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Archive for the ‘Fellow Author Feature’ Category

Today I’d like to introduce you to Bonnie Rawling, a new author with one book out and another in the works. Since Bonnie has written a non-fiction story about her life, her responses will be different from my usual fiction authors’.

      Bonnie Rawling

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

BONNIE:  I started my book about 15 years ago, and after many failed attempts, along with the busyness of life, I finally finished it in 2016. I always knew I would write a book about my story, I just needed to get through to the other side of some things before I could write from a healthy perspective.

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

BONNIE:  I would say my biggest influence was my desire to share my experience of how God completely healed me by His touch, and began the metamorphic changes in me.

JAN:  What’s your preferred genre?

BONNIE:  Real and authentic stories.

JAN:  Why do you write? You’ve hinted at this already, but fill us in a bit more.

BONNIE:  I write because I want to share a message of hope to a hurting world. If I can impact just one life with my story and my writing, it will have been worth it. If I can help just one person know the Jesus that I know, it will have been worth it.

JAN: That’s a lofty and worthy goal, and after reading your book, I’m sure you are greatly influencing your readers.

How and where do you write?

BONNIE:  I have to write near a large window or outside on the deck. Always with my feet up in my recliner or glider rocker with my lap table on my lap.

JAN: What inspires you?

BONNIE:  I can only imagine writing about real stories.

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

BONNIE:   I am a journaler. All of my sources for my books have involved reviewing stacks of journals.

JAN:  The best way to accurately reveal what happened at certain times in life. What do you like most/least about writing?

BONNIE:  What I like most about writing is the depth of being able to bring a thought or an experience to life so that my reader is able to know and feel exactly what was happening in the moment. What I like the least is final edits, more edits, and more edits!

JAN:  Yes, that’s a challenge and seems to go on and on. I can’t seem to stop tweaking mine! What are your favorite/most effective methods of promoting your work?

         Bonnie’s first book

BONNIE:  The best way that I have found to promote my book is touring with my husband where I speak and he sings, or I send books along with him when he goes on tour by himself.

JAN:  That’s a great opportunity for you. Do you have favorite social media that are effective for promotion?

BONNIE:  To be honest, I try to avoid social media, though I know it would probably help my book distribution. I’d just rather not join the drama.

JAN:  Understood! How do you balance professional time with personal time?

BONNIE:  All of my children are grown and out of the house, so balancing professional and personal time is easier now. I usually write for three to four hours in the afternoon, after I’ve finished my personal devotion time. If I’m really on a roll then I write until I am tired and can’t think anymore.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer print or digital?

BONNIE:  To be honest I am not really a reader, but currently I am reading through the Bible again. It’s a pretty good book! I would recommend it! I much prefer print!

JAN: I agree. There’s no other book like the Bible that I can read again and again and never tire of, and always learn something new. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

BONNIE:  My favorite things: spending time with my Lord…days of fasting and prayer, my grandchildren, gardening, sewing, knitting, soaking up Vitamin D, swimming, curling. What makes me unique…my abandoned faith.

JAN:  What do you mean by abandoned faith? Does it refer to living your faith with abandon?

BONNIE: I suppose the best way for me to explain abandoned faith is using the illustration of Peter getting out of the boat.

Seven years ago, the Lord called Bruce and I to sell our acreage in Taber, Alberta and come follow Him. So we sold or gave away, or stored everything that we had, left our careers behind, and moved into a bus.

That began a wonderful journey of listening closely to “the Wind of the Holy Spirit” and being trained in obedience to go wherever he sent us. It’s kind of like the last paragraph in my book where I describe the horse that has been bridled to be broken, submissive, and obedient to His will for my life.

JAN:  Thanks for the story. Your faith-in-action inspires me. What keeps you going in your writing career?

BONNIE:  I don’t really feel that I have a writing career; I just wanted to write my story and share my faith.

JAN:  Simple and honest. So how is your faith reflected in your writing?

BONNIE:  My writing is all about my faith, I hope that is what is most reflected in my story.

JAN:  What are some things you learned from your own writing?

BONNIE:  One thing I learned from my own writing is that I can be very repetitious and wordy! Lol

JAN:  I know what you mean, speaking for myself here! What is your next writing goal?

BONNIE:   To finish my second book.

JAN:  That would be a good focus. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

BONNIE:  I would consider myself a beginner writer so I don’t feel I could offer any advice.

JAN:  Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me, Bonnie. I encourage you to keep telling your story so others can benefit from the hope you offer in Jesus. This world certainly can use that kind of hope. All the best as you continue to allow God to use you in His service.

 

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JAN: Today, I’d like to introduce you to Sheila Webster, a gifted friend who writes and speaks and does anything else that needs to be done.

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

SHEILA:  I have been writing since I was young, probably from grade one or two. The first prize I won for writing was in grade six for a fictional piece called Agerstoa. I won a whole dollar bill.

JAN:  Wow, back when there were dollar bills! Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

SHEILA:  I don’t think anyone influenced me to write; I always did it as I had a form of mutism as a child and another learning disability. It was easier to express it in writing.

