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Monday, July 28, 2008

Interview with Melanie Dobson

Melanie Dobson recently spent five months exploring Germany’s castles, cathedrals, and medieval villages. The author of Together for Good, Going for Broke, and her new novel, The Black Cloister, Melanie lives in Oregon with her husband, Jon, and their two daughters, Karly and Kinzel. More information about Melanie and her family’s story is available at www.melaniedobson.com

Beth: Tell us about your writing journey.

Melanie: I’ve been a bit obsessive (some would say a lot obsessive) about writing since I was a child. When I was seven, I journaled about pizza nights, visits with Grandpa and Grandma, and my friends at school. When I was nine, I plucked out my “autobiography” on my dad’s old typewriter. And when I was eleven, I handwrote fifty pages of a mystery novel before I lost interest in the story. Even though this story ended abruptly, I fell in love with the creative process and loved imagining what would happen to my characters.

In high school and college, I wrote articles and essays for the yearbook, school newspaper, and local weekly paper, but when I graduated, I pursued public relations as a career and spent almost a decade writing press releases in lieu of creative writing. I had always dreamed about writing fiction but intended to start when I was “older.”

Months before my thirtieth birthday it hit me that I was, in fact, “older,” and if I was going to pursue this dream, I had been better start soon. It took me years, and three completed manuscripts, to learn how to write fiction. Eight years after I started, Together for Good was published.

Beth: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?

Melanie: Most days I still don’t feel like a “real” writer, but God has opened up the doors for me to pursue this dream of mine, so I keep writing in spite of my doubts. Probably the time, though, that it felt the most real was when I received book contracts for my first and second books at the same time. Not only did my family believe I could write, but two publishers were willing to pay me for my work! I was blown away. One contract was for a book already written, and the other was for a book where I had only written three chapters. I was excited, overwhelmed, and terrified.

Beth: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?

Melanie: A few years after I started writing fiction, I hit a wall. My manuscripts had been considered at multiple publishers, but they were always rejected and I had no idea how to make them any better. Then I attended the Mount Hermon writer’s conference and sat in Davis Bunn’s fiction writing class. Davis succinctly explained the nuts and bolts of a well-written novel, and as I frantically scribbled notes, I soaked in his many words of wisdom. Using what I learned from him, my writing was revitalized, and next time I came to Mount Hermon, I had a book contract.

Beth: Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot?

Melanie: It usually begins with an idea sparked from a setting that I love or a story that I’ve read or heard. From this initial idea, I begin developing my characters and see how they fit within my loose plot idea. I’ve always been intrigued by stories of the Underground Railroad, for example, and I’m working on a novel right now about a woman who hid slaves in her house.

Beth: Tell us about your latest book.

Melanie: The Black Cloister is a fast-paced suspense novel about two young women—one who is traveling across Germany in search of answers about her past and another who is trapped in an abusive religious cult and doesn’t know how to break free. In the story, Elise Friedman’s mother has committed suicide so Elise travels to Germany to find out why her mother would never talk about her past or her family. Elise discovers her mother’s dark secret inside the walls of a medieval abbey, and when the man who destroyed her mother threatens to destroy her as well, Elise fights for a way out before she is consumed.

Beth: What inspired you to write this particular story?

Melanie: The idea for The Black Cloister was sparked by hearing two similar stories from two very different time periods. My family and I lived for a season in the former East Berlin. Our flat was a block from the remains of the Berlin Wall, and my life was changed as I roamed the back streets of the city, visited Martin Luther’s Wittenberg, and learned about both the triumph of the Reformation and the terrifying days of Communist rule. At an old monastery, I also learned the story of Martin Luther’s wife (Katharina von Bora) and her daring escape from a German abbey. A story began to form in my mind for a novel, but it was still missing a thread until we came back to the States and I met a woman who had been raised overseas in an abusive cult. She shared her stories about growing up in a commune, and with her help, I wove together the history of Katharina’s escape from the abbey with the contemporary suspense story of a woman trapped in a religious cult.

Beth: Interesting stuff! What is the message you hope to get across in this story?

Melanie: As a Christian, I’ve learned that I must listen to the direction of the Holy Spirit and measure any spiritual instruction with God’s Word. My hope is that this novel will offer healing to those who have been ensnared by a toxic religious group that twists God’s truth, and after reading this story, I also hope readers will be sympathetic toward those who have been born into a cult as well as intolerant of spiritual leaders who abuse their followers.

