Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Guest Author: Sharlene MacLaren

Today's guest author has five published books to her credit. (See below for contest info!) Here's a bit more about her:

I'm a retired schoolteacher who, after 31 years, decided to say, "Bye-bye, Students!" and "Hello, Writing World!" It's been an interesting, exciting, challenging, heart-wrenching (AT TIMES), and inspiring adventure to say the least. One thing I know--God dropped a seed of passion for writing in my heart back in the summer of 2000, and He's been growing it ever since. (Who else in her right mind would jump out of bed in the middle of the night just to run to the computer and finish a scene that all of a sudden comes together in her head?) I have two wonderful daughters and two handsome sons-in-law, but the joy of my life (besides my sweet, darling husband) are my adorable grandsons, Dylan, born March 21, 2006 and Gavin, born March 3, 2008. AND GUESS WHAT ELSE!!! I'm expecting a GRANDDAUGHTER in June '08. Does life get any better than this? Grandma and Grandpa MacLaren just love their babies! I’m an occasional speaker for MOPS, am involved in KIDS’ HOPE, USA, a mentoring program for at-risk children, counsel young women in the APPLES OF GOLD program, and attend two weekly Bible studies. I also enjoy my involvement in church choir and worship team. My darling husband, Cecil, and I live in Spring Lake, MI with Dakota, out lovable collie, and Mocha, our lazy fat cat.

Her latest, "Courting Emma," has just released. She has a way with historicals. I appreciated her ability to ground us in the setting and create realistic characters. Here's an interview with Sharlene:

How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?

First, thanks so much for this opportunity to share from my heart. It’s always such a blessing to me. Now, onto your question. I’ve always enjoyed writing—but I didn’t actually write my first novel until the year 2000. I was a couple of years away from retirement and already fretting about what I was going to do with myself. I pled with God to give me a new direction for my life, something that would fulfill me – as my teaching career had done. It started with a dream. I know that sounds “cliché-ish”, but it’s true. I dreamt I’d written a book. I thought the dream was odd, but after dreaming it three more times, I sat up, took notice, and thought, hmm, is God trying to tell me something? (Slow learner!) So, with much trepidation and an idea for a story floating around in my head, I sat at my computer one fine summer day in the year 2000 and started writing. Now, five pubbed books later, I’m going strong as ever! Praise God!

What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?

My first book, Spring’s Promise, pubbed in 2002. It is a contemporary women’s fiction/romance. I pubbed that book with a print-on-demand operation, but the price of the book is exorbitant. I wanted a mainline publisher and prayed for one. In the meantime, I studied the market, the industry, the craft. I joined online writing groups, organizations like the wonderful American Christian Fiction Writers, and attended all kinds of seminars and conventions. Of course, it was trial and error as I submitted one query and proposal after another and my file of rejections grew thicker by the month. Finally, in 2006, I signed a contract with Whitaker House, and they pubbed my second contemporary work—women’s fiction/romance—titled Through Every Storm. My real “love”, though, is reading and writing historical romance, so that’s what followed. My Little Hickman Creek Series contains three books, the third and final one in the series releasing in March/April of ’08. Titles of the three books are Loving Liza Jane, Sarah, My Beloved, and Courting Emma. I also have another contemporary romance releasing in September ’08 AND the first in my next 3-book historical series, DAUGHTERS OF JACOB KANE, coming in January ’09. I’M BUSY!!!!

How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?

Right now, I’m working on a six-month deadline (six months for each upcoming book in my next series). That forces me to write a minimum of about 1,000 words per day. If I can do that, I’m happy. Some days other things take precedence and I write nothing, and some days I can write more than that, so it evens out. It just depends on how my schedule looks.

What is the spiritual message in your latest book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?

