Sunday, December 28, 2008

Author Kaye Dacus - STAND-IN GROOM - Free Book

I've watched Kaye during much of her journey to publication, and I'm pleased to introduce her to you with her debut book. Welcome, Kaye, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

There’s usually a pretty good bit of me in every character I write, even when they’re nothing like me. Because I’m not an adventure-seeking kind of person, each character I create is a way for me to experience situations I would not necessarily want to put myself into, so it’s a way of living vicariously, of challenging myself to see what decisions I might make if I were faced with the kinds of conflicts I throw at my characters. The act of writing is an act of self-exploration, of stretching myself beyond the limitations on my own life—whether of my own making or of outside influence. And it is through my characters that I’m able to work through my personal struggles and issues by layering those emotions, questions, doubts, and concerns into the makeup of my characters.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’d have to say that the quirkiest thing I’ve ever done would be when I took Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren to the Bluebird Café a few years ago so they could experience one of the most iconic music venues in Nashville—and I spent most of the evening writing a chapter of Stand-In Groom on every napkin I could get my hands on.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

From the earliest age, I always lived in a world of imagination, but it wasn’t until I was in my early teens that I started actually putting my imaginings down on paper. The first thing I ever wrote that was more than just some scene or vignette that came to mind was when I started writing a “sequel” to my favorite YA romance novel, Victoria by Willo Davis Roberts. I never finished it. In fact, though I wrote prolifically through my teens, I never let anyone else read what I’d written until I took a creative writing class my senior year of high school—and was told that I should consider pursuing it further. Even though I majored in Creative Writing as an undergrad student, it wasn’t until after I attended my first writing conference (Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference in 2001) that I began calling myself a “writer.”

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I tend to enjoy stories that have a strong romantic thread, whether they’re contemporary or historical, or even fantasy, science fiction, political thrillers, or mysteries. As anyone who’s read my blog regularly knows, Jane Austen is my favorite author; and with a degree in English, I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine that I do tend to read classics often. I’m currently reading the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, an early Victorian contemporary of Charles Dickens, who gave us Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters, all of which have been adapted to film in the past several years. While I love the snap and sparkle and pacing of modern writers, I also love to immerse myself in the flowing, descriptive language of our counterparts of two hundred years ago. This year, I set reading goals for myself, making sure I had a good balance of CBA, ABA, and classic fiction, including My Name Is Russell Fink by Michael Snyder, Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh, Shadow Music by Julie Garwood, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, and Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I have a distinct advantage over a lot of people when it comes to this: I’m single and I live alone. Though I do desire to fall in love and marry, at this point in my life, singleness is a blessing, as it gives me the time I need not just for my writing, but for connecting with God and family and friends. I work a full-time, eight-to-five job as a copy editor, but my evenings are my own, with very few outside demands on my time other than those I’ve gladly taken on—such as writing deadlines! I go to the gym and workout with a friend every evening after work, and I swim on the weekends. It’s amazing the brainstorming I can get done while in the pool. In fact, it was while swimming that I came up with some of my favorite scenes in Stand-In Groom.
I have also learned over the years how to say NO. That was really hard for me for a very long time, as I always felt that people wouldn’t like me any more if I said I couldn’t do something or be somewhere. But six years of working fulltime and going to college/graduate school part-time helped me see the importance of prioritizing and not overcommitting myself. And all my friends still like me, even when I say no. :-)

How do you choose your characters’ names?

The characters’ names usually come to me along with the character, though that’s usually more true of my heroes than my heroines (my heroes usually come to me more fully formed than my heroines do too). When I first started writing Stand-In Groom, because my heroine wasn’t forthcoming with her name from the beginning, I named her Nell, my middle name. I wanted something classic with the strength of a one-syllable name. When I started submitting it for critique, however, so many questions came up about whether or not it was too autobiographical, with my heroine sharing part of my name, that I knew I had to change it. So Nell became Anne—and once I renamed her, it was amazing the transformation that the character underwent. She became more confident, a more successful businesswoman, and an all-around more well-rounded character.

I collect names from traditional places (baby name books, family genealogy), but also from more unusual places, such as movie credits or acknowledgment lists in books or CD-inserts. When I need a Cajun surname for someone in Bonneterre (the fictional Louisiana city where Stand-In Groom and its follow-up novels are set), I need look no further than my LSU yearbooks.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that, even though I took a detour or two along the way, I eventually got on track and followed the calling God put on my life to write and to teach others about writing. While the teaching I do isn’t in an official classroom, it’s through my blog and at my local writing group’s monthly meetings, every time I do it, I’m filled with a sense of accomplishment. Through teaching, I’m pursuing and fulfilling the desire God laid on my heart—to give others the encouragement and opportunity to learn and grow as writers that I didn’t get until I was almost thirty years old.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

Even though I’m allergic and I’m not a big fan of them anyway, I think I’d have to say I’d want to be a cat. They can do whatever they want to do, act however they want to act, and their owners still dote on them. What a life!

