Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-10-15 14:40:21 UTC
Congrats to Susan! Email me your address and I'll send the book your way!
I haven't met many folks more gracious than author Deborah Raney. I met her in 2009 in Dallas at the Christian Book Expo and she immediately endeared herself to me. I was so excited to discover she and her husband, Ken, would be in Atlanta for ICRS this past July. Spending an evening with them, having dinner and then intereviewing each of them, was an absolute treat for me. (You can read my chat with Ken about Clash Entertainment, his great website for Christian teens, here.)
You have released Forever After, the second novel in the Hanover Falls series, which follows the families and survivors of the fire in book 1, Almost Forever. Tell me a bit about it. [Note: My 2009 interview with Deb, and more about the first book, can be found here.]
Can you share a little about your writing process?
I’ve not written many series before. The Clayburn novels were my first true series. I have done a couple of sequels to books. Both times I did sequels, I wrote the first book not even considering the possibility of a sequel, but by the time I got to the end, I knew there was another character I wanted to explore more. But when I started writing the Clayburn novels I knew they would be a series. So I could set things up, and that’s the first time I intentionally set things up in the first book that would carry over to another book.
One thing I love about writing series is that I create a world. I always write about fictional towns, maybe set close to a real town. The characters might go into a real town—like Springfield, Missouri—for dinner, but they always come home to a completely fictional town in an obscure, not very well-defined place. It takes a lot to create a world. I usually have a map down on paper, not just of the streets of the town and where they are, but what the houses look like. I usually find houses in magazines and pull those out and say, “This is where ‘Susan’ lives” etc. I’m a very visual person, so I have to be able to picture it before I write it.
That’s a lot of work!
It is. But honestly, that’s the most fun part! Because the whole time I’m searching for pictures of my characters and drawing the maps, my imagination is working overtime, writing that story. I always tell my husband that just because my fingers are not on the keyboard doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I can be staring out the window, and I’m doing some of the most important work of writing, which is just creating—creating that world.
So in writing a series, I can write three books, and I only have to create that world one time. There’s an economy to writing series in a very real sense because so much of the research and the creative part is done in the first book. Where it gets difficult is, finding enough interesting things to happen to carry over into three books. You’ve done all your big “happenings” in your first book; how do you sustain that for two more books? It’s really hard. And I have to say, of the series I’ve read over the course of time, I almost always like the first book the best. The others are okay, but it’s always the first book that is absolutely the best. That’s probably true for my own books, too. And I would say awards would prove that out. Remember to Forget was a Christy finalist and won several awards; the other two books haven’t done as well in contests. I think the original idea gets carried out the most in the first book.
There are pros and cons to writing series. I have to have enough characters in the first book that are interesting enough and enough a part of the subplots that people care about and remember them from the first book and want to know more about their story. And yet I have to wrap the whole book up in each one, just in case someone only picks up that one book. I want the story to be complete. Because honestly, as a reader, nothing makes me angrier than to read a book and realize I’m twenty pages from the end and there’s no way they can wrap this up. And then you find out you have to wait a whole year for the next book to find out what happens.
What also irritates me is when they make it so complex, and then you feel like they ran out of word count and they resolve the whole thing in two pages. It’s way too simplistic and fast.
It’s anticlimactic! And I’m guilty! I’ve done that very thing in a couple of books, I know. It’s that very reason: either a) you ran out of time or b) you ran out of word count. Probably the best solution would be to go back and cut a subplot so you could concentrate on the main plot. Sometimes you have time to do that, and other times you just don’t. There have been times that I know the manuscript I turn in as a first draft (which for me is usually a fifth or a sixth or a seventh draft!) is that way. I’m turning it in with the complete intention of fixing all that when I do rewrite because a lot gets changed with rewrite. But a lot of times, I don’t know what the editor’s going to think about it, and what direction he/she is going to want me to go. So it doesn’t really do me any good at that point to fix everything because I may be changing it anyway.
As much as you plot out and plan out your “kingdom,” your book’s environment, do you plan and outline the story?
(She laughs) I am totally a seat of the pants writer. About the only thing I do is, I usually—not always-- know who the characters are that are going to carry over. That allows me to do something with them and create some interest with the secondary characters that will be the main characters in the next books. For me, it would ruin the fun of writing if I knew how it was going to turn out every time.
Do your characters have minds of their own sometimes?