Beth: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a suspense?

Melanie: Comparing myself with all the great novelists who write Christian suspense! I studied many other suspense novels before I delved into creating the conflict and tension in The Black Cloister.

Beth: Tell us about your experience in Germany exploring all things medieval.

Melanie: I am completely enchanted by Germany’s medieval villages, abbeys, churches, and castles! My husband and I backpacked across Germany and Austria in 2003 (pre-kids), and then we spent five months living in Berlin and exploring the countryside in 2006. We toured the hilltop Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther translated the New Testament, stumbled through the ruins of a castle on the Rhine, and basked inside churches and abbeys that had been built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Standing inside these old musty buildings, some of which had survived wars and political tension for a thousand years, I couldn’t help but be inspired to write a story of my own.

Beth: What are your future writing plans?

Melanie: I’m working to complete a romantic suspense novel called Crescent Hill that will be released next year, and I also just found out today that I’ve had another proposal accepted for a June 2009 release (pending the contract, of course). So, to answer your question, my future writing plans are to begin writing (checking watch)…right about now. ☺

Beth: What is the best advice you ever received?

Melanie: A bestselling author once said she was a horrible writer but a fabulous re-writer. When I watched her interview, I was thinking and talking about writing all the time but not actually DOING much writing because I was terrified I would fail. And if I failed, I would be devastated…

Once I realized that my first draft would stink, I let go of my fears and began spewing random thoughts onto my computer. After I had my first draft on paper, I polished and reworked and rewrote until I had a coherent draft that I liked. Even though I get anxious each time I start a new book, I’m no longer scared of the process.

Thanks for the wonderful interview, Melanie!

If you'd like an opportunity to win a copy of Melanie's book, The Black Cloister, please post a comment below.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reaching for the Brass Ring

When I find an author I like, I will frequently go to their backlist and begin reading everything I can find. I did it when I discovered Dean Koontz in 1990 after reading Mr. Koontz’s most recent release, The Bad Place. I was deeply intrigued by the way he was able to get inside the head of Thomas, a character who has been diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.

In fact, I was very intrigued. So, I began hunting for as many of Koontz’s previous works as I could find.

I haunted used bookstores, libraries, and yard sales. Within eight weeks I found and read 13 of his previous novels and learned one inalienable truth during the process.

He got better with every book.

Does improvement in the craft of fiction happen in a vacuum? Can we become better writers by simply getting published more often?

Perhaps, if we learn from our mistakes.

But I think there is a better, more logical approach to improving our craft and it goes beyond the practice of simply writing more often. It’s an approach I’ve learned from Koontz, Grafton, Parker, Follett and others. I learned it by reading their works in the order in which they were written and by reading interviews they’ve given on the craft and techniques of fiction. There are no great revelations. There are no fast tracks or easy answers. But there are some tips – most of which you’ve probably heard – that bear repeating. And, I hope, some different approaches, as well. After all, one of the quickest paths to learning well is to learn from others.

As it has been said, “A knowledgeable man learns from his mistakes; but the wisest man learns from the mistakes of others.”

So how can we improve our craft? What must we do if we are to develop the kind of fiction and craft that we all know lies within us? How do we do it better?

As a weight lifter, I can tell you that the old axiom, no pain, no gain, is a reality. It is possible to lift a twenty pound dumbbell at 10 reps for 3 sets for 6 weeks and see some real gain. But at week 7 and beyond, the gains stop. Why?

Because the lifter didn’t tax himself.

Rule number 1: If we are going to improve in our craft, we must push the envelope.

In his early work, Koontz stuck to science fiction stories which, although they were delightfully entertaining and broke some new ground, didn’t seem to change much from one novel to the next. In interviews he’s given since his switch in genres, he’s said that he deems his real career to have begun with Whispers, his breakout novel.

During the writing of the book, Koontz managed to write around the clock on many days in order to stay in the flow. He built characters with believable motivations. He worked hard, labored long, and gave birth to the book that, in turn, would birth his breakout career.

Dean pushed himself. He researched the psychology of his antagonist, Bruno Frye, and took the time necessary – and the pain – to craft a book like none he had ever written before.

Does that mean he could have done this earlier in his career and gotten on with it? By no means. Dean’s success in pushing the envelope with Whispers came in part from the techniques he learned in his previous writing. And that, leads me to point number 2.

