In 2010, I had the privilege of attending my first ACFW conference. I was allowed to pick a mentor, agent, or editor appointment, so I picked a mentor, and I met with Deb Raney. She was so encouraging and supportive, and I’ve never forgotten that meeting. When she agreed to be my featured author this month I was tickled to be able to share her warmth and wisdom with all of you. Here’s Deb:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a wife, mom, and “Mimi” first and foremost, but I’m very glad that God gave me this gig as a writer, since, if a woman does a good job as a mom, she eventually puts herself out of a job!
Why did you start writing?
When our three oldest kids were 14, 10, and 8, God blessed us with an “oops” baby. We quickly adjusted to the reality that we’d be parenting into our fifties, and delighted in another chance to have a baby in the house. I’d been privileged to stay at home with our kids for almost twenty years, but we’d always known I’d need to go back to work when the college years hit. When our baby turned three, the time came for me to return to work, and it broke my heart. I began to pray that God would provide a way for me to stay home, yet still earn money to help with college. It was as if He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Remember that childhood dream you had of writing a book someday? Today’s the day!”
How did you start writing?
I started my first novel on New Year’s Day—a resolution I hoped I could fulfill—and by the end of May, I had a short, but finished manuscript. I started sending it out to both secular and Christian publishers, and by October of that year, I had three contract offers, one of which was for two books, with an advance that was to-the-penny what we’d just been told four years of room, board, and tuition at our son’s college of choice would be. We were in awe of God’s answer to those prayers!
I’m not sure my genre was even labeled “women’s fiction” at the time I began writing. But I’d always liked reading books that had an element of romance, yet contained family drama, and dealt with social issues. So that’s what I set out to write. Stories with a dilemma. Which I saw as a mystery to be solved, and a question to be answered: what would I do if I were in my characters’ shoes?
What is your writing day like?
It really depends on which part of the process I’m in. I write about one novel a year, with perhaps a shorter novella or short story added in, and in recent years I’ve added editing to my repertoire, so I usually edit two or three books a year, which is a very nice change of pace.
A typical day when I’m on deadline means getting up very early (sometimes before five a.m.) and answering e-mail, working out on the treadmill with my husband, then reading a chapter in the Bible together (something we’ve done for over twenty years now!), carrying my laptop and breakfast out to the back deck (if Kansas’s fickle weather allows) and answering more e-mail, reader mail, and doing interviews like this one, writing blog posts, working with my editor or publicist, posting and “playing” on Facebook and other social media (which my publishers expect me to be involved in, but which I, thankfully, love!). Only when those tasks are finished can I settle down and begin actually writing. I start by doing any research I need to write the next scene, reading and editing what I wrote the day before, then laying down a rough draft of a new scene, which will get edited the following day.
How do you organize your writing (outlines/note cards/post-its)?
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool seat-of-the-pantser (or as Alton Gansky calls it, an “intuitive writer”) so I don’t do any outlining other than maybe sketching a few reminders of ideas I’ve had since I wrote the last scene. I am a visual and sense-oriented writer, so I always have photos of my characters, and photos and house plans or town maps for where scenes take place. I arrange those on a Scrivener virtual bulletin board. I’m very inspired by writing to music and love selecting a list of songs (usually movie soundtracks) that fit the scene I’m writing. I also light scented candles and even choose my snacks and coffee or tea to evoke the mood of the setting I’m writing about. I remember eating bananas by the bunch when writing Beneath a Southern Sky, set in the Colombian jungle. 🙂
Well, I had one tell me that he didn’t belong in my story, and he promptly had a heart attack and died! LOL! I say that only partly joking. I really do find that my characters take on a life of their own in my imagination, and I love how they surprise me at times. It’s the reason I insist on writing seat-of-the-pants! I want to be as surprised by what happens next in my book as my readers will hopefully be.
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’ve often clipped photos of models or actors from magazines or online that somehow captured my attention. I don’t always use them, but it’s fun to search through those folders when it’s time to write a new book. On several occasions, I’ve struggled with a character before realizing that the photo I was using for them was all wrong! Once I found the “correct” image, the character finally came to life and behaved for me as I wrote his/her story. (Yes, we writers can be very weird! 😉 )
What does your work space/office look like?
You can see all my work spaces (I love my office, but a change of scenery is crucial to keeping me inspired!) here: https://www.pinterest.com/deborahraney/my-home-office/
What is your go-to snack when writing?
Sadly, weight gain is one of the downfalls of the writing life, so I try not to snack while I write. I enjoy several cups of coffee each morning, and love trying flavored coffees in the Keurig. But if I really need a treat, I have several favorites: Coffee Nips, White Chocolate M&Ms (SO yummy!), or sea-salted cashews.
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
My all-time favorite novel is Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. She wrote the novel while she was dying of cancer, and it is such a beautiful coming-of-age story with gorgeous language and just a slice-of-life story that I loved.
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
LOL! Don’t worry, I am so NOT crafty in that sense of the word. After twenty years and reading dozens of books on the craft of writing, I’d still have to say Stein on Writing by Sol Stein is one of the best overarching books on how to write a great novel.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d just like to invite your blog readers to connect with me at my website, or on Facebook, or wherever they like to congregate online. One of the greatest blessings as an author has been being able to connect with my readers and be more a part of their lives than I was ever able to before social media changed our world! Here are some links where you can find me online:
Thank you so much for appearing on my blog! Have a blessed day!
It was my pleasure! Thank you for inviting me!