Monday, December 18, 2006
Interview & Giveaway with Deb Raney!
I was recently given the honor of interviewing one of my favorite authors, Deb Raney! And not only that - but she's giving away a copy of the newly expanded and revised "A Vow to Cherish" AND an ARC for her upcoming release, "Remember to Forget."
Betsy: Thanks for joining us today, Deb! So, tell us - when did you first feel the call of God on your life to write Christian fiction?
Deb: I think He planted a seed the summer I was 11 or 12 and read all the Little House on the Prairie books. I remember the author used the term “Providence”––capitalized. My mom told me that meant God, so I saw my hero, Laura Ingalls Wilder, giving credit to God and that touched something inside me. That summer, I tucked away a dream of someday writing a book. I “dabbled” in writing throughout my life, but it wasn’t until I was 38 years old that God said “It’s time to write that book now and here’s the story I want you to tell...”
Betsy: Wow - how wonderful! Of all your published books, which would you deem your "favorite" or maybe the "most fun" to write?
Deb: I didn’t used to name my favorites — too much like asking which of our four children is my favorite! ;) But now that I have almost 15 books under my belt, a few have risen to the top as stories I think are my best: A Vow to Cherish, because in writing it, I believe I discovered how to use my gift. Beneath a Southern Sky, because of the way God put His hands over mine on the keyboard to write the ending. And A Nest of Sparrows because the research overwhelmed me and brought me to my knees before God saying “I can’t DO this, Lord! I cannot!” And He gently whispered, “Yes, you can, if you give it to Me first.” I did, and as always, He was more than faithful. As for the most fun to write, that was definitely Playing by Heart. I giggled my way through that book, amazed that I was actually writing a bit of humor. I’m NO comedienne, but I sure had fun with that story!
Betsy: That's great! Deb, tell us a little about your own personal spiritual journey.
Deb: I was raised on a farm in Kansas, the oldest of five in a wonderful, warm, loving family. But when I was 17, I gave in to the desire to be “popular” and chose to live on the wild side for the next year of my life. But watching my parents, who were every minute walking the talk, I knew I wanted what they had, and that to do so would require turning away from my popular friends and taking a stand. God met me at that place of repentance, answered a couple of prayers in amazing ways (including putting my sweet husband in my life, and later blessing us with four incredible children, even after doctors said I wouldn’t be able to conceive). I’ve never looked back. And God has proven Himself faithful again and again in my life, even through tragedy and heartache. I’m in it for the long haul. :)
Betsy: That's fantastic. Your novel, "A Vow To Cherish" was made into a movie, right? What was that experience like? How involved were you?
Deb: Yes, it was. My husband and I got to attend the Hollywood premiere of World Wide Pictures’ A Vow to Cherish in 1999. You can see a few photos here: http://debiraney.blogspot.com/2006/05/vow-to-cherish-hollywood-premiere.html It was an amazing experience for this little Kansas farm girl, but I must admit when we got back home and I stepped off the plane in Wichita, I wanted to kiss the ground of my dear Kansas! :) As for my involvement in the making of the film, it was pretty much zilch. I was “consulted” on a couple of issues via my editor, was promptly ignored by the filmmakers ;) and as a courtesy, was sent a script of the screenplay, which changed drastically by the time the film premiered. But because World Wide Pictures is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s film company, I was confident that my story would not be altered in any way that distorted the message of my story or the faith of my characters. Many changes were made to translate a rather “internal” story to a more visual one, but I’m very happy with the resulting film, and am told that many people have come to Christ, marriages have been healed, and others have recommitted their lives to Him as a result of watching the film. I’m honored and amazed to have been a small part of that production. The movie is now available on VHS and on DVD in 7 languages and plays regularly on certain cable stations (or so I’m told...we don’t have cable.)
Betsy: How exciting! Where was the idea for "A Vow to Cherish" born?
Deb: Around the Raney supper table one night in December 1993. Some family friends were dealing with the wife’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and we were talking about it with our then-teen and pre-teen children. They started sharing tales of their friends’ grandparents who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and that caused my husband and me to recall how God had placed us, as newlyweds, in jobs in the occupational therapy department of a large Jewish nursing home in New York. There we worked with many patients with dementia (at that time, Alzheimer’s was only diagnosed after an autopsy) and I realized that God had placed me right in the midst of “research” for my first novel almost twenty years before I would write one word of it.
Betsy: What was it like doing the revisions and expansions for "A Vow to Cherish"?