Rule 2: Learn from past mistakes.

None of us like a bad review. In fact, very few of us like mediocre reviews. But there is usually some truth in them, and we would do well to search it out.

I received a mediocre review for my first novel, Original Sin, which I will admit, hit me below the belt. But after reading it again – and again – I found that the reviewer was dead on. What he said not only made sense, it would also have made for a better novel.

Now I’m not saying you should love bad reviews. But if 7 out of 10 are saying the same thing, maybe you should listen. In fact, if 1 out of 10 said something that you know to be true, regardless of how painful, lick your woundd and then incorporate what was said. Make the bad reviews work for you.

Of course there are other methods for uncovering fallacies in our work, and that don’t necessarily have to be performed in the glaring spotlight of public scrutiny. If we’re honest with ourselves and diligent in our work, we can be quite capable of giving ourselves the thrashing we need without having an audience around when we do it. There are several ways to do this.

Rule 3: Take time to think about your story before you write a word.Have you ever read a novel and wondered why the author went down the road she selected rather than the one that you think would have made for a better novel?

I have.

By not taking the time to think – and I mean really t-h-i-n-k – we rob ourselves and our readers of the full flavor of the meal we’re trying to prepare. The result is that we (and by extension, they) will miss the nuances, the texture, the richness of subplot, and the opportunity for an ending that resonates. Like a good meal that wasn’t allowed to marinate, stew, or roast long enough, our readers will be served the literary equivalent of fast food.

Genre fiction and genre readers are no less deserving of a good meal. Genre fiction is not the gutter of the literary world. It is, in fact, the Main Street on which most readers live.

Give them a good meal.

Rule 4: Another technique to literary self-flagellation, done to avoid the public skewering of a bad review, is to put the manuscript away for a while and begin work on something else. Then, after several weeks or months have passed, pull the thing from the drawer, dust if off and give it a cold-eye reading. You just might be surprised by what you find.

Your characters might possibly be more hackneyed that you originally thought. The situation they find themselves in will probably turn out to be the same as the novel you were reading when writing your own (another no-no), and you will probably find yourself stumbling over your diction.

The Chinese have a saying. “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

Now revenge isn’t something I practice, but I do write fiction, and I can tell you first hand, reading a cold manuscript is the surest way to uncovering the faults that lie therein.

Rule 5: Read your manuscript out loud. If you can’t do it without stumbling, stuttering, or finding phrases that stick to the tongue like super glue on flypaper, then your readers probably won’t be able to either. Both Dean Koontz and Michael Crichton have said they use this technique before submitting their work. If they do it, then maybe you should too.

Rule 6: Have a group of first readers. An odd number works best.Get them a hard copy of the manuscript and then let them have at it.

If 7 read your work, and 7 rave about it – get a new group.

If 7 read your work and 7 hate it – ask why.

If 7 read your work and 5 have a problem with it – ask why. Then fix it.

If 7 read your work and 1 has a problem with it – take him off your Christmas list.

But please remember, your first readers have done you a tremendous favor. Reward them. At the very least, give them a signed and personalized copy of your book as soon as it is available. A ‘thank you’ within the book would be a nice gesture too.

Rule 7: Get a grammar book and read it. Then, like the apostle James says, put it into practice.

Rule 8: Read. Read widely and then deeply.

This is a no brainer, isn’t it? Is there any reason to elaborate on this?

Rule 9: Look in the mirror. I mentioned at the beginning of this article that nothing I was going to say was new. But this one is--sort of. Don’t rely on articles or Writer’s Digest How-to books to tell you how to improve your craft.

Begin there, of course. Read them. Practice them. But then come up with some of your own. You already know things that you can do to improve your fiction and your craft.

Take a good look in the mirror. Take an honest look. Where do you fall down? Where do you need improvement? What area of your craft causes you the most concern or embarrassment?

Find that weak spot and work on it. Pick up the dumbbell and push ourself. Be second to none.

Rule 10:
Avoid the cliché.

See? I told you there was nothing new here. Cliches fall on the ear like a trumpet played by a lipless man. (This is another reason for reading your manuscript out loud.)

After all, take a look at the title of this article. Reaching for the Brass Ring? Geeshsh. Is that really the best I could do?

How about, Going for the gusto? Or reaching for the stars? Or, even, going for the Brass Ring? Or …. Hey, why don’t you come up with one?

