Interview with Christa MacDonald and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I have Christa MacDonald! I can totally imagine the small town where Christa lives in my mind and would LOVE to walk the streets! And, I love her advice for aspiring writers. Read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a native of the Northeast, living on the east coast of Massachusetts currently. I’m married with three children, the oldest of which is off to college next year and the youngest off to middle school. We live in a converted carriage house in a small town with a whole lot of tourists in the summer. It’s a beautiful place and we’re blessed to be here.

Tell us about your current release. The Redemption Road is a contemporary, Christian romance with a wee bit of suspense. Set in a small town in the North Woods of Maine, it tells the story of Alex, a game warden who came north to escape a mistake that haunts him. He meets Annie, the owner of Coffee By The Book and is instantly drawn to her, but believing himself toxic, beyond redemption, he tries to keep her at a distance. Annie can see him struggling and decides to help him whether he wants it or not. As they draw closer together, his past catches up to him and both their lives are in danger.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful?  I have felt the pressure to reach a larger audience for sure. It usually hits when I tell someone I meet about my book and as soon as I get to the “Christian” part I see their interest fade. I’ve learned to remember that my purpose on this planet is not to become a best-selling author but to lead others to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. I write with that in mind.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher? Oh, this is hard. Critique partners and beta readers save the day on this one. Having their feedback is the only way I’d probably get anything out there.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I’ve always wanted to be a writer. In college, I had a few pieces published, but after graduating I got sidetracked with the need to work and pay back those student loans! It wasn’t until after my kids started school that I felt the urge to dedicate the time to it. My debut novel was written maybe two years later? It was my third finished work. The other two are sitting in a drawer where they belong (they were awful).

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? I knew right from the start that I did not have the time or talent to do all the marketing of the book on my own.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I outline before every book, but I follow the story where it wants to go after that. Often the final product with all the detail and fleshing-out is quite different, but the bare bones are the same.

Do you have a pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? Yes, 80k for a contemporary romance.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Try doing NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. It’s free and there’s a lot of good advice and encouragement in the program. Once you have something finished, find a critique partner or writing group. Beta readers are great and completely essential, but you’ll also want critical feedback before you try to query an agent or publisher.

What is your preferred method of writing? Computer. I type so much faster than I can handwrite.

Here is where you can find Christa online:

https://christamacdonald.com/

https://christamacdonald.com/blog/

https://www.instagram.com/christamacdonaldbooks/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1538432676468229/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14189014.Christa_MacDonald
Christa is giving away a copy of her book The Road to Redemption to a reader! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Interview with Susan Aylworth and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so happy to have Susan Aylworth as my guest. As I was reading her interview, I could not help but think about one of my best friends, whose parents were one of those thousands who lost their home in Paradise, California a couple of years ago. I LOVE that Susan, whose heart and love for Christ just shines through her words here, incorporated that tragedy in her series. Susan is giving away THREE books to one reader! Read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was little. Like many pre-teen girls, I was horse-crazy and read all the horse stories I could find. In the early grades, I read Marguerite Henry. Third grade brought Black Beauty. Later I read The Black Stallion, The Island Stallion, and other books by Walter Farley.

I was in the fifth grade when I started my own horse novel on a yellow legal pad. I was so proud of myself! I wrote eight whole pages, essentially plagiarizing Black Beauty, but I had such fun. I told my parents I wanted to be a novelist and they, like many wise parents, insisted I prepare for a “real” career. It’s taken me decades to make writing my real career, but I’m loving it!

When I married, writing took a back seat to family. My husband, Roger, and I have been married more than 49 years. We love to travel and to visit our children and theirs. Our faith is at the center of our lives.

Tell us about your current release. My latest books are “The Seasons of Destiny” series, each set in a different season in the fictional town of Destiny, California. When I imagined the series, I pictured a town founded in the Gold Rush, now trying to stay relevant in the twenty-first century. I envisioned Destiny with the kind of warm, loving spirit as our neighboring foothill community, Paradise. Paris in the Springtime used that setting.

