Tuesday, October 05, 2010
You’re right. I’m stunned at all that God is doing in my life and with my writing. I’ve had five books release this year, four fiction and one nonfiction, with two more scheduled for 2011 release and two in 2012 (all fiction). My focus, with few exceptions, is what we call “fiction with a mission.” My Extreme Devotion series from New Hope is a four-book set (Red Ink is book three) loosely based on the lives of modern-day martyrs of the faith in other countries (South Africa, Mexico, China, Saudi Arabia). The next set of books, the Freedom Series, also from New Hope, will be based on the very real horrors of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Even my stand-alone historical from Abingdon, Valeria’s Cross, is a book about third-century believers who paid the ultimate price for their faith. I imagine I’ll continue to pursue social justice issues in my fiction writing, but I just may surprise everyone with something a little lighter along the way.
Tell us a little about your family.
I’m married to my junior/senior high school sweetheart, Al. Our children are all grown with families of their own. In addition to being grandparents, we’re also great grandparents, so life is marching right along as our family multiplies! In addition, my almost 90-year-old mother lives with us, and I’m her primary caretaker, so that adds to the challenge, but it also enables us to have five generations under one roof—if we can ever corral them and get them all here at once!
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
I was an avid reader even before I realized I wanted to be a writer, and that was quite early! I wrote a story in the third grade, and the teacher and principal liked it so much they put it on as a play for the entire PTA. I was hooked! My idea of a perfect vacation is to get away from everything thing that buzzes and bleeps and lights up—and just read (preferably someone else’s fiction). I don’t do well with fluffy stuff, but I love “meaty fiction” with a strong message. Just can’t get enough of it! But I imagine that’s what I’d be reading even if I wasn’t also writing it.
What are you working on right now?
I’m racing to meet the deadline for the first of the three novels in the new Freedom series, which begins releasing in Fall 2011. This is the book that will introduce the reader to brutal reality that “slavery is alive” today. This series will be a call for abolition—nothing less.
What outside interests do you have?
My husband and I like to break away on his Harley every chance we get—hence my “road name” of Easy Writer. And I spend a lot of time on the road and in the air because of the fact that I do a lot of speaking/teaching/ministry in between writing. Other than that I stay home with Mom and hubby and the kids/grandkids whenever possible—not to mention my Nuevo Community Church family, whom I love dearly.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one, but I think maybe Queen Esther. I love the way she came to the place of realizing that she may have come into the “kingdom” for a specific purpose—and if it required laying her life to fulfill it, so be it. My kind of heroine!
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
You know, I want to say I wish I’d known how tough it would be to finish the book, sell it, market it—and maybe still not see much in the way of financial return. Then again, it’s probably better that I didn’t know or I might never have taken the plunge!
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
I’m working my way through my seventh decade of life, and God is teaching me that the best is yet to come! I’m busier than I’ve ever been, and that’s exciting. Time on this earth is short, and I don’t want to waste any of it. I sure don’t plan to breathe my last in a rocking chair wishing I’d written that one last story or book. I want to finish it and type “the end” just before I slip away into glory!
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
Read, read, and read some more! Seriously, how can we be successful writers if we don’t like to read? So that’s one thing. Two more? Be willing to earn your spurs. I meet a lot of new writers who want a bestseller or nothing—right out of the gate. That may happen once in awhile, but not often. Learn your craft and remember what my journalism prof used to say: “If you want to be a good writer—or teacher or truck driver or brain surgeon—find someone who already does it well and hang around ‘em!” Good advice. Finally, remember the One who is the Author and Finisher of our faith and trust Him each step of the way. And if He ever says, “Lay down your pen; I have something else for you to do,” do it without hesitation. Why would we want to write anything that didn’t have His blessing on it?
Tell us about the featured book.
Red Ink, as I mentioned earlier, is the fictionalized account of my heroine, Li Ying. The main character’s name in the book is Zhen-Li. She was raised to observe the party line, including its one-child-per-family policy, but she falls in love and marries a Christian and adopts his faith. Though the couple downplays their Christianity in an effort to survive, Zhen-Li’s family is appalled, and she and her husband are ostracized. When she becomes pregnant for the second time and refuses to have an abortion, the persecution begins in earnest. Zhen-Li’s parents, under pressure from the government, pay to have Zhen-Li kidnapped and the baby aborted. It is then Zhen-Li decides she must live up to her name—“Truth”—and take a firm stand for her faith, regardless of the consequences, and so she begins to regularly teach children about Zhu Yesu (Lord Jesus) and to distribute Christian literature every chance she gets—including to children. As a result, Zhen-Li is incarcerated and separated from her family, even as she continues to minister to other prisoners and even to her guards. You can see the video trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHDfltp9M2w .
Please give us the first page of the book.
Yang Zhen-Li was nearing thirty but at times felt twice that old. Her back was becoming permanently bent forward from the heavy pails she carried daily, one attached on each end of the thick bamboo rod that stretched across her shoulders, mirroring the heaviness of her heart. There had been a time when she’d been acclaimed as a beauty, but she could scarcely remember why…or imagine that it would matter.
She tried to fight the encroaching darkness, tried to hold fast to what she knew was true, but the constant lies and propaganda were taking a greater toll even than the physical labor and abuse or the burning, gnawing hunger. If her situation didn’t change soon, she knew she would never live long enough to see her husband or son again. And with nearly eight years of her ten-year sentence left to serve, the possibilities of her emerging from prison alive grew dimmer by the day.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. She forced herself to focus on one of the many scripture verses she’d had opportunity to memorize between the time she accepted Zhu Yesu as her Savior and her arrest by members of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) on charges of teaching religion to children, including giving them papers containing religious writings. Even before her arrest, her parents had written to her—warned her, begged her, threatened her—and finally had her kidnapped in an attempt to convince her to go along with the government rules, especially the one limiting each family to one child. After all, she already had a healthy son. Why would she want another baby when they could scarcely afford to feed the first one? But though her abductors had forcibly aborted her second child, they had not succeeded in convincing Yang Zhen-Li to abandon the faith she had adopted before marrying her Christian husband. If anything, the ordeal had only strengthened her resolve to take a stand for the meaning of her name—Zhen-Li, “Truth,”—and spurred her to begin actively sharing the Good News of Yesu every chance she got. As a trained teacher, that quite naturally included talking with children about the gospel, a practice expressly forbidden by the government.
And now she was paying the price. Separated from her family and sentenced to ten years of hard labor and “re-education,” Zhen-Li struggled to survive against pain, exhaustion, and bitter loneliness. Worst of all were the times she felt God had abandoned her. It wasn’t enough to know in her mind that He promised never to leave or forsake her. She needed a visible reminder—soon—if she was to continue to remain faithful behind these prison walls.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Kathi, for the interesting interview.
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