Friday, April 19, 2013
Author Interview ~ Beth Wiseman
Tell us a bit about your current project.
I broke into the publishing world writing Amish fiction. I think that after fourteen books in one genre, it was just natural for me to want to spread my wings. I’m fortunate that my publisher has allowed me to do that. The House that Love Built is a romance, but it’s so much more than just ‘boy meets girl, and they live happily ever after’. I write the way I like to read, which means a story that touches on all of the emotions, that’s real, character driven, and with a few twists and turns. I love how God puts people in our paths for a reason, although we seldom see His reasoning at the time. In The House that Love built, it is a community of people—some with little in common—who find their way to each other in some unlikely instances. It’s a love story filled with strong secondary characters, redemption, forgiveness, and hope. The locale is the quaint Texas town of Smithville—where movies such as Hope Floats and Tree of Life were filmed. Without a doubt, I feel like this is my best book.
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.
Many years ago, I knew I had the writing bug, but I didn’t spend the time necessary to develop the craft. I thought that a good enough story would be snapped up by an editor or agent, then they’d work with me to whip it into shape. Wrong. Editors and agents expect you to have a basic understanding about writing for publication. So, I lost a lot of years not doing my homework. But a couple of years before my agent sold my first series, I set out to learn about the craft. I was busy learning and writing when my then 15-year-old son became very ill. I spent a month at Texas Children’s Hospital with him, fearing the worst since he was diagnosed with a rare tumor in his adrenal gland. I was a broken woman, and I prayed like I’d never prayed in my life. I offered God everything I had to give—my life, my dreams, hopes of ever being published, and anything else I could think of. I am quite sure that the Lord looked down on me and said, “Now you are ready to work for Me.” My son made a complete recovery, and no one in the medical field could explain to me what happened to the tumor. “Medicine is not an exact science,” they’d said. But the tumor was gone, and the power of prayer gets the credit.
At that time in my life, I had never considered writing Christian fiction. But my very first Christian story sold to Thomas Nelson Publishing (now HarperCollins Christian Fiction) from only the first three chapters. I was in a different place spiritually, and since then, God keeps blessing me with stories to tell. And a lot of them are based on life experiences, things that happened in my past that I could have never foreseen the purpose.
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.
I’ve never had one single day of writers block, nor have I ever done any head-banging, lol. But I am often consumed with self-doubt. And for that…I pray a whole lot!
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 could paper my walls with rejection letters from the early days, and as I stated earlier—I didn’t take the time to learn the craft.
What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?
In that regard, I’m truly blessed. The stories find me. They come in my dreams, while I’m driving, and sometimes in the most unlikely of places, lol. J
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 the craft. Take care of yourself. Know when it’s important to say no, and when it’s important to say yes.
What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?
Every single book I write ministers to my own soul, so it’s always my hope that my stories will minister to others as well. The event that changed me as a writer and as a person was when my son was sick in the hospital (see comments above). The person who most changed me was my very first editor who rode with me on the ride for five years. Natalie Hanemann.
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.)
That would have to be my current release—The House that Love Built. It encompasses everything I love in a story, and I feel blessed to have been able to pull that off.
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
I can’t think of a one. J
Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.
I’m blessed to be living my dream. I wanted to write one book that would change one life. I’ve received an incredible amount of emails and letters from readers who say that my books changed their lives. And that’s what it’s all about.
What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course)?
Those letter/emails I just referred to.
Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.
I have a brand new office, and for the first time in five years, I seem to have found my spot. I’ve worked in a study, but it was too close to the kitchen. I’ve tried to write in a small sun run, but it was too crowded. Until my Hubby redid a downstairs bedroom and made it into the perfect office, I’d been writing in my recliner. I love my new space. I have a small recliner, which is where I like to write my first drafts. Then, I do revisions and edits at my desk. I always have a candle or some other smell-good device going, and I even have a television in there in case I want to watch the news at five o’clock. It’s my perfect space. And since it’s new, it’s organized. We shall see how long it stays that way. J
What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?
I think that every author has heard at some point in their career, “Show, don’t tell.” My editor drilled that into my head…even though I was a bit thick about it.
What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?
I like my life to be in order—bills paid, house clean, food in the frig, and a general feeling that I’m caught up with other things.
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 have several writing rituals. I like to sit in the small recliner in my office when I’m doing the first draft. I sit at my desk for all revisions and edits. And I never end a chapter without at least typing one sentence for the next chapter, so I don’t lose my thought. That sentence isn’t necessarily going to be in the book. It might be something like, “Start in John’s POV, have him thinking about what he’s done and yelling at Patty.”
Plot, seat of pants or combination?
Seat of the pants…100%.
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?
After seventeen novels/novellas, I’ve learned to recognize my weaknesses, so I keep notes about what I will have to go back and clean up. It’s usually repetitive words or beats. My characters smile WAY too much, for example. I always have to go back and do a ‘search’ to fix words or phrases that are repeated.
Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?
There are so many social media sites available. I think you should pick your largest platform and focus on that, as opposed to wearing yourself too thin by trying to do Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, or any number of other sites and/or blogs.
Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?
I guess I would like to mention my next project because it is so far out of the box from anything I’ve ever done. It will take readers far away from Amish Country and small Texas towns to a dangerous place across the world. My next book was inspired by a true story, and while I can’t say too much yet, I can tell you that it is very close to my heart and will be a surprise to my readers. And thank you for having me here. J
Beth Wiseman is the best-selling author of the Daughters of the Promise series and the Land of Canaan series. All of her books have held spots on the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) Bestseller List and the CBA (Christian Book Association) Bestseller List. She is a recipient of the prestigious Carol Award, two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and an INSPY Award winner. Her first book in the Land of Canaan series—Seek Me With All Your Heart—was selected as the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. Beth is contracted with Harpercollins Christian Publishing into the year 2015.
Beth has a deep affection for the Amish and their simpler way of life, and while she plans to continue writing Amish love stories, she is also branching out into other areas. Her first non-Amish, contemporary—Need You Now—released in April 2012 and landed on the CBA Bestseller List. She enjoyed writing the story based in a town near where she lives, and she’s chosen another small Texas town for her next non-Amish contemporary—The House that Love Built—which is based in Smithville, the same quaint town where movies such as Hope Floats and Tree of Life were filmed. This novel just released. In between her contemporaries, she will be writing more Amish novellas.