I began the writing of Sunny’s Summer a few weeks after Paradise and the nearby communities of Concow and Pulga burned to ash. The Camp Fire disaster displaced about 50,000 neighbors. Although some were evacuated on a temporary basis, more than half lost everything they owned. Seeing the ruins, I couldn’t choose not to write about it. Eighty-five deaths is a terrible toll, but it was only by the grace of God that we didn’t lose hundreds, maybe thousands. The haunting stories told by the survivors drove the story in Sunny’s Summer, even though much of the tale still centers in Destiny.

Amber in Autumn, which appeared this fall, takes us back into Destiny, but considers other questions. How does one heal after great betrayal? How does a family overcome the effects of a loved one’s addiction? The final book of the four is Winter Skye. Skye is Sunny’s sister and Amber’s cousin. A recovering addict, Skye has her own story to tell, one of fear and frustration, healing and hope, and the need to accept and trust God’s plan. She’s a fascinating character, one I’ve come to know and love.

Throughout this series, I’ve referred to a “girl group,” a set of five sisters and cousins, all musicians and songwriters, friends of the characters in the Seasons series, who perform together in a highly successful country-pop band. The next series will be about the five Daughters of Destiny.

What is one thing that you never saw yourself doing and either do it now or have done? When we hear about jail populations, we can easily imagine feral creatures, barely human and absolutely terrifying. Certainly there are monsters in the prison system, but most incarcerated people are ordinary folks who’ve made some poor choices or stumbled into mistakes.

When my husband and I were asked to serve as addiction recovery missionaries in the Navajo Nation, we were eager to help. I had second thoughts when we were invited to take our Christ-centered twelve-step program into the jails. I had never seen myself hanging out behind bars.

I remembered the Savior’s words in Matthew about visiting those in prison, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” So I squared my shoulders and walked into one of the most amazing, life-changing experiences I can imagine. I learned to love those men and women deeply. Now that we’ve returned to California, I miss them. My husband and I are working with our sheriff to take the same program into our county jail.

Who do you envision your typical reader to be? My books are read and enjoyed by some men, but most of my readers are women. Like me, they enjoy falling in love along with my characters. They like stories of women and men who overcome differences to make lasting commitments. They do not enjoy swearing or coarse language, nor do they want graphic scenes of sex or violence. They want the tender emotions of discovering love without the words and mental images that make them uncomfortable. I choose to write the same kind of story, ones I could read with my mother, my young granddaughters, or my brother and sisters at church.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self-publish)? This was a big hang-up for me. I knew my books were better written than many published novels I read, but when compared to the best-sellers, I felt very average indeed. I wrote because I badly wanted to both write and publish, but I didn’t have the confidence to submit. Throughout that time, I prayed to know how God would have me invest the gifts He had given me.

Through a series of events that could hardly be coincidences, I met a published novelist who said if I’d submit by X date, she’d introduce me to her editor. Knowing I couldn’t dodge that opportunity, I submitted. It worked. That led to my first published novel in February 1990.

Since then I’ve worked with three other publishers and a high-powered agent and have self-published as well. If I let myself start comparing to the big names, I can easily lose confidence again. When I allow myself to see the many ways I’ve been led and inspired, I know I’m doing what He would have me do. That gives me confidence to keep working.

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? When I first got into the business, traditional publishing was the only way to go. After hitting a snag in my writing career, I read an article called, “An author needs a publisher like a fish needs a bicycle.” I thought WHAT?! But I already used the Internet for other kinds of projects and had begun purchasing books online, so it wasn’t that big a transition, once I’d given myself time to think about it.

By then, I had a batch of traditionally published novels which I could update and republish as eBooks. I continued working with one traditional publisher while self-publishing new books to add to that original series and moving on to other work as well. In the business, I’m called a hybrid author, one who does both traditional and self-publishing. I see advantages in both.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? The novelists I know speak of planners and pantsers, the pantsers being those who sit down and begin writing “by the seat of their pants,” letting the story develop as they go. I’m something of a cross between the two, but more of a pantser. Because I’m writing romances, I know my hero and heroine need to be well-matched, even if they can’t see it in the beginning, and I know that, of course, they’ll end up together.

