Amy, I'm SO excited to have you visit my blog today. I remember my first American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Denver, Colorado . You were my conference mentor and I learned so much through our pre-conference correspondence about the writing industry. You have such a heart of mentorship. That brings me to my first question:
Wow, thanks, Cheryl! I remember our precious prayer time together~ that's a favorite conference memory.
1. How did mentorship play a part in your path to publication? Did anyone take you under their wings so to speak? How important do you think it is for established authors to reach out to those pursuing publication?
Mentorship is such a vital part of growing as a writer for both the mentor and mentoree! My first contact with a real writer came when I emailed Beth White about one of her books that I loved. She and I got to chatting and she invited me to check out ACFW. I did, and was blown away by the great friends and crit group I found there. Along with Beth, a few other authors took me under their wings to encourage and nudge along. Some took a look at a couple of my newbie chapters, but most answered questions and taught me through the ACFW loops and conferences. I'm now part of a mentor group that's a little less stringent than a crit group, and I also have a writing partner, my best friend, who is such a gift to my heart and my writing.
My first formal mentor (meaning we agreed together to be in a mentor relationship), Mary Griffith, taught me well to "pull others up" both personally and professionally by sharing what God has taught me. I think that advice is gold. I didn't get where I am by myself, and I don't want to waste what God has shown me by keeping it to myself. So I don't. At the same time, while I wish I could mentor tons of folks, I have to be careful and prayerful about doing that now.
2. I found Ransomed Dreams to be an extremely moving story, but carries such a message of hope. How did you get through writing the difficult parts of this novel? Did fear of loss try to come against you as a real-life mother as fictional Gracie's loss unfolded in the story? If so, how did you deal with that fear?
Great question and thanks so much for that compliment! Yes, fear did dog my heels as I wrote. There were many days in writing and editing the prologue especially that my family was late coming home from errands, and I'd cry out to God to not be put in Gracie's shoes. But our heavenly Daddy is so merciful and gracious. He made real His presence as I wrote and cried through typing the difficult parts of Ransomed Dreams. And in the end, what He showed me about my relationship with Him was worth all the tears.
3. Who was your favorite character to develop in this story and why?
Now that's a tough question. Kind of like picking my favorite form of chocolate. ;-) But I guess saying "All" wouldn't be answering the question. Since I have to pick, I'd say Clint and Steven. I loved their interactions the most. They rib at each other all the time, but are fiercely loyal and want the best for each other. In some ways they mimic my relationship with my best friend. Thankfully though, we don't have to protect each other with guns. And the world is safer because of that!
4. Other than a penchant for chocolate, do you and character Gracie have anything else in common?
We do share a love of chocolate, huh? ;-) Some of my friends have pointed out that Gracie and I have a lot in common. I don't see that as much because Gracie is who I want to be when I grow up. But she and I both have blue minivans, great looking husbands, lived in Georgia, and have best friends that drive us crazy with loving us so well. Gracie and I also wrestle honestly with God about the deep stuff of life.
5. Ransomed Dreams is your debut novel. I understand it is also the first story you ever wrote. How often does that happen? What advice would you give to first-time-authors who are pursuing the dream of publication?
I've been told that getting the first book you've ever written published doesn't happen often at all. I'm glad I didn't know that when I was writing it. ;-) But I'm not sure that holds true nowadays. I've heard about a good number of authors who've had the first books they've written published.
My advice is to write with passion the novel God is drawing out of your heart. Pray hard. Most importantly, trust the Lord's plan for you and rest in God being the Giver of all good gifts in His perfect timing. Don't stress about publication, but write and enjoy the writing. Dream big and hang out often in your heavenly Daddy's arms.
I started out doing just that~ dreaming big and hanging out with God to write~ and loved every minute. Then I got bogged down by the process of publication and stressing about all the details. I allowed the enemy to steal a lot from me during that time. That's why I want to shout from the hills to pray, rest in God, and enjoy the journey. Sure, the details need to be addressed, but God understands our path far more than we ever will. So trusting Him to direct you and resting in Him aren't just Sunday school answers, they're the best choice.
6. At what point did you start writing the other books in the series? What would your advice be to other writers regarding this?
I wrote Ransomed Dreams and then my agent shopped it around. After about ten rejections, some pretty harsh, I stopped working on the other books in the series. They demanded a lot of my heart, and while I'd completed an outline and done a ton of research for book 2, I didn't want to write it when no one seemed interested in Ransomed Dreams. But I didn't quit writing. I tried my hand at a number of creative non-fiction stories and had fun seeing many of those published in various compilations. I also kept writing fiction. I have two other completed manuscripts that are part of two different series, but they're in different genres. Someday I hope they'll grace a publisher's contract offer and make people laugh.