Check out Brandt's Website: www.brandtdodson.com

Monday, July 14, 2008

Interview with Lisa T. Bergren

Today we welcome Lisa T. Bergren!

Beth: Tell us about your writing journey.

Lisa: I’ve always loved to write—and read. I was one of those kids who said goodnight to the folks and then stayed up late reading under the covers with a flashlight. So the power of story is something I’ve always been drawn toward.

Beth: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?

Lisa: Whoa. That’s a big statement—“all came together for you.” I don’t think that’s possible. No matter how many books you publish, every one begins with a blank page—and the doubt that assails every author. I wish I could say that it was different; but it’s not! However, I will say that it took about five books with my name on the cover before I’d ever label myself as an “author” or a “writer.” I think I needed a stack in my hands before I could claim anything that audacious!

Beth: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?

Lisa: My husband, Tim. He’s always open to discussing difficult things and thinking through things that move in our world—politically, spiritually, physically, culturally. And he always sees that I can do more with the craft, so he encourages me to keep pushing forward.

Beth: Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot?

Lisa: Usually plot or setting get me rolling. They seem to give birth to interesting characters.

Beth: Tell us about this book series.

Lisa: The Gifted is about a group of spiritually gifted people in an age that would not welcome such a group. They’ve been brought together to help usher in change in the Church, during pre-Reformation, pre-Renaissance times.

Beth: What inspired you to write this particulate story? Why this setting and time period?

Lisa: Two things: the Lord of the Rings stories on film—loved the epic nature of it—and The Da Vinci Code, the first novel I’ve read in 24 hours in many years. I set out to develop a group of characters that would resonate with fans of LOTR and yet maintain a pacing and suspense factor that would come somewhat close to TDVC (and yet not be heretical!) I started asking my biblical scholar pals about a biblical mystery I could hang my hat on—and found out about the missing letters from St. Paul to the Corinthians. From there, I dug into Corinthians, centering on messages of love and the spiritual gifts present throughout the Body, and then it was just a matter of placing people representing those things in the most antagonistic time possible—which was the medieval era.

Beth: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a series?

Lisa: Ending books 1 and 2 with a satisfying enough ending, but keeping enough storylines hanging that readers want to find out what happens next.

Beth: What were your struggles in writing with a large cast of characters and who was your favorite?

Lisa: I really “felt” Daria the most, and was moved by her, but I fell a little in love with the glamorous Gianni—the studly, knight/hero with the gift of faith—the stately, mute Hasani, who has the gift of visions, and the humorous sidekick Vito, who just comes along for the ride and provides a little comic relief in the midst of all the drama and terror.

Beth: What is the message you hope to get across in this story?

Lisa: That the battle wages today, and God counts on us all to do our part to fight against evil.

Beth: What are your future writing plans?

Lisa: Book 3 in The Gifted Series, The Blessed, comes out this September. Next up is a historical suspense trilogy set in Colorado, a nonfiction book on mothering for MOPS, and a few more children’s books.

Beth: What is the best advice you ever received?

Lisa: Hmm…in regard to writing or life? On writing—don’t wait for inspiration, just get your rear-end in the chair and stay there until the page is filled with words (you can always rewrite them). On life—keep learning and loving more. Although life is short, constantly learning and loving makes it wide indeed.

Thanks for the wonderful interview!

You can read more about Lisa at her website: http://www.lisatawnbergren.com/home.html

If you'd like be eligible to win a copy of one of Lisa's book, please post a comment.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Interview with James Scott Bell

Susan: Today it’s our pleasure to bring you a “killer” interview (sorry about that) with James Scott Bell. Welcome to Keep Me In Suspense, Jim! It's a pleasure to have you here.

Jim: Happy to do it.

Susan: Try Darkness is the second book in your Buchanan series, and follows Try Dying. In the first book, Buchanan's fiancée was killed right off the bat. What's the major premise for this book?

Jim: Ty Buchanan is a lawyer who's lost everything. His fiancé, his job with a big law firm. Now he represents the poor, when a woman with a little girl comes to see him. She's being hustled out of a hotel against her will, and the law. When the woman is murdered in a transient hotel, Buchanan takes charge of the girl, who has no last name and no family. He's never been a father, but he knows he'll do anything to protect this little girl. But some bad people want the girl. And Buchanan has to figure out why, and who killed her mother.
And he has to do it all with the help of a basketball playing nun, one of the only friends he has left in the world.

