1. What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL
Janelle: The call. Wow. What a memory. I was sitting in our office chatting with my mother-in-law when it came. I heard, “This is Susan Downs” and my heart lurched. When she said she wanted to contract our manuscript, well, I don’t think my heart’s ever been the same since. I’ll be surprised if I managed to complete any of my sentences. Once we’d hung up, I told my mother-in-law the news and begged her forgiveness for planning to ignore her until I finished all my phone calls. She left. Then came the tough decision—do I call my husband first or my co-author? I called Lisa. Since she’d worked just as hard as I had, she deserved to know as soon as possible. My ear will also never be the same after she squealed in a pitch only dogs should be able to hear. (I think I might have just called myself a dog.) I gave her the details and w
e squealed together, then hung up so we could call everyone we knew. What a wonderful day. Unforgettable.
Elizabeth: It’s kind of funny, but my call didn’t come from my editor, it came from my co-author, Janelle. She knew I was at work, so she contacted me at the office to tell me she’d just gotten off the phone with Susan Downs. For several seconds, I wasn’t sure I’d heard her right. Once the realization sunk in, I really did squeal—so loudly, in fact, that my coworkers came running. I was crying, laughing, jumping up and down…I didn’t even have to say it. They all knew by my reaction I’d sold my book.
2. Tell us some of the background behind the ideas for your stories and about the story itself.
Elizabeth: It really all started with a conversation I was having with my brother-in-law. We were discussing Jacob and Esau and their difficult, often turbulent relationship. Later that evening, I couldn’t get their story out of my head. I called Janelle, and we started brainstorming possibilities for turning this into a mystery. While it isn’t exactly like the biblical account, it is loosely based on scri
3. What is it like working together as a writing team?
Janelle: I thoroughly enjoy working with Lisa. We’ve critiqued each other for years so we know each others’ writing style well. We’ve also become close friends. I believe a good friendship and knowing the other’s writing style are both a must when co-authoring. Brainstorming together is incredible. Tons of fun and laughter are a wonderful side benefit while working out the details of the story.
Elizabeth: Janelle and I have been critique partners for a long time. On top of that, we’ve become close friends over the years. I think both are requirements to anyone considering co-authoring. You have to know the person you are writing with pretty well in order to overcome the obstacles you encounter along the way, and you have to be able to converse honestly with one another if you want to make it past chapter one. If you can’t squabble with the person you’re considering co-authoring with, don’t even attempt it. Your friendship will never survive. Luckily, Janelle is more like a sister to me than a critique partner, so I can pretty much tell her anything.
4. What are the biggest challenges? Rewards? Difficulties? (working together)
Janelle: Blending our different preparations styles was a bit of a challenge at first. I need to have a detailed timeline showing everything from where the story starts to each step along the way to the ending, not to mention a timeline of the back story. The more details the better. There were times I could almost feel the club Lisa wanted to swing at my head. Once we’d finished editing the book, we had several laughs about that very thing. But I think we both learned from each other in the process. The timeline we put together kept us on track yet allowed us our own creativity. We ended up with a story we’re happy with and an even closer friendship.
Elizabeth: Working with Janelle has really spoiled me! I LOVED having somebody to brainstorm with 100 percent of the time. Any time I got stuck, I dialed her number and vice versa. Because she knew the story as intimately as I did, there was never any question about whether or not something would work or if a character would behave a certain way.
We are also very careful when making changes to run the edits past one another first. This really stretches the time involved in editing, but it’s a choice I think we both are happy with. Of course, as we neared the end of line edits, content edits, and galleys, that became almost impossible because of time constraints. When you trust your co-author, however, that really isn’t a problem. I knew if something needed to be changed, I could trust her to do it, and vice versa.
3. I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?
Janelle: I certainly could identify with Casey’s doubts of the Lord. Life’s difficulties have a tendency to make us wonder about the Lord’s love, but He always proves we have no reason to doubt. The character that had a surprising input on my life, though, was a secondary character—Monah, the librarian. She’d been through difficulties of her own but came out stronger in her faith. Bold enough to share the gospel and lead someone to Christ while working in the library. She became such a strong secondary character that she will have the lead role in our second book, Died in the Wool
Elizabeth: I really enjoyed creating Luke Kerrigan, the hero of the story. All the way through, he was solid in his faith, his love for the Lord, everything. He’s the kind of friend we all wish we had, and the kind of friend I hope to be.
4. What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?
Janelle: That, yes, you have know the craft and have good writing, but God is in ultimate control. Everything happens in His perfect timing. If you take the time to look back at the steps He took you through in the process, you’ll be amazed and blessed.
Elizabeth: “Don’t be so focused on the goal that you miss the journey.” (Paraphrased)
I heard these words at a conference I attended. Suddenly, I realized that was exactly what I’d been doing. My goal was publication. Only that. Not the knowledge to be gained along the way, or the friendships forged in adversity. I missed the fleeting opportunities God had prepared to comfort me, and for me to give comfort. Like a darkened landscape exposed by a shaft of lightening, my life suddenly became visible, and I became determined to ENJOY the writing journey God had set me on.
5 Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing? (either individually or as a writing team)
Janelle: I have a few historicals I’d like to see in print, and I’ve just plotted a suspense that I hope I can do justice because the spiritual theme is important to me, one I struggle with.
Elizabeth: Janelle and I have already contracted a second cozy mystery together called Died in the Wool. I’m also waiting to hear back on a cozy I wrote on my own called The Trouble With Mary
. My current wip, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with mysteries. It’s a contemporary romance I’m considering pitching to Heartsong that I’ve tentatively titled Missing Abby. It’s kind of fun to be writing something a little different than what I’ve been doing over the past two years. Keeps it all fresh.
6. Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published, especially from someone who has just broken in?
Janelle: Good, strong writing is vital, but networking plays a huge role. If at all possible, try to make it to some conferences. It’s the best way to get in front of editors, agents, and other writers to promote your work. Also, get involved in a good critique group. It’s amazing what you can learn from each other.
Elizabeth: I have to agree with Janelle, here. Networking is vital. You never know which contact might lead to a contract! I’d like to add the importance of contests, though, too. I read a really great article this morning about choosing contests specifically for the editors and agents who might be involved in the judging. This requires a little research on the part of the writer, but the rewards are tremendous, especially if that editor likes your work. If not, you always have the comments the judges made to learn from. I entered several contests before I sold my first manuscript, and the feedback was always invaluable.
7. Any writer’s resources you could recommend?
Janelle: James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure is great, as is Browne & King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Brandilyn Collins’ Getting into Character. A new favorite is Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy found at www.mybooktherapy.com
Elizabeth: The Graveyard Shift is an excellent resource for people writing anything involving police procedure. Lee Lofland is a retired detective and he knows all of the ins-and-outs of examining a crime scene, questioning witnesses, etc. I also recommend Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon. He gives some great insight into creating characters that last beyond the final page.
Author's Website: Elizabethludwig.com