Archive for the ‘Fellow Author Feature’ Category

I’m pleased to welcome Alberta author, Eleanor Bertin, to my site today.Eleanor Bertin, author

JANICE: Eleanor, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

ELEANOR: My sister was the first to plant in my head the idea that I could write. In a Grade 3 school assignment, she marveled that I had used the phrase, “Mother’s voice trailed away.” What can I say? I was an avid reader with a particular giftedness in plagiarism. Fear of unoriginality still plagues me.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

ELEANOR: My high school English teachers offered encouraging comments on my writing. For example, one essay was returned with a good grade and the comment, “Is this your own work?” (By that time, it truly was.) My college profs were a little more positive in their appraisals.

JANICE: That kind of early encouragement can make such a difference in our confidence. What’s your preferred genre?

ELEANOR: A quick survey of my work forces me to answer “fiction.” My first novel, Lifelines, came out last April and I am at work on two others. But I recently completed a non-fiction book, Pall of Silence, and sent it off to a contest. It’s a memoir about our late son Paul who was killed four years ago in a hit-and-run incident at the age of eighteen.Lifelines, by Eleanor Bertin

JANICE: I’m so sorry for your loss. That is traumatic. It partially answers my next question—why do you write?

ELEANOR: 1) I write to untangle my thought threads, making them coherent and cohesive. 2) I write to forthtell truth.

JANICE: How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

ELEANOR: I’ve evolved to the point of composing on a keyboard. Much of my first novel was written longhand as I waited at the swimming pool or shared a guest room with my special needs son while visiting my daughter in Texas. I used to find the blinking of the cursor on a blank white screen as stressful as my husband tapping his foot while I browsed in a fabric store. But I’m getting over that.

I am growing to become more of a plotter. I see the value of organizing the flow of a fictional narrative from the outset, rather than doing all the re-arranging of chapters that I did with my first. I expect it to eliminate the problem of missing information or repetition.

JANICE: I agree that it’s an evolving process. Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

ELEANOR: I find people and their stories endlessly fascinating. Truth, indeed, is stranger than fiction! But I write fiction to protect the guilty (or innocent, as the case may be). It’s been a special satisfaction to me when readers say they like my characters.

JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

ELEANOR: I can’t get over how wonderful it is to have the biggest library in the world – the Internet—at my fingertips! In college, my recurring nightmare was having a tight deadline and the libraries all being closed. The issue of trust is a concern for everyone, not just writers. In fact, there’s a clash in my book between a scientist and a conspiracy theorist. The best I can say is, read a variety of sources, from differing points of view, and pray for discernment.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

ELEANOR: I get a surge of adrenaline when I finish a scene or chapter and just know that I’ve nailed it. The dialogue rings true, the tension or conflict is right, the word choice works, the characterization is spot on. The thing I least like is planning and researching. But it is worth it! I’m also not keen on writing from a point of view that is foreign to me. When I began Lifelines I planned for the main character to not only be a man but also to be a rabid proponent of a worldview hostile to Christianity. But it was too hard to write him that way. Not far into it, I transferred the hostility to a lesser character and made my professor more uncertain and conflicted.

JANICE: We definitely learn by doing. Let’s switch from writing to promotion. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

ELEANOR: I wish I knew! 🙂 So far, I’d have to say: Rhonda! Every writer should have a sister-in-law who is a church librarian, town librarian and has a broad base of acquaintances that fit my target audience. I did learn that small town libraries are very willing to host author talks, but the turnout is small. But I did get one review through that avenue.

JANICE: That’s a great suggestion. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

ELEANOR: I enjoy blogging and I’m always surprised at who might read it. I’m only learning twitter, trying to expand my use of my author page on Facebook, and I gained a wonderful friend and super-helpful critique partner, Janell Butler Wojtowicz, through LinkedIn. In fact, her book, Embracing Hope, just came out last fall.

JANICE: I believe that writers must also be readers. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

ELEANOR: Books on my nightstand:

Handling the Truth; on the writing of memoir by Beth Kephart

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Giller prize)

What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James White

The Great Exchange by Jerry Bridges

— and just finished The Eye of the Storm by Janice Dick (loved it, by the way)

— Margaret’s Peace by Linda Hall

I prefer an actual book, but sure do love the convenience and light weight of my Kindle for travel.

JANICE: (Thanks for the plug!) Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your favourite things? What makes you unique?

ELEANOR: My favourite things are people! My husband Mike, our five sons and their wives, our daughter, her husband and our four (soon five!) grandchildren, my mother, my sister (who is an invaluable sounding board for my writing) and many other family and friends.

I also like pretty things, flowers, fabric, sewing, quilts, home decorating, books, Jane Austen movies, thinking deep thoughts.

JANICE: Wish we lived closer. Would be nice to watch Jane Austen and talk about our deep thoughts! (But I’d skip the quilting.) What keeps you going in your writing career?

ELEANOR: Moments of discouragement or tasks that seem insurmountable instantly dissolve when I see a new favourable review, or someone tells me they were helped, encouraged or changed in some way by something I’ve written.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

ELEANOR: While my faith is scrawny and limp, beset by doubts and fears, the One I trust is powerful and sure. I would have no words to offer if it weren’t for The Word, both the Person and the written scripture. But what’s important to me to convey is the intersect between a character’s day-to-day life and their relationship with the living God. Which is why, in my novel, there are no scenes taking place in a church service – the main character is an irreligious man but God is at work on him.                                                                                                        

JANICE: Beautifully said. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

ELEANOR: It’s odd that a writer would learn from her own writing, isn’t it? But that’s exactly what happened with my recently completed memoir. By the time I finished, I realized I’d found healing because it changed the way I viewed our late son. Writing about him allowed me to take a panoramic view of his life, ridding me of bitterness and shame and freeing me to enjoy who he was.

JANICE: I’m so glad it proved therapeutic for you. What is your ultimate writing goal?

ELEANOR: The Heidelberg catechism defines Providence, in part, as all things coming to us, not by chance, but from God’s fatherly hand. My goal is to embed a biblical worldview into stories of ordinary people so that readers will see that Providence in their own lives.

JANICE: Do you have any advice for a beginning writer?

ELEANOR: Start! Set goals! Finish something! Be humble about people’s critiques. Don’t be afraid to submit something for critique, and be willing to make changes. Your first piece (article, poem, book) will not be your best — you will grow! Take advantage of all the wonderful websites and blogs that offer writer advice. There’s a huge readership out there that is voracious for the written word and there’s room for an infinite variety of writers.

JANICE: Thanks again, Eleanor, for spending time with us this morning. May you receive God’s rich blessings on your writing as you reach out to your readers.

For more information about Eleanor Bertin, see her website. Her book, Lifelines, is available in Kindle and paperback formats. You can also see Eleanor on her LinkedIn page.


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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome author Carolyne Aarsen to my blog. Carolyne is a fellow Canadian, so we’ll include a hooray for Canada!