JAN:  Do you have a preferred genre?

SHEILA:  I used to say my preferred genre was non-fiction, and I do the most in that. However, lately I have discovered the fantastic way fiction can convey truths more easily to some audiences.

JAN:  I certainly get that. Why do you write?

SHEILA:  Because I can’t not write.

JAN:  Ah. How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SHEILA:  I probably spend more time plotting in my head, sometimes years before I write something. I can speak as a pantser sometimes but usually on topics I have crafted in my head beforehand.

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

SHEILA:  My ideas have always been with me and I have had the same basic themes my whole life: tragedy, drama, obstacles, joy in minutae and others. Music, nature, emotion—these inspire me.

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

SHEILA:  I research by asking, by trolling, by reading, by finding common denominators amongst all sources. Since the internet I trust nothing; there is a lot of opinion, false news, conspiracy theory, etc. I look at who publishes what is written and what slant is behind the publisher of the piece. Everyone has an agenda these days. I think praying for wisdom works best!

JAN:  Very helpful. What do you like most / least about writing?

SHEILA:  I love writing. I hate the idea though that everyone has a book in them. Maybe everyone’s lives could be a book at some pivotal point, but not everyone should or can write.

JAN:  What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

SHEILA:  Word of mouth, conferences, networking, passion, not enough people write with true passion or knowledge. Too much opinion and not enough well-crafted or thought-out pieces are published. Passion will always market. I believe in natural marketing. My documentary naturally marketed itself and for those that didn’t see it, I probably didn’t target their market for internal reasons.

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

SHEILA:  I don’t really like social media, pretty much at all. It is glutted with inane and urgent things that are not helpful in today’s unbalanced world. If I had to choose one it would be short audio clips or video. My favorite is still the radio interview.

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

SHEILA:  I don’t … that’s honest. I still raise children and currently I work full time as an addictions worker in a detox. I probably write the way I always have—in bits and pieces, and culling the storage places of my mind for cross references. I am always trying to stay alert to what is current in media or news though to see what may be relevant.

JAN:  What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

SHEILA:  Currently I am reading something about psychoanalysis and neuroscience and where the cross section is. I read my son’s poetry book over and over to different groups aloud and I see what a huge impact it has. John Grisham is my staple for fiction. Tolstoy. I reread some things like Desert Fathers each year and of course my Bible. James, Psalms, Isaiah, Acts and portions of the gospel are standard.

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

SHEILA:  Everyone tells me I am unique. I just am, people say. I do things they haven’t seen others do. In teaching at detox I am my most creative because I have such a varied audience each time. I love picking up the mud of life and crafting personal impact for clients. My fav things are a couple of my good buds, laughing with them, crying with them, deepening our stories through community. I love being alone, I love wind, trees, water, sun, and fire. I like driving a decent car with tunes on and windows open. I like church but different kinds of church for different kinds of life.

JAN:  I’m glad you are uniquely you! Few people have the courage to truly be themselves. What keeps you going in your writing career?

SHEILA:  I am one of those people who has also written because I do…there are no stops or false starts. I write because that is the life God poured into me and my last piece will be a note to someone as I lay dying. I was born to write and will do so without thinking about it.

JAN:  How is your faith reflected in your writing?

SHEILA:  It is written in everything but I only write evident faith in sermons. Most of my faith is a watermark behind my writing, but it is always there if you know me.

JAN:  I like the watermark idea. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

SHEILA:  That I am not as dumb as I used to think I was, that I haven’t changed much since I was five or six years of age, that I am way more passionate about individuals than crowds, that I love more deeply than I let on, and I am way happier as an introvert than my socialized extroverted persona. Also, that no matter what my external mortal body has done or gone through, that God is written in my DNA and pours out in different ways.

JAN:  Beautiful! What is your ultimate writing goal?

SHEILA:  To release as many God stories in others as humanly possible with God’s help, before I die.

JAN:  Advice for beginning writer…

SHEILA:  Just be…and begin…

…love God and life deeply

…hold all else loosely

JAN: Thanks for the lovely interview, Sheila. All the best in your writing and all the other wild and wonderful things you are involved in!

Sheila Webster

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JAN: Please help me welcome a good friend and fellow writer, Sheri Hathaway to my blog. Sheri, How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

Sheri Hathaway

SHERI: Now there’s a rabbit hole I’ll have to wander back through to find the beginning! I’ve always been a note taker, diary keeper and letter writer so is it fair to say, since the day I was born? In Grade 12 I considered taking a journalism course after graduation but when I found that the nearest university offering it was in Calgary, I was intimidated by the distance, size of the city and moving to an unfamiliar city. What a farm girl I was back then! I returned to thoughts of writing when I took a Canadian literature course at Lakeland College, Lloydminster and studied the life of Susanna Moodie. I thought to myself, if she can raise a family, manage a farm, and write, well then, so can I. I put out a feeler, as it were, and sent a story to the Western People, a supplement of the Western Producer,and to my surprise and horror it was published. Getting published for the first time is scary business.