Absolutely! I’ve had characters die on me and not even make it into the book. I was writing a book once and the main character had a wonderful dad but the book was already too long and I still had a long way to go. So I was subconsciously trying to figure out how to cut the book down. I was typing a scene and all of a sudden the dad had a heart attack and keeled over! And I knew that was my mind saying that character was unnecessary, and I went back and deleted all the scenes he was in.
When will the third book release?
It comes out in April, and it is titled After All. In the third one, Susan, the director of the homeless shelter, is dealing with some opposition from the town. They don’t want the shelter. Having the shelter implies that they have homeless, and if they get rid of the shelter, then they won’t have homeless; they’ll go somewhere else like Springfield or St. Louis. And especially because of the fire, the homeless shelter has just been a black mark on the town. So she’s dealing with that and dealing with one of her sons, who’s really struggling with his dad’s death.
Each book starts at the original fire and then jumps forward. The second book jumps forward a year and the third one is 18 months later. So the opening of this one is Susan at her husband’s memorial service. As she’s leaving with her two college-age sons, she sees a strange woman—a beautiful, nicely dressed woman. At first she thinks the woman’s visiting someone else’s grave, but then their eyes meet and she sees something there.
Well, we don’t know! But this woman appears again later in the book, and Susan knows at that moment that there’s some secret that her husband was keeping, and we’re not sure what it was. That’s a lot of the story, her resolving the issue of “Was my husband someone I don’t even know anymore? Did I even know this man that I thought I loved and that I’ve been grieving and who was the father of my children?”
Will we find out?
Oh, yes. You’ll find out everything at the end of this book because it’s the last one. Hopefully all the things will be tied together. I think the ending will surprise some people who have read all three books, especially. I’m really happy with how the whole series came together.
What are your current projects?
I’m working on a book for Summerside Press, Love Finds You in Madison County, Iowa, which is [the location of] the Bridges of Madison County. The town of Winterset is absolutely charming and the bridges are beautiful. Another claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of John Wayne. They also have this tower, Clark's Tower, with a beautiful overlook in a park and there will be a scene there. It will probably have even more romance than I usually have in my books. I’m looking forward to writing it.
The project after that, also with Summerside, is for their new Christmas series. Each book’s title is a Christmas song. Basically, they are taking the reader back to the day when they fell in love to remember what things were like then. My book is set in 1971, when I was in high school, and it was really fun to go back and see how much things have changed! My title is going to be one of the songs the Carpenters sang. I'm not sure about the release date yet, but probably Fall 2013.
I have one more stand-alone to write for Howard Books. It will probably have more suspense elements than my books have ever had, although it won’t be a suspense per se. It’s about an empty nest couple with two kids away at college, and the wife goes to a conference and never comes home. She calls and says she’ll be late and that she still has a couple of hours to drive but she never shows up, and they never find her car. My working title is The Face of the Earth, and it will come out in the spring of 2013. I don’t have all the details of the story worked out yet, but at a family reunion last summer, my husband’s brothers asked me what I was working on. I gave them a synopsis and they immediately began throwing out ideas while I wrote them down as fast as I could! I loved brainstorming with them because the biggest part of the book is going to be from the perspective of the hero, not the heroine. They were giving me the perspective of a man: if this happened, what would a real man do?
And I’m not telling you how it ends, mostly because I don’t know yet! I have about three scenarios that I’m working from. It’s different, after writing two series – my last 6 books have been parts of series – to go back and write a stand-alone and know that I have to wrap everything up in one book.
Thanks so much, Deb! It's always a pleasure to catch up with you! Folks, you can learn more about Deborah Raney on her website. Now, here's more info about her latest Hanover Falls book, along with a giveaway!
June, 2011/416 pages/$14.99
A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family. Can new dreams replace old?
Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy’s beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna?
Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband’s death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future.
Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?
Deb thinks subsequent books in series often don't measure up to the first one, but in this case, I disagree! I thoroughly enjoyed Forever After and loved how she developed the characters of Lucas and Jenna. Their shared tragedy understandably bonds them together; the baggage they carry threatens to extinguish the spark of romance growing between them. This story is also a good example of the pressure communities and families can place on the family members of fallen heroes, forever defining their lives and actions in context of such a tragedy, rather than allowing them to move forward and focus on life, not death. I look forward to reading the final book in this series!
I have an autographed copy of Forever After to give to one of you! To enter, leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm CDT Thursday, 10/13/11, and I will draw a winner. Leave a second comment stating you mentioned/linked to this giveaway on your blog or Facebook for a an additional entry. Limit 2 entries per person. US residents only, please. You must include an email address if you do not have a blog.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
View blog reactions