JANICE: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me, Carolyne. I’m excited for the readers of my blog to meet you.head-shot-copy

To start, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

CAROLYNE: I’ve been writing since 1991 after I took a writing course and went on to publish a weekly column in our local paper. That paid for another writing course, which helped me craft my first romance novel. I sold that in April of 1997 – almost twenty years ago!! – and I’ve been going strong since. I’ve always loved reading and, as many writers, I came to a point where I figured I could write easily as good as the author whose book I just read.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

CAROLYNE: I loved reading books by Mary Stewart and I knew I wanted to create the same world she did. I was also encouraged by a children’s author who had come for a library visit — I wish I could remember her name — she was the one who gave me the push when I told her, somewhat apologetically, that I wanted to write Christian romance. She said to me, “Well, why not? Of course you can write this.” So I did. Sigmund Brouwer was also an inspiration as was Linda Hall, who also came from a small town and had been published.

JANICE: That’s a great example of determination and courage. What’s your preferred genre?

CAROLYNE: I love writing romance but love reading murder mysteries and women’s fiction.

JANICE: Why do you write? What’s your motivation?

CAROLYNE: It’s my identity. Who I am. What gets me out of bed in the morning. I sometimes think I would love to quit but then try to imagine what my day would look like. Oh sure, I would probably goof off on the internet the first couple weeks or so, go visiting, do some shopping and then I would start thinking about characters or something I would read would make me wonder and soon I would be coming up with a story. May as well skip the goofing off and keep writing.

JANICE: That’s exactly how I feel too. So how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

CAROLYNE: I write in my office mostly. Sometimes outside on my laptop if it’s a nice day and words won’t flow. Sometimes on my couch for the same reason but mostly in my office. And I am a plotter to the n’th degree. I’m too distractable to write by the seat of my pants. I would run madly off in all directions. I do all the brainstorming and playing around in the outlining stage but then, once that’s done, it’s off to work and following the outline.

JANICE: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

CAROLYNE: Ideas are always floating around. Sometimes it’s a picture, a song, a movie, something in a television show that gets me thinking and wondering. Inspiration? Deadlines. Truly.

JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

CAROLYNE: I do a lot of ranch stories so I have a base of knowledge that I work from, plus my husband is a great resource. I know what I don’t know and try to fill in the gaps by talking to other people. I found out from one fellow that stopped by our house that he used to be a saddle bronc rider and so I quizzed him about all kinds of stuff. We go to horse shows and training events and I’m always asking questions.

JANICE: Sounds like the coming together of life and work. What do you like most / least about writing?

CAROLYNE: The least? The relentlessness of it. Deadlines. Having to work every day in order to produce. The most? That fun buzz I get when my book is done and I can send it off to my editor. That other buzz when my editor gets back to me and tells me that she LOVES my book.

JANICE: We all know that books don’t usually sell themselves. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

CAROLYNE: Harlequin does so much promo for me that I couldn’t begin to replicate but I do my small part with Twitter blasts (though I don’t spend as much time there lately) Facebook and my blog (which I’ve neglected). Lately I’ve been getting into building my mailing list so that’s been one. I’ve also branched into indie publishing on the side so e-mail lists are crucial. I do contests on my site and that seems to help with the list. With the indie publishing, I’m slowly working my way into that. I’ve done some paid promo, which has done well.

JANICE: What are your favorite / most effective social media?

CAROLYNE: I like Facebook. It’s fun and easy and I get it. I don’t have a ton of followers so I don’t know how effective it is.

JANICE: Here’s a big question I wrestle with: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

CAROLYNE: Hard to find a balance sometimes but I do hold to a work schedule. I start at 9:00 in the morning and work until 4:30 or 5:00 depending on whether leftovers are on the menu for supper or I have to start from scratch.

JANICE: Ah yes, that incessant need for meals.

I believe that reading is extremely important for a writer. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

CAROLYNE: I am reading two books. One on my Kindle called Red by Joy Ohagwu, and one print book called Ordinary Grace. This is the second time I’m reading Ordinary Grace and it’s as lovely as the first time.

JANICE: What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

CAROLYNE: I like dolls and making doll clothes. Also love making cards and paper crafts. I like my camera and taking pictures and fooling around with them, though I don’t spend as much time on it as I’d like. Unique? I don’t know. I’ve been me so long this is what ordinary feels like. I talk a lot when I’m out and about but that’s not unique, that’s rather boring at times. For the listener I’m thinking. I procrastinate, but that’s not unique. I guess I’m just me.

JANICE: “Just me” is good! What keeps you going in your writing career?

CAROLYNE: I love being able to produce a book that gives someone else some joy and some moments of happiness. Sometimes though it’s just the basic reality of needing to make a living.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

CAROLYNE: I always like to make my characters deal with things I struggle with. Forgiveness. Joy. Contentment. As I read my Bible, listen to other Christians talk about their faith life, listen to sermons, I’m always thinking that this could be something my characters could deal with. If I struggle with it, I know my characters would.

JANICE: What are some things you’ve learned from your own writing?

CAROLYNE: Persistence. Stick to the work and fight resistance. Do what’s in front of you and don’t look too far ahead.

JANICE: What is your ultimate writing goal?

CAROLYNE: To write a book that so connects with readers that they tell everyone else “you have to read this book” and then everyone else does.

JANICE: I love that!

Do you have any advice for beginning writer?

CAROLYNE: Read. Study the genre you want to write in. Treat it with respect. Take courses. There are so many online there’s really no excuse not to. Study the good writers and try to figure out what about their stories makes you want to keep reading. Listen to criticism and don’t take it personally. Write. Write. Write.

JANICE: Thank you so much, Carolyne, for spending time with us today and for giving us a glimpse into your life and your writing. Blessings as you continue to create good Christian romance.

Here is one of Carolyne’s books: For her extensive list of others, click HERE or google her name: Carolyne Aarsen.51kaigmjbwl-_sy346_



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lorena-lake2dsc00179I am pleased and honored today to share my interview with author Lorena McCourtney. Her cozy mystery books, the Ivy Malone series, with her LOL (little old lady) heroine, have entertained and inspired me. She has also written two other mystery series: the Andi McConnell Mysteries and the Cate Kinkaid Files, as well as many stand-alone novels.

JANICE: Welcome to my website, Lorena. I’m interested to know how long you’ve been writing and how you came to it.

LORENA: I’ve been writing most of my life but doing it professionally since I was in my 20s. I started with juvenile short stories, mostly for the little Sunday School publications. (Are those even in existence anymore?) I went on to short stories for women and eventually got into novel-length romances for the secular market. When I finally decided that wasn’t for me (and the Lord gave me some serious nudges), I switched to Christian romances and then Christian mysteries.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

LORENA: That would be my mother, who wrote quite a few non-fiction articles. Because of her I knew how to submit short stories to magazine editors. (Which, unimpressed with my youthful “talent,” they quickly sent right back.)

JANICE: Haha! But it was a start. What’s your preferred genre?

LORENA: My preferred genre is what I’m doing now, Christian mysteries – with a touch of romance. I’ve done a few of the serious/intense type mystery, but I prefer more lighthearted stories. My Ivy Malone Mysteries, the Andi McConnell Mysteries, the Cate Kinkaid Files, and now my new Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries are all lighthearted, with a touch of humor and fun.

JANICE: What’s your motivation? Why do you write?

LORENA: Writing is my one and only talent! It’s my way to serve the Lord.

JANICE: Not sure I believe that, but I’m very glad you are using your writing. Tell me, how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

LORENA: I’ve always considered writing my job, a full-time job. I have a room set aside as an office in our home, and I do all my writing there. I know some writers like a busy coffee house or other place where people are around to write, but I need quiet and alone-ness.

I used to be a plotter. I’d have a short story or novel figured out from beginning to end before I started writing. But in recent years I’ve become much more of a pantser. I have a vague idea of where the story is going, but it’s definitely flexible. I’ve been known to change killers in the middle of a mystery!

JANICE: The pantser idea intrigues me, but at this point I feel I have to stick to plotting, especially with historical fiction (can’t change too much history!). Lorena, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

LORENA: Ideas are everywhere. I keep an “Ideas” file folder and jot down anything that happens to come into my mind. If I get more ideas about a particular story idea, I give it a file of its own and keep adding to it. I’ve never waited for “inspiration” to write. As a job, I go to my computer and work on whatever the current project is. Sometimes I don’t get much done. I’ve never had daily word count goals. Some days all I do is rewrite – or delete – what I’ve done before. If I waited for inspiration or to be in the “mood” to write, I’d never get anything done.

JANICE: I completely agree that we can’t wait for inspiration to write, or the books would never happen. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

LORENA: I usually do research on a “need to know” basis rather than doing a lot of beforehand research, though I may do some research on a setting before I get started. Also, except for two books in the Great Depression era, I’ve always done contemporaries. I think historical might need considerably more advance research than I do. For my writing, I’ll come to a hole in my story and then research that particular point. Such as with my latest book, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” I needed to know about windmills, armored car robberies, and the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, and I researched each one as I came to it. I usually do research on the internet – checking more than one source to see if they agree. But with a setting I really like to go there and see it in person. (Also a great reason to travel!)

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

LORENA: What do I like most about writing? Well, basically, I can’t imagine life without writing. It’s just what I do. Least liked – it used to be deadlines. But now that I’ve gone from traditional publishing to Indie, I don’t have to worry about deadlines. In all honesty, this means I don’t get as much done as I used to. (Actually, I consider myself kind of semi-retired now.) But I keep plugging along and eventually get something done.

JANICE: I didn’t realize you had gone Indie. The best part of that, in my opinion, is compiling all you need and pushing the publish button. No waiting for months and years for things to happen. But with independent publishing comes responsibility for self-promotion. How do you handle this? What have you found to be the best methods of promoting your work?

LORENA: After many years of being a writer, I’m still trying to figure out promotion!

JANICE: Hmm. It is a challenge. Do you use social media?

LORENA: All I’m using at this time is Facebook. And thinking I should do more, of course.

JANICE: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

LORENA: As I said before I’ve always considered writing a job, so it’s never been something I squeeze in around other things. However, since I am in this “semi-retired” status I’m more willing to take time off for other things.

JANICE: I personally think reading is critical for a writer. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

LORENA: I’m currently reading a couple of mysteries on my Kindle, although I read a wide variety of materials. Anything that happens to catch my interest. I now much prefer reading on my Kindle to reading print. I like being able to carry around a lot of books to read, so if I lose interest in one I can just hit delete and go to something else. I used to feel that if I started a book, I was obliged to finish it. No more! I also like being able to increase the font size to what is comfortable for me, which I can do with my Kindle. I’m more interested in the contents of a book than in the physical way those words come to me.

JANICE: Oh yes, I love having dozens of books available to me on my Kindle. And I’ve also released myself from the obligation of finishing every book I start. On a personal note, what are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

LORENA: My favorite things are so ordinary, not at all unique. Reading. Eating. Taking a walk, especially on the beach. Travel. My husband watches a lot of TV, but it’s more background noise than actual watching for me. I collect old pocket knives and spurs, but I do it in kind of a lackadaisical way.

JANICE: Your collections are certainly unique. What keeps you going in your writing career?

LORENA: I’ve been writing so long that, even though I’ve slowed down considerably in my “semi-retirement,” I can’t really imagine not writing. Which isn’t to say I haven’t had a lot of discouraging times over the years. But you just groan and grumble for a while and then move on.

JANICE: Yes, because it’s what you do, same as with any “job.” How is your faith reflected in your writing?

LORENA: Earlier in my Christian writing, I often wrote about characters who had a problem or crisis in their faith. But these days I tend to prefer a main character who is secure in her faith, and her faith is simply reflected in how she faces situations or tackles problems in her life. My Ivy Malone character is a good example of that.

JANICE: A more mature angle. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

LORENA: That it’s way too easy to let writing assume too great an importance in your life. Well, it certainly is important. But there’s a big world outside the writing world, and a bad review or poor sales, or whatever other difficulty you’re encountering at the time, isn’t as important in the big scheme of life – and eternity – as it might seem at the moment. So is success.

JANICE: Thank you for those words. That’s a recurring theme that’s been popping up in my life lately. What are you working on now?

LORENA: The first book in my Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries series, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” something-buried_smallis now out in both e-book and paperback, and I’m trying to get started on the next book in the series. I’ve had some 48 books published in my writing career, but it doesn’t get any easier!

JANICE: So I’ve heard! I’d like to encourage you to continue to face that challenge, because I’m anticipating more of Mac & Ivy. What is your ultimate writing goal?

LORENA: To keep doing the best writing I can for as long as I can. Although I can say I’m pleased that I’ve won a few awards along the way and did hit a New York Times bestseller list with one book.


JANICE: Ooh! Which book was that?

LORENA: It was the first book in the Cate Kinkaid Files series: Dying to Read. It made both the Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers list.

JANICE: Congratulations on that. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

LORENA: In the long run, I think that persistence, a general stick-to-it-iveness, is probably more important than talent. Of course talent never hurts! But I’ve encountered more than a few would-be writers with talent who make a great start with a book – but never finish it.

JANICE: Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions, Lorena. It helps us to get a glimpse into your life and writing.

To purchase some of Lorena’s books—I’d highly recommend them, especially the Ivy Malone series—go to Amazon. You can also see her books in order HERE.



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Funny how we meet people. I recently signed up for a mystery writing course with American Christian Fiction Writers, and another attendee, Gail Kittleson, contacted me in response to my self-introduction. We decided it might be fun and mutually beneficial for us to trade interviews for our gailblogsites. Read on for my interview of Gail:

JANICE: Hello Gail. It was good to meet you through the ACFW course. Here are a few questions in order for me and my readers to get to know you: First of all, who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

GAIL: I’d like to give my mother credit here. We lived on an Iowa farm in the 50s and 60s, too far from where I went to school to be involved in sports. I still remember her patience in teaching me how to write my name, and her love of books, even though she had very little time to read. As a rather miserable adolescent, I started to write secret stuff, and she always showed interest. Not in a nosey way, but trying to encourage me.