JAN: Yes, it is. One feels very vulnerable. Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

SHERI: Susanna Moodie for sure, but later, I began reading biographies of other writers. I discovered that most writers have lived through messy lives and many, many rejections and still persevered, so that encouraged me.

JAN: What’s your preferred genre?

SHERI: Historical non-fiction for sure. Everyone has an interesting story. Reading about them is a way to be nosey without being told I’m nosey.

JAN: Why do you write?

SHERI: Sometimes a story starts developing in my head and keeps stirring and bubbling around until finally I have to let it out, just so I can sleep at night. It’s a very satisfying feeling to dump my brains out. It allows me to think of other things, or just relax. I have wondered about the cave drawings. Did some prehistoric man or woman have to get that story out of his/her head so he/she could sleep at night? I think writers have existed all through history.

JAN: That’s funny, Sheri! Tell me, how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SHERI: The kitchen table used to be the throne of inspiration for me until I got a computer, and then it moved into a separate room. That works better because there are fewer distractions. I have to write in silence. I can’t travel to another place and time in my head if the present keeps bringing me up short.

I’m a plotter when it comes to articles, definitely. The book I’m writing now is about my parents’ lives so the plot has already been laid out for me, making it a very easy task as far as plot goes, but I have a theme of personal strength and overcoming adversity that helps me choose what stories to put in.

JAN: I like your line about how the present brings you up short. How true. Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

SHERI: I write about my interests: farming, pioneer life and the wars. There are so many stories, I will never run out. While writing one story, questions pop up that I have to pursue for another story later, and so it goes.

JAN: Great to have that continuum. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

SHERI: I once referenced Wikipedia on an article to the Western Producer and never did it again after the editor told me it wasn’t a reliable source. I read an article recently which advised it may be all right to find your first answers from Wikipedia but then go to the other sources listed at the bottom of the article. That seems like good advice to me. I use the internet a lot but I use sources such as universities, government websites, books and magazines that have been published in hard copy originally. When a publication has gone through the rigors of editors and fact checkers, you can rely on the information. Using blogs or websites that use a person’s opinion or memories without any references to other books, etc., is never a good idea.

Interviewing people on their experiences is an accurate source as long as you remember that it is one person’s memory of the event, which may be skewed with time or their perception. You can quote that person as long as you state that it is their memory or opinion.

Not able to find an answer to why my mother had short-term paralysis in 1947, I recently asked my doctor’s professional opinion. He told me what he thought it probablywas, and that is how I’m explaining it in my book. The medical records no longer exist, so I’m going to say that it is impossible to know for sure but this is the opinion of my doctor today, that in all probability, this is what happened. Sometimes you can’t find an exact answer, but you explain that uncertainty to your readers.

JAN: Very interesting observations from your experience. Thanks. What do you like most / least about writing?

SHERI: I love doing research and finding answers to questions about life in a former time. I love explaining that to my readers. It’s like teaching a class of really interested students. It’s a dream come true.

What I don’t like about it is the delayed gratification. It takes a long time from writing something to seeing it in print, and then getting a paycheque. A writer must have faith: faith in God that he made you this way for a purpose, faith that you are doing good work, and faith that eventually you will see the rewards of your labour.

JAN: What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

SHERI: My first book isn’t published yet, so I can’t comment on methods for that. For my articles, though, Facebook is the easiest way to reach the most people. I have an author page as well as a personal page and share posts about my writing across both. I have a website but don’t get the same response. I’m not a real avid social media user, so I don’t have a lot of different social media memberships. I have Twitter account but sometimes forget to use it. I need to be more diligent in that.

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

SHERI: In former lives I’ve been employed outside the home and later ran my own business. I treat my writing as if it were a job and go to work every weekday morning, leaving weekends for things like house cleaning and socializing. It doesn’t always work that way and I’m prepared to be flexible. If a friend wants to have coffee on Tuesday, for example, I don’t turn her down because it doesn’t happen often, and friends and family are a priority. I make up the difference on the weekend but I don’t keep close track of hours. I have a list of things I’d like to get done each week and try to stick to that.

JAN: I’ve seen your determination to plan and carry out, and it’s motivating for me. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

SHERI: Last year a friend took my hand and placed a book in it, the first in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. I’m not usually a fiction reader but these books hooked me and I think it was the mysteries. Every researcher is solving a mystery and I was interested in the unwrapping of that process. She also has great character development. It’s made me think about incorporating better character development into my stories.

JAN: What keeps you going in your writing career?

SHERI: When I’ve emptied my head onto the “page,” I sleep better at night, feel accomplished and proud of myself, and I know I’ve done what I was made to do. If I never got published, I’d keep writing journals, poems, and letters because of that feeling of satisfaction and the game of playing with words.

JAN: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

SHERI: Most of my writing cannot be called faith-based. I write history about farming and war and my faith doesn’t enter it obliquely, at least, not yet, but values such as family, honesty, trustworthiness, and ethical choices is all about what I write. When I get to know a new friend, I don’t come out and tell them right away that I’m a Christian, but when it does come up, they’re never surprised, so I think, like my character, that aura of Christianity hopefully surrounds my writing. Nothing is ever written in stone, either, and down the road, my writing may turn into a Christian genre.