I imagine my heroine and then picture a man who will challenge and be challenged by her. I let the two of them develop in my mind until I feel I know them. Then I put them together in a setting I enjoy and let them tell me where the story will go. Although I almost always know what their major conflicts will be when I begin, they sometimes share confidences I didn’t know about. In Amber in Autumn, I knew what their make-or-break moment had to be. They said it didn’t work and came up with something entirely different.

Although I find it frustrating when characters rebel and go their own way, I also know the stories are more authentic when they’re true to the people and personalities I’ve created. And yes, before you ask, I know how neurotic it sounds to talk about made-up people “rebelling” or refusing to do as they’re told. It’s the kind of crazy talk you hear when you hang with people who chat with their imaginary friends for a living.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? I didn’t when I first began writing. Now, after some years in and around the business, I realize there are some predetermined lengths that are generally expected for different kinds of books. When working with a publisher, I try to stick closely to those guidelines. When self-publishing, I take off and write, letting the story tell me how long it needs to be. Still I find that my stories develop in similar ways and lengths. As an example, the Seasons of Destiny novels all run between about 63 and 67,000 words. That’s a fairly narrow window consider I didn’t plan the length when I began.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a great writing idea? For people who’ve learned to cultivate creative thought, ideas appear everywhere. I can hear a news story, think “what if…?” and see the potential for a novel. I can be driving down the road or taking a shower and have the seed of a story pop into my head. Sometimes that seed comes full-grown. Sometimes it’s a tiny idea, but it grows while I’m pushing a shopping cart or taking a walk. Ideas are everywhere when you’re open to them.

My writer friends tell me, and I’ve also found it true, that the most common question addressed to them is, “Where do you get your ideas?” My daughter-in-law, who’s a math teacher, asked me that once. I explained to her that I don’t see numbers in my head the way she does and I can’t manage them with ease, either. What comes to her as both a gift and a practiced skill is foreign to me. My gifts and skills run to ideas and words. The same is true of all my writing friends. Whether math whiz or author, mechanical wizard or top athlete, we all come with our own innate gifts. It’s how we choose to use and develop them that makes us who we are.

Here is where you can find Susan online:

https://www.susanaylworth.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author

https://twitter.com/SusanAylworth

https://www.pinterest.com/susanaylworth/

Susan is giving away 3 ebooks to a lucky reader! See below how you can enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday Morning Coffee and Chat 1/13/20 – Writing Divorced Characters

Hello! Welcome to Monday Morning Coffee and Chat! Today I’m addressing writing characters who are divorced – in response to a slew of negative reviews and/or comments about it.

You can read more about the book discussed at this link.

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Interview with Laurel Hawkes and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so pleased to introduce you to Laurel Hawkes. I love bringing you authors I personally know, and as I read Laurel’s interview, I discovered that my writing has encouraged her! Isn’t God wonderful!? I hope you enjoy Laurel’s interview as much as I did. And, read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of Laurel’s recent release!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’ve been a Christian all my life. I’m also an abuse survivor. I often allowed the abuse to define me more than my faith. I’m learning to follow God’s guidance in my journey to becoming healthy. I’ve worked as a cashier, house cleaner/hotel maid, switchboard operator, reservation agent, ASL interpreter, teacher’s aid, transcriptionist, writer, and now caregiver. I owned rabbits, a dog, and a horse, all of whom I miss. I enjoy reading, writing, cooking, music, flowers, time with friends and family. I re-discovered my love of writing about 15 years ago. I’d rather write than anything else, except breathing. Since becoming my dad’s caregiver, writing sometimes must wait.

Tell us about your current release. My latest release, Blessing Basket, was the 13th novella in my Holiday, USA series. I love holiday novellas and decided to write a whole series in between working on novels. Blessing Basket tells the story of Cici and Trace, characters introduced in previous Holiday, USA stories. They both have secrets and struggles. It isn’t easy for either of them to trust God let alone each other. Each novella stands alone, but characters appear in other stories.

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? I’ve been the one for numerous authors, whether they know it or not. I knew if I cut out the Christian element I could write to a broader audience. Jesus is such an integral part of becoming healthier. I can’t pretend some nebulous something changes lives. In seven years, not many people have read my books, but a few have told me how much they appreciate my stories. Yes, it’s worth it for the one.