She was that quiet force in our home that believed in me. I didn’t develop the kind of self-confidence to plunge into writing in a serious way for decades, but her blessing provided a foundation for things to come.

JANICE: People who believe in us have a great influence on our lives. In a nutshell, tell us why you write.

GAIL: Because I can’t not write, now that I’ve truly given myself to this venture. I’m so much happier when working on a manuscript, and wish I’d developed this skill much earlier. But as I mentioned, self-confidence is a requirement for this career, IMHO. And that sometimes takes decades to grow.

JANICE: Don’t I know it! Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

GAIL: They simply come to me, first in the form of a character I can’t withdraw from. I mean, she/he takes over my head/heart. Sounds crazy to say characters whisper their story to me, but I don’t know how else to describe what happens. Then I start researching, and as I learn more about the specifics of the heroine’s life, including historical occurrences at the time, the plot unfolds. Gradually. I don’t often know the ending when I start. So this says I’m a panster, I guess. [Jan sez, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “pantser,” it refers to a person who writes “by the seat of her pants” instead of by extensive plotting.]

Flowers inspire me, and country roads, and photos of people from the era, as well as true stories from the time. I can’t read enough about the Bombing of London or the Blitz, or Mosquito pilots who saved the city. The same is true about Southern French Resistance movement. Those people—just regular peasants—contributed more to the war effort than I can ever research.

JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

GAIL: I prefer personal accounts to most any other source. The World War II era offers a variety: spoken accounts from still-living Greatest Generation folks, letters, and memoirs.  Of course, I use the usual resources, too: history books and the Internet.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

GAIL: This might be all about the most part…I enjoy the research, but before that, the thrill of a character appearing in my head/heart. What kind of miracle is that, anyway, to have an invisible someone enter your life, someone who’s as real to you as your neighbor next door? That’s how it’s been for me. First Dottie, a WWII widow who also lost her son during the war. Then Addie, whose volatile husband provided battles for her at home, and her best friend Kate, the risk-taker—they’re all SO real to me. I feel privileged to know them, and discovering how readers react to their stories is incredibly interesting.

I like the initial get it all written down phase. I like to edit. The fourth to tenth time through might get a bit tiring, I admit. But about the tenth time, when all of a sudden I see how verbose I’ve been and slash words left and right, is pure fun. That’s when I know this manuscript deserves to be published. The next few edits with professionals always teach me things. And the publication itself – delightful!

Okay, okay. I haven’t enjoyed the rejections, and I’ve had plenty. But having kind editors point out how I can improve is unknown-1
pure gift. I’m really grateful to be involved in this entire process. And I MUST add that hearing from readers that they appreciated my characters’ honest doubts and questions, that I didn’t use platitudes or pat answers, and that certain characters are actually helping them through difficult times in their own lives—wow! It doesn’t get better than this!

JANICE: I know that most writers love to read. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

unknown-2GAIL: Print. I’m old-fashioned about this. Nothing like holding a book in my hand. I’m reading 2 books right now. One about Dunkirk, and even though I dislike the writer’s style (not a contemporary writer) I’m gleaning so much trivia about how a British soldier changed through his wartime experience.  I’m also starting something a new friend lent me: Grand Ambition. This is an Arizona historical about the Grand Canyon.

JANICE: What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

GAIL: Raindrops on roses…actually raindrops on anything. I’ve always felt better after a good rain clears the air, and storms excited me even as a child. I used to go up in the immense attic of our farmhouse to watch them roll in across the land.

I love the mountains, too. Everybody has their geographical “druthers,” and mountains make me happy. It’s the altitude (for my sinuses), but also the incredible beauty of undulating cloud shadows on mountains. Ahh…

Another favorite: sweet potatoes. Such a healthy, tasty food, especially with rosemary and butter. Yum. And I just baked a marvelous recipe: sweet potato quick bread. Gluten/sugar/lactose free, and absolutely great comfort food.

And walking has done so much for me during my lifetime—walking wherever I am. Ideas come to me on walks, and relief from tension. I used to like riding bike, too, but my aging body instructs me to cool it on that one.

JANICE: Yes, we do have to make adjustments as we age. So what keeps you going in your writing career?

GAIL: It’s that I love writing. Even though its so time and energy consuming, hard on my eyes, and takes forever to bring tangible satisfaction (as in publication/fans), I have to say the work intrigues me. Answers to puzzles come to me in the night, in the shower, during church. Scenes ride my imagination at the oddest times and in the most unlikely real-life situations. It’s like having another life of its own living inside you, and that keeps me writing.

In addition, reader comments keep me writing. I’m making a difference, which is what I always wanted to do. I’m being used. Wow.

JANICE: Tell me, how is your faith reflected in your writing?

GAIL: Growing in faith is tough. Anybody who says otherwise, I would doubt. True faith requires letting go, which for so many of us is nearly impossible. And it requires facing life with integrity, allowing for our doubts and fears. Nobody wants to be a fearful mess, but we ARE. Embracing all life brings us through, and still believing equals spiritual growth.

My characters live deeply in this growth process. They make do, whatever comes, and even when evil seems to have the upper hand, find a way to look up.

JANICE: Thanks, Gail, for letting us into your life for this interview. I wish you God’s rich blessings as you follow this path that you love, that He’s given you to walk.

To learn more about Gail, visit her website, Dare to Bloom.

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Today’s author interview takes us to Los Angeles, California to speak with Cheryl McKay, author and screenwriter, as well as producer. Hello, Cheryl and thanks for taking time to share with my blog readers and me.

Cheryl McKay

Cheryl McKay

Janice: How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

CHERYL:  It started around the time I was 5 years old. I wrote a play based on my Winnie the Pooh lunch box and we acted it out for neighborhood kids. I was always writing plays and short stories. I wrote about 10 plays the year I was fifteen. Well, that’s what I called them. I didn’t realize they were actually screenplays. (Too many locations to be on a stage.) I’d write them on loose paper and then recopy neatly into a notebook, and that was my idea of “rewriting.” I began to study screenwriting in college and then went to grad school specifically for that.

Janice: Where do you get the ideas for your stories and screenplays?

CHERYL:  A lot of times, they come from my life: experiences, challenges, painful times, or questions I have about the world that I want to wrestle with. Never the Bride is lifted straight from my life. I wrote it as a script first then it was sold to Random House to be done as a novel with Rene Gutteridge. Most of it was similar to the heart of my journey as a single person, except the happy ending. I had to write that first, publish it, and still had to wait another year and a half to see the fulfillment of that in my own life. It’s not often that I write something that has nothing to do with me or something I’ve been through. Writing from personal experience connects me in a deeper way to what I’m writing.

One of my current projects I’m brainstorming, though, is inspired by a small town my husband and I have visited about five times now, Solvang, CA, a Danish-American town that makes you feel like you’ve just stepped into another era or country. I’m working on a series about four sisters. It’s called Windmill Falls. It could be a movie or novel series. Maybe both. We shall see. But just going to that town inspired me to write the story.Santa Barbara-Solvang-6058

The magic of Solvang, CA at night.

The magic of Solvang, CA at night.

