Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers are sisters who write together. I’m thrilled to have them on my blog today. Their book is getting lots of high praise.
Welcome, Betsy and Laurie. Tell us how much of yourselves you write into your characters.
The best characters are multilayered, and the different layers come from different places. Physical traits can come from someone we know or a stranger we spot on the street. Personality traits can also come from people we know or someone we read about in the paper. Sometimes characters just come straight out of our heads, with no connection to anyone. The feelings of the characters come from our own experiences. Grief, pain, love, shame, fear all are in some way and at different levels common experiences for everyone.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Writing makes you more adventurous. You have to get out of your comfort zone to try new things – things that your characters will do in books. (Betsy)When I was working on a book about rollercoasters, I rode over 40 coasters in a year. I could never have described the emotion (fear!), and the sensory details without haven’t experienced it myself. (Laurie) One of my strangest things was also done for my writing! A shark dive in the
Fortunately I lived, and it made for a great story. We are always game for the
When did you first discover that you were writers?
Even as little girls we thought of ourselves as writers. Growing up the daughters of a writer shaped us. From our early days we listened to our mother tell us stories. Even when she read a book, the story often came out of her mouth differently. She could not resist adding, embellishing, pumping it up. Later millions of other children would hear her stories as she went on to win many awards for her 60+ children’s books. When you feel called to write it can seem like an impossible dream. Seeing our mother write gave us a realistic idea about what it takes to be a writer. She would write for hours every day at a desk in the corner of her bedroom. We shared the joys and pains of writing even as children.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
As we have been writing together over the years we have begun to enjoy reading together. When we choose a book and both read it, we come to a common place for discussing writing or our faith. We just finished reading and praying through Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle, The Forty Day Prayer Challenge. It was a significant tool for us to stay on the same page and to encourage each other through prayer. Visioneering by Andy Stanley was important to us as we developed a vision for our writing.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Grounding in our faith is a daily, hourly, minutely exercise! Staying connected to God through prayer and study keeps us focused and keeps us balanced.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Names are important. We want each name to be memorable and to fit the character. You tend to remember well-named characters, like Atticus Finch or Cruella Deville. Sometimes we try to show something about the character through the name. Marra, a name in The Shepherd’s Song means sorrow and was the perfect name for the young girl in the book fleeing from an abusive relationship in a tattoo parlor. Her abuser who is pursuing her was a challenge. We decided on Lobo, which means wolf. It seemed to capture his stalking nature. Both of these names helped the reader to understand the characters. Some of the characters were named after people we both knew and liked—Chris, a friend of Laurie’s, or Cornelia, Betsy’s neighbor. Other names were chosen to reflect the nationality of the character, like Francois, the French art restorer, or Kioni, the Kenyan runner.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
This is one of those tough questions. All the things that we have accomplished individually or together have been made possible by our God who loves us enough to allow us to be a part of His work on earth. We are so grateful for that!
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Sheep! We see ourselves more and more resembling sheep – stubborn and needing a Shepherd. As we researched sheep and shepherds for The Shepherd’s Song, we decided to visit a sheep farm. We had read many books about sheep and how God is our shepherd but the reality of that promise came through for us when we visited the sheep and watched a true shepherd at work. Keith Odom has a farm in
and we drove up for the afternoon. We watched Keith’s affection for his sheep,
reminding us of God’s love for us. And we watched the sheep eat—not a pretty sight.
It reminded me how fearful we can be and how God always provides enough.
What is your favorite food?
We live about two hours apart so we write together one day a week in a coffee shop that is halfway between our houses. They have a beautiful pastry case—scones, cinnamon buns, cakes, pies. The scones are our downfall!
I love scones. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Unity. The best part of writing together is having someone to share the joys and sorrows of writing and publishing. Writing can be a lonely business and with two of us, we are not alone in it. The difficult part, the “roadblock” comes from our differences. Laurie is a plotter. Betsy is a seat-of-the-pants writer. This was a source of tension for us when we first began to write together. In the beginning, Laurie would come to our weekly meeting with spreadsheets while Betsy wanted to let the book take shape as we went along. The process of working together required our surrender of the work to God. When we both let go of the control of the book, we began to work together and appreciate the skills and the wiring that God gave each of us. The difficult parts became strengths. Prayer was the answer and the unifier for us as we began to see the book as God’s book, not our own book.
Tell us about the featured book.
The Shepherd’s Song is the story of a woman who, like a lot of us, wonders if her life has mattered. She writes our Psalm 23 for her wayward son and is later in a car accident. As she is rushed to the hospital she prays, “Let my life count.” Her copy of the psalm then begins a journey around the world, changing the lives of twelve different people.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Kate McConnell opened her eyes. Where was she? There were bright lights above her. Movement. The sound of a siren wailing.
