• Congratulations on your new release, Behold The Dawn! I know it must be thrilling to have another book published. Could you tell us about your story?
Behold the Dawn is a medieval epic, set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade at the end of the 12th century. It tells the story of Marcus Annan, a renowned competitor in the brutal tourneys—the huge mock battles that remained wildly despite being banned by more than one pope. Annan, haunted by the secrets of his past, is confronted by a mysterious monk who demands that Annan help him seek vengeance for a wrong committed sixteen years earlier. Against his will, Annan is drawn into the conflict, and he journeys to the Crusade in the Holy Land, where he rescues the widow of an old friend and attempts to deliver her to safety in Orleans. But he soon discovers that the past he’s been running from is finally catching up, and if he hopes to survive, he has no chance but to face it.
• What made you pick the medieval time period for Behold The Dawn?
I adore the Middle Ages. There is such an epicness about this period in time. I think you could write the smallest, quietest, most intimate story imaginable, and if you set it in the Middle Ages, it would still end up feeling epic! I suppose I’m particularly drawn to the medieval period because of its strange juxtaposition of brutal wars and romantic social mores. I love the swords and the horses, the beautiful gowns and the eccentric language. It’s a world apart—utterly alien from our own society, and yet eerily familiar in some ways.
• How long have you been writing? Tell us about your road to publication.
Stories have run amok in my brain for as long as I can remember, and I started writing them down when I was eleven or twelve. I produced a newsletter called Horse Tails for five years during high school and learned so much about story form, editing, structure, grammar, you name it. Novels were just a natural progression. I’ve written hundreds of short stories, but I prefer the novel as a form, simply because it allows us a longer, fuller arc. I wrote four truly horrible (although still dear to my heart!) novels before finally hitting a new stride and churning out my first publishable novel A Man Called Outlaw.
• Do you write in other genres? If so, what have you written?
I’ve written a fantasy story about a man who discovers that his dreams are really memories of another world. Settling down to do some serious editing on it is my next project. Look for it in print in a few years!
• What is your daily writing schedule?
I write for two hours, five days a week, from four p.m. to six. I spend the first thirty minutes “warming up,” pulling my mind away from the distractions of the day and getting myself into a creative mood. I’ll write in my project journal, read something instructive about the craft, review character and scene notes, and proofread what I wrote the day before. Then I turn on a soundtrack and get to work!
* I’m struck by the fact that you only spend 2 hours, 5 days a week on writing. Do you have a full time job? Part time? How can you work on revisions, write on your current WIP, AND have the time to outline your next project, all in 10 hours a week? I find that fascinating!
I work part-time as a church secretary, so I do have some extra time to focus on my marketing and my “extra” projects, including revisions of previously written stories. For the most part, my two hours of writing time each day is focused solely on my WIP. I’m a pretty slow worker, really. It can take me three years to see a story to completion. But, to coin a phrase, slow and steady wins the race. I don’t think the quantity of work you produce each day is as important as the sheer consistency of setting aside a parcel of time, no matter how small, to write every single day. Best-selling novels have been written as little as one paragraph a day!
• What does your writing space look like?
I have what I call a “computer cabinet.” Not sure what the proper term is, but it’s basically a big armoire with the computer on a shelf and the keyboard and printer on pullout trays beneath. It’s great because I can close the doors at night and shut away my cluttered stacks of resource books and note papers. It has bulletin boards on the insides of both the doors, and I’ve covered them with inspirational quotes and photos and who knows what else! I have wind chimes and a sword letter opener pinned up right now.
• What advice can you give to writers seeking publication?
First, write. Then, rewrite. Those are the two single most important keys. If you don’t finish your first draft, nobody is going to read it. And if you don’t polish your first draft (and second and third), no agent is going to read it. I see a lot of young writers who dash off their first drafts, read them over once, have their mothers read it, then stuff them in manila envelopes and send them off, convinced their work is over. But as someone famously said, “Novels aren’t written. They’re rewritten.” Agents are looking for quality. And the only way to produce quality is to first finish your manuscript, then polish the heck out of it.
• What has brought you the most joy in your writing? What has been the most difficult aspect of writing?
Writing itself brings me joy. When a scene is just right, when the characters are flying solo with barely a glance at me for confirmation that they’re doing the right thing—it’s magic. Whenever I get this breathless feeling, this skip in my diaphragm (I call it “my chest collapsing”), I know I’ve aced a scene. It’s wonderful. Life doesn’t get any better than that!
The most difficult moments are always those when I’m 150 pages into a story and every word I write feels like absolute dreck. Never fails. I’m always sure, halfway though, that whatever story I’m working on is the worst I’ve ever written. But somehow, by dint of hard work and the grace of God, everything always pulls together in the end.
• Have you started your next project? Or do you have several in the works?
I have several projects in the works, including the completed fantasy, Dreamers Come, which I mentioned earlier. I also just started outlining my next project, a historical novel called The Deepest Breath about the passion, betrayal, and vengeance that dog two men and the woman they both love through the trenches of World War I, corruption in colonial Kenya, and the criminal underbelly of London. And I’m also working on a fun co-writing project that asks, “What if Robin Hood met Sleeping Beauty?”
• I have one last fun question for you. If you were granted three wishes, what would they be? These are to be indulgent, guilt-free wishes! (Our family’s spiritual and physical health are always on the list. . .these are wishes just for you!)
Oh, goodie! A fairy godmother! Just what I always wanted. Let me see…
1. An isolated cabin in a warm, beautiful, secluded area (but not so secluded that it doesn’t have wi-fi!).
2. Unlimited energy. You know those people who run around like they’re on a caffeine high all the time? I would love to be one of them!
3. A lifetime’s supply of macaroni and cheese—the world’s greatest comfort food! (And also some kind of health indemnity that would let me get away with eating a life’s supply!)