My latest book, COURTING EMMA, third in my historical series, is about a young woman who owns and operates the town’s only boardinghouse. Here’s a brief synopsis to give you an idea of the spiritual undertones: Twenty-eight-year old Emma Browning has experienced a good deal of life in her young age. Sole owner of Emma's Boardinghouse, she is "mother" to an array of beefy, unkempt, often rowdy characters. Though many men would like to get to know the steely, hard-edged, yet surprisingly lovely, proprietress, none has truly succeeded. That is, not until the town's new pastor, Jonathan Atkins, takes up residence in the boardinghouse, affecting not only her with his devout faith and strong convictions, but her clientele as well. Emma clings desperately to her stubborn ways, refusing to acknowledge God's love--until all of Little Hickman witnesses a real-life miracle! Only then will Emma begin to experience God's power at work.

Where can we find your books for purchase?

As stated earlier, I have five published works. A sixth, Long Journey Home, will hit shelves September ’08, and then I’m to launch my next three-book series in January ’09. You can find my books on the shelves of many Barnes & Nobles, Borders, and Christian bookstores. If they aren’t in stock there, you can always purchase online. (See the final question for more details on that.)

Where do you get ideas? Character names? Do you find your characters similar to you in any way?

Oh, my goodness, they are all floating around up there in my head, ideas, character names, plots, settings. I guess you could say I have an imagination that won’t quit. Are they like me? Well, not really, but I suppose a little bit of myself sneaks in there every once in a while.

Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through? Who’s inspired you the most?

I never really feel like giving up, but I certainly do stress out once in a while. On those nights when I have trouble sleeping, I pray and ask the Lord to help me trust Him. He is the giver of “the gift”, and so I know in my heart, He will provide me with the words, the ideas, the character development, and the ability to complete a project. Currently I’m working under a deadline, and I’ll be honest, there is stress and worry that comes with deadlines. Bottom line is you HAVE to be creative whether you feel like it or not, and some days it’s like dragging a stubborn mule down a bumpy road to eke those words out, but somehow they come. Writing for pleasure is a lot different from writing under contract, but I still love it more than I can describe. I guess that’s what they call true passion. My biggest inspiration, of course, is my Heavenly Father, but since all my stories are romantic, I have to say my dear, precious husband of 32 years inspires me in ways you can only imagine. Hee-hee. As a romance writer, let me just say, it does help to be married to a romantic, sweet, and caring guy.

Would you roughly explain how you “chose” (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?

Well, I mentioned earlier that I’ve accumulated quite a rejection pile. Before, I would finish a manuscript and then shop it to several different publishers. If it failed, I might go back and rework it for the dozenth time—OR set it aside and start an entirely different book. (Sound like torture? Haha.)

When I finally contracted with a mainline publisher in the spring of ’06, it was because in ‘05 I had sent complete proposals of Through Every Storm to about 15 different publishers. I just changed the heading, address, etc., made up as many copies as I needed of query letters, bio sheets, synopses, and first three chapters, put them in big bubble envelopes, and mailed them out with a huge prayer. Sound like a lot of work? Believe me, it is. You ALWAYS pray that your proposal will land in the exact right hands because timing is everything, God’s timing, that is.

Well, about six months after I’d mailed all those proposals—and received a handful of rejections and no responses from everyone else, I chalked that proposal up as another failure. And then came the day when Whitaker House contacted me for a full manuscript. I tried not to get too excited because I’d had full reads requested many times before. It’s always a big encouragement to writers, though, to get that request. It sort of gives you that extra boost that causes you to say, “Don’t quit. Someone besides the Lord and my family believes in me!” (grins) Well, all that to say this…after Whitaker read the book, and it passed through several editors and committees, they FINALLY offered me a contract. Yippee!

Once “Storm” went to press, they requested a look at my other projects, and the rest is history. I am now working on my fifth contracted book with Whitaker House, with two more to follow. You asked if I can now sit back and relax. Hahaha. Relax? What is that?

Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could? Etc.

My true love is my family—and particularly my beautiful, charming, handsome grandsons, the first one born on March 21, 2006 and the second March 3, 2008. And here’s some exciting news—I’m expecting a grandDAUGHTER in June of ‘08. This is a WONDERFUL time in the lives of Cecil and Shar MacLaren. (grins)

Hobbies? Well, besides writing, I’m an avid reader, of course. I also love hanging out with Cecil, going to movies (decent ones), eating at fun restaurants, spending time with our many precious Bible study friends, and traveling. I’m not athletic, much to my husband’s chagrin, so while he’s golfing on vacations, I hang out at the pool or shop. I’m very content to let him do his thing, and he feels the same way about me. We’re very in love, compatible, and happy to give each other the freedom to do whatever we choose..

I also love to sing. Before writing became my passion, I was a soloist and choir member. I’ve sung for weddings, funerals, conferences, banquets, retreats, you name it. I’m still involved with my church worship team, but really, music has taken somewhat of a backseat, which is fine for now. It’s just where God has placed me, and it’s all good.

Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?

Oh, do please come over. I love visitors. I will always reply to emails or comments on my website or blog. I’m also a member at Shoutlife, a wonderful Christian community much like MySpace or Facebook—but oh, so much better. Anyone can join, and it’s simply fantastic. Here’s my contact information, and thanks for the opportunity you’ve given me to share. This has been wonderful fun. May God bless each of you with bountiful grace, mercy, hope and joy!

Thank you for visiting, Shar! Best wishes in your writing! HEY READERS! Sharlene is offering a free copy of Courting Emma. So leave a message and we'll have a drawing on April 3rd!! Winner announced April 4th. The winner is posted in the comments!

Thank you, Shar, for visiting! We've had a great time this week!

Monday, March 24, 2008


I hope you had a great Resurrection Sunday!

Beyond all Jesus did on earth, following all He did, “undergirding” all He did, was victory! He walked in victory. How? By following the Father through every moment. Even the mundane ones, before His public ministry began.

The awesome grace of our God is that He not only has the victory, He shares it with us. Believers can tap into the triumph available through Christ. He came that we might have abundant life (see John 10:10). We don’t have to live as victims.

Take a look at this:

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (2Co 2:14, NKJV)

“Always leads us in triumph…” If you’re lacking victory today, turn to Jesus and ask Him for breakthroughs. Pray through the situation you’re facing (pray until something happens). Trust that God will see you through.

Resurrection Sunday represents the ultimate victory—Jesus came to undo the works of the devil. (see 1 John 3:8) Jesus rose from the grave! He is victorious! He lives! And the same power that raised Him from the dead is at work in believers. (see Romans 8:11) Tap into it! Pray. Believe. Trust God to move. He has good plans! (see Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Let's strive for victory in every area of our lives--by living for God in obedience and trusting Him along the way.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good News

Do you ever look back at something that happened in your life, and cringe? In my life, there are too many moments like that to mention. Worse, there are moments I wish I could relive and make better choices—choosing God’s ways rather than my own. Guilt could weigh me down when I think of the consequences of my sin. Condemnation (feeling hopelessly lost) could press down, if I let it.

But God….

Somewhere in the beauty and splendor of heaven, God saw me, saw my hurt, saw that my own choices would lead to death (eventually) and He said—No! On Greg Long’s CD “Jesus Saves,” there is a song entitled “Mercy Said No.” I love this song—the idea that God didn’t want to leave me in my mess, in hopelessness. He didn’t want to leave anyone there. So, He made a way for us to experience forgiveness.

He’s holy. He cannot tolerate evil in His presence. Lucifer fell like lightning from the presence of Almighty God when he let pride take root in his heart. God is holy and pure. Everyone in His presence must be holy as well.

And sin has consequences:

For the wages of sin is death... (Romans 6:23a, NKJV)

So, God sent His perfect Son to suffer in our place. The rest of Romans 6:23 says:

…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23b, NKJV)

Remarkable love! Unbelievable mercy! Incredible grace! The Creator made a way for sinful human beings to know Him, to love Him, to live in Him now and with Him in eternity.

Jesus agreed to come. He agreed to suffer, to die a tortuous death. For me. For you. For our salvation and freedom.

