Monday, October 30, 2006
Rachel Hauck has created a winner with her fun and inspiring, newly released novel "Lost in Nashvegas"!!
I was given the honor of interviewing this sweet woman today!
Thanks for joining us, Rachel. Tell us, how was the idea for "Lost in NashVegas" born?
Rachel: Actually, my agent called me with the idea of country girl chick lit, and she suggested making the heroine a songwriter. I happily agreed. *Choke* I knew nothing about songwriting. I had a lot to learn, but it was very fun.
Betsy: What message do you hope to convey to readers through "Lost in NashVegas"?
Rachel: Don't let fear chain you down or rule over you. Go for your dreams. God's love truly does cast out ALL fear. All fears.
Betsy: Your recent chick lit novel "Georgia On Her Mind" got rave reviews! Was the success of that story a surprise?
Rachel: Great question. There's a part in all writers that hopes every book will be a smash. So, I was pleased, but also after editing the book so many times, I was really tired of the character and I felt reviewers would see her as I saw her after 6 or so edits. Made me a tad nervous. But my editor at Steeple Hill is fantastic and I trusted she knew what she was doing. And, she did.
Betsy: Do you ever incorporate personal experiences into your stories, or are they truly all fiction?
Rachel: All stories have some element of personal truth, or experience. Exaggerated of course. For Lost In NashVegas, I drew on my own experience of unreasonable "what if" fear. The kind that hits you out of nowhere and knocks you for a loop. I know the power and truth of God's Word in overcoming.
Betsy: That's amazing! So, what hobbies do you have outside of writing?
Rachel: Hobbies? Um, what's a hobby? I am involved in several ministries, and I love to watch college football. Go Buckeyes!
Betsy: Rachel, what are some of your personal favorite books? The ones you would read over and over?
Rachel: I've read the Little House Books a dozen times. I love them. I'm really not a read over and over type of reader.
Betsy: When did you first feel the call of God on your life to write?
Rachel: When I was ten or so, I thought I wanted to write. Then I wrote a poem for my 4th grade class. It was really good, surprise, and my dad picked up on it and told me for the rest of my life, "you're a writer, Rachel."
Betsy: How inspiring! Rachel, what stories are you working on now that readeres can look forward to?
Rachel: I just finished Diva NashVegas which comes out in the Spring, and am working on a new book set in the Carolina low country.
Betsy: Will there be a sequel to "Lost in NashVegas"?
Rachel: Diva is sort of a sequal. There is a different heroine, but Robin from Lost In NashVegas shows up.
Betsy: Great! What words of advice can you give to aspiring authors today?
Rachel: Don't give up. You'll never achieve your dream if you give up. Also, keep working the craft, and read, read, read!
Betsy: Thank you so much, Rachel! We appreciate you stopping by!
Read more about Rachel and her books at her website! Check it out today at http://www.rachelhauck.com
Monday, October 23, 2006
Brian Reaves has constructed an intriguing novel, complete with nail biting, heart pounding suspense and achingly realistic characters in his new book Stolen Lives. This is a quick read, folks! You won't be able to put it down - and when you finally do, you'll be begging for more!
Betsy: Welcome, Brian! Tell us, what gave you the idea for Stolen Lives?
Brian: I read about an accident on I-20 right outside of Birmingham (the actual scene of the crime in my novel). The trucker pulled over onto the car and ran over it with the trailer. No one was killed, but I found out later the report had it listed as the car’s fault. Basically, that they’d swerved under the trailer themselves. That started me along a wild line of thinking: What if the family had been killed? What if the father had been driving behind and seen it happen? What if he were a computer programmer and able to get revenge without ever being caught? It was all downhill from there.
Betsy: What schooling/experience do you have with computers that enabled you to write such a realistic story, right down to the details?
Brian: I deal with computers on a daily basis. I’m in charge of several intranets and WANS, and I’ve had my share of computer virus problems. I’ve seen a lot of wild things viruses can do, and I’ve researched them. I also talked to a lot of “white hat” hackers (the good guys who try to stop the “black hat” hackers from destroying people’s networks) and their work is really fascinating. Through a lot of reading, researching, and yes, even trying a few things out myself, I found the things that worked in the real world and I put them in the book.
Betsy: The plot for Stolen Lives is such an intricate maze of detail, surprise and secret identity. Did the plot come to you all at once, or did you have to sit down and really work at it to get it right?
Brian: I had the basic concept for the book early on, but the plot developed itself while I was writing it. I’m not one who sits down and plots every single breath a character will take before he starts writing a story. I’m that other guy…the one who buckles into the roller coaster and just sees where the ride will take him. I love the spontaneity that type of writing allows, and the plot twists really do come as a surprise even to me sometimes.
If you could see how I’d originally pictured the ending, you’d understand. I thought I knew how it would end, but as I spent time writing and developing these characters I saw places the story could go that would add depth to everything. I followed several of those trails and found (in my opinion) a stronger ending.
Several people have commented on how there really aren’t any heroes or bad guys in Stolen Lives; it’s just two guys confronting each other in their own ways. This is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted the reader to decide who they were cheering for. Honestly, are there really any obvious bad guys in our life? Not often. Most of the time there are people we don’t like, but in their version of life we’re the bad guys. So who’s to say who’s right or wrong. This approach to the story has led to some interesting discussions over the past few weeks as people have presented who they consider the “good guy” of the tale. I prefer to think it was a clash between two guys with faults—just like you and me.
Betsy: Awesome. When did you first realize you were called to write?
Brian: I’ve always dabbled in it for years, but I think when I hit 30 I realized this could be something I did professionally. I wrote my first self-published novel then. It took three years to complete and publish because I was really a perfectionist with it. It’s so funny to me now because I look back on the story and see so many things I would change (and probably will someday). Three years later to the day, Stolen Lives came out. The problem I have now is so many ideas and not enough time to write them. God gives me story concepts (our Father is so creative!), and most of the time they become short stories, with the really juicy ones getting stuck back for novels someday.
Betsy: Good deal! So what "do's" and "don'ts" can you share with aspiring authors today?
Brian: Don’t give up. Publishing takes a while, and it may take a couple of novels before you get picked up by a publisher or agent. Stay with it!
Keep writing while you’re waiting for that “big break.” Don’t waste time in limbo. If a publisher loves a novel you’ve written, it helps to show other manuscripts finished as well. It doesn’t mean they’ll take those too, but it shows you’re serious about writing.
Go to a writer’s conference if possible. I go to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and it’s where I met my agent and my publisher. There are less expensive conferences, but the key is to get to one. It opens doors not available otherwise. The editors and publishers at the conferences are there to talk to you about your manuscript, whereas sending them unsolicited to the publisher will usually just have them returned unopened.
Have someone read your story that won’t be afraid to be honest with you about what works and what doesn’t. While nobody likes to have their stories ripped to shreds, you need truthful feedback in order to make your story the best it can be. Maybe you love a particular scene or character, while your reader finds it distracting or unnecessary. Look at it truthfully and cut if need be. But remember: you are the one who ultimately needs to be satisfied with your story. Take advice, look at your story with a critical eye, and then make your own decisions.
And be ready for rejection. Hundreds of people submit manuscripts every year, but only a handful ever gets published. If you get a spot in there, it’s a blessing from God. If not, be patient and don’t quit. As long as you keep improving, the door will open for you someday.
If all else fails and you love your story enough, don’t be afraid to self-publish it. The internet is a wonderful place that allows every author an equal chance to get their story out there. There’s no shame in self-publishing. It shows you believe in your story. And you never know what doors God will open through your book.
Betsy: Great advice, Brian. Tell us - what was it like holding your first published novel in your hands, hot off the press?
Brian: Words can’t express that moment. When I pulled the envelope out of my mailbox, I cradled it in my lap until I could get into my garage. Then I reverently opened it and just sat staring at it for a long time with a huge grin on my face. At that moment, I accepted it had really happened.
A few weeks later I went into my local Family Christian Store and found a copy sitting on their shelves. I stood there smiling and called my wife to drive down and see it for herself. I took pictures of it sitting on the shelf. Finally the manager came over to see if everything was all right. It gave me the opportunity to introduce myself, but I wondered what he was thinking.
I still remember the exact spot I was at when the editor at River Oak called to tell me they’d accepted the manuscript and were going to publish it. I pulled over because I didn’t want to take a chance of losing the cell phone signal, and we talked about the book for about twenty minutes. I drive by that spot every day on my way to work, and it never ceases to make me smile.
Betsy: That's so exciting! I would feel the same. Can you share a little of your testimony or personal faith journey with us?