JAN: What are some things you learned from your own writing?

SHERI: I was surprised that people actually wanted to read it! But seriously, researching other people’s lives and finding out what they lived through and gained victory over has always been an inspiration to me. I hope others gain that same inspiration from what I write.

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

SHERI: I have several books that I want to write, so just to write them will be a major accomplishment. I have worked at other jobs most of my life and it prevented me from concentrating on a major work like a book. I’m finally at that place where I can write full-time, but it took me so long to get here and start a book that I was afraid I might die before I got even one done. Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, is quoted as having the same fear and I think many writers are in the same place. I feel like I’m living the dream now just to have this opportunity.

JAN: Do you have any advice for beginning writer?

SHERI: Don’t get discouraged. Life may throw rocks at you, but remember that later on in life, you can look back on those rocks and write about them. A person has to live a life before they can write about one effectively.

Also, seek out other writers. I have learned a lot about writing by talking to other writers, going to workshops, reading magazines and books on writing and then practicing what I learned by writing and writing and writing.

JAN: Well said, Sheri. Thanks so much for letting us get to know you better today. All the best in your writing journey.

 Sheri’s Facebook page.

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JAN: Today, I’m pleased to feature friend and fellow writer, Carol Harrison on my interview blog. I’ve known Carol for many years, but sometimes it takes something like a question/answer platform to learn some of the details.

Carol Harrison

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

CAROL: I started writing again, other than journals and university essays, in 2008. My husband, Brian, had been encouraging me to write a book about our youngest daughter Amee who had a stroke at birth and was not expected to live. It took a number of years to listen to his requests.

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

CAROL: The biggest influence to get me started writing again was my husband, and then Amee also began to beg me to write her story so others would understand. Since then some of the biggest influences have been other writers such as Jan Dick, Marcia Laycock and others I have met. They have shared insights and tips as well as encouragement. Now several of my grandchildren encourage me to continue to write and try new genres such as fiction and poetry.

JAN: Cool! What’s your preferred genre?

CAROL: My preferred is short non-fiction and memoir. I love to preserve and tell family and faith stories.

JAN: Why do you write?

CAROL: I write to encourage others that there is hope in the midst of tough times and that it is important to share our stories of faith with others.

JAN: That’s a great reason. How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

CAROL: I am usually a pantser, although I find I have had to do more plotting when I am working on my first fiction book. I write on the laptop most of the time but always have pen and notebook handy to jot ideas or journal.

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

CAROL: Since I write non-fiction, my inspiration is family stories and adventures. I tell my family they are all fair game for a story to write about or use as an illustration for a devotional or when I speak. I am inspired by things I see and experiences and how scripture has impacted me.

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

CAROL: The research I have done is mostly based on family stories or journal entries. When I wrote Amee’s Story, I had years of reports from doctors and other professionals that had worked with her. This made trusting them very easy. For family information, I try and check it with several family members and paperwork that surfaces. I also check the archives at the library for information on certain areas and times. I feel confident that it is as accurate as I need it to be if it all matches up.

JAN: Yes, we do our best. Tell me, what do you like most / least about writing?

CAROL: The thing I love the most about writing is the stories and getting the ideas jotted down to write about later. I even enjoy digging into the details to find out more information. Having the patience to edit multiple times is what I like the least.

JAN: What do you find are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

CAROL: Promoting my work is an ongoing battle for me. I should maybe say that the marketing of my work might be what I like the least. However, my book—and the anthologies that include stories I have written—sell best at speaking engagements. I am still exploring options of how to get them marketed beyond that and to let people know I am available to speak.

JAN: What are your favourite / most effective social media?

CAROL: The only social media I use on a regular basis is Facebook. I do have a website but it needs updating.

JAN: Yes, that’s probably something a lot of us need to do occasionally. How do you balance professional time with personal time?

CAROL: Balancing professional time and personal time takes a lot of work and changes as we enter the retirement season for my husband. I often struggle with setting aside time to write, edit and especially market.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

CAROL: I still prefer to read an actual print book but I enjoy the ease of taking many books with me without adding to the weight by having a digital format when I travel. I have been reading through a number of books by authors I know. I have completed a few like Deserts, Dams and Dirt by Dr. Delwyn Fredlund, Mrs. B Has Cancer by Glynis Belec and Life on a Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers. I have a few more on my to-read pile that fit into this category. My daughter lent me The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn as a devotional style book I want to read.

JAN: Thanks for the reading ideas (as if I need more on my to-read pile!). What are some of your favourite things? What makes you unique?

CAROL: Some of my favourite things include reading, collecting things and storytelling. As a writer, I actually enjoy the public speaking more than the writing which is a unique quality about me.

JAN: What keeps you going in your writing career?

CAROL: One of the things that keeps me writing is hearing from readers that something I wrote has encouraged them, helped them or motivated them in some way. The encouragement and push from family to keep writing also helps me keep going. I do not want to disappoint them. But these encouragements help me remember that God has gifted me with the ability to tell stories, write and teach. I want to be faithful even when it is hard to balance the time or market or edit.