All we have to do is agree that we need Him (humble ourselves) and say yes to Him, receiving His gift of forgiveness.

If you’ve been forgiven, you know the freedom that follows.

If you haven’t, wouldn’t it be great to feel that burden lift? You can. If you turn your life over to God, trusting Him, living for Him (real life), you can be forgiven. Just ask Him--

Jesus, I know I’ve sinned, and You’re the only one who can set me free. Please forgive my sins. Save me. Show me Your love. Be the Lord of my life. Help me live for you.

Whatever sincere prayer you offer from your heart, He will hear. You can have a relationship with the Savior, with God.

Get plugged into a Bible-believing church and watch God move in your life, daily. You can get free. He is Almighty God. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

You can have hope.





Just say yes to Jesus.

So grateful for His amazing love,


Good Friday

Oh, Jesus...

Thank You for Good Friday, for Your sacrifice of love on my behalf. For your mercy and grace in my life everyday. That I can know You and have life more abundantly. When I believe in You, open my heart to Your love and receive Your gift of salvation and forgiveness, I can be saved and forgiven.

Because of Your gift
I can have hope

Because of Your life
I can have life more abundantly

Because of Your sacrifice
I can know love--the true love of God

Because You died in my place
I can know God--the Creator and the One who is altogether holy

Because of Your perfection
I can be covered in righteousness, rather than the shame of my sin

Because of Your victory
I can be free

Because of Your grace
I can be free of condemnation

Because of Your Gethsemane
I can know paradise

I praise You, Jesus. You are holy and pure. You died in my place, bearing every ounce of shame that my sin wrought. Where would I be without you? Lost. Hopeless.

Thank You for the cross.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Turning Toward Him

The King of the Jews rode into Jerusalem the Sunday before His death with a crowd all around Him, cheering as He fulfilled a prophecy---

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9, NKJV)

They were thrilled. Their deliverance had arrived. The crowds were about to get what they wanted.


Jesus didn’t do what they wanted. He did turn over the tables in the temple courtyard which represented the greed of the establishment, but he didn’t annihilate the establishment. He did preach justice and mercy and truth. But he didn’t destroy everyone who wasn’t living according to God’s ways (mercifully, since no one could, not having the Holy Spirit). And He didn’t end Roman rule. So, the crowd, having watched for almost a week, and having not seen what they were looking for, turned on Him.

The same crowds (give or take a few) which cheered Jesus on Palm Sunday, jeered Him by the following Friday. All because Jesus didn’t fit into the mold they wanted to force on Him. The same crowd which had shouted “Hosanna in the highest!” would shout, five days later, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They turned on Him.

How often do I do that? Turn on Him when He doesn’t do what I want? Or when I don’t understand what He’s up to.

See, He had a plan. He came to earth the first time as the Suffering Servant (see Isaiah 53 and many other passages in the Old Testament, including Psalm 22). He will come again as the conquering King. What the people of the First Century were expecting was the King of the post-20th century. (i.e., He could come at any moment, but He didn’t return through all the generations from the 1st through 20th centuries).

So, when I’m standing there in worship and His presence covers me and I say yes to Him and maybe even cheer while we sing and jump with abandon at church, I want to be totally committed. Then, when He’s up to something I can’t understand later in my life, I don’t want to turn on Him. I want to turn toward Him, no matter what. I want to trust His heart no matter what. I want to shun doubts and embrace the truth that God is for me, as His child.

He is faithful, no matter what.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Passion for Jesus

The intensity comes and goes, but I wish it were constant.

Ever tried to cook something over an unreliable flame? Like cooking over a campfire? The heat's intensity fluctuates and oy! It's not like cooking at home. But even that can be challenging. Try baking cookies according to the instructions in my oven! I have to drop the temp 50-degrees and leave 'em in longer to get the desired effect (which is pretty much charcoal free!). With special care, they come out chewy and perfectly browned. Consistently.