Laurel (r), Hallee (l)

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher? This is really tough when you don’t see the financial benefits. I remember being told to not expect to make money, but, of course, I thought I’d be one of the exceptions. I’m not. I take it to God and ask, “Are You sure this is what I’m supposed to be doing?” God has reassured me every time. God’s plans are not my plans, and His plans are better. He doesn’t worry about finances like I do, but He has provided every need. I keep taking the next step. The awesome publisher who gave me a chance closed and returned my books to me. I really questioned God. I decided to take what I’d learned and rewrite my first published books. It’s taking longer than I planned, but forward is forward. My writing is flexible and works with my caregiving responsibilities.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? I have several methods: Change locations and tools; instead of writing at my computer, I go to a favorite eatery, with pen and paper. I write Regency, Vintage, and contemporary, and I’ll switch to a different story. Most often, I ask myself, “What comes next?” It”s easy to become lost in the big picture and reaching the end; it helps to remember the little everyday things that move life forward, whether or not we’re ready.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I’ve tried to plot out stories, and every single time, the characters swerve in a completely different direction. Most of the time, it’s a linear process and guided by the characters. I have one exception. I’m currently in rewrites for A Promise of Possibilities, the first Regency book in my Endless Possibilities series. The second book, Hidden Possibilities, is the only book I’ve written mostly backwards. I completed the first two chapters and didn’t know how to move forward. The last chapter came into my mind. I wrote it and asked, “How did the story arrive here?” I wrote the second to last chapter. Then I wondered how I got there, all the way from end to beginning, one chapter at a time.

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? I write first for me. I wanted characters who struggled with the same things I did. Too many Christian romances were so sweet I couldn’t relate. I needed characters who knew what it was like to be abused, neglected, struggling to hold on, fighting to keep believing in God’s love and grace. Hallee’s books inspired me. I realized I’m not alone. People need to know they aren’t alone.

What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write? I’m learning how to ask God for inspiration. Music, especially Christmas music, is one of my favorite and most productive. Sitting in the airport or at my favorite eatery, watching people, my mind wanders into “Who is that? What’s their story? What if?”

Here is where you can find Laurel online:

Blog: https://laurelhawkes.blogspot.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/LaurelHawkes

Blessing Basket: http://a.co/8o1meMa

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lhawkes/

Laurel is giving away an ebook of Blessing Basket to a lucky reader! See below how you can enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday Morning Coffee and Chat 1/6/20 – Would You Ever Collaborate on a Book?

Hello! Welcome to Monday Morning Coffee and Chat! Today I’m answering the question, “If you partnered with another author to write a book, who would it be and why?”

I hope you enjoy my answer and learn more about me and my writing through it!

I’m also giving away the featured mug! Like or comment on this video (ON YOUTUBE ONLY – at this link: https://youtu.be/dlKT5yKoLP4) by January 12, 2020, at 11:59PM EST, and you will be entered to win!

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Interview with Jo Ann Brown and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so happy to bring you Jo Ann Brown. I am in awe of her writing accomplishments and teaching resume. She is certainly someone to inspire writers around her! I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. She’s giving away two copies of her latest release, so read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. My favorite treat when going with my mom to the grocery store was a picture book. Later, I discovered chapter books and all other sorts of books. I was one of those kids who, if I didn’t have anything else to read, would read the boxes in the pantry. My yearning to write began in middle school, and I began writing for publication over thirty years ago. Since then, I have had more than 100 books published as well as novellas, short stories and nonfiction. I’m thrilled that my books have found a place on several different best-selling lists, most recently Publishers Weekly’s mass market list. I’ve taught creative writing at Brown University and was awarded an Arts Lottery Grant to teach creative writing in Massachusetts. My husband and I have three children and enjoy photography, traveling and going to thrift stores…sometimes all three at the same time.

Tell us about your current release.  An Amish Christmas Promise is the first book in a four-book mini-series called Green Mountain Blessings. It was a December 2019 release from Love Inspired. It’s the story of plain volunteers who come to help a small Vermont town after a devastating flood in the wake of a hurricane. Of course, it’s a romance, so there are all sorts of complications awaiting those who work under the auspices of Amish Helping Hands. This first book is the story of an Amish woman who has given up her Amish life to hide her niece and nephew from their abusive father. It’s a secret she can’t share with anyone, even the man who touches her heart.

