Monday, March 10, 2008

Q & A!

I thought it might make for an interesting exercise if we asked a few published authors and aspiring authors to share a few thoughts on their path to publication. Here's what some of them had to say.
A special thanks to our two featured authors, Deb Raney and Susan May Warren, for taking the time to participate!
They both have new books out, be sure to check out their websites!

Deborah Raney - Author
http://www.deborahraney.com

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1.At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I think I first heard the call at 11 or 12, but later, as a young mom, I knew the Lord was saying "not yet." At 38, with our oldest headed for college and a 3-year-old I desperately wanted to stay home with, I knew I had the go-ahead to begin writing in earnest. So far, He hasn't said "stop" and I'll keep writing until He does!
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I guess I'd classify this season as one of steady work, turning into a career as my youngest leaves home in the next year and a half. For now, God has said, "keep writing" in the form of a new 4-book contract. I'm thrilled about that, but where I used to say "I hope to be writing till the day I die," I now feel that there may come a day--hopefully many years from now--when the Lord may say "I have something else in mind for you now." I could see myself as an editor, because of how much I've enjoyed doing critiques, both for my critique partner, Tamera Alexander and at conferences. I remember my shock when LaVyrle Spencer retired from writing. But now that I'm a grandmother, I understand her decision a little better, and I can foresee a day when I might do the same. But again, I hope it's a long ways away. I still have a lot of stories to get out of my head. ; )
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
You know, I'd be lying if I told you I'd had many obstacles. The journey to being published has been fairly trouble-free for me, and by comparison, I can't complain about many rejections. I'm certainly not bragging about that. It's just the way things have gone. Maybe the Lord knows how weak I am, and how easily crushed I could be by rejection? If I had to name one time when I really struggled, it would be three-fourths of the way through writing A Nest of Sparrows, when I literally fell to my knees and said "Lord, I can not finish this book! It's too hard. There are too many obstacles with the research, and with all the other people and things needing my attention right now." But of course, as soon as I cried out to him and started looking in the right direction for my help, things came together much more smoothly, and that book ended up being winning or being a finalist for several awards.
4. What is your greatest joy?
If you mean in the world of writing, then it's a tie between hearing from readers and teaching at writers conferences. Both are incredibly rewarding. If you mean, in my life, it's being wife to Ken, mom to our four children, daughter to my parents, and now "Mimi" to our two little grandsons. I can't imagine anything more joy-bringing than the incredible family with which God has blessed me.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Don't rush God. Wait for His timing. It may not be the same as yours, but it will be worth the wait. I guarantee it! While you wait, study the craft, read excellent books, read the kind of books you wish to write. Save up and invest in writers conferences and research trips and whatever else will help you become more skillful. Yes, being a writer involves a God-given talent, but it also involves good stewardship of the gift, which sometimes requires great sacrifice on our part.

Susan May Warren - Author
http://www.susanmaywarren.com

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1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I always loved to write, and considered it one of the gifts God had given me, that I needed to be a good steward of. I started by writing newsletters as a missionary, determining (and praying) to write the best newsletter I could, for His glory. Then, I felt the nudge to write devotionals, then magazine articles, and then, one day, God put it in my heart to write novels. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I asked Him to train me. It wasn’t until He moved us stateside, and I had a number of publishing contracts that I realized He was changing my focus from overseas missionary, to the ministry of writing.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I’m discovering that I can’t look at the other “runners” – that I need to keep my eyes focused on God, and listen to His voice. I have never felt competitive about this career, but I do want to write the best stories I can, for His glory, so I spend a lot of time in self-analysis, still asking God to grow me as a writer. Sometimes He leads me into different genres (like the Josey books – first person funny), or deeper stories (Taming Rafe – the story within the story). Now, I’m writing a funny mystery/suspense series. I am thrilled that He’s always got something waiting for me, and I love discovering that. When I trust the Lord for my writing journey, I don’t panic about trends or craft, I can just keep enjoying the journey.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
I constantly have new ideas! I love writing – but I always want to write the NEXT story idea and I sometimes get frustrated that I don’t have time to pursue it. But, a great story takes time and focus, and putting new ideas on the backburner is a discipline I’ve learned. (as excruciating as it is sometimes!) However, again, I have to trust God for even my story ideas – that if they are ones He wants me to use, then they will be there when I hae time to write them!
4. What is your greatest joy?
Seeing my children read one of my books, and laughing out loud. Or better yet, having them get something out of my books that grows their faith. Second to that is seeing readers blessed by my books.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Don’t get discouraged with the learning curve and the output of the publishing world. Dive into an abundant life with Christ, knowing that He’ll teach you what you need for each step of the journey, and that you’re relationship with Him is the most important part of your writing journey.