With some special care, my heart's passion for Jesus can be consistent, too. Right now, my printer's buzzing with multiple pages of teaching notes spooling through. The notes are from a recent conference in Kansas City, Missouri, through the Friends of the Bridegroom ministry. I couldn't make the conference, but I can dig into these notes and absorb as much as possible, praying through and letting the Holy Spirit fill me up.

I wanna be consistent. I want to be passionate for Jesus and have His thoughts on my heart. But it's going to take some nurturing. He's invisible, and we can sometimes overlook Him. But if you're like me, you need Him. A lot.

Good news: He wants to fill you--flood you--with His love and joy so you can testify to others of His goodness and they'll desire Him, too. John Piper's phrase is my favorite:
God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.

Here's to being satisfied in Jesus and sharing the hope He offers with others.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Guest Author: Susan May Warren

As a reader of Christian fiction for over a decade, I've devoured plenty of books. But I can only have a few favorites. Today's author just released one of my new faves--"Taming Rafe." This is Book Two in the Noble Legacy series. The best aspect, as far as I'm concerned? Her characterization--Rafe Noble breathes! One of Susan's earlier titles,"Happily Ever After" of The Deep Haven Series, is a close runner up. Very inspiring for me as a writer and delicious for me as a reader.

I'm thrilled to host her today. Here's our interview:

You were a missionary in
Russia for eight years. How does that work lead to becoming a writer? (When did you first decide to write?)

I was a writer long before I became a missionary. I wrote my first book in 1st grade! When I got my call to missions, I didn’t know how God might use my love for writing, but I gave it to Him, and He put on my heart to write the best newsletter I could, for His glory. So, for years, I dove into that, writing newsletters every month, and then writing devotionals, and finally magazine articles. Finally, He nudged me to write novels, and did some miraculous things to bring them to publication. So – one step at a time, following him led to something more than I could ask or imagine!

He’s done that in my life, too. Starting with faithfulness in the “small” things before He leads me to something bigger. And every time, it’s a learning experience and a deeper challenge toward faithfulness. Let’s talk about your early influences in writing and your favorites today.

Of course, Francine Rivers was and still is one of my favorite authors. I am also a huge fan of Dee Henderson, who really was my role model for great suspense. Today, there are so many great Christian authors, it’s hard to pick my favorites, but on my bookshelf today is Geoffrey Wood and Rachel Hauck, as well as the incredible Karen Hancock.

When you first began writing, what was your most challenging aspect (i.e. things like POV, description, characterization, etc.)

Keeping my Plot from running away with me! I love intricately plotted stories, but I’ve discovered that readers don’t like hugely twisted tales, so taming them into a streamlined, yet suspenseful plot has been a discipline for me. My husband (and editor) constantly remind me – simplify!

That’s fun, that your husband serves as editor. Great first reader. I noticed you put “For Your glory, Lord” on the dedication pages of your books, rather than say, family members’ names. This is unusual, (though I love it). Tell us about that decision.

“When I run, I feel his pleasure.” Eric Liddell wrote this, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s amazing to do what I love, for the One I love, and know that He loves it too. So – I give them all back to God, with joy.

I love that! I have Eric’s quote on my website (bottom of the home page), because it spoke to me like a rush when I first heard it. Tell us, when you sit down to write, and you’re in the flow, what’s your favorite part of writing?

Metaphors and theme! I love to see how God works out the deeper aspects of my characters issues in the scenes He gives me. It’s almost as if I’m seeing the redemptive work of God breathing through my (real) characters, and it takes my breath away. And then I realize, that he’s probably doing that work in me – and that’s even more amazing. I love the truth God shows me as I write. So cool.

He knows there are readers out there that are gonna be able to relate. Christian fiction is so effective for showing His goodness! Please share your greatest dream in writing.

I want to write a book that, 200 years from now, people say – Oh, that’s a classic. You have to read that. It’ll change your life. I want my own version of “Redeeming Love.” *g*

Awww… Okay, “Finding Stefanie,” the third book in the Noble Legacy series, comes out in September, 2008. Tell us about it and then, what’s next?

