Debut Author ~ Vannetta Chapman

Monday, October 11, 2010


Vannetta Chapman has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award winning member of Romance Writers of America and holds a B.A. and M.A. in English. She currently teaches in the Texas hill country, where she lives with her husband. A Simple Amish Christmas is her debut novel.

When did you decide to be a writer?
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After I finished my MA in English.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?
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Eight years.

Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?
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Write more. Don’t keep perfecting the first book. Write a second and then a third, but also take a workshop or two. Purchase a how-to book by someone you admire. In other words, balance learning from others with perfecting your own craft.

Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?
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I’m surprised at how willing established authors are to help a complete newbie. I’m also surprised at how quickly I went from oblivion to having more deadlines than I knew what to do with. I had read about that happening to other authors, and I had envisioned it happening to me—but it’s still a surprise when it does.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
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Oh my—very disciplined, though my closest friends call it by a harsher name (compulsive). I’m up every morning at 5:00 a.m. so I can write for two hours before my “real” job.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
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Hiking (since I’m only athletic enough to walk, and still sometimes I fall down). Needlework (again, sometimes I poke myself, so I keep bandages nearby). Kayaking and canoeing (you don’t want to know about those injuries). Seriously, I very much enjoy the outdoors, birding, gardening, etc.

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?
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You’re going to make me pick one? I’ll choose a different novel for every interview over the next ten years, and then perhaps I’ll hit them all. Hmmmm . . . Most recently, I adored Cindy Woodsmall’s The Sound of Sleigh Bells. The characters were crisply drawn, and the story line quite poignant. Stepping outside my genre, one of my favorite books of all times is entitled “The Poet of Tolstoy Park” by Sonny Brewer. It’s an absolutely lovely depiction of one man’s acceptance of death, and subsequent journey to embrace life—with quite the surprise ending.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
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I don’t think I could be a writer without being a reader. When I’m in full “writing” mode, I have to devote ¼ of my time to reading. I can’t separate the two. Reading is the stone that sharpens the blade.

Tell us a little about your latest release:
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A Simple Amish Christmas is the story of a young woman who embraces her Amish heritage, but must leave it for a time. Annie Weaver is a nurturer at heart, a born healer. She leaves home to stay with her aenti in Philadelphia for a few months, which becomes a few years. She always planned to return home. Twenty years old and a nurse at Mercy Hospital, her time of rumschpringe comes to an abrupt end when she receives a call that her father has been in an accident. Over the next month, Annie will have several important choices to make, and the most important one will be made Christmas morning and will involve a young man named Samuel.

Where did you get your inspiration for A Simple Amish Christmas?
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I was very curious about how the Amish community meet their medical needs, and also how the women who want more education satisfy that desire. As far as the title, it was originally something quite different. When Zondervan offered me a contract for the book, they were looking for a Christmas release, so we changed the title. I love it though, and I think it fits very nicely.

Which character is most like you?
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I did briefly consider going into nursing instead of teaching, so I see a little of myself in Annie. I also had fun with Reba, her youngest sister. Reba loves animals and is very full of energy. She’s a little bit of the family-clown, and I sort of had that reputation as a teenager. I was also the youngest child in my family.

Who is your favorite character and why?
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I like Samuel a lot. I always relate well to my male characters—they’re not perfect, but they’re very much like real people I know and respect. Samuel is stubborn, somewhat brooding, and a little fatalistic, but he’s a good man. He does the right thing, and he can be counted on when you need him. He’s faithful, and his love is enduring. He’s also very passionate, very devoted to both the people of his district and the woman he commits his life to.

Did you know how A Simple Amish Christmas would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
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My characters do NOT behave, so I was a bit surprised by the ending. Okay, I had a different ending written, had to cut it out, paste it back in, rework it, and I finally realized what everyone needed to do. About three-quarters through, I stepped back from the manuscript a bit, wrote the ending then picked up where I left off and wrote to the end. It’s a process that often works for me.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
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Jeremiah 29:11. Life is terribly hard at times. So often things happen that we just don’t understand, but the one thing we can trust is God plans to give us a hope and a future. He planned that for Annie and Samuel, and he plans it for us.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
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Blog interviews, in-store book-signings, and of course I’ll be at RWA national and ACFW. I think social networking is productive as long as you don’t let it take over your writing time!

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
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I’m so glad you asked. : ) I’m working on an Amish cozy for Zondervan entitled A Shipshewana Amish Mystery Series. The first of 3 books is due to my editor August 1.

Do you have any parting words of advice?
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Please don’t listen to the stats about who can/cannot become published. I believe they are so misleading. If God intends you to be a writer, you will be. Your job is to be the best writer you can be—allow God to do the rest.
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Vanetta is giving away a copy of her book A Simple Amish Christmas. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!

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