Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Welcome back, Lisa. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
I’ve always written stories about spiritual journey. When I started writing mainstream fiction, the dividing line between ABA and CBA fiction was more defined than it is now. In 2001, when my first book, Tending Roses, was released by Penguin Putnam, faith-based stories in ABA mainstream fiction were a rarity, which made it an exciting, and sometimes challenging, place to be. Over the years, the Christian and secular markets have developed and converged, and when I was given the opportunity write for Bethany House as well as Penguin Putnam, I jumped at the chance. My greatest desire as a writer is to create books that have the potential to bring Christian and secular readers together and generate discussion.
My goal in writing has always been to build understanding by allowing one person to walk in another’s shoes. When we know how it feels to live within the mind, and heart, and body of someone else, we realize that everyone hurts, everyone struggles, everyone breaks down and gets up, then tries to put the pieces back together. We’re all products of our own experiences. When we feel the suffering and the triumphs of others, we’re better able to look at each other with the sense of grace God intends.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
I don’t know that I could narrow down to one specific day, but my happiest moments and happiest days have involved my children. I love having a job as wonderful as writing, but far and away my greatest achievement is raising two wonderful boys. Having grown up with brothers, I always envisioned that I’d someday be the mother of lacy little pink bundles who didn’t play with bugs, and smell like fish, and leave sweaty football clothes in the corner behind the bed. In my years of motherhood, I have learned, however, that boys are wonderful when they’re your own. My sons remind me to appreciate life’s little wonders each day and give thanks for ordinary blessings. I may have wished for girls, but I think I was given exactly what I needed.
I always wanted a boy, and I finally got some as grandsons. How has being published changed your life?
I’ve always loved to write, and I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember. A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, put that idea into my head when she wrote on my report card that she expected to see my name in a magazine one day. Even though I came from a family prone to believing that young people should pursue careers proven to actually provide a living, I always dreamed of writing books and sending them into the world to make a difference, to entertain, to build bridges.
Writing as a career is an odd paradox, in that it is a solitary profession in which you spend your time trying to communicate thought, feeling, emotion, or experience to other people. What you find, after talking to enough people (real and imaginary), is that the human condition changes very little from life to life, from generation to generation. We all want happiness, contentment, a sense of belonging, to love and be loved. We all feel the spiritual pull of needing to understand why we’re here, in this place, at this time. We’re all seeking life’s purpose. On any given road, you’re never the only traveler. God puts people ahead and people behind. They walk in shoes like your own and shoes that are different. Writing, and then sharing with readers, is a chance to help stock a virtual shoe store. When readers contact me and say that reading one of my stories helped them to think, to seek, to rebuild a relationship, to try something new, to extend a kindness, to forgive, to build a stronger faith, to reconnect with a church, I feel incredibly blessed and thankful. And then, of course, I can’t wait to start writing the next story!
What are you reading right now?
Lately, I’ve been reading Janice Hanna Thompson’s, Weddings by Bella series, which is, as we say in Texas, a hoot! I’ve also had the pleasure of reading some pre-published books for endorsement, including Suzanne Woods Fisher’s The Waiting, and Judy Christie’s, Goodness Gracious Green—two great books that will be coming out next year. Right now I’m in the middle of Reinventing Rachel, by Alison Strobel, due out in September from David C. Cook publishers. In terms of great reads, I’m batting a thousand this season!
What is your current work in progress?
What would be your dream vacation?
Anything involving mountains and family. We love finding little cabins in out-of-the way spots and enjoying summer days of hiking, fishing, and photography, or winter days of skiing and snow fun.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
I never quite know where a story will go when I begin working out the concept and the first chapters. In terms of setting, I usually being with only a vague idea—small town, big city, suburb. As I’m getting to know the characters, the settings begin to develop, as well. Places and secondary characters take on shape. Most of those places and characters are composites of places I’ve been and people I’ve met, combined with a healthy dose of fiction and whimsy. Writing the story then becomes a journey discovery, the setting becoming more integral and real as the characters move from an existence that feels incomplete, to a life that is authentic, that is filled with spirit and a sense of God’s purpose.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Right now, as a Texan who just released a book set on the Gulf Coast, I’d like to be in on a British Petroleum board meeting. Grrrrr!
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
Other than reading and writing, raising kids, and teaching youth at church, one of my passions has always been horses. I can remember being horse-crazy from the age of three or four. I’m not sure why, because we lived in costal Florida, and horses were rare there, but still I yearned for one. It was the only thing in my Christmas list for years, but I guess Santa couldn’t figure out how to attach the horse trailer to his sleigh. When I was around ten, my parents finally said I could have a horse if I saved my own money and bought it. Horses being expensive, I think they felt safe making this commitment. I was determined, however, and within about a year, I bought a scrappy little albino mixed-breed horse who was cheap because she was too underweight even for the canners. I didn’t know she wasn’t much to look at. She was beautiful in my eyes, and the rest is history. We’ve had horses ever since.
