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Today, Heather Day Gilbert is my interviewee. Welcome, Heather.

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

HEATHER: My parents played a huge role, from encouraging my reading at an early age to embracing my poetry writing as a young girl/teen. They always celebrated my writing successes, as did my grandparents. Then I married my husband, and while he understood I wasn’t ready to take on writing as a career when my three children were young (at one point they were age three and under, all in diapers!), he totally supported me when I blocked off a month to write my first book for NaNoWriMo, then when I decided to pursue the author dream. Having a strong support system is so critical to writing. Nowadays, post-publication, I’m also bolstered by my readers and my critique partner. I am truly blessed!

JANICE: What do you consider to be some of the best methods of promoting your work?

HEATHER: To date, I’ve tried nearly every promo method available (Facebook and Goodreads ads, giveaways, giving books to reviewers, you name it). By far, the most effective way to move large quantities of books has been:

1) going permafree (permanently free) with my first mystery across vendor platforms

2) paying for Bookbub ads. Going permafree, coupled with a Bookbub ad, doubled my monthly income.

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

HEATHER: I just started up on Instagram, and that is quite a fun and easy platform. I’m also fond of Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and each one really has its own uses and reaches a slightly different audience. I remember having so many people repinning my Viking pins before I published my first Viking historical—that’s how I knew there was a reader audience hungry for that niche.

JANICE: We know that writers need to read, so what are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

HEATHER: I’m reading The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron and I’m really enjoying the historical element of the story. As you know, my Viking novels are also based on real people, so I appreciate the amount of research that goes into these things! And I have kind of reverted to enjoying print books, but by far, I read more books on my Kindle—I use my library’s Overdrive system (no overdue fines! YAY!), and I do a lot of early-reading for my author friends.

JANICE: Tell us a little about yourself. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

HEATHER: I found out pretty fast that I was kind of unique because I still enjoy playing video games. Of course, now my son can beat me at any game I play, but I love it as a way of blowing off steam and just unplugging from my thoughts and worries! I also love flower gardening, but haven’t been able to do it as much this year due to some significant family changes.

JANICE: Do have any advice for beginning writers?

HEATHER: My best advice would be to be your own biggest fan. I know that sounds lame, but if you want to get your book published (either with a publisher or indie publishing), you have to believe in your book more than anyone else. More than an agent, more than your early readers…enough to know this book is worth getting out there. If you believe that, you will be willing to invest in and sacrifice for that book. And trust me, it’ll be an investment—of time, of edits, of marketing efforts, and the list goes on. You have to be utterly committed to the idea that this book is worth getting out into the world. And then you don’t stop until it is.

JANICE: Thanks, Heather, for taking time with us today. Blessings as you continue in your writing career.

heather-day-gilbert

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational storytelling runs in her blood. You can find Heather’s Viking historicals and West Virginia mystery/suspense novels here. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.”

You can find Heather online here:

Website: http://heatherdaygilbert.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/heatherdaygilbert

Twitter: @heatherdgilbert

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/heatherdgilbert/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7232683.Heather_Day_Gilbert

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heatherdaygilbert/

E-Mail: heatherdaygilbert@gmail.com

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I’m pleased to share an interview today with Amelia Legend, an author of Adult and Young Adult fiction.

Amelia Legend

Amelia Legend

JANICE: Amelia, thanks for taking the time for this interview. How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

AMELIA: I first started creative writing as a teenager. I originally only wrote poetry as a way of processing my thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I sat down and wrote my first book. I suppose, in a way, I was always a writer; I just hadn’t found my story yet.

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

AMELIA: My daughter. It wasn’t until I had my first child that I was able to sit down and write my first manuscript. Considering how exhausting it is when you first become a parent, how much you struggle with how to handle this enormous change in your life, and time management normally writing would be the last thing a mother would spend her free time doing! Yet somehow, having my daughter gave me a voice to write my fears and my struggles down in a work of fiction in a way I hadn’t been able to before. I owe it all to Lily.

JANICE: Very sweet. What’s your preferred genre?

AMELIA: Young Adult or Adult fiction will most likely be my foundational genre, but I do hope to try a little mystery or fantasy at some point!

