leave a comment for Diann.

Writing a series with several authors can be tricky. I enjoy the community spirit of the project, all the authors working together to create a believable story world with interesting characters. However, let me be the first to say, I have no doubt it’s more of a challenge for the editors than the authors.

Those editors are worth their weight in gold (pardon the cliché). They come up with the original story idea and then create a series guide (which they update monthly after each new book), giving us valuable information about the story world, characters and any new characters.

They have to keep all the authors on the same track. After a few books are written, some original ideas in the series guide may change. For instance, one of our current characters started out as a tea drinker, but we converted the poor woman to coffee. J (I’m so glad. It was hard for me to write about tea while sipping my mocha.)

Sometimes I tend to make a grandpa character more loveable and approachable than he really is in the story guide (you thought I was going to say “than he is in true life,” didn’t you?) The editors help keep me straight on that.

If we come up with a story thread that’s been touched on in prior books, the editors let us know that, too. After twenty plus books, it’s hard to keep it all straight and still come up with fresh ideas, but amazingly, our editors brainstorm and we brainstorm and it all comes together somehow.

I love the community feel with the authors as we bounce questions and ideas off of each other in our loop. It almost makes me feel like I live on the Nebraska farm of which we write.

If you are interested in writing a series with multiple authors, here are some points that may be of help to you:

--Be FLEXIBLE. We can’t hang on to our “baby” and not allow it to grow. You’re part of a team. You’re only one of the players. Your coaches (editors) see the overall picture—which leads to my next point.

--Have FAITH in your editors. They’ve read all the books. They know the characters inside and out and are familiar with all the storylines. If they say your idea doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. Let it go and come up with something else.

--Have FUN being a part of a community where there are so many talented authors! Learn from them and give back. You’ll enjoy the journey more!

--Have a FRAPPE. Okay, just wanted to see if you were awake. Still, you’d be surprised the boost it will give your creativity. J

God’s blessings on your writing!

Read reviews of Hometown Courtship and In the Right Path, see July 21st and 22nd on Novel Reviews.

Hometown Courtship

By Diann Hunt

Community Service: Matchmaking?

His matchmaking brother is sending another gal Brad Sharp's way. Under the guise of community service! The Make a Home Project—building homes for the needy—is Brad's life. He fully expects hair stylist Callie Easton to show up for "work" with a pink hammer and not even use it. Hardly a match for him!

With a heart of gold and a talent for transformation, Callie works hard. Still, Brad won't notice her. His grief over a tragic loss has hardened his heart Well, Callie knows all about loss. And thanks to Brad, she knows even more about making a home—for them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gina Holmes ~ Interviewed

No stranger to the publishing industry thanks to her two prolific blogs, Novel Journey and Novel Reviews, Gina Holmes now has the opportunity to be in the other side of the interview platform as a published writer. Her debut novel, Crossing Oceans, contracted through Tyndale House, is scheduled for distribution June, 2010.

Crossing Oceans is the story of a young woman’s return home to face the ghosts of her past, and to tell the man she left behind that he’s inheriting a daughter he didn’t know existed.

“‘The call’ for me was a long, drawn out sort of deal, rather than that one surprise phone call I’d always dreamed of,” Gina said. She met with the editors from Tyndale House at the 2007 ACFW conference to discuss Crossing Oceans, which was a work-in-process at the time. During the 2008 conference, Gina met with Karen Watson, Tyndale’s senior editor, and learned she loved Crossing Oceans.

Guarded from previous rejections, Gina suspected a sale could happen, but didn’t get her hopes up. Click here to read more.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The True Adventures of a Children’s Librarian

It’s unusual for the word “librarian” to trigger a glamorous image. More often, your mind jumps to that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, where Clarence shrieks, “She’s just about to lock up the library!” cueing Mary as a dowdy old maid with glasses and a tiny bun.

But the truth is, life in the stacks has its share of adventure...

A boy, about twelve, came in with a list of Newbery medal winners. I helped him locate several, recommending some over others. "Oh, these aren't for me," he said. "I'm getting them for my grandma." "Okay," I replied. "But still, this one's better than that one." "Eh," he shrugged, taking the book from my hands. "She's just an old lady. She won't care."

A patron renewed her books over the phone. Without looking closely, I clicked “select all” and “renew.” The receipt printer ran ... and ran ... and ran ... 89 items. Beat that.

Two guys sat at the computer bay, and their low voices carried to my desk. "Longest I've been in jail is ... 25 days." "17 for me." "What've you got now?" "Assault and battery." I shifted uneasily in my chair.

An eleven-year-old girl brought up a dog-eared copy of Twilight, and as she waited, she asked, "So, has anyone ever checked out this book?"

Before leaving for work, I left myself a memo on the kitchen counter: pick up hatchet at library. My dad fingered the paper, one eyebrow raised. I had to explain the Gary Paulsen part.

A man came in with a list from his daughter. "Can you see if you have any of these?" I looked at the titles, six books long, and did a mental checklist. Then I looked up. "Yes. We have them." He blinked. "Just like that?" I smiled. “I’ll see if they’re on shelf.”

One sleepy Saturday, a high school Runescape addict sat at a computer for hours without coming up for breath. At closing time, I left the room to lock up, and when I came back, there was a paper on my desk. Call me. With his name and number.

A little girl, fifth grade at the very most, asked if we had an available copy of Twilight. I shook my head. She scrunched her mouth, thought a minute, and then asked, "Okay, well, do you have Clementine?" (Such things ought not be.)