Terry Burns - Agent for Hartline Literary and Author.
http://www.hartlineliterary.com
http://www.terryburns.net
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I was writing, but not sure I was being called to do it for the Lord. I went to the Glorieta Christian Writing conference with the express mission of deciding whether it was a calling or not. If someone would like to see what happened there my writing testimony is at http://www.terryburns.net/Testimony.htm
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
A big turn came for me when my agent recruited me to start working as an agent for her. After much prayer I decided I could serve the Lord better by helping get a number of people's words out where they would serve HIm rather than me doing a couple of books a year. I still try to write, but it is very much subordinated to the other role now.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Getting initially published in fiction. (see number 5) Keeping the faith and continuing to grow in my craft until it paid off.
4. What is your greatest joy?
Getting a letter that reading one of my offerings led a person to find or reclaim their faith. Hasn't heppened often, but it doesn't take many to make it all worthwhile.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Never give up. If life was fair it would all be about the writing. The truth is the harder part is finding the right door at exactly the right time that our work will fit in that door. The majority of people do not substantially publish, but nobody tells them to quit, they get discouraged and quit trying or quit learning. The average for getting a first book published is six years, and far too many people give up before they have done what it takes to get there, to get to the point where it IS all about the writing. Unfortunately, persistence and dedication has much more to do with getting started in publishing than talent does. But once we get that break, the talent has to be there.

Anonymous:
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
7th grade
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
On the cusp of breaking out
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Myself. Every time I’ve pushed out in my writing I’ve found success unusually quickly. My greatest obstacle has been pushing past the fear and risking. Risking rejection, failure, etc.
4. What is your greatest joy?
My wife and boys. Oh, you mean writing related: Sitting alone writing feels like I’m at the center of the universe. Much joy.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Never give up. Ever. Ever.

Leigh DeLozier - Author and Contributor on Writers' Rest.
http://soulrestministries.wordpress.com/
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I wrote and illustrated my first "book" for my mom when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, so I've always been a writer. I didn't feel God specifically calling me to write until 1999, after our son was born. I was just beginning to try working from home and was praying about what to write and where to try and find work while I rocked the baby. God answered me as clearly as if He were standing right beside me and said the words -- write devotionals for moms who work from home. I was floored because I'd never heard directions so distinctly. The shock had worn off by the time Jonathan woke up from his nap and I hauled out the stroller to take him for a walk. I prayed about it almost the whole time -- Did you really tell me to do something? Because that's really cool, but I don't know what to write. If you want me to do this you'll have to give me ideas. Then ideas (mostly connections between my new life as a mom, my relationship with God, and working from home) began popping in my head almost quicker than I could think. I scribbled down as many as I could as soon as we got back home, but know I still forgot some. The ideas kept coming and I started writing. 31 of those devotionals became my first book. :-) And God still dumps just as many ideas in my head, it's just that now some are fiction and some are non-fiction.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
In many ways I feel at a bit of a crossroads because I have so many ideas/choices and enjoy so many things. I love to write devotionals, curriculum, Bible studies, fiction. I love to speak to women's and girls' groups. I love to teach. I love to market and promote books. I've prayed quite a bit since January about whether God wants me to concentrate more on my writing (and even with that, on fiction on NF) or my speaking, or if He wants me to get more involved with helping others. He hasn't put a sign in my yard or yelled any directions to me yet so I'm still just working on what feels right at the moment. That means gearing up to promote my girls' devotional book, promoting my speaking ministry, and plugging away at my fiction WIP.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Waiting for my devotional book to arrive on my doorstep! The printing was delayed so the book I was scheduled to receive at the end of April didn't come until the middle of June. It was a huge lesson in patience and moving past frustration. In terms of the actual writing, my hardest times come when a project is rejected and Satan starts pushing those internal buttons that claim I'm a nobody, there's no way God could want to share a message through me, I'll never get anywhere with these projects. My own insecurities were an obstacle early on. I'd written tons of devotionals but hadn't shown them to anyone -- they were something special and private between God and me. Choosing a few to print out and show my husband for the first time was a huge step; actually submitting a few to a publisher was tremendous.
4. What is your greatest joy?
Writing or speaking for God, no matter what the topic is, who the audience might be or what format it's in. If it's a message He's laid on my heart, I want to get it out to someone. For a long time I've had what I consider my "real writing" that helps feed my children and my "God writing" that helps feed my soul. A couple of years ago Cec Murphey was the main speaker at one of my local writing group's conferences (he lives outside Atlanta so is incredibly gracious about coming to see us). He asked all about my work, and I told him I'd just gotten a rejection letter from AMG for a Bible study, though it had gone to committee. He looked at me with those intense eyes like only he can and asked, "What is your PASSION?" Before I could think, the words that popped out of my mouth were, "My God writing." It was true then, and it's true now. My greatest passion and joy, some of my happiest times and times of feeling closest to God are when I'm writing for Him. I have no idea whether He'll use those words for someone else or if He's just teaching a 1-on-1 lesson, but that time is never wasted.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Always remember why we're here on this earth -- to glorify God and bring Him joy. Some people are able to make a living as a Christian author or speaker, but many, many others aren't. Maybe you'll be the next bestselling author; maybe you'll only share things with a few friends. Either way is OK, as long as God's at the center of it. If you're using the gifts He gave you in a way that glorifies Him, you'll receive your "pay" in ways you could never imagine.

