I was a certified teacher—high school civics and geography were my specialty, and I loved teaching. However, I’m now a SAHM, and wouldn't trade that for anything. Now I satisfy the teacher in me by teaching junior high Bible class and am active in AWANA leadership.
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.
Second, I rediscovered a fundamental truth that I would have been eager to voice at that point in time, but was not really gripping in my heart. That is this: Jesus saves. Only Jesus saves. Not me. Not my husband, or my preacher, or anyone else involved. Salvation is Christ’s work, not mine. He graciously allows me to be used of Him—of His choosing, in His timing, and through my obedience—but I am a tool in His hands. He is the redeemer.
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!
Did you read that title and picture this guy here?
Flash fiction is a little different. It's a complete story in under 1,000 words. A few months ago, I just couldn't find any time to sit down and work on my current manuscript. So instead of putting away writing altogether, I wrote short flash fiction pieces on my phone while rocking my daughter during her nap (she'd wake up the moment I laid her down so I ended up having to hold her while she slept).
I thought it would be fun to share one of these flash pieces with you. Have fun reading!
Do Not Enter
It was just a white metal square with black letters. It shouldn't be giving me heart palpitations. But as I stared at the Do Not Enter sign, I felt like I was going to be sick.
"You're too good, Grace." Tiffany's words from the night before rang in my head. "You've never once even toed the line, much less crossed it."
Why did following the rules sound so disgraceful coming from the lips of my free-spirited friend?
The sign in front of me morphed into another square. This time black with white letters—the kind you hold up at the police station right before they take your mugshot.
I groaned as Tiffany came up beside me and winked. Why had I agreed to this again?
Tiffany intertwined her fingers with the chain-link fence and gave it a good shake. I cringed as it rattled. Might as well have pulled out a megaphone and announced to the world we were about the break the law.
"Come on, I'll give you a boost." Tiffany bent at the knees, her daisy dukes riding up even higher on her tanned thighs. She cupped her hands together and looked at me expectantly.
I bit my bottom lip, but put my Toms-clad foot in her palm anyway. With an umph I was up and straddling the fence. One leg a criminal, the other a goody-two-shoes preacher’s kid. I closed my eyes against my father's booming voice in my head about God spewing out double-minded fence riders as I swung my leg over the side and landed with a soft thud on the dirt. Tiffany jumped down beside me, grinning as she brushed off her hands.
Huh. Nothing happened. No sound of sirens ripped through the air, no blinding searchlight. Not even lightning from heaven. Had the world not taken notice that Grace McPhearson had not only broken the rules but had done something illegal?
"This way." Tiffany hurried over to the beige stucco building, rising on tiptoes to peer through the window. She waved me over, put a finger to her lips, and then pointed to the glass.
My legs wobbled as I rose up to look inside, the two years of toe dance finally coming in handy. My breath caught in my throat. How could they? Those poor, defenseless creatures.
Four rows of fluffy white bunnies, their heads shackled in what looked like stocks from the 16th century. Their ears red and charred. Burns? Flesh eating disease? My eyes stung, and I blinked back tears. There were monkeys with open sores and cages of rats with tumors larger than their own bodies. And that was just in the part of the room I could see.
Anger coursed through my body. I had worried about trespassing? This was the real crime. No one could treat God's creatures this way and get away with it.
Tiffany unzipped her backpack and withdrew a camcorder.
No way I could stay silent, not now. Wasn’t Dad always telling me God gave Adam dominion over the animals? Somehow I doubted God meant for us to treat them with such cruelty. Steel edged my voice as I spoke. "I'm doing it."
Her hand stilled. "You sure?"
I nodded and squeezed my eyes against the negative consequences my actions would have. We could still play it safe. A video on YouTube would get hits. But a video of a famous televangelist’s daughter would go viral.
An hour later, recording in hand, I marched up the police station steps. The door swung open and a young woman stepped out. I smiled at her but continued into the building and up to the Plexiglas window.
"Can I help you?" the uniformed officer asked.
It was now or never. "I'd like to confess." I held up the disk. “And I brought the evidence.” Repercussions were sure to come…for more than just myself.
“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” --L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.Anne Shirley was obsessed with giving things their "true name." Barry's Pond is now forever The Lake of Shining Waters, the Avenue fondly remembered as The White Way of Delight. For herself she wished to be called Cordelia, not liking that she was simply Anne "with an E."With our own children, my husband and I labored over the choice of a name that would not only sound lovely but would hold deep meaning as well. Our son we named Elijah David. Elijah means "The Lord is my God" and David means "beloved" (and is also my husband's middle name as well). Our daughter's name is Arianna Victoria, which means "the Holy One is victorious."
Yesterday I started brainstorming names. No, I'm not pregnant! Since I will be indie publishing, then, in essence, I am my own publishing house. Said publishing house needs a name, no? Plus I have to register a DBA (doing business as) with the state and so need a name of said business.