JAN: Thanks for that wonderful answer, Carol. Tell me more about how your faith is reflected in your writing.

CAROL: My faith is part of who I am and therefore permeates everything I do or write. It obviously comes out in a prominent manner when I write devotionals. Faith colours how I perceive life and that is reflected in any of my writing.

JAN: What are some things you learned from your own writing?

CAROL: I have learned some things on this writing journey. I found out I can do more than I expected. I can write more than one memoir, including an occasional poem or fiction story. I have met amazing people along the way who have shared parts of their journey, and for a person who loves to hear stories, this is a fabulous learning time. The most important thing I think I learned is that God has given me this ability and uses the words that I write and share with others.

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

CAROL: I think my ultimate writing goal is to preserve the family stories by writing them down for my children and grandchildren. Some of them will be submitted for publication and that will be a wonderful bonus. I do not have a specific number of books or stories I want to write but I want to be faithful to stories God puts on my heart to share in whatever format those might take.

JAN: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

CAROL: My advice for beginning writers is threefold. First connect with other writers who are further along their writing journey and learn from them. Also, be open to feedback, critiques and edits so you can be continually learning. This will help you reach your fullest potential. Finally just keep writing and enjoy the process.

JAN: Thanks, Carol, for this refreshing visit and insight into who you are and what you write. I wish you all the best as you continue on your writing journey.

Readers, you can check Carol’s Facebook page for more insights.

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JAN: Today, I’m pleased to feature an interview with Kimberley Payne, who I met years ago at a Write! Canada conference. She’s still busily writing and sharing her knowledge.

Kimberley Payne

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

KIMBERLEY: I’ve been writing since I was a child keeping track of my summer activities in a journal. But I didn’t seriously write for publication until I was in my 30s. I turned 50 this year, so it’s been 2 decades.

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

KIMBERLEY:I remember attending the God Uses Inkconference years ago (before the name changed to Write! Canada) and I found my tribe. These same people are still my friends and encourage me to write. Janis Cox is most influential; she spurs me on.

JAN:What’s your preferred genre?

KIMBERLEY: Non-fiction. I write about things that I learn. I write about anything F; that is fitness, family, faith, food, fellowship, and fun.

JAN:Why do you write?

KIMBERLEY: I love to share. When I learn something new I want to share it with others. I can’t not tell others what I learn. If I didn’t write, it’d become a real problem.

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

KIMBERLEY: I write longhand in an 8.5×11 spiral notepad. I usually write on my comfy couch in my bedroom but have also written on the beach and back deck. I like to listen to the same CD of instrumental sounds and pantser my way around.

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

KIMBERLEY: Reading, listening to Christian programs, going to church. I’m inspired when someone shares a perspective that I hadn’t considered before.

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

KIMBERLEY: I like when an idea is percolating in my mind and I’m excited to get it on paper. I like when people comment on my writing – especially when they say nice things.

I don’t like when I lose a thought because I didn’t record it quickly enough. I don’t like when someone gives me a rating of 3 out of 5 on a book review. Yuck! I’d rather a 1 than a 3. Three is so mediocre.

JAN:What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

KIMBERLEY: I believe the best way is through my email list. I say this because the people who have joined my list have done so voluntarily and so I expect that they are actually interested in what I have to say.

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

KIMBERLEY: I like Facebook. It’s easy and I spend a lot of time there on a personal level. I’m also on every other social media site just because I was told I should be. I tweet and Pin but I really don’t know how effective they are.

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

KIMBERLEY: I work full-time so my daytime hours are dedicated to my job. My evenings are divided into hour slots; an hour to write, an hour to play with my granddaughter, an hour to exercise, an hour to colour/watch television. Give or take an hour.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

KIMBERLEY: I am currently reading Bad Girls of the Bibleby Liz Curtis Higgs, and Donald Miller Greatest Hits: Through Painted Deserts, Searching for God Knows Whatand Blue Like Jazz. I alternate between digital and print. I pick up a lot of my print books at garage sales and in library boxes. But I have downsized to one ladder bookshelf in my bedroom so I don’t have too much room for print books anymore. For fiction, I love mysteries. I like digital because I can usually download an e-book for a good price.

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

KIMBERLEY: Dark chocolate. Steam rising off the lake. A seagull’s call. My granddaughter’s giggle. Naps. These are a few of my favourite things. The dentist just pulled a 50-year old baby tooth. I think that qualifies me as unique.

JAN:What keeps you going in your writing career?

KIMBERLEY: As a life-long learner I keep learning things that I want to share. I suppose if I stopped learning, I’d stop writing.

JAN:How is your faith reflected in your writing?

KIMBERLEY: Everything I write reflects my faith. My bio states: “Her writing relates raising a family, pursuing a healthy lifestyle and everyday experiences to building a relationship with God.”My faith is really central to my writing.

JAN:That’s inspiring. What are some things you’ve learned from your own writing?

KIMBERLEY: I’ve learned that I have a lot of stuff to share. And after many years, I am finally finding my voice.