As a teenager, I was also a gymnast, harboring big dreams of going to the Olympics. Unfortunately, along with the gymnast in my head was the horse lover with dreams of winning the National Finals Rodeo, and a book lover with dreams of writing novels. One dream out of three isn’t bad!
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
People often ask me if I have trouble with writer’s block. I don’t battle writer’s block nearly as much as I battle writer’s laziness. For me, the battle isn’t so much about what to write as it is about getting myself to the keyboard and getting down to business. On any given day, there are a million other things that seem tempting—there’s email to answer, the house is dirty, something neat is happening in town, the kids think it would be fun to go swimming (so do I), I don’t want Dr. Phil to miss me when he comes on TV at 3:00. You name it, I can become distracted by it. That, for me, is the biggest writing struggle. I battle it by setting a page quota for myself daily and forcing myself to stick to it. If I’m a slacker in the morning, I know it will make for a rough afternoon. I’ve also learned that, in terms of getting a book together, it’s easier to make something from something than something from nothing. Even if I feel that what I’m writing that day isn’t particularly great, I’ve learned to push through it and get something on paper with the idea that I can always revise it later, and that will be easier when the first draft is finished.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
First, finish a novel. It’s almost impossible to sell a partial if you’re unpublished. Polish it and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer. While you’re waiting for news, write another book. If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal. If the first one doesn’t sell, you have eggs in another basket. Don’t take a critique too seriously if you hear it from one editor/agent, unless there’s an imminent contract involved. Editors and agents, just like the rest of us, are individuals. What works for one may not work for another. If you receive the same comment from multiple sources, consider revising your manuscript before you send it elsewhere. Be tenacious, be as thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news. Never stop creating new material—that’s where the joy is, and if you keep the joy of this business, you keep the magic of it.
Tell us about the featured book?.
Beyond Summer is really a story pulled from today’s economic headlines. In a time when reversals of fortune have become common due to mortgage problems and over-extended family budgets, many people are finding themselves in circumstances and living situations they never expected to face. In the previous book in the series, The Summer Kitchen, the Blue Sky Hill neighborhood was under siege by unscrupulous development companies. It occurred to me to wonder whether some of the CEOs of those companies, who collect paychecks while remaining comfortably above the dirty work, really understand the devastation their faulty mortgages can cause to a family of moderate means. Then, it occurred to me to wonder what would happen if one of those comfortably-wealthy families lost everything and found themselves with no place left to live but a tiny house in Blue Sky Hill, right across the street from one of their intended victims. If identities weren’t revealed, would the families become friends? Would they begin to lean on one another and care about one another? What would happen when the truth came out? Beyond Summer is a story families, friendships, and about community--how we find it, what it means, and how strong communities help us to survive in difficult times.
Please give us the first page of the book.
It’s strange, the things you look past in a normal day--the big picture you don’t see, while you’re busy focusing on all the little things that seem to matter in the moment. Good hair, an outfit that looks just right, a green light ahead when you’re in a hurry to make an appointment, a short line at Starbucks, a straight shot down the fairway in a game of golf, a smile from a cute guy in the parking lot. You rub your life like Aladdin’s lamp, and magic floats out in little clouds. It works time, after time, after time. You never stop to consider that there could be a day when a charmed life isn’t charmed anymore. At that point, the wishes become prayers, and you hope against hope that God will take up where the wishing lamp left off.
The summer I turned eighteen became the summer of unanswered prayers. I was hoping that, since the lease was up on the hand-me-down mini Cooper I’d been driving, there was a new car in the works for my birthday—a combination getting-ready-for-college and welcome-to-adulthood present. And maybe a surprise party—something Hawaiian themed, out on the patio, with floating tiki torches in the pool, grass skirts and coconut bras, and a caterer filling the cabana with fruit baskets carved out of watermelons, perfect for early July.
Instead, I got a phone call letting me know that my stepmother had rammed her Escalade into the front doors of the Baby Bundles Upscale Resale shop while delivering a load of gently-worn or still-had-tags-on-them kiddie clothes. The accident wasn’t her fault. It was the stilettos that did it…
I can hardly wait for my copy. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I love keeping in touch with readers and sharing the stories behind the stories. Readers can find me on my website http://www.lisawingate.com/ . Just for signing up for the e-newsletter, you’ll be entered in a monthly drawing for a free, autographed book! Readers can and also find me on Facebook or Youtube.
Lisa, thank you for giving us another peek inside your world.
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