Janice: I’ve been there, Cheryl, and it is enchanting. You’ve mentioned several genres that you work in. Is any one your favorite?

CHERYL:  My two favorites are family dramas and romantic comedies. I love a good love story. But I also like family stories with a heart, like my film The Ultimate Gift (which was based on a novel that I adapted). One day, I’d love to write Young Adult fiction too.

Janice: What do you like most / least about writing, and how do you manage these challenges?

CHERYL:  Most: it can really redeem some of the difficult things you have been through in life. I love how even the process of writing can be healing. And if it does that for me, maybe it can help someone else who’s had similar experiences or even current struggles. I hear from a lot of readers who are single and waiting and appreciate hearing my story because I really did wait a long time to get married. Least: marketing. I would love to just write, write, write and ignore the whole marketing side of things.

Janice: Wouldn’t we all?! Do you edit your own work or do you hire a professional editor? Why or why not?

CHERYL:  When I publish with a traditional publisher, of course they take care of that for us. But when I self-publish, I’ve done it both ways. In the beginning, I hired a professional editor (who also worked on Never the Bride) on Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting. Watching how she worked taught me a lot about editing. So I was able to use that with the next book, Finally Fearless, on my own. Now, I have a stable of writers who also self publish and we all swap books every time we publish. We work on one at a time, which means one will read a current draft. We make those changes before sending it on to the next proofer /editor. This way, if we accidentally added errors while fixing the others, the next person may catch it. I have at least 5-6 of these people so there are more than just my eyes on a project. When self publishing, I do like to keep my costs as low as possible so that once the book is on sale, I’m into profits within the first couple of days of release. I couldn’t do that if I hired an editor on each book. So this exchange of services works out great for all of us.

Never the Bride

Never the Bride

Janice: Sounds like a great idea. Everyone benefits. How much are you involved in social media, and what do you find to be the most effective?

CHERYL:  I use Facebook the most, but really more so on my personal page than my author page. I have trouble keeping up with blogging on a regular basis, posting status updates and especially Twitter. I am not a fan of Twitter at all and just don’t get the point unless you really want to follow what a particular celebrity is doing. I do, however, love Pinterest.

Janice: In your opinion, what are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

CHERYL:  One is Pinterest. Ironically, my most popular pin I ever designed is tied to a blog I wrote. It’s called “16 Ways to Pray for Your Future Husband.” It’s an excerpt from my book Finally the Bride. I get about 100 hits a day just to that blog alone, many of them generating from other people’s repins, not even my own original pin.

I also like to do website interviews to share about books and about myself personally, like this one. Since I always have a personal story behind what I write, I like readers to know that. For example, with Song of Springhill, my new novel, is based on actual disasters that happened in the 1950s in Springhill, Nova Scotia. My grandfather survived the big Bump of 1958. Some of his experiences inspired this book / screenplay. (I ended up releasing a second companion book to the novel, Spirit of Springhill, of all the interviews with the real live people of the town, which shares the behind-the-scenes stories.)

The Ultimate Gift

The Ultimate Gift

Janice: You’ve worked on a number of screenplays that have become or are becoming novels. That must be a very rewarding feeling. You’ve also worked with some well-known writers and actors. Do you have any favorite stories to share about that?

CHERYL:  Rene Gutteridge and I met after she adapted my screenplay for The Ultimate Gift into the novelization. We didn’t work together while she did that, but once I saw what she did (and loved it) I tracked her down. We talked about collaborating on other scripts of mine, to turn them into novels. Two of those have been done: Never the Bride and Greetings from the Flipside. We are currently working on a new one titled Love’s a Stage. The highlight was seeing how deeply she got inside my thought processes as she wrote Jessie’s internal monologue for Never the Bride. I couldn’t believe how perceptive she was. I was like, “Rene, did you read my journal?” That was such a fun process to see unfold.

Song of Springhill

Song of Springhill

Janice: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

CHERYL:  When I wrote Song of Springhill, I interviewed about 15 survivors, widows, orphans, rescuers and people affiliated with the town of Springhill and mining. Nothing like going straight to that source for information! I also hired a museum and a newspaper to find back issues of all 1950s newspapers that reported on the mining disasters. I consider those pretty accurate. I used internet searches to research the time period of the 1950s, so I could describe clothing, styles, music, dances etc. of the era. Pinterest and what people are selling on ebay can be great resources for this. I usually build a Pinterest board for any new setting I’m taking on so I can get more visually into the time period or setting. I actually wrote a blog about how to use Pinterest when writing:


When working on research for a story about a 911 operator, I got to sit in at a police station and watch them work! Nothing like getting that up close and personal view of what the real world setting is like. (I could never do that job!)

Janice: One of my favorite questions: I believe that although all readers are not writers, all writers must be readers. On that assumption, what are you reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

CHERYL:  Currently I’m reading a few of the new release books that were “competitors” on the top lists on Amazon when I first released my book. I never would have heard of these love stories had I not been so closely watching the new releases as we’d hop back and forth with each other over who got the top three slots. I’m enjoying the work of others who write in my genre.

If it’s fiction I prefer digital. Since most fiction books are only read once, there’s no need to take up additional space. But if I’m reading something for the sake of spiritual growth or writing how-to’s, I tend to prefer the print books so I can highlight and refer back a little easier than having to flip through kindle bookmarks. (One exception would be reference books, like The Emotion Thesaurus, I love having on a kindle.) I use that a lot while writing novels.

Janice: Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your favorite things?

CHERYL:  My husband. I waited forever for him, so I have a deep appreciation for his presence in my life. Taking daytrips or weekend trips to new places with him. We love taking fun photographs everywhere; it’s like the world is our playground. Our favorite places are just about anywhere off California’s Highway 1. Gorgeous scenery and fun small towns. I love small towns that have character. I also love scrapbooking with my mom and sister, either in person over holidays or over Skype if I have to miss a family trip. I’m also a Christmas fanatic!

Janice: I have a daughter who is a Christmas fanatic too. Her husband draws the line at putting up the tree before November!

Sometimes writing and meeting deadlines can become overwhelming. How do you balance your professional life with your personal one?

CHERYL:  I’m extremely disciplined. Since I don’t have to hold a full time job, I do have enough hours to work with to keep writing in a normal place and timeframe. There were times during heavy deadlines on films, I’ve had to put in 13 hour days. But that is a rarity and a season that will pass. For the most part, I write from 9-6 with breaks or time to do some household things. But I have evenings free to keep my personal life going.

Janice: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

CHERYL:  Write, write, write. Get feedback either from friends or professional critique services. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in your writing. And write what you’re passionate about, not what you think you should write because of trends. If you only write, like say in a particular genre, because people are buying it right now, by the time you’re done people will have moved on. But if you are passionate about what you’re writing, you can find an audience.

Janice: Thanks so much for sharing your life with us today. God bless you in your writing career as well as in your personal life.