JAN:What is your ultimate writing goal?

KIMBERLEY: To leave a legacy of writings that my grandchildren’s grandchildren will enjoy reading and learning from.

JAN:Advice for beginning writer…

KIMBERLEY: Join a writer’s group for support and encouragement. I am a member of Inscribe, The Word Guild and John316 authors. Finding your tribe and talking with like-minded people is especially important for writers. We are a unique group. We need to stick together.

JAN:Thanks so much for taking the time to let us in on your life, Kimberley. Blessings as you continue to learn and share and write.

BIO: Health that Feeds Body & Spirit

Kimberley is a motivational speaker and an award-winning author and a member of The Word Guild and Inscribe Christian Writer’s Fellowship. Her writing relates raising a family, pursuing a healthy lifestyle, and everyday experiences to building a relationship with God. Kimberley, who lives near Toronto, Canada, offers practical, guilt-free tips on improving spiritual and physical health.

Kimberley Payne

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I met Ann-Margret Hovsepian at the InScribe Christian Writer’s Conference in 2018, where she was the keynote speaker. We immediately felt a friendship and camaraderie, so I asked her for an interview for my blog.

Ann-Margret Hovsepian

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

Ann-Margret: I’ve been writing for publication for over 25 years, but that was never my childhood aspiration, even though the clues were there. Ever since I learned the alphabet, I’ve had an irrepressible affinity for the written word and, although I’m Armenian, the English language. My parents often found me poring over a dictionary or encyclopedia, or amusing myself with word puzzle magazines or my older sister’s English exercise books. In elementary school, I made good use of my parents’ old manual typewriter and every scrap of blank paper I could find to produce one-of-a-kind family newsletters complete with articles, jokes, illustrations and puzzles. However, I also loved science, so I studied chemistry in college for a few years before it dawned on me I was in the wrong field.

When I was 20, I started working for Home Builder Magazine and, within four years, went from typesetting and proofreading to managing the editorial department, copy editing and copy writing. At that point, I decided to quit my job and launch out on my own, and have been freelancing since then. I am drawn to writing because I want to share good news with people and that’s one of the tools I’m skilled at using. For me, writing is the means to an end, not the end itself.

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

Ann-Margret: My father saw the gift in me before I took writing seriously and he’s always encouraged me to write—not necessarily to showcase my talent but to share what God puts on my heart. He’s a pastor so he has always seen a deeper purpose for my writing. I’ve also had many editors and writers affirm my talents and that has helped me stay the course even when I’ve struggled with self-doubt.

Jan: What’s your preferred genre and why do you write?

Ann-Margret: Definitely non-fiction. I love reading fiction but do not feel drawn to write it. Again, writing is a tool for me. My real passion is communicating God’s love and truth to people, encouraging them and bringing them joy, and writing is an effective way for me to do that.

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

Ann-Margret: I have to confess that I’m all over the place with my writing, even after 25 years of doing it professionally. My approach depends on the project, and mine have been varied. Some require more preparation than others, and for some I’ll handwrite notes first while for others I’ll just sit at my computer and start writing.

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

Ann-Margret: Everything inspires me! Nature, books I read, conversations I overhear, smells, sounds, memories, songs, mistakes I make, people I meet, etc. I carry a little notebook around with me to jot down ideas. I don’t always use them but it’s a practice that helps me pay more attention to details around me.

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

Ann-Margret: Again, it depends on the project. I love interviewing people and hearing their stories or insights. I generally interview people I already know or people I’ve been asked by editors to interview. I will occasionally ask friends for suggestions. Of course, I do research online as well but I try to be diligent about fact-checking and tend to stick to reputable sources.

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

Ann-Margret: What I like most is the opportunity to touch people’s lives—to inspire and encourage them, or to share important information with them, to nudge them closer to God. It gives me a thrill when they respond and let me know my article or book had the desired effect.

What I like least is all the hard work! The lack of inspiration at times, the fear, the rewrites, the brain drain when the sentences start to sound like an alien language but I need to keep pushing through. It can be discouraging at times.

Jan: What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

Ann-Margret: My best forum for communicating with a wide audience and letting them know about my writing has been Facebook (my business page). Since all my books have been published by traditional houses, however, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to have them promote my work. Word of mouth has been great, as well as simply being involved in various areas of ministry and getting to know lots of people.

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

Ann-Margret: Facebook and Instagram, but mostly Facebook because there is so much more space for writing longs posts and easily commenting back and forth with people following my page.

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

Ann-Margret: I’m not sure I do! It can change from week to week or month to month depending on how many deadlines I’m juggling. Sometimes I do very little writing for long stretches and other times I’m writing well into the wee hours of the night just to get it all done. As a freelancer who works in my own home and lives alone, this is manageable. I think I probably thrive on the variety. I’m fairly disciplined when it comes to working hard and meeting deadlines, so I like being a bit less structured when it comes to managing my schedule.