Brian: I was raised in church. I thought I was serious about God, but there was a time in my teen years when I pushed a little harder than necessary sometimes. I never went wild with drugs or anything, but I wasn’t as close to God as I should have been. As I got older my relationship with God matured, and He’s proven Himself faithful time and again. God never ceases to amaze me.
Betsy: That's so awesome. Brian, what do you like to do in your spare time, outside of reading and writing?
Brian: I enjoy playing the guitar and piano, and I love to watch classic movies. Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director of all time. His movies told an incredible story and kept people enthralled.
Betsy: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
Brian: Dean Koontz is my all-time favorite author and the man I’d most like to meet. Ray Bradbury has stirred my imagination more with his stories than anyone else. As far as Christian fiction is concerned, Eric Wilson, T.L. Hines, and Frank Peretti are all incredible storytellers and I’m hooked on everything they write. Another fresh voice who’s an incredible writer is Katie Cushman, whose first novel will be released next fall.
Betsy: Can't wait to check that out! Well, what other stories do you have in progress right now that readers might look forward to?
Brian: I just finished another novel starring Ian Richardson. It’s a supernatural thriller this time out, and not a cyber-suspense story. It’s my personal favorite story I’ve ever written, as it allows both Ian and Levi to do some serious soul-searching about what they believe and why.
I’m currently working on two novels at once. One is very exciting for me because it’s a concept that’s never been done in Christian fiction before. I don’t know how easy it will be to find a publisher willing to take a chance on it right now, but I know the market for Christian speculative fiction is slowly taking shape. The other novel is a final one with Ian. It allows me to complete his story (for now) in a way I’m really happy with.
In the midst of all this, I’m still working on my second TimeSlip novel. It’s been on the back burner for a while, but I keep adding to it as I can and hope to have it finished soon.
Betsy: Well, all I can say is, keep 'em coming! Thanks for joining us today, Brian!
For more information on Brian Reaves or his novels, check out his website at www.brianreaves.net
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Allison Pittman is a talented writer with a gift for heartfelt, moving novels. Her characters come alive on the page and sweep you up into a whirlwind of grace, love, and mercy.
Betsy: Thank you for joining us today, Allison! The plot for Ten Thousand Charms is so original and moving. What inspired you to create this story?
Allison: I’ve always had a fascination with history, and I love looking at 19th century photographs. I saw a picture of a group of prostitutes who worked in a frontier brothel, and I was struck by the utter emptiness in their eyes, and reading about them, I got a glimpse into their desperation. These were women who had very little choice in their lives, but I see women today who live with the world at their feet who have the same sense of emptiness—they’re just in color.
Betsy: Oh wow. Well, I just love Gloria's sass and confidence throughout the story. Even if she felt unsure in a situation, she managed to play it off until she figured it out! Did you have fun developing her character?
Allison: Gloria was an absolute blast! In fact, I don’t think of myself as having created a story as much as having created a character who sort of forged her own plot! I love the whole chick-lit movement, and I wanted to indulge myself and dabble in that genre in places. Plus, I knew the spunkier Gloria was, the less melodramatic her story would be. She’s a tough girl who’s led a tough life—it wouldn’t be fair to have her go all soft and sappy just because she happens to have a big strong man around. I must say, too, that there were moments in the story where she surprised even me!
Betsy: Haha! That's great. Sadie was my favorite secondary character in the story. Do we get to read more about Sadie and her life in another book? I understand there are sequels in the works. Can you tell us more about those?
Allison: The second book, Speak through the Wind is due out in March, 2007, and yes, it tells Sadie’s story. The title of the series is “Crossroads of Grace” and the idea of the crossroad is key. The red-roofed brothel is the meeting ground for Gloria, Sadie and Biddy, and each book tells each woman’s story. Speak Through the Wind begins with Sadie as a very little girl in New York City and tells how she eventually came to work at a brothel in Wyoming. The interesting aspect of the series is in the intersection of the characters. There are scenes in the second book that are in Ten Thousand Charms, but we’ll see them through Sadie’s point of view, which gives a completely new perspective.
Betsy: Oh, I can't wait! Allison, when did you first know you wanted to write?
Allison: I can’t remember ever not writing. Even before I was fully capable, I would dictate stories to my mother to write for me. When I was three, I even asked her to write my “I am running away from home…” notes. But the serious, passionate, professional pursuit came on about 10 years ago, and was really a slow dawning as I realized I wasn’t really doing anything productive for my Lord here on earth, and writing was the only real talent I seemed to possess.