Susan: How did you get the idea for this story? Did it spring off the first book, or did it come from a totally different source?

Jim: There are low rent hotels in L.A., and sometimes the owners try to get around renters' rights with something called "the 28 day shuffle."
They force residents out of their rooms before the one-month point so they don't become legal "tenants" and get the benefit of certain rights under state law.

I liked the sound of that as a legal issue, since Buchanan is helping out poor people now. And I then thought up a whole web behind it, and wrote the story with my series characters doing the heavy lifting.

Susan: In a series, is it difficult to come up with fresh premises for each book?

Jim: I don't think it's any more difficult than coming up with a stand alone premise. And there's an advantage in knowing your characters and the setting in each book. You don't have to reinvent the wheel each time. I like doing this series. I have become attached to my characters and would love to see them continue.

Susan: How do you keep your series characters consistent, yet growing?

Jim: That's the main challenge with a series. But you deal with different aspects of the characters, different secrets from the past, different challenges in the present, relationships and so on. In Try Dying, Buchanan has to deal with the loss of the only woman he's truly loved.
In Try Darkness, he's forced to deal with what he has become as a result of the loss and the violence he encountered.

My basketball playing nun character, Sister Mary Veritas, is struggling with her calling. She may or may not be the nun type, and helping Buchanan is only making things more complex for her.

It's a challenge all right, but when it's pulled off, it's incredibly powerful. That's what I find in the works of Michael Connelly. Reading one of his books makes me want to chew my arm off. I don't know if it can be done any better.

Susan: Okay, fess up. How much are you like Buchanan?

Jim: In my dreams, maybe. Part of the fun of the series is letting Buchanan do things I would never do, but would have liked to at some time. For instance, in Try Dying, he's fed up with the legal games of a big time lawyer, and gets up on the guy's conference table and does a tap dance. I don't think I ever would have done that, even on my best day.

But there are parts of me in Buchanan. The eye of the tiger when going to trial, for instance. And what caring for a vulnerable little girl brings out in him. I thought about how I feel about my own daughter.
How I know I would do anything – ANYTHING – to protect her. What would be unleashed if somebody ever tried to hurt her.

Susan: Do you think you have an advantage over other suspense writers since you are a lawyer? Does that ever get in the way when you're writing?

Jim: The legal background is definitely helpful when it comes to the courtroom scenes. There's so much that goes on in court that you don't pick up from watching TV or reading books. And you have to know the rules of evidence backward and forward, and trial tactics, and what a trial lawyer would do – and not do – in myriad situations. I trained trial lawyers for ten years on communication techniques, so all that comes out in the books.

But the suspense aspect is the same. All my legal knowledge won't matter a bit if I can't keep the reader turning pages.

Susan: You've also got a new nonfiction book out, Write Great Fiction:
Revision & Self-Editing. What need did you see among fellow writers that prompted you to write this book?

Jim: It started with the idea of giving novelists an "ultimate" checklist for revising a manuscript, so the task can approached systematically, not haphazardly. In my own experience, and that of other writers, I've found this to be a weakness that needs to be addressed. So I thought I'd address it.

From there, it grew into a basic book on the most important elements of fiction and how to assess them for yourself, in your own work.

The book can be used as a reference to strengthen your craft, as well as a guide for revision. It can be used by new writers to learn how to make their manuscripts salable and veteran writers to brush up on things. It's the kind of book I would like to have had early on.

Susan: What's the one thing new writers seem to overlook most before they send that manuscript off?

Jim: Chapter beginnings and chapter endings. There's a lot of lard that can be hacked off of each that will make the book more readable. I give some tips on this in the book. There's a lot of competition out there, as everyone knows, so these little things make a difference.

Another area I cover extensively is dialogue. I believe that improving dialogue is the fastest way to improve a manuscript. Great dialogue jumps off the page and gives an editor (and ultimately a reader) the feeling he or she is in the hands of a professional.

Susan: What's your schedule like this summer and fall? I know you'll be on the road for book signings for Try Darkness. Will we see you at any writers' conferences?

Jim: I will be at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference in August; the ACW conference in Spokane and ACFW in Minneapolis in September; and the ACW Caribbean Cruise conference in late November. Talk about tough duty.

Susan: What's ahead for your readers? Can we look forward to more Buchanan books?

