|Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
My fourth novel, Miss Invisible (about a ‘big girl’ who feels invisible due to her size) releases in Spring 2007 with WestBow and I have an idea for a new series about a specific group of women, but it‘s only in proposal stage right now.
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
There’s really not just one. However, first and foremost, was my father. He was an artist who painted in the basement and always told me to follow my dreams and not to let anyone or anything stop me from pursuing them. He’d always quote Thoreau’s A Different Drummer: ‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Unfortunately, he died just after my fifteenth birthday, so never got a chance to see me published. The words on his gravestone are “He heard a different drummer.”
My mom has also always encouraged my writing and been my biggest champion. When I was nineteen and leaving on a plane for my first Air Force assignment in Germany, she handed me a package wrapped in brown paper and said, “This is your father’s unfinished novel. Since you’re going to be a writer someday, I want you to finish it.” I’d never known my dad wrote, too! And I still have that package. Someday I’ll finish his novel.
And of course, my amazingly talented husband, Michael, whom I call my Renaissance-man because he’s the most creative person I know (acts, sings, paints, quilts, writes, and more.) All I do is write and decorate. Michael sacrificially works at a non-creative job with benefits so that I can write full-time. He was also my first reader and editor on all my non-fiction. Since I started writing chick lit, however, I had to find a female first reader!
I also need to credit a journalism teacher in college, Bruce Patt, who drummed into my head the whole ‘show, don’t tell’ maxim.
What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer?
Read, read, read! And attend writers’ conferences. There are fabulous Christian writers’ conferences around the country with amazing instructors—including successful authors with hearts to serve and editors from the major publishing houses who are always on the lookout for that unknown gem. But go with an openness and willingness to learn and take criticism, and to hone your craft. Don’t expect to become an overnight success. Be prepared for an apprenticeship of years. Also, learn how to edit your own work—before submission—through such books as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Brown and King. And although all these things are important, the most critical thing of all is to simply sit down and write! And finish. Several people begin novels, not everyone finishes. Finish.
What were your favorite books as a child?
Too many to list. I was always reading—anything and everything (under the table at holiday dinners, by flashlight under the covers, up in my room on a sunny day—my mother had to force me to go out and play…) biographies of Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, and Sarah Siddons, the first lady of the theatre, but it was fiction that I really devoured. Some favorites include: Little Women, Heidi, The Girl of the Limberlost, and the entire Trixie Belden series.
What message would you like your readers to take away from Reconstructing Natalie?
That with or without her breasts, a woman is more than the sum of her parts. And that faith, family and friends make all the difference when you go through a life-threatening illness like cancer.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
To make people laugh through the hard things (like breast cancer) and to tell a good story—whatever it is God wants me to tell—without preaching.