I was living in Houston, Texas and was a brand new mom. I learned of a diaper delivery service that was looking for someone to write a monthly newsletter in exchange for diaper service. I grabbed it! I appreciated the free cotton diaper service, but I loved writing the newsletter.
When did you start writing?
Who were/are two of your favorite authors?
Catherine Marshall is my go-to author—but not for Christy (as good as that novel is). For her non-fiction books: The Helper, Beyond Ourselves, To Live Again.
In what way do you feel they influenced you and in what way?
Those books have been a spiritual guidepost for me, a glowing lantern. Catherine Marshall’s life of faith has both depth and intimacy, and we’re so fortunate that she had shared her inner life in her books. Whenever I sense myself drifting or doubting, I’ll pull out one of her books. The result has always been like stirring coals until the embers spark and flame again.
What point in your writing career do you feel you left the amateur level and went to pro?
Um…well, I still feel like an amateur! Like…every contract is my last one. But here’s something good that comes from that insecurity: I work hard to make each book better than the one before it. Every single book.
What do you look for in choosing a setting for your book?
A good setting is more than a backdrop. It becomes one of the characters of the book. For Amish books, a rural farm setting helps the reader feel transported: It’s full of quiet, with wide open spaces and grazing animals. A horse’s whinny or a gurgling brook remind the reader that she’s in another world, at least until the last page.
What steps if any are involved in research for your book?
First, a lot of digging on the internet. Second, reading non-fiction books to provide knowledge about a topic. Third, get on a plane. It makes such a difference to travel to a site, to soak it up, to pay attention to the smallest details that can bring a story to life. Here’s a small example: on one of my first trips to Amish country, I noticed how large women’s hands were. Strong hands. Working hands. While researching the Three Sisters Island series in Maine, I overheard a local woman say that she could “feel” the ferry approaching, like it was part of her. There’s just so many on-the-ground details an author can glean through original sourcing. In fact, other than a global pandemic, there’s just no excuse for an author to not make the effort to get to the setting of their book.
In writing your new book, what do you feel makes it stand out?
Anything but Plain is a story about a young Amish woman with ADHD—she’s a square peg in a round hole. She’s so frustrated with her life that she’s convinced leaving the Amish and her family is her only option—until someone steps in to help her.
In your new book, what would you like the reader to feel and walk away with?
Strategies to overcome distractions. Painlessly delivered through a wonderfully captivating story!
What's the best writing advice you've received so far?
Long ago, I read a newspaper article about a woman on her one hundredth birthday. The reporter asked why she thought she had lived so long. The woman said, “Because I want to see what happens next.”
That’s exactly what writing a book should be like! The reader should be eager to know what will happen in the next page, the next chapter, the next book in the series.
What's the worst?
To read your customer reviews. Don’t do it!
Between plotting, character development, dialogue, scenes which is easiest for you, and which takes a lot of effort?
Character development comes naturally. Closing scenes takes a lot of effort, especially closing a chapter. Remember, you want the reader to think: “What happens next?”
What is your writing schedule?
Early in the morning. I have a wordcount each day that I hit, rain or shine.
What do you do if you get stumped?
I write through it. I’m not a believer in writer’s block. My daily wordcount might not always be sterling work, but it moves things forward. It keeps my head in the story.
Did you or do you make any sacrifices to be a writer?
Writing requires so much time alone. I have to say no to many other things—activities I’d like to participate in, even friendships I’d like to deepen—because that writing time needs to be protected.
Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?
Interesting question! I think it chose me. My grandfather was raised Plain. Lots of family history there.
What is the best way you found to market your book?
Building up my newsletter subscribers. It’s quite robust. They’re dedicated and loyal, and have been so good to me.
Did you actively build a network of readers and if so, how?
I work hard to take care of my subscribers—they’re the first to receive news and updates, plus they get early access to special giveaways or contests. As for gaining new contacts, I sign up regularly for Ryan Zee Booksweeps, and would recommend the contests for authors who are building their subscriber list and/or BookBub followers.
Are you on the Social Media Highway and if so, do you schedule times to post?
I post regularly, but not daily. Lately, I’ve been posting on Instagram and share it on FB/Twitter. The problem is I forget to check Facebook comments! I’m working on that.
What advice would you like to give new authors that would help them?
Hangeth thou in there!