Andee Davis
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
As a college senior, He put a vision for writing fiction into my heart. He also showed me it would be a little later in life.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I am finding that what I thought was a long hallway of blank walls has many doors, and some of them are unlocking for me! I'm published but not yet in novels.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Walking down a long hall and finding the doors locked. I think that season is over.
4. What is your greatest joy?
As a writer, finding that what I have written in unrelated bits and pieces, early in my plotting and characterization, all begins to work together in ways that I never dreamed of. That's when I see that God has His fingerprints on my work.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Never stop trying.

Jenness Walker - Contributor for Writers' Rest
http://websiteministries.com/individual/jennesswalker/
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I guess I never had a specific moment when God whispered in my ear--you are a writer. I just have always had stories in my head and wanted to get them out. At first it was through Barbies and acting out stuff with my friends. (I once got in trouble for waking my parents up at 2 a.m., using a box of blinds as a sword. Not on them, of course.) Then I started writing stuff down and dreamed of being a writer. That dream just won't die. :-)
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I have an agent, I just finished my third novel, and I'm doing some spring cleaning (um, well, that's what I'm supposed to be doing) before I dive into a new project. I see myself doing this the rest of my life--I have enough ideas for that, anyway. God...I hope He's leading me to publication. Soon. Because I really need a new car. And a bigger house. And... :-)
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
A couple years ago I really wanted an agent for Christmas, and it looked like that might happen. It didn't, and I cried--I think that's the only time I've cried over a rejection. Then I heard the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In This Storm (love that song), and that helped me get through it.
4. What is your greatest joy?
Coming up with the ideas. Seeing how the words spill on paper (or the screen, actually) and being surprised later at what I wrote. Watching as loose ends come together in ways I didn't even plan. Experiencing the "God things" that happen and the "God moments" when things suddenly click and the message in the story relates to my life. There are so many joys in the writing journey. I guess it's obvious I can't narrow it down. :-)
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Don't do it. :-) Quit right now. Unless, of course, you can't even imagine not writing. If that's the case, keep at it, never give up, and allow God to direct your path.

Jude Urbanksi - Author
www.judeurbanski.com
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
I've known intuitively most of my life that I was a writer.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I've only one book and a small smattering of articles published. I thought inspirational romance was my whole genre, but I think God is leading me also to nonfiction stuff too. I'm praying lots these days. I have just finished my first novel and am looking for a home and have started my second romance.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
Taking or makig the time is one of my hardest obstacles for so much gets in the way even with the somewhat disciplined approach that I have. At times I feel it is a very selfish occupation, because of what it takes. (Then I remember my son in law saying his choice to be a physican was selfish also).
4. What is your greatest joy?
Creating words that give joy or help to readers.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Read, read, read-in your genre, out of your genre and on your craft. Take it 'bird by bird' as Anne Lamont says.

Tiffany (Amber Miller) Stockton - Author
http://www.ambermiller.com
1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
My journey began many years ago. I wrote my first short story in 5th grade with several accolades from both my teacher and my fellow students. It was even entered into a ‘Young Writers of America’ contest and placed but didn’t get selected for publication. Ever since I learned to read at age 3-1/2, I’ve been telling stories, and I could often easily keep a captive audience. Writing seemed to be a natural progression from the verbal.
I wrote often, but it wasn’t until I was a Senior in high school that I got the ‘bug’ to write. My English teacher saw potential, and as an author herself, she encouraged me to pursue the talent further. However, I became more focused on finishing my education and getting my degree, so my writing took up residence on the back burner.
It wasn’t until 1997 when I wrote my first fan fiction and received a lot of encouragement and feedback that I realized I might be able to make something of this God-given talent. It took me another 5 years and encouragement from Tracie Peterson (one of my favorite authors) before I finally listened to that still, small voice and took the step professionally to begin a career by joining a national organization called ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), then known as ACRW (American Christian Romance Writers).
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
I have sold 4 books with the promise of 2 more and 2 anthology collection repackagings of those 6 novels. By the end of 2009, I'll have 8 books in print. This year, I'm working on finding an agent so I can present my books to a variety of publishers and diversify a little more. I also have felt God leading me toward writing for children and possibly young teens, so I recently completed a correspondence course and received my diploma. I'll begin targeting publishers for young readers and starting with articles or short stories.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey?
For me, it’s often the lack of description of the surroundings and setting the scene that causes holes in my stories. Dialogue always comes easy as does the progression of a scene. But establishing unique descriptions or characteristics for my characters to make them individuals in their own right and not cookie-cutter or two-dimensional continues to vex me.
4. What is your greatest joy?
That would be completing my first book, because not only did it prove to me that I could finish one, but it also provided me the confirmation that I was in fact a writer. I learned so much in the writing of that first book. Although it has yet to see a contract attached to it, I believe it taught me a lot about myself, about my goals, and about where I want to go in my career. It also confirmed my talents that God has given me and showed me that I can use them successfully.
The second joy would be getting word that I had *sold* my first book and knowing this gift of words would now be able to touch other lives through the message in the stories.
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, patience, perseverance and faith. And it won’t happen overnight. You have to maintain a teachable spirit and be open to constructive criticism, no matter how far along in your writing journey you get. In the end, the rewards far outweigh all the sweat and tears you shed along the way. Most importantly, if you feel this is the path for you, never give up!

Deborah Vogts
http://www.deborahvogts.com

1. At what point did you know God was calling you to be a writer?
The first time I felt writing was the path God wanted me on was a few years ago when I received a special scholarship to attend the Nashville ACFW conference. That summer, he dropped two stories in my lap, allowed me to attend the conference where I met an agent that soon took me on as a client. At long last, I felt CALLED.
2. Where are you in your writing journey now and where do you see God leading you?
Since that conference, I've had several ups and downs, and now I'm up again. I am finally working on a project that has been stirring in my mind since Nashville and have a new agent to represent me.
3. What has been the hardest season or the biggest obstacle in your writing journey? When I lost my first agent. :) She had taken me on for a project, but when we couldn't sell it, she let me go. That year was really hard, both the waiting, and then the eventual let down of not seeing a dream fulfilled. After I was let go, I felt like I was back at the starting gate and all those horrible doubts came drifting back--God, am I really called to do this???
4. What is your greatest joy?
Writing is fun anytime. But I think it is especially thrilling when you feel God is backing the story. It's as though he's giving you the words and you're the pen.What could produce more joy than that?
5. If you could share ONE thing with an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Stay the course. Getting published is very difficult, and there are never any guarantees. But if you continue to hone the craft and learn, your chances are greater than if you quit. I may never be published, and I'm finally okay with that, but as long as there are stories in my head, I'll continue to persevere.

There you have it, folks. What a wealth of wisdom. Thank you so much to you all for sharing your heart and soul, and your passion for the craft we all love.
I hope you picked up on the one thing everybody touched on - don't give up! If this is the journey you know God has called you on, don't give up. Use all resources available to you. Learn, grow and keep writing. And never, ever, give up.
You will achieve those dreams in God's time!

2 comments:

Lynda Schab said...

Love these, Cathy! How great to learn a little bit about some of my favorite authors (and friends!) Thanks for posting. Keep them coming... :-)

jenness said...

Hey, Cath, I thought you said you couldn't do interviews?? :-) Great post. Well, most of it anyway. LOL