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? The quick and silly answer is that, as the mother of three, I’m used to having multiple people putting demands on my time all at once. But, seriously, having characters “shouting” for attention is always a problem. I find the characters from the next book trying to get my mind on them instead of the ones I’m working with, especially when I’m in the middle of the work-in-progress. It’s easy to get distracted because their story—so new and exciting—promises to be so much more fun than the scene I’m working on. I learned early on that I can only work on one project at a time. Otherwise, I’ll quickly lose interest in both or get them confused. This lesson was driven home when I had in an early draft the heroine of one book marrying the hero from another one. At that point, I knew I needed to focus on one story at a time. I have learned to give the future characters some time in my mind as I’m going to sleep, so they get their “attention.” Otherwise, they just have to wait and believe I’ll get to them as soon as I finish the current project. So far, they’ve mostly cooperated.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? Oh, I can answer this one. (See me holding up my hand and waving it wildly to catch the teacher’s eye.) My most effective way to get past writer’s block is to skip around in the book and write the scenes I do know. I may do two pages on a scene in Chapter 2, then jump to a scene in Chapter 10. That way, I always stay excited and involved with what I’m working on. It helps me discover how my hero and heroine act and react in various emotional situations, so I gain more insight into them. Also, it saves me from trying to come up with the best possible answer to a devastating question that the rest of the book will hang upon…when I don’t have any idea what that answer will be. Because it relieves the pressure of having to know it NOW, I can let it stew in my mind until something comes that I like. Many of my writer friends cringe at the idea of writing like this, but it works for me. If none of the above works, however, I depend on my last resort. I tell myself if I walk away from the computer, then I’m going to have to clean the toilets. Inspiration almost always comes at that moment!

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? The first story I wrote in 6th grade was because I was supposed to be doing an essay on immigrants coming to the North American colonies in the 18th century. I really didn’t want to write yet another paper for that class, and I let my imagination draw me into a scene of a young girl (my age!) who was traveling on a ship and didn’t want to be there either. Instantly scents of the sea and the roll of the ship were as real to me as the dining room table where I sat. I began writing, and I was hooked. I gave it to my mom to read. She told me she liked it, but I still needed to write the essay. I did, but I also completed a five page story of that girl. As soon as it was finished, I couldn’t wait to begin another story. It’s been that way since then.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a great writing idea? The Big Apple Circus. I was acting as a chaperone for an elementary class. I was there only a short time before something triggered an idea for the project I was working on. Searching my purse, I couldn’t find anything to write on, so I bought a program just so I could jot down my thoughts. Since then, I try never to go anywhere without a way to take notes.

Who were some of your favorite authors as a child? I started with the usual: Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, but then I branched out. My favorite childhood book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I love the timeless message of family and friendship and that it’s okay to be your own authentic self. I went on to read all the books in the series, and I still read them every few years. Another favorite was The Foreigner by Gladys Malvern, a fictionalized version of the Book of Ruth. I read it at least once a year when I was in high school and finally found a copy a few years ago. I read it again, and I enjoyed it still.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Realize that everything in your life and the lives of the people around you are fodder for your work. Read the best in your genre and read the debut books. Both will show you what the market is looking for at the moment. As far as writing, whether you write the same scene over and over until you are happy with it or whether you just keep going through a whole book (or maybe more than one), keep writing and honing your craft. Make your work the very best you can at that time, but never expect it to be perfect. If you spend all your time trying to make it perfect, you’re never going to reach that goal. None of us are. Give your work to people who are knowledgeable about writing and who will give you honest, constructive critique. Don’t worry about publication until you have something you feel is worthy of being published. Then go back to my first suggestion and read, read, read and learn about your market. And if you decide to go the traditional publishing route, don’t get discouraged by rejections, especially form ones. It’s your dream to publish a book, so don’t let someone else take it away from you.

Here is where you can find Jo Ann online:

www.joannbrownbooks.com

Jo Ann is giving away two books to lucky readers (US only)! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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