The answer about when I wrote the other books in the Defenders of Hope series is that I completed them after the series was contracted. I turned in book 2 last year and am still working on book 3.
My advice here is to keep writing what the Lord puts on your heart. If you know God has called you to writing, don't stop when rejections come or the enemy tries to fling discouragement your way. Keep doing what you were created to do.
7. What is the one takeaway value you hope readers will come away from reading Ransomed Dreams with?
It's my prayer readers will see forgiveness lived out "with skin on" in a realistic way that nudges them into the Father's arms so that He can heal their hearts.
8. Suspense in this story riveted me to it. How did you so well-balance the evocative emotion with heart-pounding tension?
Uhm, God. I can't really take credit for that because while I put a lot of sweat, tears, and desperate prayers into the outlining process, God is the one who directs that path. I'd be staring at blank pages and stumped as to what should happen next and God would zing an idea through my mind and we'd be off and running.
One thing I think really helps that process is to know your characters well. Gracie, Steven, Clint, Sara, and Michael were so real to me that as soon as an idea started to take shape, I knew how they would react. But again, that only comes with time spent listening to God and what He wants to say through you.
I also write the type of book I love to read where the suspense is always moving, but there's time to allow the characters to develop naturally and grow in the midst of their circumstances.
9. What else do you have in the works? Release date for your next book?
Book 2, tentatively titled Healing Promises, is set for release in April 2008. This story explores how an FBI agent and his oncologist wife handle the diagnosis of cancer and a serial killer who eludes capture. Everything is reduced to one all-important question: Can God be trusted?
Book 3, set for an April 2009 release, moves into Michael and Hanna's story and this novel intertwines a woman's healing from sexual abuse with the FBI action plot centering on a racially motivated killer. The main question explored in this book is: What is justice?
10. Do you have a website or blog you'd like to share with readers and writers?
I do, and I love sharing about them because my awesome web designer hubby created them for me and they are chock full of resources and places to build community, like the discussion boards. My author site is Heart Chocolate www.amywallace.com and the book series site is Defenders of Hope www.defendersofhope.com On the Defenders of Hope site, there's a link to sign up for my newsletter where I share some Heart Chocolate thoughts, a kid-friendly recipe, and tips and links for keeping kids safe. My blog is the Peek-a-boo ICU http://peek-a-booicu.blogspot.com
11. I just loved the dog in this book. He seemed a constant presence. If you could write a one paragraph blurb (from the dog's keen point of view) to introduce you as the author of his owner, Gracie's story...what would Jake say?
Jake's the dog I've always wanted to have. But I can get into the head of a serial killer faster than a dog. That sounds creepier than I intended~ sorry! But if anyone wants to take a whack at this, email it to me and I'll find a way to add it to my website.
12. What is a typical writing day like for you?
A typical writing day starts after breakfast with my family on Saturday. I do a quick email run-through and then send a prayer update to my awesome prayer group. Then I edit last week's work before jumping into the next chapter on my outline. I often write straight through until dinnertime when I take a short break to eat and take a walk with my hubby and kids. After that I'm up until after midnight, putting in a twelve to fifteen hour workday.
13. How much does your relationship with God play when you go to write a story? How much do you draw from Amy, and how much do you draw from Him?
When I write a story, it's a partnership with God from beginning to end. Sometimes we wrestle, sometimes I try to walk away, but the best times are when I can feel Him typing through me as I work.
As I write, some of me finds its way into the story because writing is how I work out my salvation and how I seek to understand life. But I look at the story circumstances from the eyes of my characters even as I'm wondering how I'd react. Little details of my life end up on the pages too. Especially things like my favorite basketball team or cars I'd like to drive. Some of my embarrassing moments end up there too, like blurting out when I'm having a Top Gun "Take My Breath Away" moment. And no, I'm not about to detail that statement, except to say it doesn't happen until the end of Ransomed Dreams! ;-)
14. Tell us what The Call to publication was like.
It was an email from my agent that sent me to the restroom heaving. I literally felt like I was going to be sick. It pretty much paralleled my pregnancy test experiences with so many emotions swirling around my brain that it's hard to describe. It wasn't until I started to tell some friends about "The Call" that excitement won over fear and I began to let the joy bubble up inside.
15. What advice would you extend to readers who may feel their dreams have slipped beyond their grasp?
God is far from finished with you~ He has great dreams for you even when you can't remember yours. Nothing is impossible with Him, so hang onto His hand and trust Him to shower you with good gifts in His perfect time. Some of those gifts come in the form of trials you'd rather not experience, but when you walk through them, or better yet let the Lord carry you through them, His presence and peace will fill you and sustain you through it all.
Thanks so much for your awesome interview questions and for having me over today, Cheryl!
You're welcome, Amy! I loved having you!
Cheryl Wyatt Gal. 2:20 Pouring my vial of words over Him.
A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008