Monday, September 26, 2011

Carol Award Winner - Interview and Giveaway

UPDATE Monday 10/3/11 at 8:30 am WINNER!

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-10-03 13:29:29 UTC

Congratulations to traveler. Email me your address and the book will be on its way to you.

* * * * *

The very last ACFW Carol Award announced Saturday night was that for Debut Author. While I was not physically at the event in St. Louis, I was following the live blog on my iPhone. I was thrilled when Gina Holmes won for Crossing Oceans. I absolutely loved that book when I read and reviewed it last year. What a treat it was to have the opportunity to meet and interview Gina when I was in Atlanta in July! What better time to post our conversation than now, especially since I have an autographed copy of this award-winning book to give to one of you at the end!

Crossing Oceans is just incredible. I put a big box of tissues on my review! I didn’t see any way the book could end well, but you showed how God uses grace in our darkest moments and wrapped it up so beautifully. It is an incredible novel for anyone to write, but the fact that it’s a debut novel just blew me away. Tell me how you came up with all of that and your writing journey.

I probably have one of the most documented on the web with the blog Novel Journey (now Novel Rocket). I wrote four suspense novels that I tried to get contracted and they came close to getting contracted but God had other plans. I’m so glad it happened that way because that’s not the genre I should be writing in!

I was with Chip McGregor, who is my agent, and I was working on a nurse sleuth mystery because I’m a nurse and I wrote suspense; I was working on that, and it just felt like drudgery. I mean, I felt like I was at work and I just didn’t want to be there. So I started Crossing Oceans. At the time in my life, I was going through a very painful divorce, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but the dying mother was me. And if anybody’s ever been through a divorce, you just come out of it with all this guilt for your children and all this pain and all those feelings that come with it, and it’s like a death. So that’s what I was working out at that time. And I presented both stories to Chip and said, “Which one do you think?” And he said, “I could sell either one of these, but Crossing Oceans is your voice. So I finished that one and worked out a lot of grief through that story, and I guess in a sense, I was Jenny, and that death was the death of my life as I knew it. I was a stay-at-home mom and leading Bible clubs in my home and teaching Awanas and a Sunday School teacher and just like that, everything I knew had changed and the rug was dragged out from under me. The way God works in Crossing Oceans is the way God always works in my life: what you see as this beauty from ashes, stuff you just have to trust –because it makes no sense right now – this can’t possibly work out, I can’t possibly ever be happy again. And God has a plan. He’s just so amazing in ways you never saw coming. All of that was Crossing Oceans. So it very much is a part of my soul and I hope I get another story like that. It’s very cathartic writing, it’s very cleansing writing, and it’s very cheap therapy!

I think the third one that I’m working on right now is like that. It’s about an abused woman and I know a little bit about that

With Crossing Oceans, when Chip sent it out to the publishers to see what the reaction was, everyone said, “What is this? We’ve known Gina for years and she writes these weird exorcist books!” But Tyndale was absolutely in love with the story and contracted it before it was even finished and pursued me. I’d never had that happen! Up to that time I was stalking editors but at that point the tables turned and I was being courted. A couple of publishers were interested but Tyndale was passionate so we went with them.

I just signed a new two-book contract with them; Dry as Rain comes out in September.

I was hoping an advanced copy of that one would be available by now!

That’s my fault because it took so long to write. They say if you could, just skip writing your second book and move to your third one! I don’t know what it is – some kind of weird sophomore curse. It was absolutely horrible to write and so difficult. They say it’s like that for everyone. I don’t know why that is. I never want to have to go through that kind of toil again in writing a book. It didn’t come naturally or easy, and I went through some major rewrites from third person to first person, from two points of view to one point of view. Crossing Oceans flowed. And the third book is flowing. But with Dry as Rain, I felt that I was tweezing every word out.

Tell me what Dry as Rain is about.

Dry as Rain is from the point of view of a man, which I think is a little jolting to people; having been in first person Jenny’s point of view [in Crossing Oceans], now I’m in first person Eric’s point of view throughout the whole book. It’s about a couple who drifts apart, one misunderstanding and unkind word at a time, as many marriages do over years until there’s this huge chasm between them and they separate. Eric ends up having an affair with a coworker, wakes up in that woman’s bed, and gets the phone call that his wife was in an accident. She has partial amnesia and doesn’t remember that they’re separated. She doesn’t remember she’s not madly in love with him, and she treats him the way she treated him years ago. What he thought was a toe tag on the marriage, he finds that he never stopped loving her. So now he’s got a window of opportunity in his mind, whether that’s right or wrong, to win her back before she remembers. It’s about forgiveness and infidelity and can the unforgiveable ever be forgiven.

