Welcome to the sixth in a series of interviews with Athens-area writers. The hope is to inform you about new techniques you might want to try, increase your knowledge of the individuals in your community, and inspire you on your path. Please contact me if you’re interested in answering our writing questionnaire and being featured here as a future ‘local writer’.
NOTE: Special thanks to AWA co-founder Jill Hartmann for originally supplying us with these wonderful questions for the series, and to the author below for supplying the photos and memes.
At what point in your life did you become a writer and how did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved reading (especially Love Inspired Suspense novels) and a small part of me wanted to write the kind of stories I loved to read so much. I first toyed with the idea of writing back in 2014. I wrote a couple of pages of what would later become my debut novel, Hidden Treasures. My Papaw passed away shortly after and I set my seedling of a dream to the side, silently thinking, my work isn’t good enough anyway.
But then, in August of 2016, my dream of writing a novel came back full force. My seedling dream had spouted inside my heart and was continuing to grow. I pulled out my first attempts and read, reread, and reread again. I knew they were okay, but they weren’t great. If I was going to do this, then I needed to beef up my writing. My opening with my heroine pretty much stayed the same but my story line had completely changed.
Anywho,(I know I’m strange, but “anywho” is in my vocabulary and from the mouth of Ramona Quimby, it’s a much funner word to say. Lol) I was still doubtful of my writing abilities and my parent’s twenty-fourth wedding anniversary was coming up. So I decided to write a short story about their wedding day as a gift to them and also to kinda test the waters to find out what my family thought about my writing. Everyone loved it and it inspired me to show them my novel in progress a few days later.
What books have you read that shaped you as a writer? Which authors’ work do you admire and why?
If it’s Christian and romantic, suspenseful, funny, heartwarming, thrilling, or all the above, I love to read it and every one of them has encouraged and helped me in my course to become a better writer. But the Book that has inspired me the most, I would have to say, the old King James Bible. There’s no other book more inspiring to me or that has better shaped me as the writer that I am today.
As for authors, the One I most admire is God, the author and finisher of my faith. For those who’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, y’all know we writers are commonly divided into one of three categories; a plotter, pantser, or a plantser. A plotter plots out a story before it’s written, a pantser writes as she goes, and a plantser does a little of both. If asked which category I fit in, I’d say “Neither. I’m a Spirit-Pantser.” Allow me to explain, I have no idea what I’m going to write, or even how the story is going to turn out until God reveals it to me.
photo from Global Stewards
Which piece that you have written are you most proud of and why?
That is a tough question to answer. It’s hard to pick a favorite. To date, I’d probably have to say passages from my debut novel, Hidden Treasures. But I also love this passage from the sequel, Seeking Refuge:
“What make’s you think that God wants you to help me?” The curiosity in her voice was loud and clear and she knew he’d heard it as well.
“Just a feeling. Sometimes it takes more faith to trust God’s will than others. But that’s why they call it faith. We trust Him even when we can’t see the outcome. Sometimes it feels like you’re walking with a blindfold on, with nothing to guide you but Him.”
She pondered that, though she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it. How could he have faith about what God wanted from him, without anything to go on? “I don’t understand how you can follow God blindly. Don’t you ever doubt His decisions?”
“Of course I do. We all do at some point in our lives. But it all comes down to trust. He promises He will never leave us or fail us. But we have to make that choice to trust Him. He doesn’t force us to trust Him.”
“Trust. That’s the hard part,” she added with a small sigh.
A corner of his mouth hitched up in a crooked grin that did strange things to her heart. “It is. It’s a simple choice, but it’s definitely not an easy one to make.”
Why? Because they’re strong and encouraging messages of faith that have inspired me to walk closer to God and I pray it does the same for my readers.
Do you gravitate toward a particular genre(s) and/ or format when you write? Tell us more about which genres and/ or formats are your “passion?”
I love to write Christian/Romance/Suspense! But I do enjoy a slower pace now and then and write a more heartwarming Christian romance, minus the thrills, dangers, and/or suspense. My “passion” is to write the stories God lays on my heart to write and encourage others to walk closer to the Lord through the written word.