Betsy: How inspiring! Growing up, what were some of your favorite books to read?
Allison: My favorite Christmas present EVER was my set of Little House on the Prairie books. I read them over and over and over and over. I loved the idea of living on the frontier—Laura Ingalls Wilder was my hero. She still is. Back then I adored her for plucky spirit, and I envied the world she lived in that would allow her to have such rich experiences. Later, I studied her writing—so rich in detail, yet so simple in truth. Even today, on a rainy afternoon, I love to pick up These Happy Golden Years and spend an hour with my favorite romance!
Betsy: Can you share a bit of your personal faith testimony with us?
Allison: I have always been in church. When I was four years old I asked my mother if I could get baptized. When she asked me if I knew what it meant to get baptized, I said, “Yes! It means I can vote in the business meetings!” She suggested I wait. Theoretically, I was saved when I was eight—with a full understanding of sin and redemption—but I don’t think I had any real appreciation for the Gospel until years later. Maybe not until I was grown, married, and a mother with a responsibility to raise her own children in Truth. In fact, since the moment of my salvation, I’ve lived a series of reinforcements. Just recently, at the death of my brother about a year ago, I experienced for the first time a true, concrete understanding of what it means to have eternal salvation. I experienced such peace knowing my brother was safe with Christ—it was tangible.
Betsy: That is so amazing. What great inspiration. Do you write full time, or do you have other jobs and responsibilities, too?
Allison: As of today, I write full time. What a fun luxury! While I was writing Speak Through the Wind, I was teaching full time, and we all nearly went insane. For the third book, our entire family took a step out on faith and I resigned. God has so blessed that act of obedience! Of course, I still have the responsibilities of being a wife and mom to my three boys, but caring for them is much easier now!
Betsy: What is your advice to aspiring authors today?
Allison: Read, read, read everything you can. Surround yourself with language and absorb it. Study the craft of writing—read books, go to workshops, break down the novels that you read and see the logic behind the authors’ choices. Finally, don’t write what you know. What you know is probably boring. Write what you wish somebody had told you.
Betsy: Great advice! What an interesting spin. So, tell us - what is your favorite part of being an accomplished author?
Allison: First of all, being called an accomplished author! But really, nothing is better than having somebody tell you they loved your book. I love being a part of their lives, having created something for their enjoyment. I even enjoy it when a reader is mad at me for something I allowed to happen to a character in a story—that sort of connection is priceless. I like making the world a little bit smaller.
Betsy: Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Allison.
Check out Allison's website today at http://allisonpittman.com/
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Jill Nelson, new author of the To Catch a Thief series, has created a unique and fun filled story brimming with intense, interesting characters and heart-pounding suspense that will leave you guessing until the very end!
Betsy: Welcome Jill! Thanks for joining us today. What inspired you to write Reluctant Burglar?
Jill: A literal dream. I woke up one morning, all tense, after a dream about a woman who had sneaked into someone’s house to return a genuine painting in place of the forgery that was on display. I didn’t know much about her except that she was an expert at what she did, and if she was caught, disaster would strike many people. That bit of back-story is on my web site. What’s not there is the wrestling authors do to make impossible scenarios plausible. What occupation could I give my heroine that would make thievery honest? And what situation would she need to face to put her in the dire dilemma of my dream? The answers that came to me are found in Reluctant Burglar.
Betsy: Wow, that's great! I understand there are two more books coming up in this series. Can you give readers any hints or tidbits of what is to come?
Jill: The action of Reluctant Burglar stays primarily in Boston—home stomping ground to museum security expert Desiree Jacobs and FBI agent Tony Lucano. But in Reluctant Runaway, we head for Albuquerque, New Mexico, to investigate stolen Native American artifacts and a missing young mother. Did post-partum depression drive the woman to run away, or was she snatched by a sinister cult? Runaway comes out next March. For Reluctant Smuggler, next August’s release, we go south of the border to Mexico, where Desi and Tony take on a drug lord involved in a deadly art for drugs scheme.
Each book explores a different genre of art. Burglar focuses on the European masters, Runaway looks at American and Native American artists, and Smuggler spotlights Hispanic art. Plus there is a spiritual thread distinct to each title. Burglar is a story illustration about learning to trust God’s higher knowledge, rather than our own wisdom and understanding. Runaway digs into generational consequences to our choices—for good or for ill—as well as how to discern truth in a deceitful world. Smuggler conveys the essential role of hope in the well-being of our human spirits.
