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 have author Laura Hodges Poole. She has a heart for encouragement, which is such a special gift. Her answer to what is lacking in Christian fiction mirrors what I would have said, and her advice to writers is spot-on. Read on to see how you can enter to win her latest release!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a Christian writer with a heart for hurting people. Life is difficult, whether you’re a Christian or not. I’ve dealt with a lot of heartache and death in my life, particularly that of my sister and my daughter. My blog, A Word of Encouragement, and devotional, While I’m Waiting, grew out of wanting to encourage and reassure others that God is present and active in our lives. Through the toughest trials and in circumstances that might seem insignificant to someone else, God is there. His faithfulness has come through time and again for me, no matter the circumstances.
When I’m not writing or working as a paralegal, I love to hike in the mountains. Actually I love just being outdoors in nature. I enjoy playing the piano and taught both of my children to play some.
Tell us about your current release. Hope’s Gentle Touch is a Christian romance, but ultimately it’s a story of brokenness, redemption, and love—the three basic things of life, right? The novel is also about complex family relationships and God’s grace covering the biggest heartaches of your life. Misty Stephens, the main character, is recovering from an abusive relationship, one in which her husband was killed. Trusting men is not at the top of her list. I’m not going to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it yet, but if the main male character, Adam Jenkins, is going to win her heart, he has to learn patience and give Misty the space to learn to trust again. He has to prove himself trustworthy, but ultimately, Adam has to give God the space to work things for his and Misty’s good. All of my novels are set in the upstate of South Carolina, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I love nature and horses, so I enjoyed adding that aspect in, as well.
If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Yes! A speaker at a writer’s conference I attended said you might only be writing for the person sitting next to you—meaning your writing might only benefit one person. That’s okay with me. In fact, that’s what I’d call a divine appointment. I’m passionate about reaching lost souls and impacting readers where they are in their life. That’s why my characters have messy lives and are seeking God’s solution to their problems. At the same time, I hope all of my readers find something in my books that encourage them on their spiritual journeys.
Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? I’m fortunate that I’ve never felt that pressure. When I read books labeled Christian fiction and they cross lines, I cringe. My stories have clean romance, but a reader should feel the romance and love between the characters without feeling the steam.
What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? What I believe is lacking has actually improved over the last decade—flawed characters with real problems, struggles, and the spiritual clumsiness all of us deal with in our Christian walk. Christian readers want to be entertained and escape their own reality while reading a good book. But they also want to be encouraged and inspired—maybe find a solution to something they’re struggling with, whether it’s a past sin, a personal stumbling block, annoying relatives, and the ultimate challenge—the right path for their life. Everyone likes to see how God works in someone’s life, even if it is a fictional character. My main characters, Misty and Adam, both struggle with their past and future. It makes their present messy, as most of us can relate to. God provides in the toughest of times, either directly or through the wise counsel of people he puts around us. For this to be portrayed realistically in Christian fiction, the secondary characters must be developed as well as the main characters. I think most readers will enjoy Hope’s Gentle Touch because of this.
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’m what’s known as a “pantser” or seat-of-the-pants writer. I have a general idea of the story and my characters. I write my plot as I go. When I finish the manuscript, I review the plot and see if there are any holes. This works best for me because I grow into my characters as I write. Even though I generally know the beginning and end and the “black moment” for my characters, I honestly can’t see the whole story ahead of time. I let my characters lead and often a secondary character will jump into the story when I least expect it. Then I scratch my head and say, “Where did you come from?” I go back and make sure they’re incorporated into the story correctly. It may sound like a lot of work, and maybe it is, but it keeps my creative juices flowing through the writing process.
What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? Sometimes I read and that helps. Most of the time, I just sit at the keyboard and write something, even if it doesn’t gel at the time. Eventually, something’s going to come out of my brain and flow through my fingers. Other times, I see writer’s block as a sign that I need to do something else for a while. Like Psalm 23 and 46 teaches, we all need green pasture time to be still with God. Usually my mind clears and my heart realigns with God’s message through my story.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Write. Plain and simple. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but write every day. Put something down on paper or on your computer screen. Join a critique group. Attend a writer’s conference, even a small one, to build a support network of other writers. If you can’t afford a conference right now, seek out blogs and websites on writing. I’ve learned a lot this way. Many writer’s conferences are virtual now, so it’s much easier and less expensive to attend from home. Above all else, pray for wisdom as you seek God’s path for your writing.
Laura Hodges Poole is an award-winning Christian author of articles and books. Her novel, Return to Walhalla, was a Selah Award finalist. She enjoys encouraging others through her blog, A Word of Encouragement. On beautiful days in South Carolina, you might find her hiking instead of writing. A mother of two and empty-nester, Laura enjoys a quiet life with her husband.
Here is where you can find Laura online:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/LauraHodgesPoole
Laura is giving away a Kindle version of Hope’s Gentle Touch to a reader! See below how to enter to win: