Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Author Interview and Giveaway!

UPDATE Friday, 9:40 pm

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Timestamp: 2010-07-24 02:38:03 UTC

Congrats to Susan D! Email me your address, Susan, and I'll send the book your way.

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I have one final author chat to share with you from my amazing experience at the Christian Book Expo last year. Deborah Raney is an award-winning author who is currently writing her twentieth book! Two of her books, Yesterday's Embers and Above All Things, have been nominated for this year's ACFW Carol Award (formerly Book of the Year. See the complete list of finalists here.) She is also a lovely and gracious woman who quickly made me feel at ease; in fact, to my utter amazement, she told me she had just visited my blog that morning and complimented me on it!

Her newest novel, Almost Forever (#1 in the Hanover Falls series), released in mid-May and immediately hit Lifeway's bestseller list in June. After talking about the book with her last year, I was eager to read it and I was not disappointed! Love & loss, drama & intrigue, and faith combine to make this book one I couldn't put down. She talks a bit about this new series in the interview below.

When we sat down for the interview at the Book Expo, it felt much more like a chat with a dear friend than a question and answer section! So I'm going to post this one a little different; rather than including my questions, I'll just indicate what we discussed.

Regarding sequels, series, and stand-alones:
As a reader I don’t like it when I get to the end of a book and the story was not wrapped up and I’m forced to read another book. And I’ve heard from so many readers who get aggravated at stuff like that! I did write a sequel one time, and I felt like the first third of the book I was trying to catch up the readers who maybe didn’t read the first book. What I did with the Clayburn novels is, I took a cast of characters and a town, and that stays the same, and I just dealt with a different couple or a different group of people. So each story stands alone and you really could read them in any order, but I recommend reading them in the order I wrote them.
I’m working on a new series now which are 3 books in a series but they stand alone.

(Note from Linda: the Clayburn novels are the multi-award winning Remember to Forget, Leaving November, and Yesterday's Embers.)

How she gets her ideas:
If I told you the story for each one, every single one is different. The way the Clayburn novels came into being is that my husband surprised me with a getaway to a bed & breakfast. I was on a deadline and people kept popping in and out and I couldn’t focus, so he said “Pack your things; you’re going to a bed & breakfast. And I wrote more words than I have ever written in a day on my first day there! I spent the night, and when I got up the next morning I went for a walk. I was in a little Kansas town called Linsberg, and it was spring and just a gorgeous, gorgeous morning. And I was walking and I thought “If everyone could grow up in a town like this, we would not have murder, and other things! I kind of idealized it. And all of a sudden, this story just started coming. I thought, “What if…?” Why don’t people who live in New York and don’t love their life there – why don’t they come to a place like this? Well, to start with, how would they get there? So I started thinking and one thing led to another. I came back [to my room] and instead of working on the book I was writing that was due in just a few days, I wrote an entire outline for Remember to Forget. It turned out to be very allegorical. The whole story in my mind was an allegory of “new life in Christ” – how our life changes, how we are a completely new creation when we go from old life to new life. When I realized I had enough characters for a series, I tried to make the second two books allegorical, but it just didn’t work and I didn’t want to push it. But the first one is!

The new Hanover Falls series:
This one is set in Missouri, and the reason is that I’m not crazy about research so I try to write what I know as much as I can. Of course you always have to do research, and usually I get into more than what I thought I was biting off when I started! This is the story of five survivors of five firefighters who are killed in a horrible fire in a homeless shelter. Each book will take two or three of the characters who are survivors from the effects of this fire and follow how they put their lives back together after this happened. There will be the firefighting world, because that is what intrigued me; my niece is married to a firefighter who is part of a big firefighting family. So I knew I had a source for my research and someone I could ask questions! But from just getting to know him, I just knew that it’s like a family: those become your brothers, those men and women that you work with, and you are responsible for each others’ lives when you go into that burning building. I really liked that idea of a family. So those are some of the things I explore.

The series is called the Hanover Falls series because that’s the name of the fictional town in Missouri. It’s located in the Springfield area, and part of that reasoning is my two daughters live in Springfield and a nearby town, so I figured I’d be making lots of research trips to that area. It was a practical reason to choose it!

How she started writing/raising kids and writing:
My kids are the reason I started writing. When our three kids were 14, 10, and 8, and I was just about ready to go back to work, I got pregnant. And it was wonderful but she presented a problem in that my oldest son was about to go to college when she was three, and we had no money. So I always knew I’d be working but didn’t think I’d be leaving a little 3-year-old! So his senior year in high school, I started thinking what could I do to earn some money at home. I’d always wanted to write a book, and I just sat down on New Year’s and started writing. And by May I had a manuscript ready to send out, and by October I had three contract offers on it! I almost hate to tell that story because that’s not the typical way that happens. But I really feel like it was God’s answer to our prayer for a way for me to stay home and still make some money.