Deb: It was very interesting! I thought I was only going to fix some of the writing mistakes I’d made as a first-time author, and update the medical information (since much has changed in Alzheimer’s treatment and research in the twelve years since I first wrote the novel). But what I discovered when I got into the rewrite was that my characters—professional Chicago suburbanites—did not own cell phones or computers! Quite realistic for the early 90s when my story was originally written, but not at all for this 21st century. So I ended up adding 7,000 words to my original manuscript and bringing my past characters into the future, which is now their present. ; )
Betsy: Deb, describe for us one of your typical writing days.
Deb: Well, as someone once said, there’s no such thing as a typical writing day. But on the days that all goes well, this is what my life as a writer looks like: I’m up around 5 or 5:30 to have my devotion time, answer e-mail and get my desk cleared off and ready for the day. Around 7, my husband and I read the Bible together and spend time in prayer. (My husband is MUCH more disciplined than I, so this is one part of every day I can depend on.) Once my husband and daughter are off to work and school, I shower and straighten up the house, put on a pot of coffee, light some candles, choose some “mood music” for whatever scene I happen to be writing, and dig in to the ol’ wip. Often I’ll take my laptop out to the deck, to a chair by the fireplace, or to the bar counter in the kitchen for a different perspective. And if I’m on deadline and there are too many distractions at home, I might hop in the car and go write in a coffee shop, bookstore, bed & breakfast, etc.
I try to write about 1,000 words a day, but as I get closer to deadline, that gets upped to 2,000 or more. It’s a wonderful feeling when momentum kicks in and the words are flowing. Once the initial research (which can involve reading books, traveling, interviews, online searches, reviewing magazine clips, etc.) is done, I tend to research the smaller things as I go. I’ve tried to break myself of the habit, but it just seems to be the way I work best. For instance, the other day I wrote 300 words and came to a place where I needed some information on how grain elevators mix feed. So I stopped writing, called a local business and interviewed the boss before going back to my computer. I ended up with my 1000 words, plus another idea for the plot.
The goal is to meet my word quota by the time my family is home for the evening, but when I’m on deadline I usually end up going back to my studio around 9 and I’ll write sometimes until midnight or later. (But only on deadline. Ordinarily I’m in bed by ten, and read until eleven.)
Because I do quite a bit of speaking and teaching at writers conferences, my “writing” day is sometimes taken up preparing for a speaking event or packing for a trip. But I enjoy that aspect of my career greatly...sometimes more than the writing part, to be honest. : )
Betsy: Who are some of your own favorite authors, and why?
Deb: Oh, that’s a tough one! There are SO many. I prefer reading contemporary novels, so if I could only choose five authors in the CBA, it would probably be contemporary novels by James Scott Bell, Robin Lee Hatcher, Roxanne Henke, Angela Hunt, and Lisa Samson. Oh, oh, and I almost forgot one of my all-time favorite authors, Robert Elmer. The Duet and The Recital are just amazing! For historicals, I love Tamera Alexander (who also happens to be my critique partner), BJ Hoff and Ann Tatlock (some of my favorite books of Ann’s are probably classified contemporary, but are set in the recent past—1930s-1970s). As for secular writers, I enjoy Elizabeth Berg, John Grisham, Jan Karon, and Kristin Hannah.
Betsy: That's a great list! So, what can Deb Raney fans look forward to reading in the near future?
Deb: "Remember to Forget", my first novel with Howard Books/Simon & Schuster will be out in just a few weeks—set to release February 6! This is the first of the Clayburn Novels series, set in a small Kansas town like the ones I’ve lived in and loved. I’m excited about this series and think my readers will really enjoy the books. The novels in this series have even a bit more romance than some of my previous women’s fiction, and while they deal with serious topics and explore issues of faith, they have a more lighthearted feel to them.
Betsy: Is there one piece of advice you'd like to give aspiring authors out there today?
Deb: Keep writing. Many, many bestselling writers have two or four or sixteen unpublished novels sitting in their closets. Those books were not wasted...they were practice! And in the world of writing, as with any other craft, practice makes perfect. Hone your skills, study the craft, read other acclaimed writers. Above all, persevere, realizing that “overnight success” rarely happens overnight.
Thanks so much for inviting me to this conversation, Betsy. Great questions and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Oh, and I invite any of your blog readers to drop by my Web site at http://www.deborahraney.com for a tour of my writing studio, a peek at my wonderful family, and lots of talk about writing and authors and all things book-ish!
Betsy: Thank you for joining us, Deb! This has been fantastic. I can't wait to read your new release next February!
To sign up to win a FREE copy of Deb's expanded "A Vow To Cherish" OR the ARC for "Remember to Forget", leave a comment to this blog and tell me which is your favorite of Deb's current books. The drawing will be held Friday, December 22nd!
SIGN UP NOW!!