A Visit With Kimberli Campbell

My fellow-Lost Genre Guild member Kimberli Renee Campbell lives with her husband and two sons in Nebraska, where she writes speculative fiction for young adults.

Q. Hi, Kimberly. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing?

A. I have been writing for over 10 years. However, I still have a lot to learn.

Q. When did you feel called to write?

A. I can’t say I remember a specific time when the Lord put the desire in my heart. All I know now is I have a deep need to write the stories he gives me.

Q. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

A. Boy, the ideas come from everywhere. The series I’m writing now came from a dream. I have a romance/suspense story from watching an old blue pickup truck stopped in front of me at a stoplight. It’s fun watching people in hopes the images will produce a story.

Q. What are your thoughts on critique groups?

A. I think they are extremely important if there is a mixture of experience levels. Unfortunately, as people get busy with life, it’s difficult to stay consistent with critiques. You also need to be able to receive constructive criticism. It’s painful, but needed.

Q. Was it hard to develop a writing style?

A. If I developed a style, it probably came from the type of books I like to read. Down-to-earth and relaxed.

Q. Who is your favorite author?

A. I enjoy reading books by Donita K. Paul, Terri Blackstock, and Ted Dekker…just to name a few.

Q. Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

A. I don’t think I’ve had to deal with writer’s block. However, I have let things keep me from writing. After a full day, instead of writing, I spend my time doing mindless things – surf the web, playing games on the iPad. Although there are times when a person does need to take some downtime, I tend to play longer than I should. When I do notice myself doing this, I force myself to get back to writing.

Q. Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

A. Yes. I think it gives the characters more depth…not that I’m a complex person. 🙂

Q. Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

A. One of the issues the main character and his friends deal with is bullying. Bullying makes me angry. As for crying, in the third book of the series, there is a part where I teared up. I didn’t have to break out the tissues, but it was close.

Q. Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

A. I’m an outline kind of gal. I need structure. Hats off to those that let the story develop on its own. If I wrote that way, the story would probably start with the ending.

Q. What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

A. I would love for the readers to come away with a spirit of victory and that they’ve been on an awesome adventure. Learning the importance of a relationship with the Lord, family, and friends is also something I’d like them to walk away with. And, let’s not forget the desire to read the next book.

Q. Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

A. I would love to share. My book, Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two, will prayerfully be out this year.  I am currently working on book three of the series. I have no title at this time. I am not sure if the Lord has a book four, so I’ll have to see what he has next.

Q.  What makes Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two a must read for young readers?

A. Aside from the back-to-back action and suspense, this book touches on issues like bullying, feeling alone, and sharing the Good News. It would be great to see the book used in a classroom setting to help children dealing with any of these issues.

Q. How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

A. Hm…I do have sorcery in my books, but it’s clearly stated that it’s wrong. As for what they consider magic, I don’t see it as magic. Shayia’s sword glows and the Word appears on it. I believe those to be the manifestation of God’s awesome power. He used the staff of Moses, caused a donkey to speak, and so much more. I think this is a topic that people will always see differently, which is all right. I must write what I feel the Lord has asked me to write. I do so to bring him glory and to draw his children closer to him.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

A I’m a quiet person. However, if you were to see me acting on stage, you would disagree. I would be content sitting quietly in a room (not padded) with a book and/or my iPad. I drive the speed limit and obey the rules of the road to the point that it gets on people’s nerves. I HATE emotional mind games. In other words, if you have something to say, please say it…in love. 🙂 Going for walks in nice weather is something I enjoy when not writing. There is more, but that’s a good start.

Q. With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

A. I’ve been blessed to be at home. Although the time may broken up into little sessions, I’m able to get writing done between regular housework and family time. When my little one goes to school full-time, I will be able to get more writing time.

Q. When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

A. I think dreaming is a writer’s best friend. When I create characters, I like to dream about them, so I can picture how they look and act. I don’t normally write a background on the characters. I do note the memories they have in case something comes up later.