Have you studied writing and/ or attended writing seminars, workshops or conferences? Where and what did you learn from your classes/sessions and other writing teachers? Did any of them stand out to you and why?
Majority of my writing abilities are simply a gift from God. There’s no other explanation to why I’m able to write the stories that I write. I have studied and researched a bit on the subject (mostly on editing), and I have to say I’ve benefited the most from reading other writer’s blogs and tips and taking part in writing challenges that Harlequin hosts on their blog, SoYouThinkYouCanWrite.com
I’ve also participated in two different writing contests and while I didn’t place, the feedback I received was beneficial to me. But honestly, it wasn’t nothing I couldn’t have learned myself by doing a little more research and keeping that money in my pocket.
The biggest learning experience about writing that stands out to me is simply to write what God gives me to write. When I try to write on my own to suit me it’s impossible and it never feels… right. I have to listen for God to whisper the story into my ear.
Another great learning experience is being willing to let go and let others read my work, and being willing and open to any and all comments, no matter how criticizing they may be. Another experience that stands out is simply learning to enjoy the adventures that God sends my way that I can somehow twist into stories.
Have you had any formal writing jobs and/or published any of your work? If so, tell us about your jobs and/or your publications.
I’ve wrote a few songs that my family and I sing and I have published one of my novels, with a contract offer on book two. My debut novel is titled, Hidden Treasures. It’s the first in a series of twelve books, each about a different Sawyer child. The series is titled, Faith In The Valley, they’re set in a small valley town in Eastern Tennessee.
What is unique about your writing process? What works for you, and what doesn’t work?
Ha, ha, ha, I think I’ve already covered this question multiple times in the previous questions. But just in case, I feel my writing process is unique mainly because of my solely following God’s lead when it comes to writing and not planning out ahead of time. Another thing is, I work on multiple books at a time. I simply can’t stick to just one book. If I don’t have multiple projects then I hit writer’s block. As for what doesn’t work for me, here’s a small list; plotting, stick to a single project, work in complete silence, and I can’t listen to any music with lyrics while writing.
Something else that makes me unique, I write Christian Romance and have never been on a date, kissed a boy, or even came close to having a romantic relationship before. I’m yet to find a single romance author who isn’t married or at least had a little case of puppy love once in their life. *shrugs. Is that unique enough? Lol.
What is the most challenging area of writing for you?
Definitely the editing. I’m currently taking a high school English course in Rod and Staff in hopes to make it easier (it seems to be working so far!). It isn’t as much the cutting or adding for me, as it is the grammar. I’m a simple country gal who tends to write the way I talk and that clearly ain’t acceptable in the book world (though, writing characters who are countrified like me, I can get away with writing that way in dialogue. *Grins).
What are you currently writing?
*whistles lowly. You really want that list? Lol, currently I’m working on six books in my Faith In The Valley series; Seeking Refuge, Protective Secrets, Unseen Dangers, Hidden In The Ashes, Mistaken For Murder, and Obscured Faith. Seeking Refuge is already under contract and just going through revisions. I’m also working on a book entitled, Rodeo Storm, that’s part of another large family series I’m writing, Echoes Of Danger. I’m also working on another two books that not series related, The Deputy’s Second Chance and To Protect The Witnesses. Out of all nine, all but one are Christian/Romantic/Suspense novel. The one exception is The Deputy’s Second Chance, a slower paced story that has it’s share of conflicts, comedy, and romance.
What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning to write?
Write the story God lays on your heart to write. Enjoy the adventure writing brings. Read published books that fit into your genre, they’ll inspire you to better your own writing. Just write one sentence at a time until it’s finished. Setting small goals make the task less daunting and brings you to your ultimate goal of finishing a lot sooner than ya think. Don’t worry about editing until after you’ve finished. Get your story on paper first, you’ll have plenty of time to revise later.
Ask yourself, “Does Jesus delight in what I write?”
How has being a writer changed your life?
Wow, tough one. I have to say it’s brought me closer to the Lord as I have to listen for Him to speak to me in order to write. That, in return helps me to listen to Him more the rest of the time as well. As a result, I find I’m closer to my family as well.