What is your favorite food?

Because my father was stationed in New Mexico for most of my childhood, my favorite cuisine is New Mexico-style Mexican food—with plenty of green chiles and heat! But because that’s hard to get here in Tennessee, my second favorite is Popeye’s spicy fried chicken with a side of red-beans-and-rice and beignets for dessert—you can take the girl out of Louisiana, but you can’t take the Louisiana out of the girl!

Tell us a little about your journey to publication.

My journey to publication, like the majority of authors, is about perseverance. But for me, the perseverance led me along a somewhat different path. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve spent my entire life making up stories. After having a wonderful experience in my high school creative writing class, I felt God was calling me to major in CW in college—both to write and to teach.
However, once I got there, I realized I didn’t write the kind of stuff that was expected—literary, dark, angst-ridden and modeled after Hemingway and Faulkner not Jane Austen or the contemporary romance authors I read. After being completely broken down to the point where I swore I’d never let anyone read anything I’d written again, I dropped out of college and started working full time—and I kept my writing secret again.
But after a few years, I couldn’t deny God’s calling on my life to finish my education, and to focus that education on writing. So, while working full time at Nashville’s daily newspaper, I went back to college part-time. The first class I took was the general Creative Writing course. My professor was so supportive and encouraging about my writing that I regained the confidence in the gift God had given me.

Then, in 2001, I “mysteriously” received a brochure in the mail for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference. My parents “gave” it to me as an early thirtieth-birthday present. I vividly remember spending the second night of the conference shut up in my dorm room in tears—not because I was sad, but because I was so overwhelmed at being surrounded by other people who wrote the same kind of stories I did, who cut pictures out of magazines because the models looked like their characters, who could teach me the basic fundamentals of how to structure a novel—not just tell me to “write something and turn it in.”
At that conference, I met Rachel Hauck and Patty Smith Hall, who not only generously listened to me read from my (what I now know is poorly written) manuscript, but who suggested I join what was then known as American Christian Romance Writers (now ACFW).

While finishing college and getting started on my master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction (www.setonhill.edu), I became more and more involved in ACFW—first as a volunteer, then as an elected officer, and then as Vice President—and through that wonderful organization, I met mentors and critique partners and started networking with editors and agents.
In 2006, the first twenty-five pages of Stand-In Groom (then entitled Happy Endings Inc.) placed second in the ACFW Genesis contest. At that conference, I approached agent Chip MacGregor and asked if I could submit my proposal to him.
In January 2007, Chip signed me on as a client, and in December 2007, I received my first contract from Barbour, for Stand-In Groom. I have recently signed contracts for two follow-up books: Menu for Romance (Fall 2009 release) and A Case for Love (Spring 2010 release).

I wish I had some wonderful, encouraging story about being rejected so many hundreds of times and still sticking with it. The truth is that the first manuscript I ever submitted is being published. But it’s a manuscript that went through three years of critiquing, editing, and revisions before I felt it was ready to go out. And when I trace my journey back to 2003 when I originally came up with the idea for Stand-In Groom, after completing four other manuscripts, I started writing that book—and then stuck with it through the end—because I had faith in God’s promise that I was on the right path and doing what I was supposed to be doing.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

For me, the biggest roadblock in writing was not finding a community of supportive, encouraging, loving writers from whom to learn until I was in my late twenties.

What advice would you give to others who are trying to get their first book published?

I work with a lot of “newbie” writers. The main piece of advice I always give them is: GET YOUR FIRST DRAFT FINISHED. If you’ve never completed a manuscript and you really want to pursue publication, the most important thing you can do is to complete your manuscript.
Two is even better. Don’t spend your time just revising and rewriting your first three chapters for contest entry or submission. I’ve learned more about writing by having to push through and finish manuscripts than I ever did by just playing around with stuff that isn’t finished.

Very good advice. What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Stand-In Groom represents a life’s journey and a major dream-come-true for me. While I wrote it to entertain, I also hope that readers will be able to sense my desire to reflect Jesus’ light to others.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

http://www.kayedacus.com/
Thank you, Kaye, for spending this time with us. I'm sure readers and writers alike will gain a lot from reading about your journey.
Readers, you can order a copy of Stand-In Groom by using this link:


Visit Kaye's web site, and leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

28 comments:

Nicole O'Dell said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing it with us!!

lovedandamazed said...