Q. Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

A. I encourage writers to get connected with other writers – critique groups, forums, etc. They are a great place to get encouragement and be challenged. Also, continue to write and sharpen your craft. No excuses. 🙂

Q. Where can readers find your books and contact information?

A. The best place is www.theswordoflight.com. The book is also available on Amazon. You can visit my blog at www.hiswriter.blogspot.com. I would love to connect with other writers and readers.

Q. Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

A. My relationship with the Lord is most important. I don’t feel that I can really write to my fullest potential unless the Lord and I communicate. We are a team.

Q. What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

A. I don’t have a writing routine….anymore. Now I write when I can. Having it nice and quiet would be my first choice, but the only quiet time we have in our house is when everyone is sleeping. I have learned to adjust to the noise.

Thank you, Kimberli, for sharing your thoughts!

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Meet Michael J. Webb

In my final post about about the Risen Books contest, today I interview Michael J. Webb, whose spec-fic story, The Oldest Enemy, came in at first place.

Q. Michael, is this your first novel, or have you been at this writing thing a while?

A. I’ve been writing since 1984.  My first three novels, a trilogy called Giants in the Earth, will be out in e-book format before the end of the year—hopefully.  The Oldest Enemy is my fourth novel.  My fifth, The Gathering Darkness, is with Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Agency and we are looking for a mainstream secular publisher even though it is written from a Christian worldview.  I’m currently working on a follow-up novel called The Devil’s Cauldron, which features many of the same characters, but is not a sequel.

Q. So obviously, you have some experience! How long did it take you to write this story?

I worked on it off and on for a couple of years beginning in 1998 and it has been on the shelf since then.  Interestingly, many of the ideas I write about in Oldest did not start coming to pass until the past couple of years.  Very interesting how God works!

Q. How did you arrive at this particular story idea, or what was your inspiration for it?

I’d read a couple of books about the Nazi’s plundering art, gold, and other valuables from the Jews–and others–before and during WWII.  At the same time, I was also doing an in-depth biblical study of demonic possession and how Jesus delivered those who were possessed and oppressed by demons.  I became intrigued by the Catholic Church’s perspective on exorcisms vs the Protestant view, and the story just sort of unfolded from there.

Q. How would you define “Christian fiction?” What’s your response when you hear someone say its general quality is inferior to that of secular fiction?   

Great question.  When Donald Maass was looking at my work, he asked me what kind of stories I write.  I answered that I like to write supernatural thrillers from a Christian worldview as opposed to writing Christian fiction.  I read a lot of both “Christian” and “secular” fiction.  Until the last few years, there has been a dearth of what I consider high quality Christian fiction, especially for men.  The Christian market has for the most part been dominated, and perhaps still is, by romantic Christian fiction.  I cannot dispute the statement that “in general” the quality of Christian fiction is inferior to that of secular fiction, but I have become very encouraged over the past few years that we are starting to see a greater number of really good, edgy, suspenseful, and exciting novels in a variety of genres being released by Christian authors and publishers.

Q.  I remember an old Star Trek episode – and I’m talking about the original series, in its first run (yes, I’m old enough to have seen it when it was new) – in which a character was reading an old print book and someone remarked upon how rare it was to have real books instead of reading them on a screen. Do you see e-books, which obviously are no longer science fiction, as a threat to traditional publication, a marvelous opportunity for writers and readers alike, or a fact of life that we’re going to have to deal with?

A. I am an “original” trekkie as well.  Stayed up late on a school night to watch the very first episode on September 8, 1966.   Yes to all three questions.  Anyone who doesn’t see the tsunami coming is either blind or living off the grid completely.  Having said that, I would add that there are many people like me who absolutely love printed books, the smell of old books, and old fashioned library stacks, both public and private.  There will always be a demand for printed books, but there is no denying that the e-book revolution is going to change the way the world reads.  By the way, I don’t own an e-reader yet.  Once my books are in e-format, that will change!