Jim: Yes, Try Fear is in the works, scheduled for mid-2009. This one starts with the arrest of Santa Claus for drunk driving. Of course, it's just a guy in a Santa hat, and naturally Buchanan gets the case. And naturally, there's a lot more going on beneath the surface than anyone can imagine.

In L.A., there always is.

Susan: Jim, great talking to you again! Thanks for stopping by.

Jim: My pleasure.

Susan: Readers, be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free copy of Jim's new book, Try Darkness. You can learn more about him and his works at www.jamesscottbell.com.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Interview with Kristen Heitzmann

Kristen is the bestselling author of a number of works of fiction, including The Still of Night and Halos. In addition to her writing, she is also a teacher, conference speaker, music minister, wife, and mother of four. Kristen lives with her family in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.

Her book, The Edge of Recall, published by Bethany House, comes out today, July 1, 2008.

1. Tell us about The Edge of Recall.

The Edge of Recall is the story of a woman living her life on the cusp of remembering a trauma from her past that has infected her nights with terror and her days with purpose. Tessa Young is a landscape architect who specializes in labyrinths. These prayer walks she creates are a path to God that don’t require the vulnerability of relationship with the Father. They are also an element in the nightmares with monsters that have caused her to keep a therapist on speed dial.Smith Chandler is the British architect who failed her once and still has the potential to cause her emotional pain. Yet the project he offers—rebuilding a historic labyrinth that was once part of a Colonial monastery—is one she cannot refuse. Facing Smith will be difficult. Unleashing the monsters could be deadly.

2. The name is intriguing. Tell us how that came about and what the book is about.

Well, the title comes very clearly out of the story. Tessa has buried an event so deeply that it haunts her sleep like the mythical labyrinth. She runs from the memory, even as she runs from the monster, searching for someone she needs to find before it’s too late. In her life and work, Tessa loves the mysterious labyrinths her dad showed her in the last memory she has of him. She longs to make peace between what she does and what she dreams, but the price would be remembering.

3. Did this book idea come from any particular incident or experience? In other words, how did you come up with the idea?

My daughter Jessica and I conceived this story together. We had wanted to co-author it until her plans changed. The starting plot and characters are mainly her idea, though they became real in the fleshing of the story.

4. Let’s talk about your journey. How long did you write before you sold your first book?

I had started Honor’s Pledge in ’96 and had it, and about half of Honor’s Price, completed when I attended a writer’s conference that same year. The series was purchased by one of the two editors I showed it to, and the first title came out in January ’98. I know this is unusual, but since I am the worst business person ever, I turned that end of it over to the Lord, and he’s handled it ever since.

5. And what is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

I’m a fanatic about improving my craft, but I’d have to say the biggest thing I’ve learned is to trust. I am grateful for the gifts the Lord has given me, but I’m also eaten up by doubt and perfectionism. I am always overwhelmed by the ways the Lord goes over and beyond to show me that this is his work and my part is to give it what I have, then rest in him.

6. Everybody who writes inspirational fiction probably has a story about God’s hand in their writing career and how He’s guided them. Can you share anything in particular about that? Any one thing that happened that was an ah ha moment—when you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was in what you were doing?

The book I’m completing now came to me in a dream five years ago. The dream was amazingly clear and detailed, but so dark and troubling I didn’t think I could do anything with it. All day it hovered there, but I didn’t write it down because it didn’t fit the parameters of Christian Fiction. That night, I dreamed it all again and the story went on in as great detail unfolding the deeply redemptive part of the plot. I have never dreamed the same dream twice in a row, so I woke amazed and knowing I had to pay attention. My husband suggested I jot it down just in case. I had one week between turning in the book I’d finished and starting the next. I started to "jot" down the idea and could not stop writing. In that week as we drove to visit my in-laws I wrote two hundred pages of a story that has held me in its grip to this day. It will be published by a division of Random House for the general market in the summer ’09, and every step of the way has been miraculous.

7. Do you have any future writing plans you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish?

I really don’t make writing plans. I write the stories that fall into my head and want out.

8. What is the best advice you ever received?

Take time to live, to balance all the things that matter.

9. Any parting words?

Writing is the most joyful, painful, exuberant, draining, rewarding profession I could ever imagine. It is a thing that takes hold of me like the rapids of a river until it’s run its course and I settle onto the bank to catch my breath.