I got a two-book contract with Bethany House. (That one was A Vow to Cherish, and it went out of print and has recently been re-released by Steeple Hill.) And when they sent me the contract for two books, I thought “I haven’t written the second book!” It took me long enough to come up with the idea for the first one and I wasn’t sure that I had another idea in me. But they told me I’d come up with something. The really, really awesome part is that the advance on royalties that they paid me was to the penny, the amount we had been told our son’s college education – tuition, room, and board – would cost. It was as if God said, “You asked, and here’s your answer.” I still get chills when I think about it. He has now been out of school at least 10 years. Our oldest son is 32--(I interrupted her to ask her if she began having children when she was 10!) Why, yes I did! Thank you! (Laughs) That’s what I tell him: “You cannot be 32 because that’s how old I am!” I was in my early 20’s when I had him so I am plenty old enough to claim him as a son but I don’t like to! Our oldest daughter is 28 and she’s married and has two little boys, so I’m a grandma to two darling little boys! Our youngest son just got married, and our youngest is a senior in high school (update: now she’s in college). My kids are my pride and joy.

So when I found out about the college costs being covered, that was really all I ever wanted. But I realized that if you do your job as a mom right, you’ll put yourself out of a job, so I feel that God has given me the next thing to do, and that has been awesome.

I know several young moms who are writers – Cara Putnam has three or four little kids; she’s brought babies with her to conferences. And she manages to write, and she’s also an attorney! But women like her multi-task and do that. And Karen Kingsbury, who has raised six kids while she’s writing. So it can be done. Everyone’s different and God works in each person’s life differently.

I really think most authors value a review from someone who doesn’t give a glowing review to everyone. I think it means more if you know this person gives an honest review. If they like your book, it really means something. There are a few places that every review is “I just loved it; best book I’ve ever read.” Well, I’m glad they liked my book, but they like everybody’s book, so what does that really mean?

Fiction and theology:
Sometimes we don’t put enough value in fiction writing. As a mom, I sometimes felt guilty about reading a novel. But that’s the wonderful thing about Christian fiction: wrapped up in an entertaining story is a nugget of truth. If you get it in the form of a story, which is how Jesus taught, that is such an incredible way to share the truth. And if our fiction is the wrong theology, that’s very dangerous. I take my responsibility as a writer of fiction, carrying Christ’s name, very seriously. Heaven forbid that I would write something that would lead someone astray!

Thanks so much, Deb. It made me smile all over again listening to the recording of our conversation!

I was so excited about reading Almost Forever that I inadvertently bought two of them! But my mistake will benefit one of you, because I'm giving the second one away! Just leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm Friday (7/23) and I'll draw a winner. US Residents only, please. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog in order to be in the drawing.

Sigh. I dragged out the Book Expo as long as I could, but I finally finished sharing about the authors I met. And ohmygoodness, how I would love to go to the ACFW Annual Conference in September. If anyone just happens to see a ticket somewhere with my name on it, let me know!


View blog reactions


A Stone Gatherer said...

Sounds like another good book. I think I'll go back and read her other books too. Again love your reviews and interviews!

Barbara H. said...

I was so glad to see you were having a giveaway, because the more I read of this author, the more she sounded like someone I'd like to read. I appreciated what she said about honest reviewers, because that is what I strive to be, yet I don't want to hurt feelings -- I hope that any author who sees a less than stellar review will take it in the right spirit.

Cathy said...

Linda, I love this interview. She sounds like someone I would love to meet and her books sound really good too. Thanks for an opportunity to win this one.

SusanD said...

I'm def going to check out the Clayburn novels. Thanks for highlighting this author and her books. Would love to read this one. Blessings, SusanD

Merry said...

Deborah sounds awesome. I love the nuggets in Christian fiction, it's terrific to enjoy a story and be uplifted too. Please add my name, I have Almost Forever on my wish list. Thanks!

Judylynn said...

I'd love to win this book! Please include me in this giveaway.


quilly said...

I needed to read this. Not just for the author and her books -- both of which sound fantastic -- but because of what Deborah Raney said about book reviews. I hate giving bad reviews, but I won't be dishonest. Those two things leave me with a lot of angst when I am reading a book I truly don't care for.

Now I want to know -- what started you going to conferences in the first place. Do you write as well as read?

windycindy said...

I think the cover of almost forever is delightful and the story line sounds like the perfect read for the end of summer.
Many thanks, Cindi

Mary Lou said...

Loved this interview...refreshing. The other way is good too, but this was different..it was almost like I could hear her talking. Sounds like a great book. Loved how she shared what God did for her. Sounds like a great read.


cpullum said...

I love reading Christian fiction!

SusanD said...

Oh Linda, Thank you so very much for this giveaway. I can't wait to read it. Blessings, SusanD

Julia M. Reffner said...

(Sigh) I, too, would love to go to ACFW conference. You are one person I would love to meet :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

(Sigh) I, too, would love to go to ACFW conference. You are one person I would love to meet :)