Friday, May 21, 2010

Author Gwen Faulkenberry ~ Interviewed

Author bio: Gwen Ford Faulkenberry lives and writes in the mountains of Ozark, Arkansas, where she’s a stay-at-home mom and an English professor. She also plays the piano at her church and raises goats. Her other books include two devotions, A Beautiful Life and A Beautiful Day, and a novel, Love Finds You in Branson, Missouri, which will release in 2011.

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

I have a novel called Love Finds You in Romeo, Colorado, released in December of 2008, a devotional called A Beautiful Life that came out in January 2009, and another one called A Beautiful Day, which was released in January 2010. I have just been contracted for a new novel, Love Finds You in Branson, Missouri, to be released in 2011.

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.

My first book was a gift book called God’s Heart Through You. I was asked to write it in 2005 by a friend who worked for The Aim Group. My second book was a novel I wrote in lieu of a dissertation when I was getting my master’s degree. I was beginning to shop it around when I got an invitation to submit a proposal to Summerside Press for their Love Finds You line. I submitted the proposal in November, and in April I got the official contract. I was very, very excited to be one of the first four authors for the series. It was truly an honor.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Yes. Not to over-spiritualize everything, but a verse that comes to mind is Philippians 3:3: For we…worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. I pretty much know I can’t do anything worth anything without Him.

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made while seeking publication?

My story is kind of unique in that publication sought me. I am eternally grateful to my friends at Summerside for giving me a break.

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

My first writing job was at DaySpring Cards, and during my first week there I met with the heads of all of the departments in the Creative building. The art director at that time, Paul Higdon, looked me in the eyes and said, “Do the best work you can do here, where you are, every day. Because one day you will go on to do other things besides cards, but the connections you make here will follow you the rest of your life.” At the time I thought that was a bit of an odd thing to say to a person he’d just met, but it turned out to be prophetic.

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

It’s not one piece of advice, but a pervading school of thought that proposes following a strict formula rather than writing as the spirit directs.

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

I think early in my writing journey I undervalued the benefits of writing classes and seminars. For me, at least, there’s a delicate balance between craft and inspiration. If anything, I err on the side of inspiration. From studying great literature as well as listening to great writers and teachers, one can gain tools that are really needed for honing the craft, and it doesn’t mean you’re not inspired. It just means you’re not ignorant.

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

This has nothing directly to do with writing, but I’ve been through a season of disappointment with church lately, and the other day as I was feeling rebellious and critical and unloving I came across 1 Peter 2:17: Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Ouch.

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

When I wrote my first novel in graduate school, I sent a proposal for it to an agent who asked to see the rest of the manuscript. I knew that was a good thing so I got really excited. Then, after seeing the rest of the manuscript, that agent sent me a rejection letter. I was devastated. I remember sitting in the porch swing with my sister-in-law blubbering about it, saying my novel was horrible, no one would ever want to read it, and I was going to throw it in the trash. She told me in a loud voice how ridiculous that was after one rejection, how that thinking was from the devil and not God, etc., etc., and basically pulled me back from the brink.

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

I am crazy about books and I have eclectic tastes. I teach English at a university, so I read a lot of classics and my favorites are the Victorians (especially Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy). I also love Atonement by Ian McEwan, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and anything by C.S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, Elisabeth Elliot, Jhumpa Lahiri, Annie Proulx, Edith Wharton or Flannery O’Connor.

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

I did a character study once of a law professor while I was sitting in her class. I think that was probably the best thing I did in law school.

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

Yes. I’m afraid I don’t like much about the “biz” of writing. I like to write.

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

On a typical day I’m taking care of my family and then writing at night when they’re all in bed and the house is quiet.

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

Wow. Only one? I would love to have the intellectual and emotional precision of Ian McEwan. When he creates a character, he seems to crawl inside his/her skin. It’s almost scientific, like he sees impulses and thoughts and motives under a microscope. He seems to know his characters better than they could possibly know themselves.

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

Yes; don’t laugh. I dream of writing the great American novel and winning the Pulitzer Prize. But of course I also dream of weighing 130 pounds.

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


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

My favorite part is those moments of inspiration when words just seem to dance out of my heart and mind and onto the page. I also love meeting people whose lives have been touched by something I’ve written. It always surprises me, and it’s a very humbling, amazing experience. My least favorite part is the business of writing proposals, sending them in, waiting, and of course—the dreaded rejection.

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

I do anything my publisher and publicist ask me to, anything my agent suggests, and anything else I can possibly manage without driving my family too crazy, like speaking at events, book signings, and interviews.

What do you think about the argument that CBA writing is substandard compared to ABA books?

I believe that is true, at least in recent history. However, I believe CBA is getting better because Christian readers are starting to demand smarter stuff. I hope to be part of a movement that raises the bar for CBA fiction and nonfiction. In my opinion, followers of Christ should be the most excellent, creative writers in the world.

Parting words?

Buy my books! : )


Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Gwen.

Gina Holmes said...

Great interview chickie. I totally get the rejection and insecurities. Poor melancholy creative types! Just today I got the lovliest not about my novel and was on cloud nine, then my husband told me something he meant to be a compliment and I threw myself in bed and cried (it's a certain time of the month in my defense), then I finished a chapter that I thought was great. Then I reread it and thought it was horrible.

Oy vey. What a funny thing that the most sensitive types are subjected to the most rejection.

Congratulations on the next novel contract. This is wonderful!

Carrie Turansky said...

I loved Gwen's novel, Love Finds you in Romeo. I will look forward to reading Love Finds You in Branson, MO. : )

leandro said...

Hi Gwen, I was very touched by your words. You have a lot of truth in it. Rejection is not easy to deal with, and sometimes we, or I, forget that other opportunities will come along. I've never read any of your books, but look forward to start.

thanks for sharing,
Leandro Lobato

Brenda Huntsinger said...

She is also an awesome Professor. Thanks for sharing your time with us in class, and for teaching us by example.