So you’ve got a third book in the contract?

The first contract I signed was for Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain. I just signed another contract for Shadows of Love and Driftwood Tides, which are not written yet; I’m working on them.

They’re all stand-alone books?

Yes. I wouldn’t mind trying a sequel or series sometime, but right now I’ve got a lot of individual stories to tell and maybe, a lot of individual therapy sessions to work out with myself!
I think not everyone realizes it’s therapy. If you know what someone is going through and you know them that well – it took someone else telling me on Crossing Oceans, “You were going through a divorce; do you not see that connection? She is dying, you were ‘dying’.” Now it all makes sense and not until the end do you have time to look back and see what you were working out. I think if that’s not true of an author, then maybe they’re not cutting the veins open. But I think it is true and I think they don’t realize it. I think it takes someone with some pretty good insight into human nature and who knows them pretty well to say “Oh you were working out this.”

Sometimes you do tell other people’s stories. With Dry as Rain, I have not suffered infidelity (that I know of!), so that book did not feel like my story as much as Crossing Oceans did or the third one coming up will, because I have been through abuse and I have died, in a way.

Do you work as a nurse still?

When I signed the second contract, I stopped, so that was very recently. It’s tough work. It’s not for the faint of heart. People say writing is one of the toughest jobs – oh, give me a break! Come work on a med-surg floor! (We laugh and share some camaraderie and memories.)

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Of course, I like to read. I love being outside; I like getting my hands dirty—gardening and hiking and walking. I love hanging out with my husband. I’ve been married two years now and he’s just my best friend and the greatest gift from God. Talk about beauty from ashes! And I like hanging out with my children. Get me around some dirt and mountains and water and I’m happy.

What’s on your nightstand?

I love Charles Martin and Francine Rivers. I’m in a non-fiction mode right now. I’m reading a lot of John Townsend stuff, the one who wrote Boundaries.

What sort of spiritual messages do you like to put in your books?

I think for me, I don’t try to put any message in there, but what comes out for me and what I’ve seen God do in my life, He always uses the least of the least, and I’m definitely the least of the least. I was a very sad, very troubled child, and all these things I thought were huge crushing, painful things in childhood, I thought, “God, why would You do this to somebody if You love me?” And to fast-forward so many years later and see how He used all those things for my good and I just didn’t see at the time; I just didn’t know His plan. We don’t have the “beginning and the end” view that He does. I like to work that in – just trust God! He really has got it. Take it easy, sit back, relax, put your seat in the chair and just trust. Even if you can’t see it right now. He’s proven that to me over and over, and it can’t help but seep out into what I write.

What has been the most unexpected thing about being a published author?

Because I ran Novel Journey, now Novel Rocket, for so long and sat in your chair, I had a good picture and knew what to expect. I knew there was not celebrity involved. No one really cares about the author; they care about the book. I knew book signings were torturous, and they’re more torturous than I thought they were!

That’s a shame! I love getting to know the authors! I’d be holding up the line because I would want to sit down and chat!

Before I knew anything, that’s what I thought it would be. But I feel like I’m standing there with a cup and people are trying not to make eye contact because they don’t want to put a quarter in my cup. They seem so uncomfortable. I’ve even had people take my book, look at it, and walk away with it without having me sign it. The author doesn’t matter as much as the book does, and that’s probably a good thing! I like meeting people and talking to people but I don’t like begging people to take my book.

What’s the most tedious part of writing?

It depends on the book. Crossing Oceans wasn’t heavily edited. They liked it as is, although they did edit it some. Dry as Rain was more tedious. When you go from third person to first person and take out 50% of the character, that ends up with multiple rewrites and can be frustrating. I think if you stay true to what you should be writing and don’t allow yourself to be contracted beyond what you can do, that helps. The marketing part, trying to figure out what readers are looking for and trying to please them, can be tedious. I don’t think we do well when we try to do what other people expect of us. I think we have to be true to the story and ourselves and the story God has for us.

