1) How has your faith made a difference in how you approach life and writing?
I’m a worrier, but as my faith has grown, I’ve come to trust God to lead me through difficult situations. I still get a sinking feeling at the approach of trouble. I still take it out on my fingernails. I still climb into myself and peek through my fingers at what appears to be insurmountable. However, as I’ve learned to pray for guidance and become more familiar with Scripture, the feeling of being overwhelmed has decreased. My faith has also affected my writing, as evidenced by how it began to weave itself into my general market historical romances—so much that revisions from editors often called for excising faith elements (Misbegotten was cut by 30,000 words). When I finally turned my writing efforts to inspirational fiction, I was thrilled to have the freedom to express my faith through characters who always manage to teach me something as they tackle the issues I throw at them.
2) Tell us about your journey from writing historical romance for the general market to writing contemporary romance for the inspirational market.
You know the saying “caught between a rock and a hard place?” That’s how it felt when, over the course of several years, I toyed with—and rejected—the idea of crossing over to the “other side.” The rock represented the general market medieval romances with which I’d had success, while the hard place represented the possibly failure-riddled world of inspirational romance. To make a long story short, I finally crossed over—only to question my decision when I learned that romance novels set during the middle ages aren’t well received by publishers of inspirational fiction. I grumbled when my agent asked for something different but eventually pulled out a story I’d written to relieve my pen and paper craving following a particularly long boycott of the publishing world. Thus, Stealing Adda, a humorous take on the life of a contemporary romance writer, ushered me into the world of inspirational fiction.
3) Are you a “plotter” or a “pantster?”
A “pantster” (heavy sigh), but I do work at becoming a “plotter” in the hope I’ll avoid backing my story into a corner as I sometimes do. Before I wrote the first chapter of Nowhere Carolina, the second book in my Southern Discomfort series from Waterbrook/Multnomah, I forced myself to construct a detailed outline. It was almost painful, especially as it took several weeks and I was itching to write the “real” thing. In the end, the outline paid off, but it still doesn’t come naturally.
4) In your opinion, how different is writing and publishing today versus when your first book was published in 1994?
The same, but different. When I say “the same,” I mean the author still needs to know her craft, be disciplined in her pursuit of a writing career, and deliver a great story in order to attract readers. As for how writing and publishing are different today, there are several areas that immediately come to mind. The first is the incredible growth and variety of genres in today’s inspirational market, which was fledgling when my first medieval romance was published. Then there’s the marketing aspect. In the nineties, my publisher discouraged my husband, an advertising executive, from participating in the marketing of my books. We were told it was the publisher’s responsibility and that any effort on our part was wasted. Today, publishers realize the importance of an author’s contributions to marketing and, at minimum, seek their input. At maximum, sometimes the demands on an author are so great it’s hard to find time to write the book. The next difference is the powerful influence of the internet that not only allows readers to purchase an author’s book without leaving home, but allows writers to connect with readers on a more personal level and makes the process of manuscript submission and revision easier and faster. The last difference—though certainly not least—is the rise and phenomenal momentum of self-publishing. More and more authors are dipping their toe in the water and finding it pleasantly warm. This past spring, not only did I release Dreamspell, a new medieval time travel romance as an ebook, but I re-released Stealing Adda as an ebook. Yes, the water feels pretty warm.
5) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If writing is “in your blood”—kind of like the first bloom of romance rife with infatuation, longing, and need—you WILL write. Through writer’s block, interruption, revision, criticism, and rejection, you will write. Once your story is on paper, you will REVISE. You’ll go back and detail characters, fill gaping holes, pump up scenes, check for consistency and point of view problems, etc. The next one’s a biggie: you will ask trusted friends to read your work and provide specific feedback. Then you will seek out experienced writers who are willing to mentor. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) have local chapters you can join to network with other writers. Lastly, you will READ, not only books on publication and the craft of writing, but other authors whose work you admire.
6) What are some of the challenges you face as an author and what do you enjoy the most?
The usual challenges: deadlines, revisions, synopses, writer’s block— Yes, writer’s block. I know some say it doesn’t exist, that it’s an excuse and all it takes to get a story on paper is to sit down and do it, but that doesn’t always work for me. I sit, fingers on keys, poke a bit, sit some more, poke some more, but the block remains. Sometimes it’s a result of having backed my story into a corner and the only way to get it out is with a rewrite; other times, the well simply runs dry. As for what I enjoy the most, the solitude is wonderful. Creating characters that surprise me is fun. And readers are inspiring.
7) What project are you working on?
Since romance novels set during the middle ages have yet to be embraced by publishers of inspirational fiction, I’ve decided to release the first book in my new Age of Faith series, The Unveiling, as an ebook. Once revisions are complete, it will be available on Amazon. Here’s a peek:
For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind: to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact her revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy at all. Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.