What a long, enjoyable interview! I'm a huge fan of Jane Austen and would love to be entered.

author_erin(at)lycos(dot)com

Kristi said...

Please enter me in this contest!

Thanks,
Kristi
kherbrand(at)comcast(dot)net

lisa said...

This sure looks interesting! Please enter me for a chance to win!

rebornbutterfly said...

I have been trying to find elizabeth gaskell novels everywhere!
i love Jane Austen

Rae Byuel said...

Please Enter me!

Rae
raebyuel(@)gmail(.)com

Ruth said...

I don't need to be entered in the drawing (as I already have a copy of the book!), but I just had to chime in and say great interview, Kaye!

ladystorm said...

Sounds like a great book,would love to win it.

Thanks,
Stormi
ladystorm282001[at]yahoo[dot]com

windycindy said...

I would appreciate being entered in your drawing. Many thanks.....Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

Abi said...

stand in Groom sounds like my kind of book. I'd love to read it. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks.

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

thenextinstallment said...

I loved the interview, and learning a little more about Kaye. I have been reading her blog faithfully (though rarely commenting) since March. I would loved to be entered in the drawing.

:)
Thanks,
Meredith

mduke (at) inbox (dot) com

Patricia W. said...

Hi Kaye! Wonderful interview. You answered the question I had in my head today, whether to keep working on this story that won't let me go, or to start another one. The answer is both. Finish the story. Then let it go--something I'll be happy to do because it will need a lot of work--and start another.

Cherie J said...

Wonderful interview! Sounds like a book I should read. Thanks for the chance.

Stacie said...

Please count me in!

stacie_vaughan@hotmail.com

Sarah Speaks- Savvy SAHM Reviews & Giveaways said...

Great interview...so honest & open! The book sounds so interesting! Thanks for the interview & giveaway!

jess said...

Congrats on the job, Kaye! Maybe I missed that you got one, but then getting rave reviews on your book is much cooler anyway.
I love reading about your writing journey because you are so real. You eat too many truffles just like the rest of us...and yet you have a book coming out!

Megan said...

I love books and this one sounds delightful! Please enter me

megan.nadalet[at]gmail[dot]com

Jenna said...

This sounds like a great book. I would love to be entered. Thanks!

Carole said...

This looks like a delightful book, and I would love to win a copy. Thank you for the giveaway.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Barbara J. Robinson said...

Kaye,
I finished my manuscript. I don't seem to have a problem completing them. I've finished several. What I admire about your interview is the fact that you took your time and kept working with your book until you felt it was ready to send out. In the past, I've gotten to anxious and sent proposals out before they were ready, but I've learned so much from ACFW. I thank God for bringing my critique partners in my life.

Blessings,
Barb
(http://barbarajrobinson.blogspot.com/)

Mary said...

A lovely interview with Kaye. I would love a chance to win Stand-In Groom. Thanks.
worthy2bpraised{at}gmail{dot}com

Becky C. said...

I loved the interview, and she went to LSU, Yea!! I would love to read the book!

Please enter me in the contest!

Thank you,

Becky C.

rec(at)hiwaay(dot)net

TL Boehm said...

What a great blog and interview. So good to see positive promotion of Christian writers, and opportunities for those of us to read Christian writing to get a book in our hands. Peace.
TL Boehm

kaye dacus said...

Hey, everyone--sorry it's taken so many days for me to drop by and thank you all for your wonderful comments!

@rebornbutterfly--I've ordered Elizabeth Gaskell's books off Amazon (though I think I did pick up Cranford at B&N, now that I'm really thinking about it). And if you love stories set during Jane Austen's era, I have a new historical series coming out starting in July (from Harvest House) that's set in 1814.

@Jess--I haven't gotten a job (not to give away too big a secret, but I answered a few questions back this summer before I was laid off).

@BarbaraJRobinson--It's really hard to know when something's ready or if we're jumping the gun . . . but the reactions you get from those initial forays into submitting can be very helpful in figuring out if it's ready or not. My books are very much like me---it took me until I was in my late 20s/early 30s to truly know and understand what I was supposed to do with my life, and then it took quite a bit of perseverance and preparation. Some things are worth the wait!

sarahw said...

a new author i would love to try. great interview. please enter my name. thanks,
sarahwoll at hotmail dot com

Maureen said...

I enjoyed Kaye's story of how she came to be published and the book looks like one I would really enjoy.
mce1011[at]aol[dot]com

Carolynn W. said...

The book sounds wonderful! Please enter me and thanks for the chance to win!
carolynnwald[at]hotmail[dot]com

ladijo said...

Hi Kaye, what a interesting interview. I would love to get entered for the drawing. It sounds like a great book.

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com