Finding Stefanie is the story of the Noble Legacy Cowgirl who finally gets to find her dreams – and it just might be in the boy next door, actor Lincoln Cash. Only, Cash is hiding a secret, and it’s one that just might destroy everything they love. It’s fun, and has a great twist at the end.

Between now and Stefanie, I have another book hitting the shelves – Wiser than Serpents. It’s about a woman who is caught in the web of human trafficking and the man who dives in to rescue her. I am donating 15% of the proceeds from this book to a great organization called IJM (International Justice Mission) an amazing group of heroes and heroines who fight human trafficking around the world. I’m really exited that Steeple Hill will be giving away this book at the Minneapolis Chapter IJM Fundraising Dinner.

That’s fantastic. That specific issue has been a prayer burden for me for some time. How exciting to give the proceeds like that and watch God move. Speaking of helping, you help writers through Book Therapy online ( What started this? And how do you balance your time?

I started My Book Therapy – mostly because I love to teach and learn about writing craft, and I thought others might enjoy it, also. I really love Club Book Therapy – or the Voices – group, and the way we interact and learn from each other. We have the unique opportunity as Christians to encourage one another without worrying about competition – after all, God is sovereign and has our writing careers in His hands. I know He’s blessing our group, and I can’t wait to see each and every one of the Voices books in print!

As far as balance? I simply write my blog every day, usually after I’m finished writing a scene. It helps that I organized the writing topics at the beginning of the year – we’re going through the Heroes’ Journey structure, and that’s been hugely helpful as I organize my own books.

Last question: Did you get to choose the cover photos for your Noble Legacy series? Great shots!

Yes and no – they sent me a few pics to choose from, and I got the thumbs up or down. I really fought for Rafe, tho. There were some who might have thought he was TOO cute. Is that possible? *g*

Wow! When I’m wearing my reader hat, I have to say, featuring heroes on covers only draws me to a book.

Thank you so much for visiting, Susan! It’s been a thrill having you here! We’ll watch for your next books: A Sovereign’s Daughter, Finding Stephanie and Wiser Than Serpents. You can check out her website at to learn more about Rafe or his siblings, and to read the first chapter of Taming Rafe!

Readers, have you read Taming Rafe? (or Susan’s other work) Share your thoughts. Who are your favorite characters? What’s your favorite book? Let’s start chattin’!

Thursday, March 6, 2008


And He went a little further and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will. (Matt. 26:39, Modern KJV)

This passage makes my heart pound. Jesus, my Savior, is taking His future before God, knowing full well what it will mean, and submitting with everything inside Him.

I wonder what the Father was saying at this moment. Was He silent? Was He saying: "Think of Your bride, Son. Remember, they’re lost and hopeless unless You see this through. You are the Hero the world needs, and we love them. Think of Your bride.”

When Bruce Marchiano portrayed Jesus in the Visual Bible’s Matthew series, he tells the story of why this scene was amazing for him. Jesus goes to pray three times, leaving His disciples, coming back, waking them, going to pray. At first, the rush of emotion that came over Bruce, during the portrayal, was intense. But, by the third time, Bruce explains, something shifted. There, on Bruce’s face as he stands up after praying that third time, when the enemy is upon their group in the garden of Gethsemane, resolve. Bruce calls it “granite resolve” (see “In the Footsteps of Jesus: One Man’s Journey,” Bruce Marchiano, page 174.) He would go to the cross. He would do His Father’s will 100%. No compromise.

I want to be like that. Whatever God directs. Trusting Him with all that follows. Granite resolve to do the will of God.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Guest Author: Ruth Axtell Morren

Welcome, Ruth! The Rogue’s Redemption is one of your recent releases. I loved the historical aspects—very noticeable in the dialogue and “vocab” words.

Tell us where you got the idea for this book.

While I was writing the book before it, Dawn in my Heart, I had a bad guy. In one of the last scenes of the book, I suddenly realized this guy, whom I hadn’t paid much attention to beforehand, other than making him a schmuck, was redeemable. I suddenly wanted to tell his story.