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JANICE: Why do you write?

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AMELIA: I write because I’m a writer. Some people are born as teachers, as pastors, as farmers, maybe even born to be stay-at-home mothers. Some people are born with an uncontrollable need to create, and I am undoubtedly one of those people who cannot go through life without writing or reading something! It’s simply who God made me to be.

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

AMELIA: I write in my office at home. I have to be alone and in a quiet space where I can experience the story without distractions (when my daughter is napping or asleep for the night). When I see a story form I always see images and characters in snapshots. I have to create the points between but I feel as if the story is already there, I just have to find it. So no, I’m not a plotter because the story evolves as the characters grow; nevertheless, I do know what the outcome of the book will be before I start the manuscript.

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

AMELIA: LIFE!

JANICE: Ah, yes! How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

AMELIA: Every book is different, therefore your research will reflect that need. I would suggest checking credentials and references if you need in depth research to support your story line.

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

AMELIA: I love the emotional evolution of a character. How a character grows and changes throughout the story. Sometimes the story changes and it surprises the writer as much as the reader. I love that about writing! Otherwise I really really hate social media promotion! I’m not great at the promotional aspects of writing!

JANICE: You’re definitely not alone there! What do you find are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

AMELIA: Book reviews are essential to a writer’s legitimacy in the writing world. Having another author or a professional book review company is crucial! Having your readers write reviews is even more important to the growth and promotion of any book.

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

AMELIA: I’m really only on Facebook and my personal blog at the moment, but I have definitely been considering broadening my social media scope to Twitter, Instagram and other forums because of their notable effectiveness.

JANICE: You are a wife, mom, student, as well as an author. How do you balance professional time with personal time?

AMELIA: Time management is a constant struggle for every writer; all you can do is set goals and work as hard as you can, when you can.

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

AMELIA: I’m in the middle of King’s Crown by Victoria Avenyard. It’s a wonderful series and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it! I like both digital and print. It comes down to which is more convenient at the time, if I’m travelling, or whether or not I have been able to go to the bookstore or library. Sometimes it’s easier to get a new release on my Kindle because I live in the countryside.

JANICE: Yes, it’s so instant and convenient. Let’s switch gears a bit here. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

AMELIA: Well, I’m not really sure I can be objective about what makes me unique, I truly believe we are all unique in our own ways and the best way of finding out how is by getting to know someone. I suppose what makes me an “odd duck” is my adaptability. I accept change better than most and it has allowed me to have freedom in ways few people ever experience. Before moving to Canada I lived in California, before California I lived in Alaska, before that I lived and worked in Haiti, and so on and so forth. Some of the best decisions I’ve made, and definitely some of my favourite things, are traveling and trying new things! I like the peace and quiet I’ve found in Saskatchewan but I will always enjoy change and travel.

JANICE: Very interesting. What keeps you going in your writing career?

AMELIA: Every writer has their bad days. Recently I have felt that I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to work on my projects and I feel it’s normal to be discouraged, but what it comes down to is never giving up. Not on your love of writing, not on the gift God has given you, and not on yourself. A writer has to continue to believe that what makes them writers is not recognition, but passion.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

AMELIA: This one is a difficult question because I don’t write within the “Christian” genre; therefore, some might say my books lack an obvious faith. What I do know is that every time I sit down to write I pray that God helps me write TRUTH. Not a great Christian story with a happy ending or a gospel theology, but a story that reflects the struggle between the good and evil we experience in life. I write stories that show the ugly reality of what that looks like and feels like to experience as a Christian or as a non- believer struggling to see God. God is always in the stories I write simply because He is in our everyday lives, but not always in an obvious ways because that’s the truth of life: Sometimes it isn’t obvious when He is present, but that doesn’t mean He’s not. Sometimes He can feel far and sometimes He can sound like silence, but that doesn’t mean we are alone.

JANICE: I think you articulated that very well. It’s not an easy question. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

AMELIA: I’m trying to learn patience! Creativity takes time, consistency, and a whole lot of patience to write something worthwhile. I feel that is what I’m learning the most right now from my writing.