A woman came in for a book for her daughter. “I can’t remember the name, but there’s something about red, or crimson, and a valley.” I nodded slowly. “Ruby Holler?” Her eyes dilated, and she grinned, amazed. “Yes!”

Smile at your librarians today. They’re heroes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thin Spots

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife, mother of three daughters, caregiver to two golden retrievers and a six-toed cat. She was the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. She is currently working on the sequel.

The day shone glorious, full of sunshine and light, full of fellowship and a strong sense of belonging. It was all the more significant to me because I was not among my home congregation. I was just over five thousand kilometres away, in a beautiful little church in a tiny village in Nova Scotia Canada. And I felt right at home.

I joined with the congregation as they sang a few songs, led by the pastor and a worship band, then one of the leaders stood to talk about all the upcoming events. He did so with a flourish that made us laugh often. Then he grew a bit more serious and said he knew of an old Scottish legend about “thin spots.” They are described as places where we sense we are close to heaven. He sincerely prayed we would all feel that we’d been in a “thin spot” by the end of the service. As the time grew to a close we celebrated communion and his prayer was answered.

As I left the church that day I realized that it is the “thin spot” that I am trying to achieve in my writing. My goal is to draw the reader into a place full of sunshine and light, where he or she will sense the presence of God, ponder His mercy and grace and respond. I realized too that in order to achieve that goal I must find myself in that place often. In order to draw my readers there, I must have been there myself. It’s part of the often heard, “write what you know.”

The good news is that we already exist in that place, whether or not we feel it. By God’s sovereign design, we are continually in His presence, indwelt by His Spirit and guided by His hand. As writers I believe we need to understand that profound truth and live in it, acknowledging the longing in our own hearts and expressing it as best we can in words, sentences and paragraphs that sing with truth.

The Bible tells us that we must train our minds. I believe we must also train our eyes to look for God’s signature in the ordinary, hear His voice in the intonations of those around us, His glory in the spill of light on the door of a village church.

We can stand in a thin spot every moment of the day. Then it is our privilege and our responsibility to write that experience. All to the glory of God.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Author Interview, Shawn Grady

Shawn Grady signed with Bethany House Publishers in 2008. He was named “Most Promising New Writer” at the 39th Annual Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Through the Fire is his debut novel

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

My debut novel, Through the Fire, officially released this month through Bethany House Publishers.

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

I started writing with a novel as the focus about nine years ago, but particularly since 2004. I signed with Bethany House early in 2008. The biggest key for me was networking with editors one on one at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. There I had the opportunity to show my writing and give editors a chance to know a bit about me as an author. I also made it a point to enrol in the fiction mentoring groups with established writers. I learned a tremendous amount in those groups and had the opportunity to hone and refine my craft and to get to know some great writers.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

The first year I enrolled in a Mount Hermon fiction mentoring group we had to submit a single-spaced two page synopsis of our work in progress. I had a six page synopsis at the time, so I cut out as much as I could and then modified every single thing I could to make that synopsis fit on two pages. I had like .5” margins all the way around, size 11 font. It’s pretty funny when I look back on it. But the group moderator was full of grace about it.

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

Write what you know.

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

There are all sorts of systems of thought. Some work for others and some don’t. I think it’s important to be discerning and to trust your gut.
What would advice would you give someone just entering this business? How should they maneuver the publishing life?
First and foremost, write. Don’t worry if you don’t have a plot outline or character sketches on three by five cards. Just write. Write one simple true sentence like Hemingway strove for.

Then read a few well-respected books on writing. Attend writers’ conferences. Get connected with others in the business. Understand how the business of getting books published works and then find the best route and mode for you as an individual writer to navigate that.

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

Contrary to the common system of thought, I found that I personally worked best when I could interact one on one with editors rather than through a third party agent for initially breaking through the publishing barrier.

What's a good novel to read in regards to study of the craft?

Hands down for me it was Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. I knew after reading it that I could be a writer. I just need to write. So nine years ago, on a napkin in a coffee house, I started.

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

Sure. Starting a midnight. I may run two or more calls on the fire engine before getting off the twenty four hour shift at eight a.m. The mornings I spend with family and then the afternoon (often bleary eyed) at the library or a coffee house typing away.

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

I don’t know. That’s a hard one. It’s like coveting a super power. If you’re Green Lantern, you dig being the Green Lantern. You don’t really want to be Hawkman or Aquaman. As cool as talking to fish is, he can’t make a giant green hammer out of his ring. -They all have their own unique giftings with which they serve.

If anything, I want to continue to grow and hone my craft as a writer. And there are authors that make me go, “wow”- whose writing transcends the page and resonates with my spirit. Leif Enger comes to mind. Marilynn Robinson. Those are a couple of my literary heroes.

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

My wife and I have many dreams for it. We trust that the Lord will continue to grow and bless it according to His will.

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

Simply, I love to write. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able have what I’ve written be read, and to hear back how people enjoyed it and were impacted by it. The hardest part is the discipline of sitting down and doing the hard work of crafting a novel, even when I’m really tired.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?
Bethany House has an extraordinary marketing team that I’ve been very fortunate to work with. I stay very involved at the local level to build grass roots support. I would encourage others to enjoy the process of connecting with other writers and people in the business.

Parting words?

Thank you, Jessica, for the opportunity to speak with Novel Journey. I’ve had a great time. Readers who are interested can find out more about Through the Fire at
What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?