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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Author Interview ~ Martha Rogers

Although Martha Rogers' primary writing experience is in non-fiction, she has been writing fiction for a number of years. She is a retired teacher who enjoys spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. Martha is a member of ACFW and writes a weekly devotional for the group.

Her book credits include the novella "Sugar and Grits" seven Bible studies, contributions to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Karen O’Conner, and Debbie White Smith. Martha has contributed devotionals to several anthologies including soon to be released Whispers of Wisdom for Step-Moms from Barbour. Martha served as editor of an eight page monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization, Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference.

Martha and her husband live in Houston, Texas where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. For more information, visit her website at http://www.marthawrogers.com/.

Hi, Martha. Welcome to Novel Journey! Tell us a bit about your current project.

Becoming Lucy is a historical set in Oklahoma Territory in 1896-1897. It’s a story of love that involves the love of God for His children, love of family members for each other, and the love between a man and woman. It is also the story of forgiveness and hope that comes from trusting in the Lord.

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 path has been a long, arduous trek. Lowlights would be all the rejections through the years. The biggest disappointment was when one publisher took my manuscript all the way to committee only to be rejected. The highlights would be my first article published in 1995, my first Bible Study in 2001, and my first novella in 2007. My biggest highlight is of course my first contract for a full length novel and then they bought the series.

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.

Yes, I still experience doubts that I can come up with a complete novel and sometimes even an idea. Prayer is the only way I can overcome the writer’s block and then patience to wait for the Lord to act and give me the 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?

I wish I had realized a lot sooner that rejections are not against me personally. That would have saved a lot of heartache. With every one that came, I had more doubts that I was a writer. The other mistake is seeking help then being hurt by all the comments and changes and suggestions in the critique or by the person reading the manuscript. Everything said can help in some way to make the story better.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I don’t really have one source. Ideas pop into my head, or I’ll see a story in the paper on the news and think, “That’d make a good story.” Sometimes personal experiences or those of my friends give me ideas.

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.

At church a young man who at the time was an ADA with Harris County, was the leader of our mission outreach. I had only just met him, but I asked him what the penalty or punishment would be for a first arrest for DUI that caused an accident with injuries. He and the others in the group who didn’t know me stared at me in stunned silence. I realized then they thought I was asking for myself. I quickly explained I was a writer and it was for a situation in my novel. He turned out to be a wonderful resource.

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

Persevere, attend conferences, get a critique partner or group, join a writers group, and persevere.

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

DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo most changed me as a writer because they believed in me and encouraged me. I had the good sense to pay attention to their critiques and advice.

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.)

I am most proud of the novel I wrote based on the experiences of my great-grandfather after the Civil War. I have some of his letters and entries in a journal that gave me the foundation for the fictional account of his journey home after being released as a prisoner. I love it because it gave me the opportunity to really delve into my family history.

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

The slowness of hearing back from editors.

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

My dream is to touch others in a way that they are drawn closer to the Lord, or their heart is changed in some way.

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

To hear from a reader who liked the article or book and to have a fellow writer tell me how much they like the story.

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

Many experiences I’ve had have given me a boost in my writing. God has worked in so many ways in my life to bring me safely to this point in my life. If I had to pick one, I’d say it was as a teenager living with my paternal grandmother for almost a year. What I learned from that dear lady has sustained me for sixty years or more.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.

The only place I really write is at a desk with a laptop in the family room of our home. Since we’re retired, I usally have the place to myself all day.

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

Putting real feelings into my writing was difficult. I overcame it when an editor told me he’d buy my article if I put myself into it rather than simply telling a story. It was hard as I had to bring up all the old feelings I’d had during the experience, but it taught me a valuable lesson and the article was accepted and printed.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?
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Pray for guidance to get the story idea complete. Then I write a synopsis of what I want to do and go from there.

Good advice! Tell us about your 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 on a deadline I set a goal of one chapter a day at least 4 days a week. I’ll do more some days when I feel especially creative.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

I am a combination. I write the synopsis and maybe a summary of the first few chapters. Then, when I start writing, all sorts of odd or different twists make their way into the story and it changes and evolves from that first synopsis or summary into a complete manuscript.

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?

The middles give me the most problem, so I do what many have suggested and think of something terrible that can happen to keep the hero or heroine from reaching his/her goal. I usually know how I want to start and how it’s going to end, but getting from B to E is hard.

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

My first article shared about my experience with a drug addict brother convicted and sentenced for sexual crimes and how I learned to forgive him and accept him as a child of God after he made a profession of faith to our childhood pastor. I had two letters from women who were in similar situations who wrote to tell me that they held bitterness and resentment against family members for terrible acts, but the article made them see they needed to change and learn to forgive and love despite the circumstances. Love and accept even though we can’t condone their actions. That’s what I want to accomplish with my writing.

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

Not yet. I’m still experimenting.

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

My biggest fear has been that I would be too old before an editor took a chance on one of my novels. I have over a dozen complete or nearly complete manuscripts, and at age 73 I was beginning to lose hope, but God’s timing is always perfect and when the time was right, He acted. So I am living proof that we should never give up on our dreams no matter how old we are. That is a part of my platform.

6 comments:

Carrie Turansky said...

I loved reading more about Martha and her writing journey! What a lesson on perseverance! I just purchased Becoming Lucy and I can't wait to read it! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Martha!
Blessings,
Carrie T.

Debra E Marvin said...

Thanks for interviewing Martha. I looked her up online when I learned I was going to be 'volunteering' alongside her at the ACFW conference.
I was pretty impressed!

I love hearing about how your grandmother had such an influence in your life. My grandmother lived with me when I was growing up and I think that so many families are missing out on what used to be a 'normal' family dynamic. My kids grew up that way too, and in our neigborhood, most of the homes had grandmas in them. What a blessing.

I hope to read your book soon!
thanks, Debra

Janice Thompson said...

I'm so proud of you, Martha, and can't wait to see what God does through this series! Folks, you're going to love this first book!

Martha W. Rogers said...

Thanks, Janice. You've been such a big help to me. Carrie, I hope you enjoy Lucy's story, and I'm glad we're friends. Debra, we have 5 our nine grandchildren here in Houston and I still don't have the time with them I'd like. Of course three are teenagers and very busy with their own activities.

Thanks for dropping.

Martha W. Rogers said...

OOPS! That was supposed to be thanks for dropping BY! LOL Guess it's too early in the morning.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Martha, I've been inspired by this interview with you and especially your parting words to "never give up on our dreams no matter how old we are." Thank you for this. And congratulations on the publication of "Becoming Lucy." Pat