Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate. She enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction whenever she can. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she works with kids with special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. She is represented by Julie Gwinn and her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in April 2015. You can connect with Pepper on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.
What sparked the story for this novel?
This story bloomed from a small seed of a question. What if a person couldn’t forgive? How would unforgiveness shape them? Change them? Based on stories shared by women who have walked the wounded road my main character, Ashleigh, walks, I began to develop this story: where war wages on the inside and the outside.
Share a bit of your journey to publication. Was it short or long?
It’s been a long journey, I suppose. I started pursuing publication 11 years ago, even though I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a little girl. I took an introductory Writer’s Digest Course, then moved into The Christian Writer’s Guild, and slowly started attending conferences.
Now I’m sure one of the reasons my journey was longer is because I couldn’t devote myself to writing full-time. I’ve always worked as a speech-language pathologist full-time, plus I’m a wife and mom-of-five awesome kiddos. So writing time took a slower turn.
I won my first contest two contests in 2010, was a double-finalist in the Genesis in 2011, and just kept pressing forward at a snail’s pace with enough optimism and faith to keep me moving beyond the mountainside of rejection letters I’d received. Finally in 2014, with my new agent, Julie Gwinn, as my amazing guide, I received 3 contracts in 3 months for 3 different genre projects. It’s been CRAZY since then.
What would you do if you didn't write?
Well, I already have another ‘calling’ besides mom and writer. I’m a speech-language pathologist, and I imagine I’ll still be doing it for a long time. I especially love working with kids who are on the Autism Spectrum and my specialty area is in social communication. Now….if I could go back to school for something else, I’d want to study history or Appalachian studies.
What makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?
Time. Distractions. My struggle with negative self-talk.
Time…for obvious reasons, so the only real way to handle it is organize it as well as I can, learn to be a creative user of time, and use it well when I have it. Being in the throes of my first marketing experience while on deadline is definitely a new challenge to my ‘time’ struggles.
Distractions are harder. Because I have a very busy brain, I’m easily distracted. Many times I have to turn off all other open ‘windows’ on my computer to remain focused on my story.
Best way to fight against negative self-talk is to fill my head with positive truth. When I start feeling discouraged about my abilities, I read what God has to say about His love for me, how He sees me as His child, and what His dreams and plans are for me. Reminding myself of His strength, plans, love, and grace, reminds me not only of how much I’m loved, but also of the gifts He’s given me to serve Him – including writing.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?
I write in the middle of family life. We have a small office/den/ music room space, which is open to our family room. My desk and research books are there. It’s a good way to stop by my desk for a few minutes to jot down an idea without missing out on what’s going on with the crew.
Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?
Creating! Again, this is that focus/distraction issue thing. Editing requires more focus. For me, creativity flows easily and constantly. AND the visual aspect of creativity is highly appealing. I ‘see’ my stories in my head, like a movie, so it can be very exciting and immediately rewarding.
Editing IS rewarding, but it’s more like the marathon than the sprint.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
Oh YES! Definitely! I print of pictures of people I think ‘look’ like my characters, setting pics. I’ll close my eyes and envision the scenes before I write them. I’ll watch movies from the era or with a similar ‘feel’ to them as my novel. (and though this is not ‘visual’ per se, I usually create a soundtrack to go along with my stories)
What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?
Get in line to ride the cool roller coaster…but remember it’s a long line.
(or in other words – dream big, but be prepared for a long journey to publication)
Find trustworthy mentors and co-journey-ers. One of the BEST things in my writing career was finding wiser writers who could give me solid and honest advice for the journey. Seekerville was a particular blessing! Then God brought the wonderful Alleycats in as fellow-encouragers and friends along the journey. It’s incredibly important to have a support network, even if they live all over the country and only meet once a year.
Keep close to the One who stirred this gift within you.
There have been many times where I’ve pulled away from Him due to whatever excuses I made at the time, but He who has called you equips and encourages you to create stories worth reading. Thankfully, He is so full of grace, but He is also the One who gives stories…or at least the BEST stories
Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?
Be uneducated. Study the craft, learn from others, come prepared…but don’t think you already know everything there is to know about writing.
Be inflexible. This is a changing publishing world. Some of the greatest minds did great things by stepping outside the box a little. But remember #1 in this list of ‘nots’ – educate yourself before you dive.
Don’t forget to be thankful…lots of people have probably been involved in your writing world. A heart of gratitude spreads blessings wherever it beats.
What's next for you?
Well, I have a few things going on in the future. The Thorn Bearer is the first book in the Penned in Time series, so books 2 and 3 come out in 2016! I’m fiendishly working on book 2 right now.
I also have a contemporary romance arriving in December. A fantastic Christmas gift for a reader who likes sweet, funny southern humor. It’s a modern day retelling of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady set in Appalachia called A Twist of Faith.
I’m also collaborating with some game designers to possible help develop a novelization of their new video game coming out in 2016. It’s a fantasy steampunk middle reader series. Very cool.
The Thorn Bearer
From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all. When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father's intimate betrayal.
Her worst fears are confirmed - who could ever love a soiled woman? In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn't traveling alone.
Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend's mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh's sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend's former fiancé and his own childhood companion.
As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship. When the truth of Ashleigh's past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough - or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.