JANICE: What is your ultimate writing goal?

AMELIA: My ultimate writing goal is to find the right publisher. As an indie writer it is difficult to navigate the world of writing. With the right team, guidance, and goals, I hope to become the best writer I can possibly be. It’s a struggle working in this industry “on your own” and the goal is to find the right people to work with you!

JANICE: Advice for beginning writer?

AMELIA: FINISH YOUR MANUSCRIPT! The best advice is to STOP making excuses as to why you CAN’T or WONT finish your book. If you work at it everyday (or most days) and it takes five years, that’s okay! If you constantly procrastinate you’re only cheating yourself out of your own opportunities and that is NOT okay! So finish your manuscript. Find the right editor. Re-write, re-write, and re-write again. Just don’t make excuses because we always make time in life for what’s important, so stop watching Netflix, stop holding yourself back, stop making excuses, and write.

JANICE: Thanks again for your time and for sharing yourself with me and my readers.

 

If you want to know more about Amelia Legend, check out her blogsite or her Facebook 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.

 

INSERT PHOTO, BOOK IMAGE. And links.

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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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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:

www.bonniegrove.com

www.novelmatters.com

 

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Hi Murray. Welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions for my readers and me.

Murray Pura image

Murray Pura was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just north of the Dakotas and Minnesota. His first novel was released in Toronto in 1988 and was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award. Since that time he has published ten more novels, two collections of short stories, and several nonfiction titles including the Zondervan books Rooted and Streams and the Baker devotional Majestic & Wild. He has been a finalist for several awards in the U.S. and Canada and in 2012 won the Word Award of Toronto for Best Historical Novel. Murray lives and writes in southwestern Alberta and is currently published by Barbour, Baker, Harper One, Zondervan, and Harvest House as well as several other publishing houses – he works with publishers in Canada, America, the UK, and Holland. His releases for 2013 include the novels: Ashton Park, The Rose of Lancaster County, A Road Called Love, Seven Oaks, The Painted Sky, Whispers of a New Dawn, Beneath the Dover Sky, The Name of the Hawk, and An Amish Family Christmas. His diverse writing spans many genres including: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, romance, adventure, western, suspense, fantasy, Amish, and inspirational. Most of his work is available in ebook format for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook as well as in paperback.

Janice:  Murray, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What inspired you?
MURRAY: Quite truthfully I wrote my first stories when I was about nine, made covers for them after I stapled the index cards together, and gave them to Mom to read. And I kept doing this right through my teen years, writing my first 100 page novel called The Quiet Man when I was 13 and my first 200 page novel Bravest of the Brave when I was 14. I remember writing a parody of our teachers in high school which went the rounds through all the classes, smuggled under jackets and in lunch bags and backpacks – that I’m alive today and wasn’t expelled or executed is a tribute to the espionage skills of boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18. I was writing before I became a Christian and then I gave it all to God and he has continued to develop that passion in me. I guess just the telling of stories inspired and excited me.

Janice: Did you have a mentor who motivated you to keep working at it?
MURRAY: No, not at all. It was something I felt compelled to do from very early on. I just sat down and began to write. Perhaps favorite authors and ports motivated me the most.

Janice: What genres do you write and why?
MURRAY: I like romance because the love between a man and a woman is one of the most beautiful gifts God has given us. I like historical fiction because I like to go back in the past and tell stories set in different eras and centered around dramatic historical events – I like to ask the reader, “If you had been there then what would you have done?” I like contemporary fiction because I like to tell stories about who we are right now. I like to write inspirational fiction because I believe God and faith enter into everything even if sometimes we don’t see it clearly.

Janice: Where do your ideas come from?
MURRAY: Everyday life, the things you see and experience, travel, relationships, the books you read and the shows you watch, all things feed into the imagination.

