How about a small bio? Tell us a little about yourself (Why did you start writing? How did you start writing? How did you select your genre?)
After our second son was born, my hubby bought me a little metal file box and some note cards, and a book by Marjorie Holmes. He said, “This book is good, but you can do better. Go write!” So, during the babies’ nap time, I did just that. During my boys school days, I honed my craft. I got some articles in some church related magazines and some regional ones. Then I started writing short stories. I kept sending them out and getting personal rejections. By that I mean little notes written on the form letter, or a real letter telling how to improve the story.
Then I started writing a weekly newspaper column that was paid for by my church. I started getting positive letters from people. So I began sending it out to newspapers everywhere. Within a short matter of time, FOOTSTEPS & HEARTBEATS was in five daily papers. Groovy! The column ran for seventeen years. I stopped it when I decided to give my writing over to longer pieces.
Next, I tried testing the waters of humor writing and sent an article to Woman’s Day. GREEN BEAN COOKIES came out in Woman’s Day in 2000. It was the turning point for me.
In the mean time, I had also been working on a Biblical fiction piece and sending it out. I got a call from Thomas Nelson’s Oliver Nelson who loved my book and was taking it to ‘committee’. He called me three times to encourage me and tell me how much he loved my book, but warning me that it was out of his hands. The fateful call came and he told me the committee had passed on the book, but told me to send anything else I write to him. His comments affirmed to me that I had something to offer. To date, Thomas Nelson hasn’t taken anything I’ve written so far, but Mr. Nelson has called me everything time to tell me why.
However, Howard Publishing, did pick up the book. HUGS FROM HEAVEN: PORTRAITS OF A WOMAN’S FAITH, came out in 2000.
I spent the next five years writing another Biblical fiction. I was working full time and could only write in the dead of night or the early morning. No takers on that book yet, but this was the project where I truly learned how to write. I have hope for it yet.
Now with my boys married, I decided it was my time. After four days of fasting and prayer, I decided it was time to retire and write full time. A couple of days later, I got a call asking me to write the biography of Dr. Aaron Johnson, North Carolina’s first African-American to be appointed Secretary of Corrections. After three years of interviews, research, and a visit with a death row inmate, the book is complete and will be coming out in February 2010.
Collaborative non-fiction chose me. I didn’t choose it. I am still very much interested in writing fiction, but when an opportunity knocks and you feel that it is God’s hand doing the knocking, you go with it.
What is your writing day like?
My writing day varies. I am a minister’s wife as well, so besides writing, I counsel, hold hands, cook meals for those in need, teach our high school class and write puppets scripts for our church’s puppet ministry. Plus I have six grandchildren I simply must dote on. But when I write, I wake up early, fix a cup of tea and do my daily commute up the stairs to my office. I plop butt in chair, straighten my notes while I wait for my computer to wake up and then I begin. Sometimes I stop writing long enough for a quick lunch and a walk down my ‘prayer road’ in front of our house. I walk and pray out loud and daydream. And yes, I do occasionally daydream about sitting across from Oprah and bantering intelligently about my book. It’s a hoot.
I’m all about place. There are special places that just make my creative juices ooze. My office is one, but my potting shed is another. I sit on a bistro table right next to the pond with my laptop and click away. Or I go up in the top of our barn, the Bird’s Nest, and shut myself away. When I really want to plow through a tough section, I go to Door County to a friend’s condo alone and spend 12-14 hours a day writing. That is the best! I come home exhausted and a little coo-coo, but when my hubby wraps his welcoming arms around me, I snap out of it.
The brief answer to the question is…I write five out of seven days when it’s a good week, or three out of the seven when other ministries call.
How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
With this collaborative non-fiction, it’s all about organization and making timelines, etc., Dates, names, events are already written in the history journals. It is they who dictate to me how my story fits around them. But with fiction, I am a ‘pantser’. I know what the last page will say. I may even write the last page first, and then simply begin. Of course, I have gotten to know my characters extremely well first—their hurts, fears, secrets, wants, goals. And I have some scenes in my head that I will timeline.
What’s the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
Right now I’m writing about a female cop and I began the story with her married. But somewhere about the 100th page, she told me, “Oh, by the way, I’m not married. My parents were mean drunks, my four sisters are alcoholics and have had seven marriages between them and I’m simply not interested in getting married. So there! Go back and rewrite those hundred pages, honey.”
Do you have a list of characters that you’re saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
I do. I write down snippets of conversations in a file on my computer, or on napkins or the bottom of my shoe, whatever is handy. I write down descriptions of folks I encounter. Sitting in airports is the best! I have one character I can’t wait to put in this next book. I stole her right off the seat of the waiting area before we boarded. Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.
What is your go-to snack when writing?
I don’t snack much, but I do eat my toast and drink my tea while writing, or I bring my lunch up to my office and eat while I write. I do like to drink while I write. No, not THAT kind of drink. I’m a sweet-tea gal, born and bred in the south. Plus, I love my coke-a-cola.
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
Oh, there’s so many! How do you narrow it down to one? So I won’t, I’ll mention three. Gone With The Wind, Little Women, and Cold Sassy Tree. Those three book were read at times in my life when I most needed them. And isn’t that the highest compliment you can pay an book or author, that their book helped heal you from something? Brought you back from a dark place, or made you smile when you thought you’d lost that ability? There are so many books I love. But these three will always be special.
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
Another tough one with no short answer. But I’ll try. Madelene L’Engle’s Walking on Water, introduced me to the writing life like no other. It’s a must read. (I met her three times by the way. She is truly missed!) Writing down to the Bones and Stephen King’s book on writing, whose title has escaped me at the moment. (My apologies to Mr. King.)
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks so much, Karin, for the opportunity to talk about my writing. I don’t get to very often. Most of my friends are not writers, but I do have a writing buddy who lives in a hundred states over from me, who I talk to every other day and email almost everyday. We met at the Mount Hermon conference. We keep each other going. I do want to encourage other writers to stay with it. Find a mentor or a writing buddy who gets you. Take rejection as an opportunity to learn. Listen to your gut. And, listen to the knocks on the door. The Holy knuckles rapping have a plan for you.
Thank you, Deb, for stopping by! Please leave a comment and you email address for a chance to win a copy of Deb’s book. You MUST leave an email address to be entered!
And since I still haven’t mastered the art of scheduling a post, we’ll leave this up for another day to give people a chance to meet Deb.