When did you decide to be a writer?
I never planned to be a writer—never even once considered it until a story idea started running through my mind. It was affecting my sleep big time and wouldn’t leave me alone, so I decided to write it down in hopes it would go away. As soon as I completed that book, another idea invaded my mind. I’m thinking: what’s going on here? I’ve always been an avid reader and daydreamed a lot, but I’d never plotted a story. I finished that second book and began to wonder if God wasn’t trying to get my attention. After praying and talking with my husband, I jumped in with both feet and started learning all I could about writing.
At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?
Uh. . .I’m still working on that. I’ve found that many writers—even very famous ones—are insecure. There’s no guarantees in the publishing world. A writer is only as good as her last story. I still have critique partners, but since I have to write so fast to meet my deadlines, they rarely see the whole book. I’ve had to learn to let go. I write the best story I know how and proof it as much as I have time for then send it in.
I do still use my critique partners’ help in brainstorming new ideas. My background is accounting, and I love using Excel and putting things in nice, neat boxes. I feel a bit handicapped when plotting a book, because it’s very hard for me to think outside the box. My crit partners are great at that and give me some wonderful ideas when we brainstorm. My books are far more interesting thanks to them.
Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
Can I say both? Besides writing, I babysit my granddaughter, I’m primary caregiver to my invalid mom, and still have three sons at home, as well as my husband. Life gets in the way of my writing. But, a deadline is an amazing motivator. I try to write 2 – 4 hours five days a week. I make an Excel chart and plot out the days to my deadline, so I know just what I need to accomplish. Some days I make and even exceed my goal, and other days I don’t, especially those weeks I get copy edits or have to do galley edits.
What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
Reading, watching my fav TV shows, going out to eat, watching movies.
What is your favorite novel and what made it special?
I’ve read so many good books, it’s hard to pick a favorite. The book I’ve read the most though is A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke. I can remember a certain scene in that book that evoked a tremendous response from me. I wanted to throw the book across the room and quit reading at that point. But I didn’t, and am so glad. Ms. Oke tossed in a fabulous plot point, which if true, would have ruined the book for me. I think that’s why I keep going back and reading that book every few years.
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
I read lots of historical romances since that’s what I like and that’s what I write. I enjoy seeing how others write descriptions, because that’s an area where I think I’m weak. I also love the historical settings, which help keep me focused on what I’m writing.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
The Anonymous Bride is the first book in my Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, which is set in the fictional town of Lookout, Texas. The town has some quirky characters, which add humor to the story, as well as conflict. The main theme of the story is learning to forgive past offenses, but I also deal with issues like single parenthood and having a rebellious child.
Here’s a blurb:
Three mail-order brides arrive in Lookout, Texas, each expecting to marry the local marshal. But—he didn't order a bride. When a contest ensues to discover which bride will make him the best wife, there is a surprise fourth entry--an anonymous one. Mayhem occurs as the whole town tries to figure out who the anonymous bride is, and the mayor pressures the marshal to pick a bride or lose his job. Will Marshal Davis tuck tail and run for the hills? Or will he lose his heart and his bachelorhood?
Where did you get your inspiration for The Anonymous Bride?
This is a “what if” book. My initial idea “what if a mail-order bride suddenly shows up, expecting to marry the town marshal—but he never ordered a bride?” Then I took it a step further and said, “what if 3 brides showed up, expecting to marry the same man?” And what if the town held a contest to see which gal would make him the best bride? I just get thinking “what if’s” and the story began to develop.
Which character is most like you?
Probably Jack, the rebellious daughter of the heroine. She’s a tomboy who hates dresses and runs with boys. She wished she was a boy and has a good reason for feeling that way. I was a tomboy when I was young and always tried to be the son my dad didn’t have. I rode horses, played sports, and even bought a motorcycle when I was 14. Can you see why God blessed me with four sons? :-)
Who is your favorite character and why?
I really like Jack—an am currently writing her story as an adult, which is the third book in the series, Finally A Bride. But I think Luke was my favorite character. He’s a true hero, hurting over a deep wound inflicted by the woman he loved when he was younger. He’s become a Christian and has returned home, hoping to finally forgive and forget, so he can move on with his life. He takes young Jack under his wing and becomes a hero to her. He’s tough yet caring.
Did you know how The Anonymous Bride would turn out?
I knew how the story would end, but before I wrote it, I didn’t realize all that would take place to get to that ending. Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters? Yes, my characters always do things that surprise me.
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
Like I said earlier, the main theme of the story is learning to forgive past offenses. That means not just forgiving the person who hurt you but sometimes also forgiving yourself. I want readers to understand that no matter what they’ve done, God is always willing to forgive them.
I also deal with issues like single parenthood and having a rebellious child. These are issues many women face today, and I hope seeing Rachel’s struggles will show women they aren’t alone. They have friends, family, and God to help them.
What kinds of things have you done to market this book?
I’ve focused mainly on blog tours and Internet marketing. Each blog has a different circle of people who read it, so it’s kind of like tossing a rock in a pond and watching the circles of water grow and spread. I also attended several book festivals, both in Oklahoma and Texas, and I mailed out post cards to my mailing list. Plus, my publisher sent books to my influencer’s list, and many of those folks have posted reviews on Amazon and Christianbook.com. Have you found anything that works particularly well? Honestly, I think word of mouth is the best marketing tool out there—unless you have the good fortune to be on Oprah. My hope is that people who enjoy my books will tell their friends and family and that the circle will keep expanding.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I’ve just finished the first book in a historical Heartsong Presents series sent in South Carolina. Mutiny of the Heart releases in December and is set in the 18th century. It’s the story of a Loyalist woman who takes her deceased cousin’s six-year-old son to his father. Lucas Reed is a staunch American patriot and knows it’s impossible that the boy is his, even though the child looks like him. He suspects he knows the truth, but if word got out, the boy’s life could be in danger. Mutiny of the Heart is the tale of two opposites working together for the sake of a child.
I’ve also just started the third book in my Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, Finally A Bride. It’s the story of Jack(Jacqueline, Rachel’s daughter) grown up and several characters from the first two books who come back to Lookout after a number of years.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
For readers, thank you for your support and for buying Christian fiction. I encourage you to write to authors and let them know how you liked their books. Also, authors greatly appreciate when you post positive reviews online.
For writers, keep up the good job. I’m a reader as much as a writer. Reading has been my escape from the craziness of raising a quartet of boys. I love a good book and characters that live on after the story is done. Don’t give up if you’re not yet published, because every published author was at some time or another not published. Keep writing and sending in proposals, and don’t give up.
Want more? Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough.