I take great pleasure in introducing you to this debut author. She's my favorite "Chocolate Lady" at the ACFW national conferences.
In this particular story, not much. The main thing that is similar to my experience is what happened to Annie to destroy her life. A very similar situation happened to a good friend of mine and I remember thinking “that would make for an interesting story” way back before I even started writing fiction. I know a lot of people who have personalities very much like Annie, but she and I are not alike. Perhaps an occasional thought in her head is something I’ve thought before, and some of the other situations in the book are similar to people I know, but like I said, not much. The majority is completely fictitious.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I don’t how quirky you would consider this but my sister and I were making blueberry tofu shakes while at my mom’s home for the week of her funeral. Like a dummy I put the spoon into the blender and a majority of the shake splattered on my sister and I and the rest hit the walls and ceiling. For the next few days we would find an occasional blob of shake we’d missed when cleaning up and we’d crack up laughing until we cried. It was great for stress relief. I remember thinking, “this would make for an interesting scene in a book” but that was in 1998 and I didn’t start writing fiction until 2003. Are you sensing God preparing my mind for writing novels? It seems that way to me.
It does to me, too. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I took my first crack at writing in August of 2003. I had just finished reading a Love Inspired novel by Cynthia Rutledge, who was my favorite LI author. It was so great I wrote to her and she wrote me back and told me her story about how she started writing fiction. From that point on, I felt God calling me to write to reach people through fiction with some of the insights He has given me through my life experience either through friendships, work experience, or my own life.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
My favorite books are a toss up between historical romance and chick lit (thanks to Kristin Billerbeck getting me hooked on the genre.) Women’s fiction and contemporary romance come next in line. Any book that is edgy, unique, romantic, and highly emotional or tense will rank high for me despite the genre.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I’ve changed my working days to four ten hour days. That has helped quite a bit. I still have an active social life and family life, but I don’t sit around and do nothing. I almost never watch television. I prefer to read a good book any day. I also like to build fires in the fireplace in the colder weather and sit by the fire and read. It relaxes me.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I just start writing and who they are comes out with the story. I don’t usually know their names first. I mull the story over in my head and then out pops their name.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I’d say having my kids, but they are a gift from God. I could say my marriage but that takes two. I can’t even really say my writing because God has inspired me in every book I’ve written so it was a team effort there, too. I’d say maybe my ability to read and write as much as I do and still get a full night’s sleep every night.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
That’s an interesting question. Maybe I’d be an eagle because I like to watch everyone and observe. I also enjoy soaring (on a spiritual and emotional level) more than most activities. The only bummer is that I don’t think eagles sing like most birds do and I absolutely love singing.
What is your favorite food?
That’s tough because I like most foods, but since living in the Southwest I have acquired a taste for anything Mexican. While growing up it would’ve been Italian since where I lived in New York everyone was Italian except for me and a few others, but not many. For dessert anything with chocolate in it works for me.
See, I told you she was the chocolate lady. Tell us a little about your journey to publication.
Well, I wrote three books before I ever did anything with them except show them to friends and family. By the third book I contacted a local editor and she suggested joining ACFW (then ACRW) and that was the best thing I ever did for my writing career. I learned so much and made so many good friends. We’re like family.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
For me it was probably all of the different things I learned along the way. I can see trends in my style. For a time I tried twisting sentences around so everything didn’t start out the same, but then sometimes stuff sounded weird and impossible to accomplish. I laugh about that now.
What advice would you give to others who are trying to get their first book published?
Don’t settle for just anything. Get a good agent and submit wherever they think is best. Then be patient and wait until you know that what you are doing is what God wants for your career. Some books may never be sold so just keep writing until one of them does. The story I sold was the fifth book I’d written out of ten. I still have a bunch of manuscripts “out there” with publishers.
Besides that the experience Annie had is what happened to a friend of mine (lest you think it was unbelievable) I’d have to say I loved writing about the brothers’ conflicts throughout the book. They have some interesting battles and their true character comes out of some of those spats. I also love the message of the story that God gave me to write. If you read it I hope you’ll agree that it does make you think about a lot of things that are important and God-inspired. I also think it’s edgier than most CBA novels and I love that my editor is letting me keep what I originally wrote and even embellish some. There is incredible beauty in being given the artistic freedom to express a story and have it published the way it was meant to be written.
How can my readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Michelle, for spending this time with us.
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