Q. If someone asked you if it’s worthwhile to enter writing contests, what would be your answer?

A. The Risen Books contest was my first, believe it or not.  I think the answer depends on how thick your skin is.  Most of us who finally get published have gone through massive amounts of rejection to get there.  In my humble opinion, losing a contest hurts a lot less than getting a rejection from an agent or a publisher.  If you go through more than one of either of those, entering a contest is a cake walk, and you have everything to gain and nothing to lose, except a little more of your ego and pride. That insightful answer is based upon multiple rejections from both agents and publishers exceeding three dozen, and winning the first contest I ever entered.  It may not be valid, but I hope it is encouraging.

Q. What does your story’s protagonist most fear? Does this reflect your own fears?

A. David Lighthouse is not really driven by fear.  He has to confront a devastating, haunting event from his past that brought him to the brink of the abyss.  He is desperately seeking answers to questions only God can reveal.  I do incorporate some of my own experiences and life issue into my characters, but not that particular one.

Q. What’s one question you hope I won’t ask?

Hmmmm.   What is your favorite book of all time?

 

(Y Chuckles.) If the choices are limited to fiction, I couldn’t answer that question either! Thank you, Michael, for visiting us today, and we wish you every success.

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Adam Graham Speaks of Knighthood and Other Pertinent Topics

Next up from the Lost Genre Guild interview series: Adam Graham:

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. Since I was eight, almost nine years old. Before the San Francisco Earthquake, I was writing Batman-Superman fanfiction.

Q. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

A. Everywhere: Sermons at church, out of the blue. Sometimes, I’ll get ideas from TV shows, particularly one where I don’t enjoy the episode and I imagine how it really should be told.

Q. What are your thoughts on critique groups?

A. It’s a mixed bag. On one hand, if you get a knowledgeable, supportive critique partner, it can be a blessing. On the other hand, there are bad critique groups, arrogant critiquers, etc. So proceed with caution.

Q. Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

A. Yes. I’ve generally tried not to sit there and stare at blank screens. At some point, to quote the great Kenny Rogers, you have to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. And sometimes, the best thing to do is to do something else, rest your mind, and come back.

Q. Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

A. Here and there, probably the clown and sarcastic tendencies are the ones most likely to appear.

Q. Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

A. I’m working on a short story that’s trying to become a novelette, and the final confrontation scene was very tough. The story deals with child abuse, and I kept wanting to handle the whole thing more clinically. What we finally ended up writing, after much coaxing from my wife, was something that packs more of a punch, and did make me cry writing it.

Q. Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

A. Mostly on its own. I know where I’m starting and I have a general idea where I’m going. I let the story happen as it goes.

Q. What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

A. Depends on the book. I hope they just take something away from it and whatever God has for them.

Q. Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

A. I’ve three big ideas that I have to struggle to get to:  1) The Return of the Dim Knight. This is going to be a challenging book to write. My challenge is going to be to grow my characters personally, emotionally, and spiritually from the last book without going too far. We’re still going to have some comedy, but it will be a slightly different tone.  It’s the Superhero sequel that I hope readers will be waiting for.

2) Case Files of the Selfish Detective: Not really a speculative story, but will feature a character from Tales of the Dim Knight, Neil Worthington. Worthington is a genius detective who tries to model his life off of the combined efforts of Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, and Hercule Poirot. He lives alone mostly, irritating household staff, and driving them away. Then one day, Worthington is on the sidewalk and a car almost runs him over but a young woman saves him, but is hit herself and gets amnesia. Worthington pays her medical bills and brings her onboard. Her mission is to remember who she is and to get Worthington to use his powers for good.

3) The Graham works: Podcast-Yes, I want to start recording podcast of my works, both published and unpublished, so that people can enjoy them and I can grow my audience. But not something I’ve been able to find time to do yet.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

A. I love old time radio and radio drama in general. Spend a lot of time listening to that and producing podcasts on old time radio.

Q. When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

A. I really try to get to know the character organically, through telling the story and listening to them. I tried once writing down all the details and I never got through all the details and never wrote the story.

Q. What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

A. If I get into one of those “inspired modes,” I can have a spell and turn out a few thousand word short story in a day. What Ideally I need is good classical or instrumental music playing in the background with Facebook and email closed.

Thank you, Adam, for visiting here today.

