Sunday, September 29, 2013
Monday, September 23, 2013
Looking Out the Window: Anita Higman Tells Us about Her Latest Novel, Winter in Full Bloom. She'll Give Away a Copy.
It's my pleasure to welcome Anita to tell us about writing Winter in Full Bloom. To enter to win leave a comment and an e-mail address.
In Winter in Full Bloom Lily Winter's wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily's lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger to her-a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she'd been hiding for decades-Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were just babies.
Without looking back, Lily-with her fear of flying-boards a jumbo jet and embarks on a quest to find her sister which leads half way around the world to Melbourne, Australia. Befriended by imprudent Ausie, he might prove to be the key to finding her sister. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to attempt a family reunion and to find the one dream she no longer imagined possible-the chance to fall in love again.
Hi Anita, Winter in Full Bloom is set in Texas as well as Australia. What made you want to set the novel in these two places?
Well, I live in Texas, and so I wanted to make use of my home state. After living here for about thirty years I have a soft spot for Texas now. Also, I’d visited Melbourne, Australia for about three weeks and had taken notes, and since it was such an exotic place and I’d had such an amazing time there, I wanted to share some of my experiences with readers.
The cover is beautiful. Did you have any input in this cover?
Yes, actually, I did. The publisher sent me a few samples to look at, and I chose this one. But the cover you see now was tweaked a number of times. One of the changes was the addition of the red tulips all along the snowy path. I’m so glad the publisher was open to changes. I’m very happy with the final cover. It reflects the story even better than before, and I think that bit of unexpected intrigue along the road will be eye-catching to the bookstore browser.
Yes. How did you come up with Winter in Full Bloom?
Sometimes I brainstorm titles, and then sometimes I use a phrase I find within the manuscript that works well as a title. Winter in Full Bloom was created during one of my brainstorming sessions. As a side note, there are a couple of meanings to this tile. The heroine’s name is Lily Winter. Also, half of the book takes place in Houston at the advent of winter, but when she flies to Melbourne at the same time of the year, Australians are experiencing the beginning of spring. So, even though Lily has begun getting ready for winter, she suddenly enters into a season of springtime—literally and in her personal life.
Are the characters from your imagination, or do they come from real life?
My characters are a mixture of both. I’ll be watching someone at the airport or the mall or at church, and I’ll think, “Wow, that gesture or laugh or walk is perfect for my character.” Then some of my character’s traits will come straight from my imagination. Usually, it’s a fun brew of all the above.
Do you and your husband travel a lot?
We travel much more now that we have empty nest. Last year we went to Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada. This year we’ve been to Mexico, California, and right now as I type this answer, my husband and I are waiting at the airport to fly to Ireland. Can’t wait. I’m hoping to set one of my future novels in Ireland.
Why do you write?
I have a real need to express myself creatively—guess I was born that way—and writing and I fit well together.
Your heroine, Lily Winter, is experiencing empty nest. Why did you add that element to the story?
I was going through this same rough phase of motherhood, and I thought it would be good to add this to the story. I hope it added an element of authenticity to the tale. And too, forcing myself to write about the pain surely helped me deal with it better.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been in this profession for about thirty years. It’s been a long, stumbly kind of journey. I’ve had some dark hours—those moments when I really didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it. Moments when rejection swept me under like a scary undertow. Moments when getting published seemed pretty much impossible. But I never gave up, and I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve had thirty-four books published in many genres, and even though it’s been a rough ride, it’s also been deeply satisfying.
And satisfying to your readers too! This story is about twin sisters? Are you a twin and do you have a sister?
I’m afraid I have to say no to both of those questions, but I’ve always wanted to have a sister. And that desire I suppose fueled the dialogue and some of this story.
Winter in Full Bloom is a love story but also a story of family reconciliation. Have you experienced that last part in your own life?
Yes, I have known the miracle of family reconciliation, and it has brought me great joy!
Any final words for your readers?
If you have ever taken the time to read one of my novels, I thank you with all my heart. I sincerely hope that Winter in Full Bloom inspires you and makes you laugh, and when you come to the last page and close the book, I hope your heart and your step feels just a little lighter.
Learn more about Anita and her books at http://www.anitahigman.com/
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Looking Out the Window: Nancy Mehl Talks about Her New Book, Unforeseeable, Book Three in Her Road to Kingdom Series. She'll Give Away a Copy.
It's my pleasure to welcome Nancy. She'll give away a copy of Unforeseeable. To enter to win leave a comment and an e-mail address.
Hi Nancy, first tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been married for forty years to my husband, Norman. I have one child, Danny, who lives in Missouri. We just sold our house in Kansas and are moving to be near my wonderful son, his beautiful wife, and the cutest grandson in the whole world. I might be a little prejudiced, but Aidan has brought so much joy to our lives. We want to watch him grow up and be involved in his life.
I love animals and have a Puggle named Watson. He’s named after Doctor Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories. I love mystery, and Watson is very, very nosy. His name fits him.
I’ve been writing for fifteen years and have had fifteen books published. I love writing and believe it’s my calling.
Lots of people who enjoy writing also have a history of reading. Were you an avid reader as a child? If so, what did you read?
Yes. I would check out five or six books from the school library and read them that same night in bed, under the covers, with a flashlight. I read everything, but Nancy Drew was a favorite. However, my very favorite book was Miss Jellytot’s Visit by Mabel Leigh Hunt. I recently bought an old copy of the book and added it to my collection.
When I was a teenager I read the complete works of Charles Dickens. I love his writing. He was a master at creating memorable characters, and I tend to spend a lot of time developing my characters as well.
Sounds as though you had good inspiration. Why do you write?
I love to write, but the main reason is that I truly believe it’s my calling.
Tell us about your latest book.