Cheryl McKay has been professionally writing since 1997. Cheryl wrote the screenplay for The Ultimate Gift, based on Jim Stovall’s novel. The award-winning film stars James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Abigail Breslin and was released in theaters by Fox in 2007. The Ultimate Gift won a Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival, received three Movieguide Nominations, winning one of the Ten Best Family Films of 2007, and won a CAMIE Award, for one of the Top Ten Films of the year. Cheryl also wrote the DVD for Gigi: God’s Little Princess, another book adaptation based on the book by Sheila Walsh, as well as the Wild and Wacky, Totally True Bible Stories audio series and books with Frank Peretti. She wrote a half-hour drama for teenagers about high school violence, called Taylor’s Wall. It was produced in Los Angeles by Family Theater Productions. She wrote a script called Greetings from the Flipside, commissioned by Art Within, after winning a year-long fellowship. It’s currently being adapted into a novel for B&H Publishing (with Rene Gutteridge). Her screenplay, Never the Bride, has been adapted into a novel for Random House Publishers and was released in June 2009. The film version is in development. She also wrote the screenplay for A Friend for Maddie. Cheryl lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Chris, who is a photographer and a musician.

Check out this list of Cheryl’s social media sites:







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Summer has come and gone here on the prairies. As we look toward another winter (note, I did not say “look forward to”), let’s get acquainted with another great writer whose words may bless those chilly days ahead. Welcome to Kathleen Gibson, who writes from East-central Saskatchewan, Canada.

Kathleen Gibson

Kathleen Gibson

Janice: Kathleen, when did you discover a love for writing and what did you do about it?

KATHLEEN: As a child I lived in my own world of stories. When I learned how to print and connected letters with words, I carried a pen and scribbled constantly. I had a patch of blue hair from absent-mindedly twirling my pen in my hair as I pondered.

Janice: I love it! What inspired you then and what inspires you now?

KATHLEEN: I didn’t start writing seriously until I’d finished home educating my children, in the nineties. God had been blowing me in that direction for years with smaller writing projects, but I resisted until the day he made it very clear I needed to act NOW or never.

Above that: Strong opinions. Compelling true stories. An urgency to share my faith. Deep feelings. Deadlines. Especially those.

Janice: Tell us what you write and why?

KATHLEEN: I’ve written a few fiction stories for fun, but my published work is non-fiction: articles, newspaper columns, essays and radio spots. Mostly first-person and mostly inspirational, over a thousand articles and broadcasts since I began taking my writing seriously in the late nineties. I’ve also published two books.

Why do I write? Because I love the craft – at times more than others! Because I know God-inspired words make a difference in this old world. And mostly because God hasn’t made it clear that it’s time to stop yet.

Janice: How do you write?

KATHLEEN: I use computer – can’t write by hand anymore – my fingers tighten so much on the pen that it eventually goes flipping across the room. Whenever possible, I sit at a desk. A scenic view inspires me. My office has a set of garden doors leading out to the backyard deck, with trees beyond. In optimal weather, I write in a shed in the backyard. A really tiny shed. Red.

I don’t outline, generally. I’ve tried, but it chokes me. At first I swing from sentence to sentence, like a monkey in the trees. Then I edit stringently, a skill I learned best during five or six years of writing regular articles for Reader’s Digest, then further developed during a short stint as a magazine editor.

I’m a slow writer. A 500 word column, publication ready, often takes an entire day after multiple edits. When I’m working on a project, I tend to write till I’m done – day and night. I eat poorly then, grabbing something random (and generally unhealthy) when I feel faint.

Janice: In the zone! Where do your ideas come from?

KATHLEEN: My inspirational writing finds its most solid ideas from my own habit of journaling. For years I taught journaling workshops. I need to go back and take my own workshop, because in the last few years I’ve paid less attention to that habit. Writing is harder without journals. But I also write about others. I love it when, every so often, God lets a story (such as this one) walk into my life. Those almost write themselves.

Janice: Do you write full time or is it a hobby?

KATHLEEN: When my husband, Rick, became disabled a number of years ago, I left an almost decade of full-time freelancing, for the need of a more reliable paycheque. God has graciously provided several writing-related jobs as a magazine editor and my current job as Constituency Assistant to a Member of Parliament, where much of my work involves writing and communicating. I’ve put several books on hold, perhaps indefinitely, but I keep up Sunny Side Up, my weekly inspirational newspaper column, published in several Western newspapers, and a spin-off from that called Simple Words, short radio spots that air on both analog and internet radio stations in many countries.

Janice: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

KATHLEEN: I use online sources primarily, and if called for, make direct contact with people connected to my topic. As necessary, I cross-research with other sources. I like Mr. Google.

Janice: Do you edit your own copy or do you hire someone to do it?

KATHLEEN: I’ve never hired an editor. I’ve been fortunate to work with excellent house editors at the print publications I’ve worked with and for. My newspaper columns and radio broadcasts are published as written, though a few times I’ve wished they weren’t.

Janice: What do you like most / least about the writing craft and the writing life?

KATHLEEN: What I like the most? Having written. Knowing that my words have honoured God and blessed someone. That I’m leaving a lasting legacy of faith to my family, and that writing keeps my brain working.

What I like the least? Paradoxically, the hours that writing takes me away from my family. I also don’t like it that writing contributes to health problems when one spends as many hours as I do at a computer – often with incorrect posture. Sitting is the new smoking, they say now. I’m a pack a day, in that case. Most writers are. I also don’t enjoy marketing books.

Janice: You’re in good company there. We all have family, friends and lives outside our writing, as well as crises on various levels. How do you balance your personal life with your writing?

KATHLEEN: After writing full-time from home for many years, a mosquito turned our lives inside out. When my husband first fell ill with West Nile Neurological Disease, some things got really easy really fast – at first. Everything spun off my plate except what mattered most: my role of supporting him through six months of hospitalization. All I could do was sit beside his bedside or wheelchair and help where I could – which didn’t feel like much. Some women, in circumstances like that, knit. I write. Columns, letters, updates. That writing later became my book, West Nile Diary; One Couple’s Triumph over a Deadly Disease.

After we returned home, life got far more demanding as I took on extra things my husband could no longer do. These days, my time is divided between family (five young grandchildren on the next street over), my job, and keeping up my ongoing writing deadlines. I quit everything about once a month – in my head. It’s a little crazy, and rarely balanced, but I’m still upright.

Janice: Would you tell us a bit about your life? What makes you unique? What are some of your favorite things to do?

KATHLEEN: I’m as ordinary as a potato, I think. Some of my favourite things to do, in no particular order: scoot-walking or scoot-biking with my husband (He drives his mobility scooter while I walk or bike alongside.) Engaging in deep conversations about faith and life. Playing with children and pets. Viewing nature close-up, if possible. Talking to my elderly parents on the phone. Photography and crafts. Home decorating. (Translated: shoving the furniture around – again.) Building small inuksuit. Playing the harmonica. Going to bed. Reading, of course.

Janice: Not all readers are writers, but all writers must be readers. What do you read? Do you prefer print or digital?

KATHLEEN: As soon as I learned to read, I formed a habit of reading in bed – after a half-century it’s pretty cemented. Most days I wake up between five and six and read for an hour before getting up. I do the same before bed, in reverse order. These days that’s about the only time I read simply for my own interest. Oh, no it’s not – we also stock our washroom with reading material. (Redeeming the time, and all that.)