 

 

 

 

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A Visit with Jessica LeSaicherre

Continuing our conversations with the writers who took the top three slots in the recent Risen Books contest, today we’ll talk with Jessica LeSaicherre. She took second place with her Young Adult story, Flight.

Interview:

Is the story you entered in the Risen Books contest your first novel, or have you been at this writing thing a while?

This was my first to be completed. When I was in college I always would tell my then-boyfriend (now husband) about the stories I wanted to write. For my birthday he got me a portable voice recorder I could keep in my purse, and while I was walking to class I would record the stories.  I was so busy with work and school, I wanted to make sure I would keep my ideas flowing. I eventually got married, got a job and then my first daughter was born. Writing was not on my priority list, but I was always thinking of my characters.  When my daughter was two I started the research for my first novel. I outlined and mapped out my characters; I got a couple chapters in when the story for FLIGHT came to me. It consumed me until I couldn’t deny it and I had to shelve my first book to focus on FLIGHT.

How long did it take you to write this story?

Between work and my family I had very little time to write. It wasn’t until my daughter went to school that I started researching.  I did research on Irish and Celtic history and mythology, and also on my subject matter: faeries.  I then did research on the town where my characters live.  I mapped out the history of the faeries, the family and then the story.  The hardest part was choosing what to put in this book, because my story goes on for years.  I outlined the first book while I was pregnant with my second daughter.  After she was born I put writing on hold until she was almost one.  Then I couldn’t wait anymore. I told my husband I needed to look at writing like a job, because I wanted this book to get completed.  And with the help of my family, I started going to the library and coffee shops weekly and wrote the entire first book in four months.  However, I was nowhere near done. I had my friend Emily of Acadiana Consulting beta read, and with her and my sister’s notes I revised and revised and revised. I actually revised again after my husband and I visited the beautiful town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, where my characters live. Well, I guess to answer the question: It took me four months to write, a year to revise, and I am sure I could keep adding and subtracting forever.

How did you arrive at this particular story idea, or what was your inspiration for it?

My sister and I are very close now, but when we were younger I had very little to do with her because she is eight years younger than I am. So I created two sisters with a tight bond–something I have now with mine but wish I had then. The inspiration for faeries came from playing with my daughter. I got wrapped up in the joy and happiness of us being faeries; which then gave me the thought: what if this wasn’t pretend? What if we were faeries, or our neighbors–faeries living as humans? I took both stories and intertwined them and now they are a part of me. I love them and their story.

How would you define “Christian fiction?” What’s your response when you hear someone say its general quality is inferior to that of secular fiction?

I have no definition for Christian fiction. As for being inferior to that of secular fiction, absolutely not. Who is anyone to say any genre or theme is inferior to another?  I feel like it is a reader’s prerogative to choose to read what they enjoy; faeries, vampires, witches, religion, politics–I am for reading no matter the subject matter.  To each their own.

My book is a young adult fantasy and has no direct connection with Christian fiction.  It does, though, have a family that has its own problems and secrets that they must overcome, and they can only accomplish this by staying united.  This is why I entered a contest with a Christian publishing house; other than the faerie and leprechaun aspect, it is a story about a family dealing with secrets, lies and betrayals and how they can overcome them. It appeals to many different audiences.

I remember an old Star Trek episode – and I’m talking about the original series, in its first run (yes, I’m old enough to have seen it when it was new) – in which a character was reading an old print book and someone remarked upon how rare it was to have real books instead of reading them on a screen. Do you see e-books, which obviously are no longer science fiction, as a threat to traditional publication, a marvelous opportunity for writers and readers alike, or a fact of life that we’re going to have to deal with?

I bet anyone who watched that episode laughed at the thought of reading on a screen. But the future is now and people are reading from a screen.  I personally will never stop buying books; to me they are trophies that I display on my bookshelf.  I read a lot and adore all my trophies.  What I love about e-books, though, is that it allows access to books I might not have ever purchased.  I love the feeling of the paper and the smell of the books, but I will read on my Kindle the books I maybe would have wanted to buy but felt I had to pass on due to lack of space on my bookshelf. With an e-reader, I don’t have to pass.  Plus, I will always support writers, and some only publish e-books. I feel I must have an e-reader for those books. And I was lucky enough to have won one with this contest.  I believe readers are loyal, and we are going to read no matter what. As long as the publishing industry continue to thinks of the readers, it will be fine.