Janice: How do you write? Do you have a specific place, time, method? Do you outline your stories?
MURRAY: I write anywhere and anytime using my laptop. I do have a preferred location by a large picture window that looks out over the trees and sky and creek but I can write in other locations. Any time of day works though it’s best to get started in the morning. There is a general outline, things that need to happen, places I need to go, people that need to be around. But I’m well aware that everything can change after you write that first page. Characters do different things than you imagined they would, new characters pop up, some plot ideas don’t work after a while so you jettison them. There’s a kind of ultimate destiny over everything that you plan for, and that’s supposed to rule, but the free will of the characters always brings in new scenes and new plot developments you didn’t count on. That’s when you feel like the story is writing itself and you’re simply the first writer that’s handy to pour itself through onto a WORD doc.

Janice: You’ve written both stand alones and series. Which do you prefer and why?
MURRAY: Series allow you to develop the characters much more and they allow you to tell a story in far more depth, that’s why I prefer series.

Janice:  I assume with so many projects on the go, you must work on multiple stories at the same time. How do you mentally move from one to the next?
MURRAY: You clear the decks between them, leave one where it is and go on to the next without bringing any baggage from the first with you. Generally having a short break between projects helps but once I’m into the new story that’s where my head space is and nowhere else. Giving each project a week to itself also helps.

Janice: What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you? And the most enjoyable?
MURRAY: Hardest: Tell yourself to sit down and get started each day. Most enjoyable: Love scenes.

Janice: Do you edit your own writing or do you have someone else do that?
MURRAY: I edit my own until the editor gets ahold of it at the publisher and starts to cut and paste.

Janice: Social Media have become a fact of life for writers. What kinds do you use and which do you find most effective?
MURRAY: Facebook and Goodreads and interviews on blog sites are the most effective for me. Especially when coupled with regular giveaways.

Janice: I’m sure you do a lot of research for your stories, in all genres. How do you research and how do you know you can trust the accuracy of your sources?
MURRAY: I use my extensive library and online sources. The only way to trust your sources is to choose reputable ones with reputable authors and researchers. In addition you must reference different sources against one another and see how similar the information is. A reference point of three different sources of information on a topic is an absolute minimum.

Janice: Have you ever collaborated on a writing project and if so, what tips do you have from that experience?
MURRAY: On one project my daughter wrote the poetry and I wrote the narrative for the story. It would have been much more challenging if we were working on the narrative simultaneously.

Janice: As busy as you are, how do you balance your writing life with your personal life?
MURRAY: Each day must have its rhythm. Exercise, prayer, spiritual reading, recreational reading, human interaction and relationships, meals. And the writing has to be treated as a job with a set goal of, say, 2000 words a day, 8 to 4 or 9 to 5, something established like that. It’s not a dreamy thing to write. It’s hard work like anything else that matters.

Janice: What are you currently reading? How do you choose books to read? Favorite authors?
MURRAY: I am reading several books at once: Stand Proud by Elmer Kelton; Penguin’s History of the World; The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers; Fighting the Flying Circus by Eddie Rickenbacker. I enjoy diversity and a mix of genres so long as the writing is good. Browsing stores or online helps me find new books. Favorite authors include poets like Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and John Milton; novelists like Ernest Hemingway and Alan Paton; spiritual writing by C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, and Eugene Peterson.

Janice: What interesting facts did you learn while writing your latest book?
MURRAY: How quickly the legal profession, medical profession, and the universities caved to the Nazi government in Germany from 1933 on. They had virtually no backbone at all. The churches fought back much harder. Yes, a number of them compromised their faith, but quite a number didn’t. They withstood the threats and intimidation much better than most other organized groups.

Janice: Do you have some tips for beginning / emerging writers?
MURRAY: Take every opportunity that comes your way to write. All the time I see people not writing because there’s not enough money in it, they think they don’t have the time, they say they can’t come up with ideas. You should start off by writing for the pleasure of writing. If you can’t find the time or ideas then change vocations. You need to make the time and coax those ideas out of the depths of your mind or you’ll never succeed as a writer.

Janice: Thanks very much for talking with us today. Blessings on your future writing.

Readers, check back next week for an overview of some of Murray Pura’s works.

Check out these sites to learn more about Murray and his writing (his website and Goodreads include extensive information about his titles):
Facebook Author Page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Murray-PuraWriting/125082457581805?ref=hl
Website:  www.murraypura.com
Goodreads Author Page:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4120927.Murray_Pura
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/myrrhh/

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