The Bible is my most frequently read book – I read it through at least yearly and supplement it with online study resources (such as those at www.BibleGateway.com).

I also read news online, using my tablet, which works perfectly for reading in bed. Then I read articles and blogs that bring a faith perspective to world news, issues and culture.

My Kindle is packed with mostly non-fiction – biographies, memoirs, and inspirational/motivational books. I read some blogs; none regularly enough to mention – except HOUZZ. I’m working at paring down my hard-copy books to a few hundred. Kindle is easiest, but hard copy is most reassuring to the insides of me, so I use both.

I love a great story, too, but I’m picky with my fiction choices and choose works that will teach me something. I hated history in school and books like yours, Jan, educate me delightfully. Books like The Dovekeepers, The Midwife of Venice and A Fine Balance have taught me segments of horrifying but fascinating history. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I love Jan Karon’s more sedate but delightful (and insightful) Mitford series.

Janice: Are you on many Social Media sites and which ones do you find the most effective?

KATHLEEN: I’m not very sociable or savvy online. I have accounts on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter, and haven’t figured out why, since I feel equally ineffective on all of them. I post my weekly newspaper columns to all of those using a widget – name forgotten. (See?) I rarely go to those sites to check things out. I enjoy using Facebook (in spurts) to connect with people. I really enjoy personal correspondence, and answer most messages, when I remember to check them.

Janice: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

KATHLEEN: I taught piano for years. I always began the beginners the same way – teaching the basics. Notes, finger position, timing. No matter how much music those little kids and beginning adults had inside them, itching to get out, they had to learn the rudiments.

Everyone wants to perform well, but few want to do the practicing it takes to get there. I strongly advise new writers to pay their dues. Be dedicated to the craft. Write daily. Find your voice. Learn the rules of strong writing. (Further down the road you’ll understand how to break them effectively!) Take courses that require you to submit your writing to a teacher for critique. (I suggest the Christian Writers Guild.)

Hang around people – physically or online or through books – who are better writers than you are. Read their work. Ask questions. Read not simply for enjoyment but for analysis: why is this good (or not good)? What makes this work effective (or ineffective)? Never stop exploring the wonder of great writing and superior presentation.

Beyond some basics of good writing, each genre has unique tools. I suggest that new writers discover the passion God has put in their heart, then develop their writing tool kit for the genre that best communicates it. Most of us write best the type of material that we read most. Trying to write in too many genres at once can weaken one’s writing. Better to be a great writer in only one genre, than a passable writer in several. Writing is a craft, and all crafts must be practiced before they’re performed.

Most writers dream of being free to write full-time, but few are able to make a living wage through writing alone. I freelanced for secular magazines and radio for years, earning from zero cents or mere pennies an article or column to several thousand dollars per article. Even with that, I wouldn’t have had enough to live on. When my husband became disabled, God provided solid work in the writing field, and a regular paycheque. Today I continue working on my own projects outside my work hours and at my own pace. I don’t worry about making a living income or trying to get 2,000 Likes on Facebook, or keeping up a “writer image.” That’s freeing in a different way.

I’d also tell them to enjoy the honeymoon – those first publication credits, the first few book launches, interviews and signings. These highs you’ll remember all your life. But don’t expect the honeymoon to last forever. The real work begins after.

Janice: What keeps you going as a writer and what part does faith play in your writing career?

KATHLEEN: These days, I don’t write for love of the craft as much as to meet my deadlines. But I also write from a sense of responsibility to my calling and my readers. I have a deep desire to connect faith to everyday life, and help others find that connection.

My faith and my writing are inseparable. Not all my writing presents the gospel or quotes Bible verses, but whether I’m writing for a Christian or secular publication, each word comes from a foundation of faith – the well in which I dip my pen.

Janice: I wish you well in your writing and in your personal life, Kathleen. Thanks so much for taking time to share your life with my blog readers and with me.

KATHLEEN: Thanks for this opportunity, Janice. Same to you!


Writer, speaker, and broadcaster, Kathleen Gibson’s passions for faith, home, family, and creation are evident in her work. She is the author of two books, West Nile Diary and Practice by Practice, the Art of Everyday Faith. Kathleen’s articles have found homes in media outlets from local to global. Both Sunny Side Up, her weekly faith and life newspaper column, and her daily radio spot, Simple Words, explore the connection between everyday life and Christian faith.

Kathleen and her husband Rick, live in Saskatchewan with a very cold parrot and a spicy cat. Visit her at her website, kathleengibson.ca, or via Facebook.






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Bonnie Grove

Bonnie Grove

Janice: Hi Bonnie. Thanks for taking time for this interview.

BONNIE: Hey! Good to be here.

Janice: Let’s start in medias res (I can spell it but I can’t pronounce it). Why do you write?

BONNIE: How do these things happen? You spend a bunch of years at jobs that make you unhappy and leave you feeling vaguely lost. Cast around for something that will make you feel fulfilled, that has purpose, that you’re good at or would like to become good at. Try one thing, then another.

Writing stuck for me because I think in story. In school, I was the kid who did average or below if something was explained to me straight on, but if it was explained within a story, I’d excel. Drove my teachers mad. They never figured it out and neither did I, not for years. I don’t consider it something that makes me special—it’s just my brain and what are you going to do about your brain?—more something I had to come to terms with, live with.

It was lots of work, and when I came to the conclusion that most of my misery and joy was tied to the fact that I think in story, I settled down a bit. It could have gone either way. When I was young I studied acting and theater. Studied plays and the theater history. When I started writing my first book I was about sixteen and all I could manage was a very bad paperback romance. Bad in the sense that my story was terrible. Please—don’t write in defending romance novels. There’s no need, really. In my twenties I began a new book more as therapy than anything. Life was rocky in pretty much every way that mattered to me and I needed a place I could control and understand. That book, after many, many incarnations, became Talking to the Dead, my first published novel.

Talking to the Dead

Talking to the Dead

Janice: When did writing become an essential part of your life, assuming it has?

BONNIE: Is it? That sounds a bit romantic to my experience. Essential means bare bones, right? The fewest things needed to survive. Writing can’t possibly fit in that category. I don’t mean to sound like a grump, and I know you aren’t asking in a dreamy-eyed way, it’s just that, for years, I’ve heard writers say stuff like, “I write because I cannot not write.” I get it. It’s a good answer in a pinch. Short, to the point, with just a hint of the ethereal. But, for me, it’s not honest. I can—and have—gone long stretches without writing, and I was fine. Happy, even. Not the point, though, right? You’re really asking when did I say, “That’s it, I’m all in.” That was eight years ago when my family and I moved from Alberta (where I had a cushy job I liked) to Saskatchewan (where I had no job, no friends, no family and two very young children at home). I wrote two books in a year and both were published. Somewhere in that sequence of things is where I must have pushed all my chips to the middle of the table.

Janice: I appreciate your honesty and your perspective. Refreshing.