If someone asked you if it’s worthwhile to enter writing contests, what would be your answer?

Of course; any way to get feedback on your writing is worth it.  You are not going to get your book published with it just sitting on your hard drive.

What does your story’s protagonist most fear? Does this reflect your own fears?

Liz is my protagonist, and at 13 she deals with normal adolescent worries: popularity, friends, school, boys, etc. Liz likes order, stability, and control. She is a pleaser, but when she learns her family secret she fears it all.  Her stability is gone and she wants to rebel–but like I said, she is a pleaser, and so she struggles to find balance. Liz and her little sister Anne are both made up of my sister and me; we both share many qualities that the girls have, and their fears are our fears.

What’s one question you hope I won’t ask?

Hmmmmm, probably something dealing with publishing, like “What is your biggest fear about publishing?” My answer is that my books never find a home.  But I also know that this will not last forever, because I have faith not only my book and my talent but in my God.  I will never give up on this dream; I continue to write and will always.

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your thoughts. It sounds to me like you’ll succeed.

In addition to her “Mom and Closet Writer” site linked above, Jessica blogs at Lit and Lagniappe. Follow her on Twitter.

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Meet Cindy Koepp

Continuing in the Lost Genre Guild guest blog series, today we’ll hear from Texan Cindy Koepp, author of The Remnant in the Stars, coming in 2011 by Under the Moon Publishing.

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. Oh, most of 33 years. My mother has an old short story I wrote when I was six or seven. The hobby continued on since then.

Q. When did you feel called to write?

A. I don’t know. I don’t know if I was ever “called.” About five years ago, when I was more irritated with teaching than usual, I asked God if he’d object to me being a full-time writer. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve made lots of connections with other writers and critique groups and the like. I even have a contract now for one of my books.

Q. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

A. Sometimes they get left in my mental voice mail with no mention of the source on the caller ID. Other times they’re based on some misadventure in my own life with the decimal point moved over several orders of magnitude.

Q. What are your thoughts on critique groups?

A. I’ve been in a few. One was ultra-competitive. That was pretty useless. The deal was that you’d upload a chunk of text then review others’ works on the site to earn credits so yours would be reviewed. Writers reviewed each other and ranked the work on a 5-star system. That sounds interesting, but many people ran afoul of glowing feedback to go along with low ratings. Some people were the recipients of a copied-and-pasted review. There was some handy feedback, but it was a lot of work for a little return. Another group critiques on a volunteer system. That works okay. The third group has been really useful. We take turns critiquing half-novels. I get the most useful feedback from this group. It takes +/- 8 months to get feedback for a whole novel, but what I get has been immensely helpful.

Q. Was it hard to develop a writing style?

A. Yes and no. I write how I hear and see things in my head. The problem has been then mutating that so normal humans can understand what I saw and heard. I tend to use a lot of technical terms for things. Sometimes I get bogged down in trivia or skip over something important because it made sense to me at the time. That’s why my critique partners are very helpful. They point out when my idea has been scattered by the hurricane winds of disjointed thinking.

Q. Who is your favorite author?

A. One is definitely Gordon Dickson. I enjoyed the Childe Cycle. Each story stands alone but all of them work together for an ultimate purpose. Bruce Hale’s Chet Gecko series is hilarious. Jude Watson’s Jedi Apprentice series had excellent characterization.

Q. Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

A. Yes, I’ve had some stories stall out midway. I have to set the work aside for a while and come back to it weeks, sometimes months later. In the meantime, I work on something else.

Q. Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

A. Definitely. Many of my lead characters are disabled in some way. How they deal with their physical ailments is often related to how I deal with mine. One of my stories has two characters with my weird sense of humor. Another has a lead character who doesn’t want to fit in with society’s “normal” view of girls. Very often people I know make it into my stories, too.