Where to start? How about geographical location? I live in a desert so Desert Rose Publishing came to mind. Taken. Okay, what else? My daughter makes us watch the music video to "My Lighthouse" by Rend Collective about 3 times a day (she has good taste in music for an 11 month old!) so I had the song in my head. Lighthouse Press? Taken. I'm pushing my kids on the swings at the park during this brainstorm and a father beside me is pushing his daughter Cypress. One of my favorite trees is a Willow. Willow Grove. Sounds nice, right? Apparently someone else thought so too. Taken. There are some really random publishing house names out there people. Pink Unicorn, Blue Elephant, One Old Tree. Seriously know why Random House is called Random House now. Lol
Back to the drawing board. What is my mission and vision? I want to be a light in the world. Light. Radiant. Ohh! I like that! So, coming soon Sarah Monzon will be doing business as Radiant Publications.
What do you think? If you hate it tell me because I haven't filed my DBA yet and can go back to brainstorming!
A few months ago I reached the peak of my reading snobbery. It got so bad that before downloading a book onto my Nook, I'd look to see who the publisher was (approved publishers being Bethany House, Tyndale House, Revell, and Zondervon), even if the book was free. If the book was indie published or published by a small or unknown house, I wouldn't "waste my time." I'm so glad I finally got my pert little nose out of the air or I would have missed out on some terrific books...and maybe not have subjected myself to books that should have been great but made me cringe as I read them. Don't believe me that indie and small houses can put out good books? Check out Tamara Leigh and Sandi Rog.
Don't get me wrong, I can still be pretty snobbish when reading. Here are a few things that make me roll my eyes, or worse, put a book down.
I'm guilty of this in my own writing, but my lovely critique partners will highlight any similar words too close together. Professional editors should pick up when a word is repeated two or three times in one paragraph. It's like with my kids. The first time they said mama I was over the moon. My 3 year old says it so often now (read constantly!) that by the end of the day I'm ready to change my name.
Rhetorical questions are supposed to be a sign of deep POV (point of view), right? But instead it seems some authors take a statement, tack on the word "right" at the end, and turn it into a question, don't they? You can see how this can get annoying, don't you?
When I was a little girl I used to play with paper dolls. It was fun to punch out the clothes and dress the dolls by folding back the tabs along the edges. The problem was that even if you got the bases the dolls were supposed to stand in just right, 9 times out of 10 they'd still topple over.
If a character in a book in paper doll thin, he/she won't be able to stand on their own. I want to read about characters I love to love and love to hate. Characters I can relate to, even a little, or wish I was more like. For me a well-written, well-developed character will make me want to keep reading even if the story has other flaws. On the other hand, a poorly developed character...well, who wants to read about them?
I just skim long, introspective paragraphs that interrupt flow to get back to the story. Enough said.
What about you? I know I'm not the only reading snob out there. What's one of your confessions?
What's the first this that pops int your head when you hear that word? For me, the word triggers a song (nothing unusual there, lot's of words trigger songs in my head!). It's the song Cinderella sings at the beginning of the movie when she's just waking up. Her birdie friends are twittering about cheerfully and she throws open the shutters. You can see the wistfulness in her eyes as she gazes longingly at the castle in the distance and sings A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.
Now, we know the end of the story. We know Cinderella got her prince. Her dreams came true and she lived happily ever after. But what if God had said no to Cinderella? No to the dream of her heart she'd been yearning for every day from that attic bedroom?
That's where I found myself a few months ago.
The castle in the distance I'd been dreaming about so long was signing a book contract with a publishing house (okay, since it's a dream of a castle I'll admit to fantasizing about a BIG publishing house). My manuscript was done and I prayed, seeking the Lord's blessing to take the next step--querying literary agents.
The Lord said no.
Remember the scene where Cinderella is dressed for the ball and the step-sisters start tearing at her dress until she turns and runs, her hands covering her crying eyes?
Don't judge me for being melodramatic, but that's how I felt. Why would God say no to my dreams? I thought the Bible says He'll give me the desires of my heart?
Sometimes the Maker of our hearts knows them better than we do ourselves. So if God had said no to Cinderella then it;s only because He had a better dream planned for her. A prince and a castle and a life that may be completely different than she had ever imagined. In my case it was a prince I'd heard of but didn't know a lot about and hadn't considered because of it's less-than-stellar reputation. Have you guessed the new prince God has brought into my life?
I'm not going to go into all the reasons why self-publishing is a good fit for me because they really don't matter. The only thing that matters is that when God said no to one dream, he opened my heart to another.
If your heart is still dreaming and you're still believing, don't give up. As Snow White says, one day your prince will come.
Carol award finalist and Selah award winner, Sarah Monzon is a stay-at-home mom who makes up imaginary friends to have adult conversations with (otherwise known as writing novels). As a navy chaplain's wife, she resides wherever the military happens to station her family and enjoys exploring the beauty of the world around her.