Jan: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

Ann-Margret: It’s not unusual for me to be in the middle of two or three books at the same time. I recently starting reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis and Praying with Jane. I have a couple dozen books in my Kindle library but I really, really don’t like reading from a screen unless I have to. It can be practical when traveling but it’s basically print for me.

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

Ann-Margret: I think I collect favourite things. I have so many! The colour red, snowflakes, meringue, Calvin & Hobbes, quilts, vintage suitcases, gerbera daisies, polka dots, gingham, fireworks, peppermint tea, anything Narnia, anything Jane Austen, calligraphy, key lime pie…! Maybe that’s what makes me unique. I am delighted by many things. I’m curious and creative and find it impossible to be bored.

Jan: What keeps you going in your writing career?

Ann-Margret: First of all, the Lord’s strength and help. And then it’s the people around me: the ones who pray for me, the ones who read my work and ask for more, the ones who publish it. For me, my writing has very little to do with me. It’s not a hobby or something that I necessarily enjoy doing. My writing is all about my readers.

Jan: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

Ann-Margret: Especially in the last several years, just about everything I write is a reflection of my faith as I write almost exclusively for Christian publications. And that is the goal of my writing anyway—to share my faith and to help others know God more through my work.

Jan: What are some things you learned from your own writing?

Ann-Margret: I’ve learned things about the world around me as I’ve interviewed people and shared their stories, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself and God as I’ve worked on devotionals or feature stories on difficult topics. I’ve learned to be more open-minded and attentive. And, as I’ve worked on thousands of rewrites and revisions, I think I’ve learned just a little bit about humility!

Jan: What is your ultimate writing goal?

Ann-Margret: To be faithful and obedient in whatever opportunities God gives me to connect with readers, and to be truthful in everything I write. I no longer have any measurable goals regarding how many books I write or sell or how much money I make.

Jan: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Ann-Margret: As far as the craft of writing goes, my advice is to balance confidence with humility. You need confidence and courage to put your thoughts on paper but you also need humility to be open to direction and correction. Talent is important but it’s not enough. A major part of my success in being published comes down to my willingness to listen to and work with editors.

In terms of the business of writing, I always tell novice writers to be willing to invest in their careers, not only time and energy but also resources. Choose a writers’ conference that is right for you, making sure it’s one with good networking opportunities, and save up for it if you have to. Nothing beats meeting the editors and publishers who want to publish what you are writing.

Jan: Thanks, Ann-Margret, for your willingness to share with us on my blog. I hope to meet you in person again soon.

Readers, please check Ann-Margret’s Facebook page, blogsite, LinkedIn.

 

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

EMILY: I’ve been writing since I was five years old. My first piece of work was a short play that I made my grandma act out with me over and over until we both had the lines memorized. I think only a grandma could have been that patient.

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

EMILY: I don’t know that I exactly decided to write so much as being a writer is who I was. But I have had some major cheerleaders who kept me from giving up. I already told you about the early support from one of my grandmas, but my other grandma always loved my writing and told me how I made pictures with my words. Even once she was declared legally blind, she used her electronic reader to read the books in my Maple Syrup Mysteries. My parents paid for probably my first five writer’s conferences when I couldn’t afford to send myself, and my husband now copy edits all my books for me.

 

 

JAN: Sounds like a lot of great support. What’s your preferred genre?

EMILY: I love mysteries because of the puzzle to solve. When I’m reading a mystery or watching one on TV, I’m always trying to figure it out before the reveal. As a writer, I want to play fair—so the reader could figure it out—and yet keep everyone guessing until the end with interesting twists and reveals.

JAN: Why do you write?

EMILY: I like to joke that I write because I didn’t want to stop playing make-believe when I grew up. The truth is more that I feel God gave me the ability to write, and I want to use the talents He gave me to serve Him.

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

EMILY: Where I write depends on the season. Canadian winters aren’t conducive to writing outside, so I write at the kitchen table. (We’re moving soon and then I’ll have a dedicated office!) In the summers, though, we have a screened-in area where I can write in the fresh air and breeze without fighting off mosquitos or flies. That’s my favorite spot to write.

I’ve also spent a lot of time writing in hospitals and doctor’s offices. People looked at me sideways, but if I hadn’t been willing to work in the time I had, I wouldn’t have been able to put out the number of books I’ve put out in the last two years.

I write my first draft on an AlphaSmart Neo because it’s a dedicated word processor that keeps me away from distractions. I’m also learning Dragon dictation, and I hope that’ll speed things up for me.

I’m a hardcore plotter. I tried pantsing a novel (I won’t reveal which one in my series), and not only did it take me three times as long to write, but it was my least popular book. Not fun.

JAN: Been there, done that! I need to plot too. Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

EMILY: A lot of my story ideas start with the murder situation or motive. In my book Tapped Out, for example, I wanted to do a locked-room style mystery where the murderer would have had to walk by my main character’s client and kill his wife within earshot of him. It added two levels—was her client being honest and how was this possible? The book I’m working on right now, Sugar and Vice, started with the question “Why would someone want to kill a hundred-year-old man at his own birthday party?” Those sorts of naturally-intriguing ideas make it fun for me to write the books.