Unforeseeable is the third and final book in my Road to Kingdom series. Here is a review from Library Journal:
Life is good for Callie Hoffman, who is engaged to the new pastor at her Mennonite church. Things turn decidedly darker when the body of a serial killer’s latest victim is discovered outside town and the residents of Kingdom, KS, must face the threat to their peaceful lives. VERDICT Small-town life meets a dangerous outside world in this taut, suspenseful story, the third (after Inescapable and Unbreakable) in Mehl’s Mennonite-flavored romantic suspense series. A good choice for readers who liked Amy Wallace’s “Place of Refuge” series.
This sounds like another great Nancy Mehl book. Where do you get ideas for your books?
Most of the time, they come from a small concept and then blossom as I mull them over in my mind. If I get stuck, I will actually browse descriptions of other books or think back to books I’ve already read. Most of the time that will spark an idea. For example, during the writing of one book, I knew I needed a subplot, but I was having a tough time deciding on one. In thinking about a recent book I’d read, I remembered that the main character was accused of theft. So, I included the idea in my book. Totally different circumstances (never steal another author’s plot!!!), but the idea of theft launched me into a subplot that blended perfectly with my story.
All in all, I really don’t have a lot of trouble with plots. I spoke to a book club once, and a little boy who was there with his mother said something that has stayed with me. He said, “Mama, that lady has a lot of stories in her head.” He was right. I do. LOL!
LOL. He sounds like a cute little guy. What themes do you write about?
I’ve written about forgiveness, letting go of the past, confronting the past, and dealing with disabilities and even the ravages of Alzheimer’s. But one theme that remains constant in my books is that God has a plan for our lives. We’re not just wandering generalities. Everyone has been given gifts and callings. It’s up to us to give our lives to God and allow Him to make us into everything He designed us to be.
Does your faith affect your writing? How?
Absolutely. I used to think I wanted to write for a secular market so I could reach them for Christ. But God had something else in mind. I believe my writing to be geared to minister to God’s children. Jesus asked Peter repeatedly to “feed my sheep.” It was important to Him. I believe that’s what I’m doing. Of course, I love it when someone unsaved reads one of my books and is touched for Christ. But most of the letters and emails I get are from Christians who either rededicated their lives to Christ or strengthened their relationship with Him. That’s what it’s all about for me.
Do you put yourself in your books?
Absolutely. I think it’s very difficult to write about characters you don’t understand. Even the evil ones. We’ve all dealt with anger, jealously, and hatred. Hopefully, those tendencies are now under the control of the Holy Spirit, but at least we can pull from them to form characters whose negative desires guide them. There is a little bit (or a lot) of me in every character I create.
What are you working on right now?
Wow. Loaded question. LOL! I’m editing the first book in a new series with Bethany House. Gathering Shadows: Book One in The Finding Sanctuary Series. It’s one of the most suspenseful books I’ve ever written. Actually, I’m very excited about it. This book will release early in 2014. Also, I’m collaborating with a wonderful author on serial stories based on my Ivy Towers’ series. These books were published in 2008 and 2009 and have been a favorite with my readers. (In the Dead of Winter, Bye, Bye Bertie, For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls, and There Goes Santa Claus.) I just signed with Guideposts to write a cozy mystery for them. I love Guideposts and have a special place in my heart for cozies, so I’m very excited about this! Greenbrier Books is publishing the third book in my Curl Up and Dye series in ebook form, AND I’m getting ready to write the second book in my Finding Sanctuary series. All this in the middle of a move! LOL! Thankfully, I know with God’s help, I can get it all done. Without Him, I’d be sunk!
It sounds exciting. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Yes. Take the time to learn your craft. Writing isn’t easy, it takes work and training. I tell writers who attend my workshops that they wouldn’t want someone to walk into the room right before they’re supposed to have surgery and say, “I’ve always wanted to be a surgeon. Guess I’ll give it a try!” The same holds true with writing. You have to learn how to do it.
Also, find the publishers that publish what you want to write and read their books. Get to know them. Just sending out manuscripts willy-nilly won’t get you anywhere. You need to target publishers that are looking for you!
For aspiring writers, I’d like to tell you to first search your hearts and get before God before you spend your life trying to get published. Why do you want to write? Are you called, or is it because you want to be like your favorite author? Too many people are chasing after things they’re not called to do. Find YOUR calling and follow it with all your heart. It’s important to the Kingdom that you use your gifts and talents the way God intended.
For those who know they’re called to write I have two things to say in addition to what I wrote about learning your craft. They are: Don’t give up. Even when it looks like you should. Most of the time a struggle comes before a victory. In battle, soldiers don’t sit around hoping for victory, they fight, they struggle, and they persevere. You may have to do the same. And…don’t decide what YOU want to write. Put that in God’s hands. I started getting good contracts after I put my career on the altar and told God “Not my will, but Yours.” He’s looking for men and women who will allow Him to do great things. Men and women who will give Him all the glory. He gave you the gift. He gave you the calling. Now give it back to Him and watch what He can do. It will be amazing!
Thanks for the great advice. What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
Well, I used to work in social services and loved it. I’m also passionate about animals. I’d probably target one of those areas. I also love to teach and have always wondered if I could have been a teacher. With my writers’ workshops, I get the chance to fulfill that role, and I really, really enjoy it.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Thank you, Nancy.
Thanks for having me, Gail. I appreciate it.
Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Norman and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored fifteen books and is currently at work on a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The first book in her Road to Kingdom series, “Inescapable,” came out in July of 2012. The second book, “Unbreakable” released in February of 2013. The final book in the series, “Unforeseeable,” became available on September 1st.
All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”
Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She has a newsletter located at: www.nancymehl.blogspot.com, and is a part of another blog, The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.