WRITING & PUBLISHING:
My first book, Counted with the Stars, took me five years to write, but that is because I was teaching myself to write and digging into a ton of research about Ancient Egypt and Israel. Nowadays I can write a book in 7-8 months, although the editing process adds to that timeline too.
What was the oddest thing you had to research while writing each of your books?
Egyptian medicine and surgery practices were pretty out there. Between being slathered with crocodile dung to keep evil spirits away and balms containing animal blood and urine and many more things too gross to write in this nice blog, they had some pretty crazy ideas about patient care. And yet, surprisingly, they also were very advanced in some ways including doing things like dental bridges and brain surgery. Some of the Egyptian doctors were even considered specialists in their fields.
How has becoming a Bethany House author changed your career/publishing process?
Before being published I took my own sweet time writing and “pantsing” along whenever I felt the urge to write or was struck by inspiration. Now, I have to write to a deadline so I am forced to work harder at outlining in advance and making sure I schedule a specific word count to hit my target. It’s been a balancing act to make sure it all gets done, especially when I am editing one book, writing another, and launching another along with the rest of my crazy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! And of course I am still pinching myself at being counted as a “Bethany House Author”!
Do you listen to music while you write? What are a few of your favorite songs/genres?
I can only listen to music without any words as I write and I prefer great movie/tv soundtracks. Lately I’ve been listening to the “Vikings” soundtracks since they have a real tribal feel to them, which adds to my sensory ambiance for the last couple of books that take place among the tribes of Israel and Canaan. But for writing inspiration I love listening to Lauren Daigle. I have had some beautiful spiritual threads inspired by a number of her songs. Shira’s spiritual arc in particular was inspired by the song “I Am Yours”.
Have you found that your characters resemble some of your friends and family?
Not really, although I am sure that I subconsciously gather a few quirks and characteristics of people along the way but I don’t really set out to pattern characters after any one person in particular.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
It chose me. I didn’t plan it, but when I began studying Exodus and came across the verse that talked about the “mixed multitude” that went with the Hebrews on the Exodus out of Egypt I was struck with inspiration. So far Biblical Fiction is where my ideas are blossoming, so I’ll stick with it for now.
Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?
Kissing scenes!! I sit there and blush my way through them. It’s getting a little easier the more kissing scenes I write but still, I procrastinate writing them as long as I can.
What are your current writing projects?
I am working on my fourth book, which is the first book in my next series for Bethany House. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but I will say that it is a spin-off of Book 3, Wings of the Wind, in the Out from Egypt series — so we will be moving into the Joshua/Judges period of time and dealing with the Levitical Cities of Refuge.
I am a homeschooling mom to my two kids, 9 and 12 which is a full-time job in and of itself!
When is your favorite time to write?
I am a night owl so I put the kids to bed at 9 and then I work until 2am most nights. It’s a good thing they are homeschooled or they would be perpetually tardy! We start school at 10am, after the “Mom-bie” has her coffee.
What is your favorite quote (from a book)?
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” - C.S. Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Do you have any odd writing habits?
I write in my closet! I needed a place to write where I could close the door and my master closet was the solution! I don’t write in there all the time, I tend to move around in the house for a change of “scenery”, but when I need silence and no distractions I head to my closet.
What attribute do you enjoy most about any character from the literary realm?
I would have to say the creativity and wordsmithing of Anne of Green Gables, there is no one quite like Anne and as a girl I was so inspired by the “scope of (her) imagination” and desperately wanted to be a writer just like her one day!
What comment would make your day, if you received it from one of your readers?
That my stories inspired them to go back and read the Word of God with a fresh perspective! It’s my favorite thing to get emails and messages from readers telling me they are digging into the Word again, and the very reason why I do what I do!
Do you have a favorite conference to attend?
I have attended the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference for the past few years and it’s always my favorite time of year. Getting the chance to hang out with my “people” and meeting new writers and authors is inspiring and invigorating! I highly recommend ACFW for aspiring authors, I wouldn’t be where I am without them!
How do you handle writers block?
I do a technique called mind-mapping where I brainstorm new details on a large sheet of paper, which really helps, but my favorite thing to do when I am stuck is color! When I discovered the adult coloring book fad and realized that it engaged my creative mind while letting me zone out, brainstorm, and replay the images in my scenes, I was hooked! It almost always jumpstarts me and melts those blockages away.
How have you evolved most markedly as a writer over your career?
Oh, in so many ways! I cringe when I read through my first drafts of Counted with the Stars, they are just SO poorly written. I’ve learned so much about plotting, pacing, and characterization in the past couple of years that I personally see a marked difference even between all of my published books. I’ve also become so much more organized with my writing life and have a few wonderful writing partners that I rely on for super-honest opinions—so my skin is much thicker as a result. I now welcome and seek out criticism instead of dreading the very idea of someone pulling apart my work.
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
I am a prolific reader so I’ve been influenced by hundreds, if not thousands of books, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d say the Chronicles of Narnia. There were few books that inspired my imagination like C.S. Lewis’s timeless classics. And they older I got and the more I re-read them I discovered the layers of spiritual meaning beneath the seemingly simple children’s fantasies that have spoken to me on a soul-level on many occasions.
What advice would you give to those who consider being a writer?
Find like-minded people to help support you on the journey, but be choosy about who you select as writing partners. You want to find people that are not interested in competing with you but are honest as well as uplifting with their criticism. And read, read, read. Read books from lots of genres so you can gather techniques to add to your writing and read lots of great crafts book but don’t get bogged down by “rules”. Instead find what techniques work for you and your writing style. I’ve seen many writers become paralyzed by trying to obey all the rules or following the so-called “right” technique. Such over-dependence on “certain” ideas can really stifle your writing voice—learn what works for you and then let your imagination fly!
Do you have a specific story about how you came to Christ that you would like to share?
I, like Timothy in the Bible, grew up beneath the teaching and wisdom of my mother and grandmother, so the Lord was a part of my life from the beginning. But, when I was six years old I went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade (actually somehow ended up featured on the front page of the newspaper that day too!) Although I was very young, I feel that is where my journey toward the ultimate finish-line truly began.
My Father has been so faithful to me, even when I was in college and walked away from Him for a while. He patiently waited for me and drew me back into relationship with him. I believe my mother’s prayer-calloused knees had a lot to do with the fact that my return was sooner rather than later. And of course spending the last few years digging into the culture and foundations of my faith has challenged what I thought I knew about the Word and grown my faith and understanding in fascinating ways! How wonderful to look back to that moment when my six-year-old heart was convicted of my sin and see how the Lord has walked alongside me, protected me, and loved me all along this journey to my true Home.