She closed her eyes and opened them again, hoping somehow this all would go away. It didn’t.
An ambulance. She was in an ambulance.
What had happened?
A man’s voice called out behind her. “Female, age about forty-five, multiple injuries. BP: ninety over sixty. Pulse: one-forty. Respirations: twenty-five, short and shallow.”
Each bump and jolt of the ambulance brought pain, crushing pain in her chest and stabs of pain down her right leg. Kate tried to grab her chest, but her arms were strapped down. She shivered uncontrollably. Her blue sweater and pants were covered in something wet—gooey and wet. Blood. He was talking about her.
A brief memory came—her car sliding on the slick road, the sound of breaking glass and crunching metal. A car accident. Panic rose in her chest. She had been in an accident.
The newspaper would later say it was the worst traffic accident ever on that section of I-95 between
and Baltimore—twenty-five cars, six semis, and one bus. The temperature
Thursday had been fifty-five degrees, a beautiful day. Then, Friday, it fell to
thirty-one, unusual for October. A sudden snowstorm dropped more than two
inches of snow in just ten minutes, creating whiteout conditions that took everyone
by surprise, including the drivers on I-95. Washington, D.C.
The voice behind her continued its calm clinical assessment. “In and out of consciousness. Possible head injuries.”
“Help,” she whispered. Each breath was raw. There wasn’t enough air. Dizziness swept over her. She tried again. “Help.”
“Hold on. Try to stay awake.” A young man leaned over her, making eye contact. His voice was calm, but she saw fear in his eyes.
She tried to nod but couldn’t.
“Be still; we’re on the way to the hospital.”
Everything in her wanted to fight free of the straps and the stretcher, but she couldn’t even move her head. Pain radiated from her chest and leg.
The voice began again. “Bleeding profusely from a gash in right leg—looks like an open fracture. Possible internal injuries.”
For a few seconds there was silence, the only sound the hum of tires on the road.
“Will do. We’ll be there in five to eight minutes, depending on traffic.”
What had happened? Kate remembered her morning, speeding from one activity to the next, pushing her old station wagon to the point where it shook. An early-morning run to the grocery store, then back home, then a twenty-mile drive to deliver dinner to a friend who was recuperating from surgery, then a stop to drop off the dry cleaning, then five more things on her to-do list. Then the snow had started.
The cleaner’s. She had been trying to get back to the dry cleaner’s, but for what?
She felt a hand on her forehead, and she opened her eyes. The young man’s face came into view again. His nervous eyes studied her.
“What’s your name?”
She tried to focus. Her name?
“Kate . . . McConnell.” She gasped out each word.
She tried to come up with the answer, but it was too confusing. Tears welled up.
“It’s all right. Just stay with me.”
“What hap—?” She wanted to finish the sentence but could not.
“You were in a car accident on the interstate.” He held her arm, feeling for a pulse. “There was a pile-up. It’s a mess out there.”
Her mouth opened and closed with a question unasked. She wanted to say the words, but nothing came out.
“Matt,” she finally gasped out the name of her son. “John.” Her husband.
“No one was with you in the car. Just rest and stay calm. We’ve got you.”
She could feel the sway of the ambulance as it passed other cars. The voice faded in and out. She closed her eyes.
A new thought came. She might die. Would it be like this, the end? So fast? With so much undone?
Kate’s mind drifted back and forth, weaving in and out of the events of the past week.
“I don’t think my life matters,” she had told a friend. “I’ve been a Christian for almost twenty-five years, and I haven’t accomplished anything. I can’t point to one single person that I’ve had an impact on, even in my own family.”
“Of course you have. You serve on the church worship committee, you deliver meals every week to people in need, and you’re always writing down scriptures for people.”
“But are those the important things?” Kate had asked. “Do those things matter?”
John. He mattered. And Matt.
“Oh, Mom,” she could hear Matt say. “You don’t believe all that stuff.”
Matt, who had drifted away from faith when he’d started college, now refused to go to church at all.
She couldn’t get through to him.
Was she really dying?
Someone lifted her eyelid. It was the young man. He looked closely into her eye, as if he was examining her soul.
“Stay with me now.”
She felt the ambulance sway, then the jolt of a sharp turn.
“Help,” Kate gasped again as pain stabbed through her side.
“Stay with me.”
A wave of dizziness. Then nothing.
Wow! Just reading this gave me chills. How can readers find you on the Internet?www.WritingSisters.com
Thank you, Betsy and Laurie, for sharing your new book with us.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
The Shepherd's Song - Christianbook.com
The Shepherd's Song: A Story of Second Chances - Amazon
The Shepherd's Song: A Story of Second Chances - Kindle
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