WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE FOREVER AFTER AND THE HANOVER FALLS SERIES?
My husband, Ken, is always on the lookout for story ideas for me. One morning over coffee a few years ago, he handed me a newspaper clipping––the story of nine heroic firefighters who were killed in a tragic fire in Charleston, SC. That story along with the risk-laden career of my niece’s firefighter husband, got me thinking about the survivors of fallen firefighters and how they find the will to go on after a tragedy like the one in South Carolina. My Hanover Falls novels series explores the questions I encountered that day.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPORED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
I read Catherine Marshall’s Christy as a fifth or sixth grader, and fell in love with the beauty of her writing. Later I read her novel Julie, and then her non-fiction. I would say she was my first inspiration after Laura Ingalls Wilder. When I got serious about writing at the age of 38, some of my favorite authors were Eugenia Price, Belva Plain, Elizabeth Berg, Angela Hunt, Jan Karon, and truly, so many others it would take a book to name them!
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
I think the best way to answer that is to tell you that I wrote two versions of my first novel––one for the secular market and one for the Christian market. I had contract offers from both, but as I thought about what was different about those two manuscripts (very little, really, if we’re talking words––but profound, if we’re talking content) I realized that I could not tell the stories of hope and true love and redemption I wanted to tell, without the freedom to use the name of Christ and the truth of God’s Word in my stories. Since then, my novels have had varying levels of “explicit” faith in them, but I’ve never regretted my decision to write for publishers who give me the freedom to explore the role faith plays in my characters’ lives.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
Since the summer I was 11 and read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books. That was the first time I connected the fact that books had authors, and that being a writer of books was something a little Kansas farmer’s daughter could grow up to do. It was an exciting revelation! I began writing that summer and have always found writing to be the preferred way to express myself. But it wasn’t until our oldest son was nearing college age that I found the motivation to begin my first novel––that being the fact that we also had a surprise baby, then a toddler, who I desperately wanted to stay home with. My first contract allowed me to pay for our son’s college, and at the same time, stay home with our daughter. Truly, one of the most wonderful answers to prayer God has ever granted me.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
First of all, entertainment. Though I am glad my job as a writer also feels like a ministry, I know that the main reason I ever pick up a novel myself is because I want to be entertained! So I try to give my reader what I want as a reader. Second, I hope my readers close my books feeling a sense of hope. Though my novels don’t always have a traditional “happily ever after” ending, they do always have a redemptive and hopefully satisfying conclusion––one that reflects the hope we have in Christ. Third, I hope my novels offer a snapshot of Truth. Some people think it’s a bit strange to talk about “truth” in fiction. But I’ve seen over and over how stories––parables, if you will––can illustrate the truth more powerfully than many true-life stories can. I think this is true partly because a story allows the reader to become the protagonist in the story he is reading, which naturally pulls him ever deeper into the story.