What is your favorite historical period/setting to write in and why?

Regency, only because I love Jane Austen, probably have since I was in high school and discovered her, as well as Baroness Orczy and The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Georgette Heyer and her books. This period is closely followed by late 19th century/Victorian—again, because I came of age with Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Not so much writer’s block, as just facing that everyday challenge of sitting down at my desk and writing that first draft. Also, what I think is every author’s fear (I recently read Sandra Brown mention it in an interview), “Can I really do this one more time?”

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e. plot, POV, characterization, etc? How did (or do) you overcome it?

When I first started, eons ago, I think it was plotting. Characterization was the most fun; I loved dialogue (still do). It was just coming up with that story line… I think reading books on the craft of writing helped; also multiple critiques, judges’ comments, etc. Nowadays, it’s trying to capture the essence & uniqueness of the story during that first draft stage (Nora Roberts’ comment about treating every book as absolutely your very first one helped a lot with this.)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

Until recently when we lived in a huge house in Maine, I shared a spacious office with my husband. Then we moved to the Netherlands, where space is at a premium, so I have a tiny corner of my bedroom. Ah well, as long as the ideas keep coming….

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

During the first draft stage, I shoot for ten pages a day. But I don’t sweat it too much if I don’t make the mark, as long as I write something (more or less five days a week). With 3 children, you can’t be tied too much to a rigid schedule.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Wake up and begin praying (these days usually in bed). Then read the Bible, then breakfast, a few clean up chores, then shower & dress, then on good days, by 9:30 or 10 a.m., sit down at the computer and begin writing. And keep writing until either I hit my page quota or I know I’ve reached my limit and nothing ‘good’ is going to come out. Then I go for a long walk. Usually, that starts the creative juices flowing again. A lot of the real work, however, doesn’t happen at the computer. It happens during my walk, or, at 3 a.m. when I’ll wake up and my mind will fill with scene and dialogue ideas. Or at 5 a.m… I know then it’s useless to try to go back to sleep until I groggily jot as much down (sometimes in the dark) as I can. Otherwise, by morning, it’ll be gone.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

Ideas can come from anywhere, during researching as mentioned above, from dreams, from a secondary character in a WIP. If they’re sustainable, the idea will usually start taking shape into a full story within a matter of days, and I have to interrupt the current WIP enough to just go with it and jot down any ideas/scenes/dialogue that come to me. Then I put that away in a folder until I can come back to it. When the time comes, I write a proposal (first 3 chaps. + synopsis). If my editors approve it, then it gets contracted & scheduled. When I begin working on it under deadline (trying to allow myself 6-7 months for a single title; 4-6 mos. for a category length), I do the historical research and begin plotting as I do this, and keep sketching out any scenes/dialogue that come to me during that stage. When I reach some sort of critical mass, I know it’s time to start writing at my computer. That’s when I try to discipline myself to the 10 pp/day. Then once that first draft is finished, I go over and edit it a couple of times, then email it chap. by chap. to my critique partner. When I go over her suggestions, I still read through it a few more times (depending on deadline pressure by this time) before emailing the whole thing to my editor.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Only do it if you can’t imagine not writing (regardless of whether you ever sell your work or get any recognition for it)

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Very little, having neither the time, budget nor much talent in that area. Recently, I’ve felt that I also have to hand the whole “promotion” thing over to the Lord. It’s up to Him to give my books favor; to open up promotional opportunities, etc. And He has been doing this, usually in ways I didn’t expect.

Oooh, I love that answer. We could kill ourselves trying to market, but in the end, it has to come down to God’s favor on the writing He’s called us to do. Do you have any parting words of advice?

I’ve just been reading Karen Hancock’s writing blog and she has some very good advice about keeping it all in perspective—it’s for God’s glory. When that gets out of whack, it all suffers.

Thank you for visiting, Ruth. It's been a pleasure learning about you and your writing life. We wish you all the best.