• Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What motivates you to keep writing day after day?
Well, the most honest answer to that is that sometimes I don't feel very motivated. But when God gives you a gift and you dedicate it back to Him, then He also gives you the desire and motivation to use that gift to His glory. Also, I hear from readers every week who have been touched and blessed by the words I've written. That is an incredible encouragement and motivation!

Q: If you could be working on your dream project today, what writing project would that be?
I feel like I am writing exactly the kind of novels I want to write already, so in a sense I’m living my dream. The only thing that would make my dream come any 'truer' would be a chance for my husband and I to live in Europe for several months so that I could write a novel in that beautiful setting.

Q: Where do your ideas come from, and how much of your own personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Because I write contemporary stories, many of my scenes are drawn from my own life experiences. (This is one reason that I'm certain I could not have written my novels when I was in my twenties!) I like issues-based stories and dilemmas. My first novel tells the story of a family dealing with Alzheimer's Disease and a husband's struggle to remain true to his wife. I worked with many Alzheimer's patients early in my marriage as an assistant to an occupational therapist. The experience was invaluable to my understanding of the topic. Other novels I've written have begun with the tiny seed of an idea from a newspaper article or a newscast or an overheard conversation. It just seems natural to me to hear an unusual story and begin asking "what if?" And of course, the natural progression is "what if this happened to me? How would I respond?" So, in that sense, every ounce of my personality goes into my writing!

Q: Why do you write inspirational fiction (as opposed to mainstream)?
I actually wrote both a mainstream and an inspirational version of my first novel, A Vow to Cherish, and had contract offers for both versions. But in the end, I began to realize that my story could not be told in a true and helpful way without boldly using the name of God and especially the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I decided that I would write the story from my heart, from my own faith experiences and leave it up to the Lord to get it in the hands of unbelievers if He so desired. Judging by the amazing response that World Wide Pictures reports the film version of A Vow to Cherish has had, I guess He 'so desired'!

Q: How do you juggle writing along with all your other responsibilities?
Well, if I'm totally honest, I have to admit that my "other responsibilities" sometimes go by the wayside! The first thing I learned as a writer is that houses do not have to be dusted and vacuumed weekly (at times mine has gone over a month without anyone complaining!) I also have a very understanding and supportive family who doesn't mind eating pizza or hamburgers three nights a week when I'm on deadline, and who have been wonderful to pitch in with the housework and errands when I'm in the throes of completing a book. But I also want to make it clear that my most important and most joyful job continues to be that of wife and mom––and recently "Mimi." I realized early on that the season of our children’s childhood would be so very short. I feel privileged to have been able to stay home full-time with my kids. I'm here to testify that although the glamour and fulfillment of writing are everything I hoped they would be, nothing in my life has compared to the adventure of raising children and the joy of having four beautiful kids call me "Mom." That said, our whole family did definitely make some adjustments in order to accommodate my writing career. When I got my first royalty check, I started sending all the ironing out, and later, my husband treated me to the luxury of someone to clean my house every other week for a while (believe me, if I ever strike it rich, a full-time housekeeper will be one of my first investments!) I've become a master at the art of delegation, and the Schwan man (a frozen food delivery service) is one of my best friends!

Q: How do you handle rejections?
Not very well! But my husband actually paved the way for me to understand that rejection is just part of the writer's life. Ken is a children's book illustrator/author and was rejected more than 80 times before his first book was finally picked up by a publisher. I learned from his experience that just because you receive a rejection letter, it doesn't necessarily mean your work is no good. Getting published is very much about being the right person in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript on the right editor's desk in the right publishing house! That's a LOT of 'rights' that have to line up! But I fully believe that if God gave you a story to write, in His perfect time, that story will find its intended audience – be it bookstore customers or perhaps great-grandchildren! It is a rare author who has never received a rejection slip, so I advise would-be writers to collect those rejections proudly and display them as evidence that they are working towards a career in writing. After all, getting a rejection letter is proof positive that you wrote something, had the wherewithal to put together a proposal package, and the guts to send it out! Many, many (maybe most?) aspiring writers never get even that far in the process!

Q: What do you believe are keys to writing inspirational fiction?
I think something that might not seem obvious is the level of subtlety required. No reader – regardless of how strong their faith – wants to be hit over the head with the "religious" applications of a story. Just as a living and vital faith is a natural, integrated part of the life of a strong Christian, so should elements of faith be well integrated into our stories. Along with that, it is important to readers to identify with the characters in a book. No one can identify with a sinless character. But having said that, it is important that our readers see that our characters are empowered by their faith to do the right thing, or are redeemed by their faith when they have done the wrong thing.

Q: Which comes first when you write  story, characters, or setting?
Although I have a reputation as an author of "character-driven" stories, when I am plotting a novel - when the idea for a book first comes – it's always in the form of a situation, a dilemma with which my characters will be faced. After I have the plot ideas firmly in mind, then I begin to learn to know the characters who will people my story. Setting, for me, is purely a matter of convenience! I don't enjoy the research aspects of writing nearly as much as the actual storytelling, so I purposely set my stories in the Midwest, write about topics I'm already somewhat knowledgeable about, etc. Of course, there is still an enormous amount of research that goes into any novel, regardless of how much you subscribe to the write-what-you-know maxim.

Q: What process do you go through in coming up with your main characters? (For example: their looks, mannerisms, backgrounds)
It might sound strange, but my characters seem to "make themselves known to me" as I plot. I usually give them an arbitrary birthday and a bit of background history (some of which the reader never learns – it's simply a vehicle to help me know my character better, and thus write true to that character.) Sometimes I've been thinking about a character for a certain story and I'll be leafing through a magazine or reading a newspaper and suddenly, there he or she is staring back at me from a laundry soap ad or a news story. I clip that photo out and work from there. But having said that, I've never really liked book covers that show clear pictures of the hero and heroine. I prefer a silhouette or back view or even a type-only cover. As a reader I'd much rather put the faces to the characters as I go, and I'm always glad when the designers of my book covers give readers of my novels the same freedom!

Q: What have you learned that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?
I wish I had studied the basics of writing more before I tore into my first novel! I truly had no idea that there were rules to writing. My first editor, Sharon Asmus at Bethany House, was a wonderful teacher who helped me learn some of those rules. But I've gleaned so much in the past eight years from studying books on writing, networking and brainstorming with other authors, sitting under the watchful eye of great editors, etc. that I sometimes look back on my first attempts at writing and cringe!

Q: What does your husband think of your writing?
My husband is my biggest supporter and encourager. Ken reads all my books (although he refuses to be seen in public reading a book with a typical romance cover!) He is my best sounding board when I'm stumped about my plot or characters and we often discuss books we've read or are writing ourselves. Ken is an illustrator and author of children's books, so he understands and appreciates the rather unconventional life of a writer.

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