Betsy: They all sound great! Can't wait to read the rest! Jill, when did you first feel the call of God on your life to write?
Jill: I can’t say I was consciously aware of a “call” when I penned—er, penciled—my first novel in sixth grade. It was a mystery with a ridiculous plot, but I finished. I’ve come to learn that actually completing a book, regardless of its quality, is a huge watershed in a writer’s life. Next, I tried my hand at writing articles, essays, short stories, and poetry, and had many things published. I even achieved a Bachelor’s degree in literature and creative writing, but I still can’t say I recognized a “call” to go with the gift. In fact, free-lance writing pretty much died out of my life for many years when my four children were little. But kids grow up, and so do their mothers—spiritually speaking—and that moment of answering a recognized call came about six years ago. I started writing again, and I haven’t stopped since. Now I’ve had the joy of holding my first published novel in my hands and sharing that moment with God alone. When my box of author copies for Burglar arrived, none of my family was at home, so it was just me and Jesus. We had a hoppin’ good time!
Betsy: I bet you did! So what advice or "lessons learned" can you share with aspiring authors today?
Jill: Finish what you start. Then go on to write something else—and finish it. Then finish the next one. Too many incomplete manuscripts hibernate in desk drawers. During the process of all this starting and finishing, let better writers than you look at your work and tear it up. Then go ahead and put it back together again, another step improved, and keep on writing. If this middle-aged mom from deep rural Minnesota can achieve her dream, no one should ever say never. With God, all things are possible. I write Mark 10:27 on every book I autograph.
Betsy: What was the most fun scene for you to write in Reluctant Burglar?
Jill: I had a blast with the interplay between Desi and her best friend Max, and the constant grinding of rough edges between Tony and his partner, and of course, the delicate dance of emotions and trust issues between Desi and Tony. But as far as any one scene goes, I think it’s the one where Desi returns to her hotel room after her dumpster episode, and Tony gets such a charge out of her Bugs Bunny pajamas and the hair that looks like she “dried it standing sideways in a gale force wind.” Then his amusement turns to despair when he realizes she’s still not going to come clean with him about the trouble she’s in. For those reading this interview who haven’t read the book, don’t get the wrong idea about a scene in a hotel room between unmarried protagonists. Other people are there. That whole room crackles with emotion. Everyone is at odds with each other.
Betsy: And it was a great scene! I can easily see this novel series becoming a movie one day! What are your thoughts on that idea?
Jill: The entire To Catch a Thief series is written cinematically. My primary intention is to offer readers good, clean, fun fiction, but I chose a cinematic approach because today’s movie-going society finds the style both appealing and palatable. For me, it’s also fun to write. Would I like to see Reluctant Burglar and the others as movies? Oh, yeah! Very appropriate that a move-buff heroine like Desi should have her own films. LOL. Whether this happens or not, God will arrange in His time. I’m at peace with that.
Betsy: What are some of your favorite books to read over and over?
Jill: The Bible (I suppose that one goes without saying.)
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and her Mark of the Lion series
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Color the Sidewalk for Me by Brandilyn Collins
A book that I doubt I’ll have the time and endurance to tackle again, but which made a major impact in my youth: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Alyosha became something of a role model.
Betsy: All great choices! Can you share a little of your own personal faith journey with us?
Jill: I made a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior at Bible camp when I was eleven years old. I wish I could say I stayed faithful to that commitment from then on. My upper high school and college years got rather rocky. Bad choices and rebellion sent my life careening in a direction that could have been fatal many times over. But God was faithful, especially when I wasn’t. His hand stopped the enemy’s plans again and again. I see that now. At the time, I was blind. He maneuvered the course of events so that I got out of the orbit of a certain group of friends. That same year at age 23, I returned my heart to him. I wish I could say that it stayed there. Again, things happened, and instead of continuing to trust God, bitterness made my heart cold. I felt like I had fallen asleep spiritually. But in the fullness of time, at the right moment, the Holy Spirit quickened me again. There is a sense now that enough of the arrogance of my youth has been cut away that I won’t again cease depending on Him. And He has given me the desires of my heart in so many ways. Sharing His love through a career as a novelist is only one of them.
Betsy: That's amazing. Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Jill!
Check out Jill Nelson's website at www.jillelizabethnelson.com
And hurry to bookstores TODAY to buy "The Reluctant Burglar", Book 1 in the To Catch a Thief series!