Welcome, Meg! Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
I knew I wanted to be a writer. My grandmother had helped her family survive the Great Depression by selling articles, short stories, and poetry to magazines. Although I never knew her, my parents held her up as a good role model.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
Um…how old am I? About that long. Seriously, I was always writing something: poems, short stories, articles. I didn’t try to write a novel until my kids were old enough to let me disappear into a fictional world for hours at a time.
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
Read, read, read. You’ll learn by osmosis, so it pays to read high quality books.
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
My day-to-day life always starts with coffee and with getting a cat or two off my computer chair so I can check email. Then I get down to the business of writing. My husband and I have almost reached the empty-nest years, so I usually have lots of peace and quiet. When I need a break, sometimes we hop on the motorcycle and head for the mountains.
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
Yes, my editor rejected two of my recent ideas, but they hardly seemed like rejections because we moved right into brainstorming new and better ideas. That took the sting right out of it.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
When Sparrows Fall is the story of Miranda Hanford, an isolated homeschooling widow who needs to break her ties to a cultic group. Jack Hanford, her estranged brother-in-law, is an outspoken professor who helps in her hour of need but challenges her choices at every turn. Miranda wants safety and security for her children; Jack values freedom above security but doesn’t understand that breaking free may cause Miranda to lose everything, including her children.
If you could only share one line from When Sparrows Fall, which one would you choose and why?
At one point, Jack says the villain of the story doesn’t deserve mercy. Miranda answers: “Neither do we. That’s why it’s called mercy.” I hope her comment reinforces the definition of God’s grace as His unmerited favor. It’s a gift, not wages paid in return for anything we can do.
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in When Sparrows Fall that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
I’m sure my kids will recognize a few details gleaned from our own years of homeschooling, including the “exhaustive nature guide from 1905” and the other books that Miranda’s children read. Our experiences were very different from her family’s, though. Instead of limiting my children’s access to fiction, I encouraged it every chance I got.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
If Miranda’s manipulative, self-serving pastor has a redeeming quality, he hides it well. I hated to make a villain out of a pastor, but I had to do it to show the dangers of blindly following a leader. In order to balance the picture, I also wove in a few mentions of good, compassionate clergymen who would rather serve than be served, like the pastors I know in real life.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
Although I knew the pros and cons of homeschooling from over twenty years of experience, I needed to learn more about spiritual abuse, the “Quiverfull” movement, and patriarchy. I found an abundance of good information on Hillary McFarland’s website (http://www.quiveringdaughters.com/), veteran homeschooler Karen Campbell’s blog (http://www.thatmom.com/), and Cynthia Kunsman’s site (http://www.undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/). Kathryn Joyce’s nonfiction book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, was another eye-opening resource.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I’m revising a novel about a young woman who lost her father to a deep mountain lake when she was a teenager, but his body was never found. Now it seems he faked his drowning and ran to the wilderness. As she and her longtime friends search for answers, they uncover memories of a mysterious event in their childhood that might explain everything—and might break their hearts.
And the project after that is still so vague that I can’t properly describe it.
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
First, find out what you’re getting yourself into. You can’t imagine how much time you’ll need to devote not just to the writing itself but also to office work and promotion. If you love writing so much that you don’t care how long and hard you’ll have to work, then go for it.
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
Um…I honestly don’t have a question I’m afraid of. Not yet, anyway.
Thanks for stopping by, Meg!