On my blog, www.thefreeslavesdevotion.com, I looked at the twists in my ordinary life—many of which I didn't plan—and asked the question “who am I?” It was a fun journey that I took with my partner in blogging, Susan Roach, and was very revealing to me. At every turn in my life, God has shown me over and over again that He knows my heart, His plans for me are good, and He will ever draw me nearer as I live day to day.
Now that we know a little more about you let's jump in with some fun and silly questions to start with.
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
Stuck behind a cage with people staring at me.
Oh…that wasn't what you were looking for, was it? Hmm…well, I asked my Superman what he thought. He said maybe an armadillo. What? Not sure how I feel about that. He said they have a tough outer shell protecting a soft underside, and they were interesting. Like me.
Huh. Still not sure how I feel about that. Armadillos are NOT cute. Oh well…😉
I know we both have kids and so that means Disney movies. What Disney character would play you in real life?
According to the FB Disney poll, I’m most like Pocahontas. Strong, brave…and stubborn. Me stubborn? No. That can't be right! Just because I don't give in doesn't mean I'm stubborn. Does it?
Okay, so they nailed me. I can live with that.
I'm grinning at the armadillo suggestion. A very thought out answer but you're right, not exactly the most cute and cuddly animal.
If you could have any accent in the world, what would you choose?
Can you mix a Texas drawl with an Australian bite? Is that possible? Love the slang in those dialects, and have adopted many of them, though I get a few twisted, “what are you saying?” looks from my Nebraskan relatives. I do it anyway. Because they're fun. And I can. And like that armadillo, I'm unique. And stubborn. So there.
Now I'm trying to imagine a Texas/ Australian accent. Nope. Just can't hear it. Lol. Okay, those were great responses. How about some more serious questions?
Shoot. I'll put on my serious face.
When did you decide to become a writer?
When the people in my head kept telling me to write down the stories they were telling me. Is that weird?
I used to write as an emotional release. Some people journal. I wrote stories, even as a kid. I gave it up for a while for a couple of reasons. First, I had a bunch of small children and my husband had a job that demanded way more than the standard forty hour work week. Spare time was none-existent in that stage of life. Writing wasn't an option. Reading really wasn't even an option. We kind of went into survival mode. And we did—survive, that is.
And second, because I was told by a well-meaning Christian woman that fiction was not an honorable use of time—especially women's Christian fiction (read romance there). I wanted so much to be a godly woman, so I left that dream in the dark.
My husband addressed that second issue for me. He pointed out that Jesus very often taught through fiction. We call them parables. And God revealed himself in stories like Ruth (I know, that's not fiction, but it is my favorite romance from the Old Testament). Story is powerful, and beautiful when used appropriately.
At some point, when my baby (number four) finally started sleeping through the night (he was one…that was the longest year of my life!), the characters in my head called to me, and I began writing again.
In your debut novel, Blue Columbine, you tackle some hard issues. What made you decide to grabble with one of life’s messes?
That's a complicated and delicate question. First, I didn't decide to write it. The story unfolded before me, and I had to write it. Believe it or not, I'd always pictured myself writing sweet, historical romance. Truly, I did! I never imaged writing a semi-edgy contemporary fiction about an alcoholic. But when Andrew and Jamie’s story played through my mind—and it did, from start to finish in the amount of time it took to drive back to Nebraska from a Colorado vacation, I knew that I needed to put it on paper ( it took a lot longer to write it down!).
I have five year’s worth of time to look back on that day, and trust me, I’ve wondered why this story? So many things click into place as I view it from hindsight. First, I was at a point in my life when I was praying for loved ones…and losing hope even while on my knees. The situations seemed too dark. Too hopeless. Looking back, I see that God was teaching me through fiction. Nothing is beyond His reach. No one is unredeemable. I needed to see that, to feel it, and to believe it again. Note this: things haven’t all worked out the way I would write them…but I see hope in those situations where I didn’t see it back then, and maybe more importantly, I am persuaded to continue earnestly in prayer for those things over which I have no control. Even when they shatter my heart.
So why this book? God was teaching me. I don’t really have a better explanation than that.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
Honestly, and I say this with a little trepidation because I don’t want to rumple feathers too much, but the hardest thing was taking in the amount of negative (very STRONG negative) reactions to Andrew, the main character who is a pretty big mess in Blue Columbine. After a contest, one comment in particular really grieved me. The person was so adamantly opposed to any type of character that was so greatly flawed as Andrew that I actually teared up, wondering if this was how the church really responds to people with hard issues. The comment went something along the lines of him being an “unredeemable character.” That broke my heart. Really broke it.
But you know what? It also clarified to me one of the reasons God put this story in my heart—because I needed to know that nobody is unredeemable for our Almighty God. Nobody. That doesn’t mean that every story works out the way that Andrew and Jamie’s did in Blue Columbine, but it does mean that I don’t get to leap off the hook of prayer and compassion and love when someone dives into the muck deeper than I ever imagined they would.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Hmm…everyone is always ready with advice, and I’m no exception…but let me think through this carefully. The one thing I would say is to listen closely to the voice of God. Discern what is His will, His calling, and then follow it. Even if it’s not what you planned. Not the path you’d dreamed of, or the dream that you’d sheltered and nurtured.
I say that remembering the moment I finally decided to go Indie with Blue Columbine. I’d sensed that direction for ten months before I lifted my hopes and dreams of landing a contract with a Trad Pub to God and said, “Your way. Whatever you want.” That moment His inaudible voice said, “Finally. This is the direction I have for you.” And then I argued…(I mentioned I’m stubborn, right?). I said, “but I’m scared. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I don’t know how. You have to take my hand and hold me through this.”
You know, I’m pretty sure my Heavenly Father smiled—I could feel it in his answer. “That’s exactly where I want you.”
His hand holding mine. Right where I need to be.
For any other writer, or anyone else, I think that’s true. Your hand in His—no matter what that looks like in everyday life—that is exactly where you need to be.
What are you working on now?
Oh boy. So many irons in the fire! Right now I’m finishing the rough draft for my third Contemporary Fiction, The Carpenter’s Daughter. I hope to release it the beginning of next year, but that may prove to be an overly-ambitious goal. We’ll see.
Next month my second novel, Reclaimed, will begin the process of final edits so that it’ll be shiny and clean for it’s reveal in September. And in between all that, I’ll be working on my Young Adult trilogy called The Uncloaked. I’m anxious to get that out into the world as teenagers are special to my heart, and that story was another story like Blue Columbine. It unfolded before me and was simply a story I could not ignore. It is also something I’d never pictured myself writing—a YA dystopian? That’s a massive leap from where I began! But I’m pleased with the way the first book has turned out, and am happy with the way the second is unfolding. I feel like there is an important message in it, and I’m eager to bring it to whomever God leads to read it.
Thank you so much for stopping by and answering some questions.
Thank you, Sarah! It’s been fun to dive into these things, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to “explain” myself!