Here are some general questions people often ask me when I do a question and answer session plus some thrown in just for fun. If you have a question about writing or my books or whatever, e-mail it to me. I won’t promise to have the right answer, but it’s fun to talk writing.
How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve been writing most of my life. When I was a kid I read Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, and I would think “Boy, that would be fun to be like them and solve a mystery.” So I made up my own mystery starring my cousin, my sister and me. I sort of played around with it when I was a kid and wrote a chapter here and there. I never did actually finish that story, but that started me on the writing path. Then when I was a teenager, I wrote short stories full of typical teen drama. I’ve been writing ever since.
How many books have you written?
I’ve never counted them up. More than I’ve published, unfortunately. But I tell myself each of them was a learning experience. Practice, practice, practice. Now ask an easier question.
How many books do you have published?
While I was writing for the general market, I had two historical romances for adults published – both with a Kentucky history background. Then I published eleven books for young readers. Most of those were for young teens with a couple of what the kids call chapter books for middle readers. My first inspirational fiction books were my Heart of Hollyhill books. Since then I’ve written books about the Shakers and a series of family stories set in Rosey Corner and a book set in Louisville. I’ve had over twenty-five books published now and will add to the number with some new titles coming out in the next couple of years. You can check out more about some of the books by clicking on the link to my books in the menu above.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Digging the story out of my head is always a challenge. Each new book means a whole set of new characters. That’s both exciting and daunting. It’s fun to create new characters, but it’s also hard work to bring them to life in words. I seem to find the writing easier when I can get my characters talking to one another. I have a harder time with descriptive passages because I want to zoom ahead in my story without looking around sometimes. And yet with my Rosey Corner books, one reviewer said that the Kentucky setting was like another character. So guess I did okay in those books.
Finally I suppose I share the challenge everyone has – finding time to do all the things I want to do. It’s not always easy to carve out the time needed to get the words down on paper. It always seems to take longer to finish a book than I think it will. If only I could write faster, I could tell more stories.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That, of course, varies with the book and with what else is going on in my life. At times I have had to take on some part time jobs to help pay the bills and that cut into my writing time. Then there are always chores that have to be done. So some of my books have taken longer than others. A few of my young adult books took three or four months, but most of my adult books take around a year from coming up with an idea and doing research and plot development to writing “The End.” Writing Scent of Lilacs took longer than some of my others, because I had an awful part time job while writing it. I worked from home, but it gobbled up a lot of my day. Also, when I started Lilacs, I was fighting discouragement because I’d written several books that had not found a publisher. So I decided to try something different—go in a new direction. I had been considering writing for the inspirational market, but I didn’t really have that in mind when I started Scent of Lilacs. I was just trying to write a good story about interesting characters. I worked on it a long time while trying to make it the best story I could. That story helped me get started in the inspirational market and I’m so thankful for that. I love writing books where I can include a character’s faith journey.
Where do you come up with your characters? Are they based on people you know?
My characters are usually the beginning of my idea. I’ll say what if this or that happened to this or that person. For instance with Scent of Lilacs, I said what if I had a young girl growing up in the mid-1960’s whose father was a preacher. Then I just kept spinning ideas until I came up with Jocie. So she was the beginning character for Lilacs. The other characters grew out of her. Everybody has families. Characters are the same. They have friends and people they like and dislike. And to make your character real, you have to know who those people are.
I don’t base my characters on people I know except for a minor character here and there. At least not intentionally. Still everybody you meet–in real life, in books, in movies–becomes part of your conscious and subconscious process of developing characters. So whether you do it consciously or not as you bring your fictional people to life, you do use the people you’ve known. You might take a smile from one, a frown from another, a stupid habit maybe from yourself, a sense of fun from your best friend and on and on until you’ve created a whole new person. Nobody would ever recognize themselves in that person though. That might be because few of us see ourselves as others see us.
What’s your favorite color?
I know. You probably could care less, but my brain needed a break. So I thought I’d answer an easy question, but then maybe it’s not so easy. I like to wear red, but I love that beautiful teal green color. Then there’s nothing prettier than a winter blue sky against the snow. And how about all those great fall colors? Maybe I don’t have a one favorite color. How about you?
What do you enjoy doing for fun?
I love to play with my grandkids. I like meeting people. I like going for walks with my dog. I like to talk to people about my books and writing. I love to read and wish I had more reading time. I enjoy church and all the “eating meetings” our little church has. I like to write in my journal. I enjoy getting to know my reading friends on my Facebook page.
Do you like sports?
I’m crazy about sports. I always read the sports page first. I’m an avid University of Kentucky basketball fan. I’ve been listening to UK since I was twelve. Maybe younger. I grew up hearing Caywood Ledford call the games. Nobody else in my family listened. Just me, sitting with my ear close to my little transistor radio.
Which of your books is your favorite?
Kids are always asking me this. They think I should have a favorite, but I don’t. Who can choose one child over another? Still some of my books have been more fun from the reader response perspective. Discovery at Coyote Point was one of those books. I got letters from school kids all over after their teachers read the book aloud to them. That was fun. Also Coyote Point was written about a favorite place of mine on the farm.
Scent of Lilacs has to be a favorite because it brought me new readers who loved my Hollyhill characters as much as I did. Those books were also fun because I used so many things about when I grew up to set the scenes. Of course, Angel Sister has a special place in my heart because of how I walked with my mother through her memories of growing up during the Great Depression to get the background and setting for my story about the Merritt family. And I love the Shaker books too. I’m thinking all my books are my favorites with new favorites scheduled for release. What makes me happiest is when you tell me one of my books is your favorite!
What do you want readers to take away from your books?
I want you, the reader, to feel good after reading my books and to wish the story hadn’t ended. Everything that happens in my books isn’t happy but I do my best to make the stories encouraging and uplifting. I want you to be glad you read the book. It’s always my hope that my characters will crawl up into your heart and find a loving home.
What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?
I want to inspire people to step into the sunshine of the Lord’s love and to realize the Lord is always there for us, the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be tomorrow. I want people to read my stories and feel the joy of Christian living.
Are you still writing?
This has to be my most asked question. People see me out at the grocery or wherever and that’s always what they ask. And the answer is always yes. Maybe not successfully all the time, but always writing something. It’s sort of like breathing. I just can’t help it.