I loved your first novel, Talking to the Dead, as did everyone I told about it. Did you draw a lot on your counseling experience when writing it?

BONNIE: For the window dressing, yes. Very much. By that I mean the nuts and bolts of therapy. What happens during different types of therapy sessions, that sort of thing. But, like I said, Talking to the Dead was very much about me trying to make sense of myself and my world. For years in interviews, when I was asked if Kate Davis (the protagonist from Talking to the Dead) was like me, I always said she wasn’t. I didn’t mean to lie. I just didn’t see at the time—wasn’t honest enough with myself—to admit that she was, is, in fact, me. The events in the story are allegorical, meaning they aren’t exactly what I went through, what I had suffered in my twenties, but it was all me spilling out on pages. I think that’s why I struggled so much with writing the ending. For me, it isn’t over.

Janice: I believe you moved from CBA to ABA [Christian to mainstream publishing] after Talking to the Dead (or at least after writing it). How has that change been for you? What are some of the differences you observed?

BONNIE: It was all about telling the truth about myself, the stories I love and the ones I write. Finding my fit. But as for differences between the two, there isn’t much. Business is business and the rules are the same no matter which market you write for.

Your Best You

Your Best You

Janice: I’ve noticed on Facebook that you’ve completed a number of manuscripts since. Can you give us a list of books you’ve written/published in ABA?

BONNIE: It’s painful, you know? To have met with early success—and by that I mean being published straight out of the chute—and then struggle publicly. All writers struggle, but most have the luxury of doing so without a wide audience. I’ve struggled very publicly since the release of Talking to the Dead in 2009. I’ve written four novels, each topping 100,000 words. I’ve been told by some of the most important names in publishing that they love me, that I’m just what they want . . . but. So far, there’s always a but. I’m working through one more but right now with my latest manuscript, and I’m trying to stay focused and content, and some days I succeed.

Janice: Been there, done some of that too. It can be a bumpy road.

Would you describe your writing process? Do you do a lot of plotting, planning, researching first, or just jump in and do the details later?

BONNIE: I plan now. I didn’t know anything about writing a novel when I wrote Talking to the Dead. I just wrote. Lots of stuff was fixed in editing. I follow an open, 22 point story structure grid to plan out a novel before I start writing. Which sounds complicated because it is. Writing is hard work.

Janice: What comes first for you—an idea, an incident, a character?

BONNIE: My brain is a mosh pit. It’s impossible for me to line up the contents long enough to count what came first. The closest I can come to an answer is to say my ideas are a collision of many ideas coming together and arranging themselves into something I think is compelling.

Janice: What part does social media play in your career and what, in your opinion, is the most effective?

BONNIE: Depends how you measure efficacy, I suppose. I have way more fun on Facebook than I do on, say, Twitter. Twitter hurts my head. It’s lonely. Facebook is like having people over for dinner. But does that sell books? I don’t know. It doesn’t hurt. I like the people I hang out with on there. So that’s it, I guess, the one I have the most fun with. Otherwise, it’s just forced.

Janice: What’s the hardest thing about writing for you? And the best thing?

BONNIE: Writers (all creative types) are dreamers. We want to spin worlds, invent, tell stories, and let the “real” world take care of itself. The real world meaning actually being published and all that entails. How often have you heard a writer say, I don’t like to promote my own work? That’s artist code for, you take all the financial risks and leave me alone with my toys. The only money writers tend to think about is the money that ends up in their own pockets. So, being unrealistic about the business of publishing is hard. Being all dreamy-eyed because an agent signs you, taking yourself out for a celebratory dinner because a publisher asked to see the first 100 pages of your manuscript. I’ve done all the clichés. Probably invented a few new ones. Over time it gets messy and sad. Choices have to be made.

The best thing is the writing itself. Story is the solid ground I crave. My compass. It’s entirely selfish, but I’ve discovered that my self-indulgent pursuit of story can end up soothing other people as well. I like that very much.

Janice: How do you balance writing time with personal time?

BONNIE: Publishing will eat your life if you let it. When writers get together they never talk about their children or yesterday’s sunset, or God. They talk about writing, publishing and all its components. It consumes you. If you’re a writer and you think, bah, that’ll never happen to me, then I wish you well. And when it happens, you’re welcome to come sit beside me and no hard feelings and no I-told-you-so. We’ll consider it a rite of passage, something we had to go through before we could begin to be realistic and makes sense of things. After that, you learn to pace yourself. You’ve lost so much time—years, usually—feeding the bottomless pit of analyzing writing, talking endlessly about the business, and writing to succeed, that you begin to realize you can pace yourself better. You can sort through what actually needs to be done and stop telling yourself it all has to be done RIGHT NOW. I’ve been so off balance in my writing life and what did I gain? My motivation today is that Ebenezer: I won’t go back to being consumed. I like my life. I like the people I live with, the people I hang out with. Books don’t last forever. People do.

Janice: Thanks for that. It’s something we all need to remember.

What books are you reading now and what are some of your favorite books/authors?

BONNIE: I did a self-directed reading study recently. I studied Ibsen’s plays, then Chekhov’s short stories. I’m reading a non-fiction about psychopaths, and one about self-publishing. I’m anxiously awaiting Marilynne Robinson’s newest.

Janice: What did you learn while writing your latest book?
BONNIE: That I’m a geek. I get really absorbed by geeky things—maps, geography, history, science, natural history. I’ve embraced that part of myself. I allow myself to geek out over the discovery of a new ant species (mirror turtle ant if you’d like to look it up), and I’m learning to trust the ways my mind wants to wander. That, and I’m not as far along the road of not caring what other people say about my work as I had hoped.

Janice: That last is a tough one.

What’s your best advice to beginning writers?

BONNIE: Find another line of work that makes you happy, that you can do for long periods of time, and take the writing slowly. Give yourself more time than you ever thought you’d need. Double that length of time. Grow older. Grow wiser.

Janice: Thanks, Bonnie, for this interview. I’ve enjoyed it.

BONNIE: Thanks for asking me, Jan.

Bonnie’s Amazon Bio:

Bonnie Grove started writing when, as a teenager, her parents bought a typewriter (yes, during the age of dinosaurs), and she clacked out a terrible romance novel that her mom loved. She’s been turning out improving prose ever since.

Trained in counseling, and psychology, Bonnie developed social programs for families at risk, while landing newspaper articles and stories in anthologies.

Her non-fiction, Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You, came out of her experience working with families in crisis, and her belief in people’s ability to change their lives for the better.

Her novel, Talking to the Dead, came out of that crazy place inside her head that has more questions than answers. Questions about grief, love, sex, God, therapy, and how laughter makes everything okay—if only for a moment. The novel has won awards, and is published in languages she doesn’t speak.

Bonnie thinks in story, and continues to write novels–mostly because she’s too far gone to stop now. She has completed several since Talking to the Dead, and is currently working her butt off to ensure they make their way into your hands. Stay tuned!

Bonnie makes her home in Saskatchewan, Canada with her husband Steve, and their two children.

For more info on Bonnie and her writing, check out the following sites:




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