Thursday, October 13, 2005

AN INTERVIEW OF ME -- MY PATH TO PUBLICATION

Gina Holmes, blogger at http://firstnoveljourney.blogspot.com, posted an interview of me this morning. I thought my readers might enjoy reading it. Here it is, below.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

First of all, thank you for this opportunity, Gina. I love your blog. IATH for you (it's about to happen)!

My Barbour 4-in-1 Wedded Bliss? (question mark intended) will be published November, 2005. It's married romance for sure, and women's fiction, too. Coauthors are Susan Downs, Kristy Dykes, Sally Laity, and new-author-to-watch Carrie Turansky.It was fun writing it. It centers on four couples with big problems who are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversaries, and all four coauthors have done that (celebrated their 25th wedding anniversaries, at least). :)

I give God the praise for the things He's helped me to accomplish in writing (though there are many stories in my heart that I believe are forthcoming): nine titles of Christian fiction (Barbour 4-in-1s and Heartsong Presents novels), articles/chapters in seven or eight nonfiction books, and over 600 published articles for many publications including two New York Times subsidiaries.

I also write a monthly column,"Crafting with Kristy," for the ezine of American Christian Fiction Writers.

How long had you been writing seriously before you got “the call?”

When I see the words, "the call," I always think about my call from the Lord to write. But I think you mean the call announcing that I sold. (This answer is lengthy, but I'll be concise on the others.)

In the early 90s, after I'd had hundreds of articles published, I went back to college and earned a degree in mass communications/journalism (the J dept. head said why in the world did I want a degree in J, that I could teach the classes, but I got it anyway).

But deep in my heart, it was my dream to see my Christian fiction published, because for me, it was a calling that was as distinct as my calling to ministry (my husband is a pastor). So in 93ish-94ish, I began diligently studying the craft of fiction. I gorged on fiction technique books, devoured/dissected hundreds of novels, got a critique partner, and attended a weekly college fiction-writing class for four longgggg years where my multi-published instructor critiqued 10 pages per week.

I went at my pursuit with a vengeance. I learned the Michelangelo process—stripping away the excess and finding the statue in the stone. I mastered dialogue mechanics, scene development, and show v. tell. I perfected KIT, POV, RUE, and GMC ("keep in touch," "point of view," "resist the urge to explain," and "goals, motivation, and conflict"), plus more.

I wrote, wrote, wrote and submitted, submitted, submitted because the common thinking during the 90s was to write three chapters of a novel and submit, then start over with another story and do the same, ad infinitum. So that's what I did. (Now, writers need to finish a novel--and two or three or four, sometimes--before seeing something published.) I kept learning, honing, and growing as a writer. I attended writers' conferences. I was active in several writers' organizations.

In the agonizing gruel of it all—studying, writing, and rewriting—I enjoyed it. I wasn't like Robert Louis Stevenson, who, when asked if he loved to write, answered, "I hate to write, but I love to have written." I loved the slugging out of stories with self-imposed deadlines—from the times when I struggled over every word to the moments "when the paragraphs exploded from my fingertips," as Tom Clancy said.

Through it all (completing four novels and working on many more), I tried to keep a sweet, buoyant spirit though I often prayed The Writer's Prayer: "Our Father, Who art in heaven…and Who also hath written a book…help!" :))

Being a native Floridian as are generations of my forbears, I've seen live alligators all my life. At one Florida attraction, a man (a brave one) wrestles an alligator. The gator throws the man (now terror-stricken) to the ground, and they flail about as the audience winces and gasps for long, tense minutes. Finally, when it looks as if the man won't win, he does, and the audience oohs and ahs. Then he pries apart the gator's jaws and sticks his head in to show he's conquered it.

In my quest to see my fiction published, I often felt like the alligator wrestler. It was hard, frustrating, even terror-striking. Years started going by, and still, I wasn't published in Christian fiction. I attended my first CBA (now IRCS) in 1999 as a veteran nonfiction writer to interview Janette Oke and Gilbert Morris (a great experience, BTW).

At the Gold Medallion banquet, John Maxwell said, "We've got to quit microwaving leaders and start crockpotting them—letting them marinate and develop." Hmm, I thought. I've been crockpotting a long time. You reckon I'll ever get "done?"

Then I heard Jack Hayford speak. "There are many things that make you feel like you're at the end of your hope concerning your dreams." Bingo, I thought. On the isle of Patmos where there seemed to be no hope for John the Revelator, Hayford said John heard a voice behind him. "John was restricted, but suddenly he broke into the realm of unrestrictiveness by listening to The Voice (Jesus) and hungering after Him."

I'd always hungered after God, having cut my teeth on the pew, as the proverbial saying goes. But I made a fresh commitment that day. Lord, I silently prayed, help me to hunger after You in a greater way. Help me to want You more than "it" (being published).

Hayford continued. "Jesus will meet you where you are. You aren't at the end of your capacity. This is only an unfolding of new things."

Goosebumps covered me as I listened to what I would soon come to know were prophetic words. In December of that year—mere months after I heard Maxwell and Hayford speak--I got "the call." And in 2000, my dream came true!

My novella, "I Take Thee, A Stranger," was published in the Barbour novella collection American Dream (coauthors: Kristy Dykes, Nancy Farrier, Sally Laity, Judith McCoy Miller). American Dream hit the CBA Bestseller List and went into four printings with over 50,000 copies in sales. When I saw my name listed just a few slots below Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, I cried. It was as if the Lord whispered into my heart, Kristy, I'm pleased that You put Me first in your life. I'm going to bless you.

Like the alligator wrestler, I didn't give up in my quest to see my Christian fiction published. I had read that a lemon is produced in 2 1/2 years and a pearl in 7. I had decided that if it took 7 years (or longer), I'd slug it out. And that's what it took—approximately 7 years. But hey, that's God's perfect number!

Someone said, "People don't fail; they quit." I made up my mind that I would not quit. I persevered. (Side note: I won the Persistence Award from American Christian Writers and also the Writer of the Year Award, in 1999 and 1995, respectively.) Unlike the alligator wrestler, however, I refuse to stick my head in an alligator's mouth. A book cover is proof enough for me!

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Be teachable, is what Dr. Penelope Stokes says in The Complete Guide to Writing & Selling the Christian Novel. And according to Dr. Gilbert Morris, it takes talent, tenacity, and timing. The Four T's kept me going (and still do).

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

We need to realize that every author walks a different path to publication, and nothing is absolute, and sometimes good advice from one author can be bad advice for another. Example: do you "write the story of your heart" or "find out what the market's looking for and write that story"? I've heard all kinds of advice and being the ever-diligent soul, I tried to heed everything. But the key is to be open to the Lord and let Him lead you.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier on that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Thoroughly learning the craft before I submitted to editors. See question #2.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Being bred on Jesus and the Bible (and Nana's layer cakes) in the delightful Deep South, dahhling, scriptures flow in and out of me like waves on the beach. (Yikes. Is that last sentence grammatical? Don't have time to look it up, but it sure sounds good.)

Here's one favorite (out of the many). Matthew 6:33. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

Here's another. Habakkuk 2:3. "For the vision is yet for an appointed time. But at the end, it will speak and will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it. Because it will surely come."

Don't you just love these two verses? They have the wow factor.

Is there a particularly difficult setback that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

The writing profession is fraught with rejection. For the pubs and the prepubs. For the stars and the average authors. (I like to joke that "I used to be nationally unknown and then I made a trip to the British Virgin Islands, and now I'm internationally unknown!") VERY BIG GRIN With my extensive reaching out to people, which comes naturally, and my travels, and my vast networking in various venues, I really am internationally known.