My inspiration comes from all over—things I see in the news, something I’ve read when I’m studying murder methods (yeah, weird, but a hazard of the trade), or something that’s actually happened. In all those situations, real life is only a jumping off point. From there, I start asking “But what if?” Sugar and Viceis a good example again. My grandpa recently turned 90. Leading up to his birthday, he always talks about how old he’ll be and how he’s lived the longest of anyone in his family. That started me wondering.

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

EMILY: I use a combination of books and the internet to research. When I was writing my Maple Syrup Mysteries, I also talked to people who’d worked a maple syrup farm. I try to stick to scholarly or government sources whenever possible, or sources that have an acknowledged reputation for accuracy. If I’m not sure about the credibility of the source, then I try to make sure I can confirm the information from multiple sources.

This is less important in some genres than others, though. I have to do my best to get details right about causes of death, but my genre (cozy mystery) expects the sleuth to have a level of involvement within the case that a normal person wouldn’t ever be allowed to have. So I think it’s important to get right what you can, but to also understand where the tropes of your genre allow you some leeway.

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

EMILY: Often I like the actual writing part the least. I like coming up with ideas and characters, and I like having written, but I’m not sure I like the actual writing.

JAN: I understand completely! Writing takes so much determination and concentration. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

EMILY: I’ve used advertising almost exclusively, particularly newsletters that advertise 99-cent sales and Amazon Marketing Services. I’ve also given away a lot of my free prequel novella through Instafreebie and multi-author events.

But here’s my philosophy about promoting. The best practices are always changing. What worked for me might not work for anyone else. The best thing to do is to experiment, and always work on building a list and then building relationships with the people on that list.

JAN: Thank you for that candid response. I agree it’s not a one-method-fits-all deal. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

EMILY: None. Social media isn’t a priority for me, and I don’t like it much. I do have a Facebook page, but I might post a couple of times a month.

JAN: That’s honest, and plays on your answer to my previous question. How do you balance professional time with personal time?

EMILY: Sunday is the Sabbath. I don’t work on Sunday. That time is set aside for church, and then for rest and spending time with my family or friends.

During the week, it’s always hard to find the balance. Because this is my full-time career, I try to make sure my days are spent on professional activities. My family needs my income to survive. My job isn’t a nice bonus income. It’s a necessity.

That said, life rarely runs smoothly. Over 2016, I missed over three months of work due to medical appointments/needs. I work at times when most people wouldn’t—like in ER waiting rooms—because sometimes I have to in order to both be there for the people I love and still earn a living.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

EMILY: I have about three books on the go right now—one writing business book (Newsletter Ninjaby Tammi Labrecque), a Christian theology book, and a not-yet-released cozy mystery by Heather Day Gilbert called Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass.

I’m definitely a digital girl. My Kindle fits so nicely in my purse, and it’s lighter in my hands than most books. I’ve been reading more since I got it than I did before because of the convenience.

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

EMILY: My favorite activities are painting, board games, and walking. I also love to bake.

What makes me unique is probably my propensity to adopt stray cats. We have seven right now. Some people take vacations. My husband and I take in strays. We find a lot of joy in rescuing frightened, sickly creatures, nursing them back to health, and giving them a safe home.

JAN: What keeps you going in your writing career?

EMILY: I like to eat and pay my electricity bill so I can take hot showers—just kidding. A couple of things keep me going. The first is the knowledge that, even on the frustrating days, I’m blessed to have this job. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. The second is the emails from readers. Knowing how much people are enjoying the books and the characters makes me want to always improve and to keep putting out books.

JAN: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

EMILY: This is a two-part answer as well. I feel it’s important to be able to provide clean entertainment for people, so my books have no swearing, no gore, and no sex scenes.

Beyond that, I write for the general market, so one of my readers has called my books “stealth evangelism.” I try to show Christians as they truly are, not as the media likes to portray them. I also try to show my Christian characters as people who still have struggles and challenges, but whose faith helps them deal with those.

My main character Nicole in my Maple Syrup Mysteriesstarts out the series as a non-Christian and then comes to faith. Her conversion happens off page, but I show her going to church, trying to understand what this means for her life, and using prayer and memorizing Bible verses to help deal with her anxiety problems.

JAN: What are some things you learned from your own writing?

EMILY: My writing reminds me that each person I meet has their own private story. They have struggles and worries and fears that I know nothing about. I think it’s made me more compassionate to others.

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

EMILY: Continue to grow, continue to be able to do this as a full-time job, and write 100 novels/novellas before I retire. (I’m currently working on number 11 in that last tally if anyone is keeping score.)

JAN: I wish you a long and healthy life! You’ll do it! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

EMILY: Take your time to get ready before you publish. I thought I was ready to be a published author long before I really was. When I look back now, I’m so grateful that self-publishing wasn’t an easy option because I would have put my writing out there before I was strong enough in the craft or knowledgeable enough about what it takes to run a business.

JAN: Thanks so much for your responses and a peek into your writing life. All the best in your future as you continue to learn, grow and put out great books.

If you want to know more about Emily and her books, go to her website.

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