After enduring the stigma and isolation associated with the internment camp, the awkwardness of going back to school should've been a cake walk. But Jakob didn't expect to find himself inexplicably drawn to Meri. Or to discover that the pain and loneliness of her life surpassed his own. She needed to be rescued from the wretched people seeking to control her life. And more than anything, he needed to be the one to save her.
Indeed, my first two books are the result of a dream -- an actual dream. It nagged me for six months as I mentally tried to fill in all of the gaps. I finally had to write it down. Since then, God has continued to bless with me inspiration at times of His choosing.
Technically, I'm an Inspirational Romance writer. But I like to think that romance includes more than the relationship between two people. It can also be about the era or place, or even a single moment in time, when an elusive whisper reaches inward and ever so gently taps the soul, saying, "This. Remember this."
It's my desire that my stories create such a moment.
Some of my methods for filling my creative reservoir are reading about the histories of small towns, pouring over old photos in antique shops and people's homes (if I'm at yours, I'll ask to see your picture albums) and asking prying questions about your best family stories. Oh! And if you ever see a lady on the side of the road, taking pictures of old, dilapidated houses and buildings, it's probably me.
No. I actually didn't. I've always had a knack for writing, but it wasn't something I considered doing. About eight years ago I had a dream that was a really great story, and after thinking about if for six months I started writing. At first it was just so I could make sense of it. I still didn't consider trying to get published until almost three years ago.
2. How did you come up with the story and the characters for "No Other"?
It was that dream again. The dream was in scenes, and sometimes I was one of the characters and sometimes I was watching. But it mainly broke down into a young couple falling in love, parents with young children, the struggles of career vs family, and an old woman in a chair, watching a family who didn't know her. Some of this you'll recognize in No Other, and some in the sequel, In All things.
There were some things I always knew about the story, like my characters' names. I also knew that Meri was slightly older than Jakob, and somehow was his teacher. I knew that Jakob's family had been discriminated against, and last – and this goes with In All Things, which comes out in November – I knew that Meri eventually became an actress. Filling in all the gaps was an interesting experience, and that's how I came to really know and love the characters.
3. What have been the biggest challenges in your writing and what advice would you give novice writers like myself?
The biggest challenge is balance. Writing isn't something I can work on one minute, go cook dinner, and then come back and pick right up where I left off. I have to have quiet, and get myself focused on my characters' situation and state of mind. This takes me a little while, but I feel like this is one of the reasons my characters come through as believable. I usually write at night, and take care of my family during the day. The last few months have been demanding though because I've had two more books with deadlines. My family is great, and has helped a lot. But I'd like to become more disciplined in finding a way to balance writing and promotion with family and home life. I hate having a dirty house and right now mine is driving me bananas!
As for advice for new writer, I do have some. I've said this in other interviews, but I’m going to say it again because I think it's that important. Find your voice, and learn how to use writing guidelines (not rules) to compliment it, instead of impede it. Also, critique groups are great! And always pay attention to the criticism, but be mindful that suggestions on how to fix it are coming from someone with his or her own unique style, so listen, and see how a story can be tweaked with your unique style in mind. In the end you have to trust in God, and the ability that He gave you. I recommend praying for His direction every time you sit down to write. You'll be totally amazed at what happens.
4. What do you have planned for your next book/project?
In All Things comes out in November. It’s the sequel to No Other. I love No Other, but I think I might love In All Things a little more, probably because of the completeness. No Other and In All Things were originally one story. Now, the story has morphed quite a bit, but the core message has always been the same. I explained that in a previous question. Everything from my dream is still there.
Orphaned Hearts comes out in December. It's a sweet story, set in 1930s Arkansas. It's inspired by my granddad, who grew up in an orphanage during this era.
I've got several ideas brewing at the moment, but I'm not sure which one I'll tackle first. One of them is another historical, one is a contemporary, and one is science fiction. Lol! I actually love scifi, and intend to write one at some point under the pen name Dene' Stone (my middle name and mother's maiden. Hubby picked it out) I'm involved in edits right now, but once I'm done I'll start working on rough outlines and see which story gels first.
5. Can you tell us a little about the bracelets that you make and do you sell them? If so where can we go to learn more about them?
Since No Other is only available as an ebook at the moment, I thought something tangible might be a nice addition to the giveaway, so I've made these bracelets, and there's a story behind them that relates to why I chose to describe my stories, like No Other, as "Grace-Inspired."
A pearl starts as an irritant within the shell of an oyster. It's shape is determined by the way the oyster coats it so that it will be easier to live with -- not unlike people, and how our experiences -- good and bad -- mold us. Freshwater pearls are imperfect, but each is unique; and when they're strung together by an artist they form something beautiful. I like to think that God takes each of us and uses the experiences of our lives to do the same thing. We are transformed through His Grace into a one-of-a-kind work of art. Imperfect, but lovely just the same. So I plan to keep making these bracelets to go with my books, because as people read I want them to remember this, not just for the characters in the story, but for themselves.
I do plan to sell them. I may start on my blog, but I want to eventually have a site up. I actually make a lot of jewelry, and all of it will be for sale. These bracelets are special though, and I want to link them to my writing. Though one will not have to buy a book to get a bracelet. I just feel there's an important message there with the bracelet and the stories God gives me, and I hope that both can be used to glorify Him by touching someone's heart.
6. What do you want people to take from this story?
I wrote "No Other" because I wanted to tell an inspirational story about getting up after you fall. About how Christians don't just struggle, sometimes we blow it, but God doesn't abandon us. Even when our efforts to right things fail, He's still in control. Him, and No Other.
"In All Things" continues with this theme, by reminding us that we see the little picture, but God see the big one. And sometimes tragedy serves a purpose further down the road. I love this story! Sorry, I just do.
I love them both. They have been with me for so very long and it feels wonderful to have them out in words and to be able to share them with others.