What do you say to an aspiring writer who either doesn’t know how to start or gets rejected.?

I have tons of advice! Visit Novel Rocket, not because we need the readership but because it really is a good place to learn. My biggest piece of advice is to go to writer’s conferences. There are gatekeepers in this industry and that’s where they are. You need to go and meet people and you need to meet them several times. Relationships don’t build instantaneously, although that’s what we want. We go and attack people and pitch them our story and we think they’re going to take them and it doesn’t happen that way. I met my agent one year, pitched him and he rejected me, met with him another year and then another year, and by the fifth year we were friends and he was pursuing me. That’s how relationships build. Take it easy, just like with God and life. Put your seat back. It’s going to be a long ride. You’re not as far along as you think you are. At the right time, it will happen. And it usually happens when you don’t need it to happen or when you don’t desire it above everything else. Go to conferences, perfect your craft, get every book on writing, write, write, get into a critique group – not one that tells you what you want to hear, but one that tears up your work in a positive way that you know is right.

Any last words of wisdom or things that you want to say?

I appreciate everyone’s support. Crossing Oceans did really well and it’s because of word of mouth, and I appreciate everybody that did that. I appreciate you for doing that for me; your review was beautiful and it made my day!

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, Gina!

Here is the summary of Crossing Oceans and a reprint of my thoughts from my May, 2010 review:

Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But being told you’re dying has a way of changing things. Years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter, Isabella, must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank–toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter. As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love and its ability to change everything—to heal old hurts, bring new beginnings . . . even overcome the impossible. A stunning debut about love and loss from a talented new voice.

This is an amazing novel for any author to have written, but the fact that it's Gina Holmes' debut novel makes it that much more incredible. Just be sure to have one thing by your side at all times as you read it:

I am not kidding you. I have never had a book break my heart like this one did, nor cause me to mull over it so long after finishing it. (What is a reader to do when she longs to pray for and hug the neck of fictional characters?!) Not that it is morose in its telling. On the contrary, it is an achingly tender story. Jenny and her precious daughter, Isabella, walked right off of the pages and into my heart. As I progressed further into the book and the layers of sorrow and love intertwined, I couldn't fathom how the story could end in any satisfying manner. And if this were a secular title, that would be true. But God infuses hope and grace at each of life's most fragile turns for the believer, and Gina Holmes has gently and expertly woven Truth into this book. While the book literally made my heart hurt and brought me to tears, the last sentence left me with a smile. And that is all I will tell you! You absolutely MUST get this book.


I attended Gina's book signing at the Tyndale booth in Atlanta and received an autographed copy of the award-wining Crossing Oceans to give to one of you! To enter, leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm CDT Sunday, 10/2/11 and I will draw a winner. Leave a second comment telling me you mentioned/linked to this post on your blog and/or Facebook and receive a second entry. Limit two entries per person. US Residents only. You must include your name and email address if you don't have a blog so I can contact you if you win.

Be watching for my review of Dry as Rain; I am anxiously awaiting its arrival!

Learn more about Gina at her website or on Facebook


View blog reactions



Oh please pick me and as soon as I leave here I will post a mention on my blog. Come by and enter my giveaway for my 1000th post. I am excited.


Ok...I have left a comment and link on my blog.

traveler said...

I am captivated with this wonderful novel. Thanks for this lovely giveaway. Anne. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

karenk said...

oh, i know someone who would love to read gina's masterpiece :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Kim said...

I have to participate in this give away!

kimfurd [at] hotmail [dot] com

Jackie S. said...

I have been wanting to read this book...please enter me! Thanks!

windycindy said...

Way to go...How amazing to win
such an award for a debut novel!
I don't live very far from St.
Louis...It is truly a small world.
I love reading books about family
dynamics and how God works in our lives. I would be honored to own
a signed copy of this lovely sounding
Many thanks, Cindi

windycindy said...

"Facebook Post!"!/cindi512/posts/2270216949774.
Again, many thanks to you!

Carolyn said...

Hi Linda! I loved the tip for the website Clash. I also enjoyed the review of Crossing Oceans. My mom is an avid reader and I've told her about your blog. She actually writes her own reviews of Christian novels and keeps them in a notebook. I know she would love this book!
Keep up the good work! Carolyn
PS I posted on FB