Like most writers, I get asked a lot of questions about what I do and how I do it. Maybe the one you’re wanting to ask will be answered below.
Where do you get your ideas?
For most authors, ideas are a dime a dozen. Everything we see, hear, read, or dream can cause us to ask “what if?” And away our imaginations go. Here are just a few examples:
A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE (and the next two books in the series) began with the question “Who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?” Each of the three heroines have unusual occupations for women of that era (1915-1918).
FIRSTBORN began with the title. Right in the middle of a conversation with a group of women, the word “firstborn” popped into my head. No apparent reason. We weren’t discussing books or children. Just there it was, and I knew right away that it was the title for my next story. However, it was several more weeks before the story that went with the title began to gel.
RIBBON OF YEARS was “birthed” as I watched the Columbine tragedy unfold on TV. I watched the suffering parents, especially the Christian parents, and I asked myself, “How do you walk out your faith in the face of such a tragedy?” The more I pondered the question, the more I began to realize I didn’t know anyone whose life hadn’t been touched by hardship or heartache of one kind or another. So what did it mean to “walk by faith”? And then I found Miriam, a woman of faith whose life is touched by many sorrows, and yet her faith grows with each passing year.
I never worry about running out of ideas. I worry about having enough time to get all my stories written.
Which is the favorite of your own books?
That’s like asking me which daughter is my favorite. It’s impossible to answer. Each book was special in its own way or I wouldn’t have written it. However, the books I have yet to write always seem like they will be my favorite. That’s because they are still perfect in my imagination. I haven’t run into any plot problems yet and all that I want to achieve in the telling of the story seems possible.
What’s your day like?
I’m up somewhere between 4:30 or 6:00 a.m. I get in some time on the treadmill (and will get more throughout the day). I have my devotional time with my Bible, journal, and worship CDs. I check email and take care of any urgent To Dos. Then I begin to write. Usually I spend about four hours a day writing actual new words on a book. Many of the remaining hours are filled with the many details that make up the business of writing—editing, proofing, cover art, marketing, talks with agent or editor, etc. Add to that some website work plus my studies as a part time college student (yes, at my age), and my days are pretty full from start to finish.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I have averaged two books per year for much of my career, but no novel seems to follow the same schedule as another. Writing takes as long as it takes, including the staring out windows parts.
What did you do before you were a writer?
My favorite “job” was being a mom to my two daughters. Secondary to that, I had a career in office administration. I thrived in business management situations, and I still love that aspect of my writing career.
Are any of your characters based on you?
Not really, even though a few of my novels have been based on personal life experiences. Still I am careful to let the characters be who they are rather than trying to make them be me. At the same time, there are parts of me in every character I create. There must be because they spring from a lifetime of my own experiences and thinking and feeling and witnessing and reading, etc.
Do you plot out every scene in advance?
No, I write “by the seat of my pants.” I get up each morning and write to discover what will happen to my characters, the same way my readers will later read to discover what will happen. I’m an intuitive writer and believe that the majority of my writing happens in my subconscious first.
Something I have learned in over 30 years of writing: there is no “right” way to write a novel. There is just a right way for me to write my novels and the right way for other novelists to write theirs. I had to try everything in the early years of my career until I discovered how God designed me to create.
What’s your favorite part of writing a book?
Brainstorming an idea. I love discovering an idea that captures my imagination, one that makes me want to spend months with these characters. At the brainstorming stage, everything is possible.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write.
Read everything. Read fiction in many different genres, not just your favorite. Read biographies and memoirs and histories. Read how-to books. Read Christian living books. Read newspapers and magazines.
Write every day. Even if you aren’t writing on your book (although it keeps your head in your story if you do write at least a paragraph or a page of your book), write something.
One other piece of advice: to write believable fiction, you must be an observer of human nature. You must learn empathy for all kinds of people. You must be able to understand why people do what they do.
Will you read my manuscript or write my story for me?
Sorry. No. Time simply does not allow for it, plus I am not someone who writes best as a part of a collaboration. There are many places where aspiring writers can find help. If you are truly interested in writing a novel, begin with getting yourself the latest copy of The Writer’s Market and/or The Christian Writers Market Guide. The library is filled with “how to write” books so check out what’s on the shelves. Mostly, you will learn by doing. Sit down and write. And as I said above, read, read, read.