Q. Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

A. Plenty have been difficult to write. The subject matter hits too close to home like the character who faced discrimination for her inherited disability. Not too many make me angry. Some scenes make me cry when I write them and then later as I read them again.

Q. Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

A. I use not just outlines, but very detailed descriptions of the characters, places, societies, maps, and anything I can come up with that might even be vaguely important to the plot. I often have 20 or more pages of notes before I start writing the actual story.

Q. What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

A. First of all, I want the stories to be entertaining. I don’t mean gut-busting hilarious, but interesting to read. Since so many of the stories have at least some beginning in my own misadventures, I hope that readers will either identify with someone in the story or maybe understand something a little better.

Q. Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

A. I have a book called Remnant in the Stars under contract with Under the Moon. It’s about a navigator searching for his missing child and a pilot dealing with an undiagnosable illness. If all goes according to Hoyle, we’ll finish the editing process by the end of December, and it should see print in the spring of 2012. I’m also working with a group of writers on an anthology.

Q. How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

A. About seven or eight years ago, a friend questioned the magic use in one of my books. He gave me a detailed explanation for why that was not Christian. I did some praying and some thinking and decided he was more right than I was. The way I had handled the magic was very occultic. I rewrote the story, keeping the basic plot, and scrapped the magic use. I actually like the rewrite better than the original.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

A. When I’m not writing or doing prep and paperwork for school, I sew, crochet, do needlework, play computer games, and try to find recipes for things I can actually eat. I tend to be the quiet, keep-to-myself type, but I can get pretty goofy when I’m with people I know well. At work, though, I’m more out-spoken. Diplomacy is not a skill I was gifted with.

Q. With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

A. Now that’s a good trick. During the school year, I write on Saturday afternoons and Sundays before or after church. On weeknights, I usually don’t get to write much at all. I’m eyeball deep in paperwork and grading. During Christmas break, spring break, and the summer, I write a lot more. I sometimes write new material. Other times I work on editing old stuff.

Q. When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

A. The characters often have a very detailed background. The key players and other frequent flyers get all kinds of information. Often I have intentions of including it somewhere, but when I get there, that doesn’t make sense, so it just stays in the background information. Lesser folks sometimes don’t have more than name, appearance, and the details needed for story.

Q. Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

A.1. Find a group of other writers you can share with who’ll be honest with you whether something doesn’t work or something went fabulously. Ego-boosters are nice, but they don’t help you progress. Likewise, brow-beaters don’t ever give you the encouragement you need to keep on plugging away.

2. Don’t give up. This isn’t an easy gig, but then nothing worthwhile ever is.

3. Take advice from other, more experienced folks. When the advice contradicts other expert advice, you have some leeway to consider what fits your idiom.

4. Above all, be careful that you don’t do something that will cause someone else to blaspheme God.

Q. Where can readers find your books and contact information?

A. I have a Facebook author page.  I also have a webpage at ckoepp.com and two blogs that I update when I have something interesting to say: ckoepp.xanga.com and ckoepp.blogspot.com.

Q. Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

A. Not for each writing session or project necessarily, but I often talk to God, and the subject of my writing comes up now and again.

Q. What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

A. I like to sit on my couch with a notebook and pen in hand and a glass of water nearby. I don’t focus well with noise, so I prefer quiet. Once I have the stuff written, I enter it into the computer using either the keyboard or some voice recognition software. Then I can edit and revise. Sometimes I do that on the screen. Other times, I make the font stupidly small … like 8 or 9 point … and print it out. That depends on whether it’s an early draft or a later one. Earlier drafts will need much more shuffling and fixing, so I print those. Later ones are usually more stable, and I can do those on the computer.

Thank you, Cindy. I look forward to reading your book when it comes out next year.

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Meet Janet Sketchley

As you may recall, my publisher, Risen Books, recently ran a contest for unpublished novelists and announced the top three winners. For this and the next two Wednesdays, I’ll be interviewing those lucky writers.