But getting back to the subject, rejections are the hazards of the trade. A nurse risks contracting infections. A construction worker scales heights on precarious scaffolding. Etc. A writer gets rejections. It's as simple as that. To be a successful writer, you have to have a tough hide. (Maybe I learned how to have this by being a pastor's wife--I live in a fishbowl!)

When you get a rejection, you can allow yourself a little time to rant, grieve, fume, cry, feel sorry for yourself (take your pick), and then you have to put it aside and move on. My grandmother, whose dear husband (Papa) divorced her in the 1940s because of her faith, taught me a poem called "Plod On" that's helped me in my writing career. First verse: Plod on, plod on, plod on. Plod on, plod on, plod on. Plod on, plod on, plod on. Plod on, plod on, plod on. Second verse: Same thing. And the poem had 12 verses! Do you get the drift? (Incidentally, ten years after Papa left Nana, he begged her to take him back, which she did.)

What are a few of your favorite books?

Got an hour or two? Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough, Emily Louise by Joan Darlington Beam, Hannah Fowler by Janice Holt Giles, Little Women, Christy, As the Earth Turns by Gladys Hasty Carroll, A Single Shard, The Day Lincoln Was Shot, The Firm, The Yearling, The Miracle Worker by William Gibson (the play), A Day No Pigs Would Die, The Americanization of Edward Bok, Tisha, Bailey White's books, the classics, and a gillion more.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I strive for excellence in all that I do, so I'm proud of everything—my fiction and my articles. I recently had the honor of meeting and interviewing Ruth Graham, daughter of Ruth and Billy Graham, and that was a highlight. My article, "Unfailing Love: Ministering to the Brokenhearted," was the August 2005 cover story for Woman's Touch magazine.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I write. I speak. I promote. I minister. I interview. I travel. I pastor (with my husband). I explore. I worship. I wife. I parent. I grandparent. I rejoice. That's my life. And I love it.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Boy is my mind whirling. Writers. Moses who wrote the Pentateuch. Other Holy Book writers. Writers of yesteryear. Dickens. Austen. Alcott.

Writers of the 1920s and 30s. Margaret Mitchell? Hmmm. One biographer says Scarlett was really Margaret Mitchell. And Vivien Leigh said, "I hope I've one thing that Scarlett never had. A sense of humor. I want some joy out of life. And she had one thing I hope I never have. Selfish egotism." Food for thought, eh?

Writers of today. Rivers. Hatcher. Collins. Windsor. Raney. Coble. And more. Great writers to admire and glean from.

My mind backtracks to Catherine Marshall. In her journal, she wrote her "soul's sincere desire:" "To become a writer who will make a real contribution to my generation and to the world." Catherine Marshall became one of America's most notable and bestselling Christian writers. The New York Times called her "America's most inspirational author." More than 25 million copies of her books are in print, and her novel Christy is estimated to have been read by 30 million people.

Yeah. I'd like to emulate Catherine Marshall.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

Oh, yes! Dr. Dennis Hensley once told me, "Shoot for the stars. Don't settle for less." Someone else told me, "Don't rent a vision; own it."

I have great dreams for my writing future. The day I interviewed Janette Oke and Gilbert Morris at CBA in 1999, with my husband Milton at my side, the Lord put it in our hearts that He wants to do something significant through me in Christian fiction. I quake saying that because I know how many hits your blog receives, and it may sound uppity. So please take it with the humility I feel in saying it.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Yes and no. See question #2.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I have so much to learn, so maybe that answer is forthcoming.

Parting words?

Thank you again for this opportunity, Gina. I enjoyed getting to know you at the 2005 AFCW conference in Nashville. Thanks for your encouragement, sweet thannnng.

1 Comments:

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Susan Hanson said...

Where does the broadcasting revolution go from here?
In the heyday of radio, the wireless was the centre of people's lives ... Most digital music players don't have radio receivers, but are blessed with a large storage capacity and, when docked with a PC, a connection to the internet.
Find out how you can buy and sell anything, like things related to private road construction on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like private road construction!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home