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’m thrilled to have Angela Ruth Strong. I regularly stalk Angela’s social media because she very openly took us on her breast cancer journey and I so much drew from her love for her husband and her faith in God. In turn, I prayed for her regularly. To have her as my guest is very humbling for me. And — she’s giving away a copy of her latest book! Read on to see how you can enter to win!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a remarried mother of three who is almost an empty nester here in Idaho. I just kicked breast cancer’s butt, and I’m currently trying to figure out if I’ve gotten lazy or I’m still recovering. When not lazy (or recovering), I paddle board, snowshoe, and ride behind my husband on our Harley. I also like to cook and eat really good food, so I follow Hallee’s dinner posts on Facebook.
Tell us about your current release. A Latte Difficulty is book #3 in my CafFUNated Mysteries. It follows a coffee lover and tea drinker who are as different as their favorite beverages but run a shop together where they sell caffeine and solve crimes. Each book is set during a holiday, so A Latte Difficulty involves an attempted murder during the Independence Day parade. All kinds of fireworks involved.
What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? I know of way too many circumstances where amazing books are rejected by Christian publishers because the ending isn’t “happy enough.” This is a trigger for me, and I ranted to my agent just last week. For example, while the movie I Can Only Imagine is one of my favorites, it’s also my husband’s story…but without the happy ending. When leaving the theater, he said, “Why didn’t I get that ending? Why did my dad have to die before repenting for his abuse and reconnecting with me? Did I do something wrong? Does God not love me as much as he loves Bart Millard?” And my heart breaks for readers of Christian fiction who need to know that when everything else goes wrong, as it often does, God is enough. The happy ending that matters most is in Heaven.
With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? I don’t. It’s only the characters who scream the loudest and the longest who get their stories told. Many ideas will never see the light of day. But according to the former president of Disney, that’s okay. Michael Eisner said something like, “If you don’t rush, then time will separate the really good ideas from those that only seemed good in the moment.” As an Idahoan, I would compare this to the story of the potato farmer taking the bumpy road to market because it made the largest potatoes rise to the top. Sometimes I have to slow down in order to offer my best.
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)? It’s okay if you don’t like one of my books because I’m always trying to write a better one.
Who was your first Screen/Musical Crush? I was probably in kindergarten when I realized Han Solo was also Indiana Jones, and I was done for.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? My mom was a writer. I grew up reading her stories in Sunday school material and sometimes reading about myself in Women’s World. When I was a cheerleader in high school, I wrote about the time a basketball player dove out of bounds, knocking me into the bleachers and breaking four of my ribs. Mom helped me submit the story to American Cheerleader Magazine. After they paid me a hundred bucks and published it, I decided to pursue journalism in college. Selling a story has never been that easy since.
How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel. What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them? While I was writing my first novel in 2005, my first husband had an affair. I felt like God told me to stop writing for a year to really work on our marriage. I didn’t want to, but I wanted my husband to know he was my priority, so I did.
The following year, I finished writing the book with the help of Donald Maass’s workbook for Writing the Breakout Novel. It taught me how to write, and it’s what I always recommend to new writers.
I took that first novel to a writer’s conference where I met my critique partner, Christina Berry/Tarbochia. We bonded over shared stories of our husband’s infidelity. After that, our lives mirrored each other’s. We both finaled in writing contests, won scholarships, got agents, and sold our debut novels. Then her husband left her. I said to my husband, “I’m so glad I have you.” But a few months later he left me for another woman as well.
I was devastated but am very grateful that when he blamed my writing for our divorce, I could say, “I quit writing for a year to work on our relationship.”
But I still had to finish writing Love Finds You in Sun Valley as my own marriage fell apart. I didn’t believe in romance anymore, and I quit writing the genre after that.
Then I met Mr. Strong. He’s so amazing he makes the heroes in my novels look bad. His love changed my life. And now there’s nothing else I’d rather write about.
Though I was afraid to write again. I was afraid of making Jim feel like he wasn’t as important as my writing the way my first husband claimed. I cried in premarital counseling, and our marriage counselor said, “Angela, Jim is a different man, and it’s not going to be a problem in a marriage this time around.”
Jim has supported my writing journey over the last decade. That doesn’t mean I don’t have other roadblocks, but when you’re on a road trip with someone else, the miles don’t matter as much. I will be as content writing stories that never get published/produced as I will be in writing a NYT bestseller/Oscar winner. Either way, I have more to offer my audience because of what I’ve learned through my challenges, and I believe God will use my work if/when He wants to.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a great writing idea? I outlined The Princess and the P.I. on a napkin at Cheesecake Factory.
I assume when you start a book, you pretty much have the plot laid out. Do you ever change your mind later on in the book and go in a different direction? Yes. For Lighten Up, the first chapter I ever wrote was the last chapter. Then after writing the whole novel, the ending didn’t work anymore. I completely changed it, and I’ve probably gotten more reader letters about this book than any others. Author Jill Williamson even said, “I was reading the book and was like, ‘Angela can’t do that!’ So I skipped to the end, and after reading it I said, ‘Angela can’t do that either!’ But then I read the whole thing in order and it worked perfectly.’”
Lighten Up is about the daughter of a pastor who couldn’t forgive her dad for running off with the church secretary until she fell in love with her own pastor. I wrote it before my first husband left, and reading it afterwards actually helped me heal.
What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done? I usually rebel against writing exercises because I want to write my own thing, but my friend Hope Lyda put together the book My Unedited Writing Year, so I’m doing an exercise every day and sharing my favorite from the week in a YouTube video on Mondays. You’re invited to join me!!! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuraamNU_Ktic_gg6DGoFgg
Here is where you can find Angela online: