Welcome, Ward. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
The San Francisco Bay Area pastor, John Cain, along with members of his family and congregation, plays a role, although not always the main role, in each of my novels, including my most recent, Redeeming Grace. Having my been a pastor in the Bay Area for twenty-three years, I suppose there is some of me in John McCain. He is mostly a composite of real life and imagination.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Mmm. Does sitting at a freeway crossroads with suitcases packed and flipping a coin to see which direction we would go (north or south) for our vacation qualify?
Or maybe kneeling by the side of a busy highway, watching an ant attempt to cross without getting run over? We were on a family bicycle ride from
San Francisco to Mexico at the time. The ant finally
made it. So did we.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
While a young man in my first church, I wrote an article for a minister's magazine. To my amazement, it was accepted and published and I got a check in the mail! I think I received six dollars. I was sure then that I was a writer! However, when it came to book manuscripts, there were more rejections than checks. Once the writer's taste of rejection set in, I began having my doubts. I was attempting nonfiction, but without success. It was years later, at a writers conference, that I submitted a few pages for review and asked if they thought I could write a story. I was encouraged me to go home and write "the great novel." The next year I returned with a story synopsis and sample chapters. Two editors expressed interest and one offered a contract. And so began my writing career as a novelist.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I'm often asked about my habits and what I read. One word best fits my reading habits. Eclectic. First thing every morning, I deliver coffee to our bedroom and we begin our day reading the Bible and offering first prayers. Then we read portions from our "out loud books." Most recently, Richard Rohr's The Naked Now and
by Teresa of Avila.
Since today I continue writing fiction as well as nonfiction, I read fiction popular and otherwise, usually just before retiring in the late evening. I find it relaxing and is one of the ways that I am able to study the writing styles and story telling techniques of others.I also read religious classics, leadership, aging and generational genres. You can find a recent reading list On my blog site.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
It's not easy. I travel more than I wish at times with speaking engagements. When at home with
it is by the fireplace in the winter or on the deck in the summertime. Reading helps. The Internet,
not so much. Long walks help. Long airplane rides, not so much. Early morning
quiet time by myself.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Actually, I pray about them. I think about them over time, hoping to get them right, hoping to choose a name that helps define the character, whether good or bad. One of my main continuing characters is pastor John Cain. He was named John because it is a strong name, and because the Apostle John is my favorite Bible character. Cain was chosen to subliminally remind the reader that pastors have their earthy human nature with which to deal like everyone else. I go to the Scriptures for names. I search ethnic name lists on the Internet. Sometimes I choose the name of a family member. The 12-year-old heroine, Jessica, in my novel, Vanished, is the also the name of one of our granddaughters.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
It's more my wife's accomplishment than mine, but still being happily married to the love of my life. That is the greatest.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I had no idea how to answer this so I asked a friend. He said, "a panther." I asked, why a panther? "Because you move quietly, but strike quickly." Still thinking about that.
What is your favorite food?
Mexican or Asian.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
A lack of confidence in my own ability. I overcame by continuing to write. I know that may be much too simple an answer, but this is not rocket science. Unless you are one of the chosen few who are naturally gifted, keeping on keeping on is the way you become a writer. Church bulletins. News features. Writers groups (although I've never been a part of one). This is the way most of us learn how to write well.
When I was on a church staff, I wrote and designed the bulletins and newsletters. Tell us about the featured book?
I began writing Redeeming Grace under a different title fifteen years ago. It was rejected. Several times. I put it away. About a year ago, I brought it forward again. The story pieces were scattered all over my computer files. I still believed in it, however, so I decided to bring all the pieces together to complete the story, even if God and I were the only ones to ever read it. It's the first novel I've ever written end to end without a contract. Upon completion, I mentioned the project to a small group of business leaders who meet regularly in my home. They asked if they could pray about it. Two weeks later, my agent contacted me to say a publisher's acquisition team had approved it for publication. Beginning of story. And, no, you can't have the names and addresses of the guys in my group. Get your own.
I have put together a prayer team for my writing. It’s made everything easier. Please give us the first page of the book.
She dropped to her knees, oblivious to the shards of glass scattered about in the dark shadows. Each second passed like the chimes of a clock on the hour.
Unhurried. Sonorous. Deliberate. Adagio.
She stared down at her best friend, crumpled grotesquely on the flagstone terrace. Reaching out, she pressed trembling fingers against BJ’s throat.
No response. Nothing.
BJ’s deep, round eyes, always dancing with fun and laughter—everything in life, a party—stared back at her now.
Interrupted. Empty. Lost. Caesura.
Beyond her touch.
Death sliced through the sultry night, like an arrow tipped with ice, plunging deep into her soul. Taking her breath away.
She could feel it.
She just couldn’t stop it!
Her mind refused to accept whatever was next. There was no next.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
For more information or to follow my “A Further Journey” blog, visit www.wardtanneberg.com. Also Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.For speaking engagements or information about The CASA Network, write to:firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Thank you, Ward, for sharing your life and story with us today.
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