A few weeks ago Gina Holmes (www.firstnoveljourney.blogspot.com) sent me interview questions and posted the interview on her blog. Since I’m hard at work on the WIP (and getting started is the toughest part), I hope you won’t mind a repeat of that information.
Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?
My next project in the pipeline is THE NOVELIST, which releases from Westbow in January. It’s a book of my heart, probably the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written, and really two books in one. I may not be a good judge of my own work, but I think it’s my best work to date. I know it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written.
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.
That question assumes that I wanted to write books–and I really didn’t think about it. I became a writer in 1983 simply because I 1) wanted to help put food on the table and 2) wanted a job I could do at home when my babies were small. No great dreams of publication, no lofty goals. The mortgage-as-motivation.
After five YEARS of writing magazine articles, catalog copy, and what-have-you, I saw an ad about a contest for unpublished picture book writers. Well, I’ve always liked kids and related to them pretty well. Being an unpublished book writer of any sort, I got a book on how to write picture books, wrote something up, and sent it in. First prize was publication, and when the book won suddenly I was an author–without ever really intending to be one. What went through my mind? An overwhelming sense of responsibility. Books change lives; they certainly have changed mine. They motivate, they inspire, they teach. Shoot, I learned how to flirt reading GONE WITH THE WIND.
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?
Wallowing in self-doubt is far too narcissistic an activity for the Christian. Writing is a job, pure and simple, like any other job. You can teach people how to write effectively. I teach children how to write stories all the time–there’s a pattern and a plan and it’s not rocket science. You learn it, you do it. No great mystery involved. Does a dentist who’s gone to dental school worry about whether or not he can pull teeth?
With that being said, however, lots of people can paint pictures, but only a few make me stop and gaze in admiration. Anyone can put flowers into a bowl, but some arrangements are more “artful” than others. So there is an element of “art” in the midst of the “sceience.” The art part, however, is subjective.
If I have doubts, it’s only at the first draft stage, when I’m trying to get the pattern to conform to the vision in my head. Sometimes I fear it will fall short, but as I wrestle with the story through four and five drafts, it generally shapes up. And if it doesn’t? Well, that’s what editors are for. They give me the objective eyes I need.
What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication? Don’t send your novel to a POD press.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard? Anything that has to do with writer’s block–ha! I don’t believe in it. If you plan, you’ll never be “blocked.”
What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business? Adverbs are generally evil.
Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you? Lately I’ve been seeing the theme of God’s sovereignty echoed everywhere.
Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share? If one believes in the sovereignty of God, then nothing is a setback. Even my mistakes are part of God’s plan; even my failures are steps forward, because I learn from and am changed by them.
What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.) THE NUN’S STORY by Kathryn Hulme, LIFE EXPECTANCY by Dean Koontz.
If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why? I’m Glenda the Good Witch, without a doubt. She steps in, explains everything, and makes it all look SO SIMPLE (can you tell I’ve spent an entire week teaching elementary students how to write?)
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? I’m fond of THE TRUTH TELLER because it was my first “high-concept” book and the first time I really wrote something that rose from my own wacky imagination. I’ll always be grateful to Bethany House for not thinking I didn’t have both oars in the water . . .
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz? YES! I hate it when I come home from a speaking engagement and people crowd around the luggage carousel. If everyone would stay two feet back, we could grab our suitcases and pull them off the moving thingy without taking out two toddlers, a tourist, and somebody’s visiting grandmother . . .
Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life? At my desk by ten thirty, answer emails, write some, answer more emails, write more, eat lunch, write more, get the mail, toss the mail, write more, answer emails, pet the dog, write more, check to see how many more words until quitting time, eat dinner, write some more, pet dog, check schedule, finish with a flourish, and go put on my jammies! (Dull, huh?)
If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom? As in any other job, we all have strengths and weaknesses and I’m happy to keep dealing with my own God-ordained set.
Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?
I wouldn’t dare. While dreams are nice and can be motivational, I’ve found that obedience to God’s will is far more important than jogging toward anything that may or may not be his plan for me.
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting? Of course. But I got over it.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer? Favorite: the way time flies when you are In the Zone. Least favorite? First-drafting. Because I don’t know the story world well enough yet to stick in it.
How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area? I don’t particularly like marketing, though I understand that the savvy writer today is required to think about how she is going to get her product to her intended reader. I prefer to do this in quiet ways–through the internet, the occasional postcard, etc.
I was in a school last week and a young girl, starry-eyed, of course, asked me what inspired me to write. I said “the morgtage payment” and her little face fell. I felt awful, but I also think we need to be realistic. There’s a huge mystique about writing–encouraged by far too many writers–that needs to be shooed away.
Truthfully, I think we do people a disservice when we act like writing is some kind of mystery and we are strange artistes. I mean, really . Writing is a craft that can be taught. Some people will never be writers because they don’t like sitting in a chair for long periods of time; I’ll never be a runner because I hate to sweat.
And that’s okay. We’re created to be and do different things and God has a sovereign plan for each of us. The Christian writer is simply a person created with the gifts and temperament for writing and called to exercise those gifts in the light of eternity. Nothing mystical there. Nothing mysterious. Preachers preach, teachers teach, writers write. And if we are believers, the Love of our lives shows up in the work.