Today, I’d like to introduce to you the third-place winner, Janet Sketchley. She submitted her story, Praying for the Enemy, and her prize is some free books from Risen. Here’s what she has to say:

Y ASKS: Is the story you entered in the Risen Books contest your first novel, or have you been at this writing thing a while?

JS ANSWERS: Yes to both 🙂  Praying for the Enemy is my first novel, I’ve rewritten and revised it many times, and have also written a second novel as well. Both are looking for a home, and placing third in Risen Books’ contest tells me they can hold their own against the other manuscripts out there.

Y ASKS: How long did it take you to write this story?

JS ANSWERS: Much longer than it should. This is the novel that taught me to write, so each time I learned something new I had a gigantic amount of revising to do. (Now I know why they say to start with short stories!) It looks much different now, and I’d be embarrassed for anyone to see the first draft. But I can safely tell you, if my characters were “born” when I first started, they’d be driving now.

Y ASKS: I know exactly what you mean by This is the novel that taught me to write. I have a “practice novel” too, though it may never see the light of day. So how did you arrive at this particular story idea, or what was your inspiration for it?

JS ANSWERS: “It’s safe enough to pray for a dangerous criminal locked up in prison, but what would you do if you met them on the ‘outside’ — face to face — especially if they had no regrets about their actions?” The story grew and reshaped itself from there.

Y ASKS: How would you define “Christian fiction?” What’s your response when you hear someone say its general quality is inferior to that of secular fiction?

JS ANSWERS: I define “Christian fiction” as stories written by and for Christians and containing at least a subtle element of faith. The hope is always that mainstream readers will enjoy it too. My response when someone makes a comment like that? “When’s the last time you tried it? And what do you like to read?” The quality–and selection–have improved dramatically in recent years. There are still poorly-written and under-edited books, especially where authors have self-published without hiring outside skill, but I suspect that’s the same in mainstream fiction as well.

Y ASKS: I remember an old Star Trek episode – and I’m talking about the original series, in its first run (yes, I’m old enough to have seen it when it was new) – in which a character was reading an old print book and someone remarked upon how rare it was to have real books instead of reading them on a screen. Do you see e-books, which obviously are no longer science fiction, as a threat to traditional publication, a marvelous opportunity for writers and readers alike, or a fact of life that we’re going to have to deal with?

JS ANSWERS: We watched in reruns, and I think my husband wins the prize. I asked him which episode this was, and he said “Courtmartial” (where the lawyer had a stack of books and Kirk said he liked books well enough, but on the computer). E-books… they’re probably all of the above. The traditional publishers need to re-think how they do business, and they can learn from pioneers like Marcher Lord Press. Writers and readers need publishers for their editing and marketing expertise, although marketing is changing too. I’m not convinced that paper vs e-books is an either-or situation. At least in the short term, we’ll have both. And there are plenty of benefits for readers and writers. I think it’s a good thing, and it’ll be even better when it all shakes out.

Y ASKS: If someone asked you if it’s worthwhile to enter writing contests, what would be your answer?

JS ANSWERS: Definitely, as long as it’s a legitimate contest. The best ones have low or no fees and offer some level of feedback. It’s not much good to see a list of winners (your name not there) and not know what brought your entry down or what needs improvement. Feedback is risky, because nobody likes to hear their work isn’t perfect, and occasionally you can get a snarky judge. The ACFW Genesis contest is a good one (in which I have yet to place) and Risen Books’ contest has been a good experience for me. Only one manuscript could win but each entrant had their story “hook” posted for public voting in stage one, which was not only good exposure but let us study the other entries and discover what makes a good hook. I don’t know if the early entrants got any comments on their work, but the notice I got about advancing to the final round included some thoughts from the round 2 judges. So yes, contests are worth entering but choose wisely. And don’t shoot for the top-rated ones first time out. Compete at your own level and develop your skill to earn the right to advance.

Y ASKS: What does your story’s protagonist most fear? Does this reflect your own fears?

JS ANSWERS: Ruth is abducted by a convicted serial rapist/murderer. That makes her fear in the novel pretty basic and obvious. Me, I have a whole raft of fears the Lord is working to defuse, and like most women, this one’s on my list. Hats off to Ruth, she’s much braver than I am. Her faith’s stronger, too. I hope someday people can read her story.

Y ASKS: What’s one question you hope I won’t ask?

JS ANSWERS: If I knew, I might not tell! Oh, wait — “If you were an animal/colour/novel which would you be?” (No offense, if you’ve used it yourself!) I was once asked what kind of music I’d be, and there’s no “right answer” to something like that. I guessed “folk” because I couldn’t spell “zydeco”.

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A Visit with Nick Giannaras

Today we visit with Nick Giannaras, a chiropractor by profession who somehow, between his work and several hobbies, manages to find time to write Young Adult novels. The first two books in his Relics of Nanthara series are available from MuseIt Up Publishing and the third is expected to be released soon.

Let’s hear about it from Nick himself:

Q.  How long have you been writing?

A. I’ve been writing actively for five years.

Q. When did you feel called to write?

A. When a lady spoke into my life, saying that there were untapped talents that needed to be revealed. I haven’t stopped since.

Q. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

A. My first novel actually came from an old Dungeons & Dragons game I ran years ago. The rest come in various ways: a title, a song, a movie, a verbal idea from my kids, and pure imagination.

Q. What are your thoughts on critique groups?

A. They are good ideas and can be very helpful, since they hold a plethora of skilled people who can contribute in many ways.

Q. Was it hard to develop a writing style?

A. Nope. When I type, it flows as it is given to me.

Q. Who is your favorite author?

A. I don’t have a favorite, but I do own multiple books from Dennis L. McKiernan, Graham Taylor, and Donita K. Paul.

Q. Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

A. Hmmm, the main way I deal with it is I sit down with my wife and verbally discuss the story up to the sticking point. On many occasions she has come up with an idea or a tidbit that sparks new ideas for the story to continue. Gotta love her!

Q. Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

A. Yes. In my trilogy, Relics of Nanthara, I’ve found several of my traits in more than one character. Odd that it played out like that, but I try to spread the love.

Q. Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

A. There wasn’t anything too difficult to write. Although the scene of the alliance fleeing Annotin after their confrontation was a bit unnerving as I pictured myself in the scene.

Q. Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

A. I’ve done both. Most of the time, it flows on its own.

Q. What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

A. I want their hearts touched by what the characters experience nto the point of wanting to change their own lives for the better. Although it is YA, I try not to sugarcoat the stories, and I am not afraid to portray real world strife and horror in my stories. It’s not hidden from the kids today, so why hide the truth in words?

Q. Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

A. Currently, I am finishing up Relics of Nanthara: Dawn of the Apocalypse, Book 3 in the trilogy, and I have several other projects in the works at various stages of completion. One is a Sci-Fi superhero, The Nuclear Fist Chronicles; three take place in Nanthara, The Onyx Tomes (taking place 30 years after the trilogy); Sons of the Trident (most likely a trilogy); and We Came To Die (a mercenary seeking revenge after being left for dead). I also have a historical fiction, Enemy Within The Ranks.

Q. With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

A. I write in between patients, at home during quiet times, and when the kids are in bed. Even when we go out of town, the laptop is with me.

Q. When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

A. The name usually comes out first with an image of the character in my head. The background usually comes later.

Q. Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

A. Don’t write for money. If God is part of your life, write for Him. That is, write with a purpose, a message. Bless God in your work, and watch what He’ll do for you. I’ve seen it in my practice and in all things I do, and I’ve never been sorry.

Q. Where can readers find your books and contact information?

A. For The Relics of Nanthara trilogy, my website is relicsofnanthara.weebly.com. Once the others show, I will either create a separate site or link them.

Q. Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

A. Most of the time, I actually wear a prayer shawl when I write. And I do pray at times, asking God what he has for me or perhaps a direction to take.

Q. What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

A. I prefer quiet with music relating to the genre/story I’m writing about playing softly in the background. It helps get the juices flowing.

Thank you, Nick, for joining us today!

 

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