Kaye Dacus is an author and editor who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there. She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. But her greatest joy comes from mentoring new writers through this very blog and seeing them experience those “aha” moments when a tricky concept becomes clear.
Favorite Verse: Hebrews 12:1-3: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NASB)"
Our Interview with Kaye Dacus
What is your favorite Bible verse?
My favorite passage is Hebrews 12:1-3: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NASB)"
To me, this is my Christian journey in a nutshell—I wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for those who’ve gone before me, who now surround me, and who will come after me; I must persevere in the tasks God has set before me—and I can do so only by living on faith in Jesus, who endured so much more than I will ever be asked to go through.
How did you get started as a CBA writer?
I’ve been writing fiction since I was twelve or thirteen years old. My high school Creative Writing teacher encouraged me to pursue it, so I decided to major in Creative Writing in college. But once I got there, surrounded by those who weren’t writing from a Christian worldview like I was, I realized that wasn’t the environment in which I wanted to do my writing. Several years later, I attended my first Christian writers’ conference (Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference) and found a group of like-minded authors who not only wanted to write entertaining stories, but wanted to glorify God through them. Then, when I joined American Christian Fiction Writers, I finally discovered a place where I was encouraged to write stories that explore spiritual issues such as forgiveness, trust, and God’s unconditional acceptance and love.
What inspired the concept for Stand-In Groom?
As many people have probably guessed, the inspiration for Stand-In Groom came to me after watching the movie The Wedding Planner. I wasn’t happy with the way that the romance in that story revolved around the breakup of an engagement. As a writer, most of my ideas come from asking “what if” questions. What if a wedding planner thought she was falling in love with the groom of the biggest wedding she’s ever planned . . . but then he turned out not to be the groom? And the story grew from there.
How long did Stand-In Groom take you to complete?
The first draft of the story took me about two years to complete, then I spent another year refining and revising it—as the thesis novel for my Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. It’s the longest I’ve ever taken on any manuscript, and the most scrutiny anything I’ve ever written has gone through, with multiple critique partners and two published-author mentors who worked closely with me throughout the entire process.
Is this book part of a series?
Yes, it is the first book in the Brides of Bonneterre series. Book two, Menu for Romance, will be out in July 2009, and book three, A Case for Love, will be out in early 2010. The second and third books feature characters from Stand-In Groom who needed their own romance stories told.
Do you have a favorite character in Stand-In Groom? Why?
Anne is my favorite character in this book—I learned a lot about myself while writing it, mostly through Anne and the way that she was able to grow beyond bad things that happened to her early in life: losing her parents as a child, having a fiancé walk out on her in her early twenties. She never lost her determination to make a good life for herself by finding out what it was that God had given her the talent and drive to do—which is to make every bride’s Happy Ending dream come true, even though she thought she’d never have it for herself.
How much research did Stand-In Groom take?
I read a lot of books on planning weddings—and on the business of being a professional event planner. While I’ve done some event planning in my professional career, I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what kind of personality and talents it would take for someone to make a living at it full-time.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Stand-In Groom?
Not being married myself, I was amazed to find out just exactly how many little tiny details there are that go into planning a wedding. When I get married, I’m definitely hiring a wedding planner—or eloping!
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
As someone who is equally as analytical as I am creative, it’s hard for me sometimes to turn off that internal editor, the critiquer in my head, who tells me as I’m in the writing process that what I’m putting down on paper isn’t good enough, that it’ll never be as good as so-and-so favorite author’s work. Some of that comes from my early experiences in a non-supportive, non-encouraging writing environment where nothing I wrote for those classes was “good enough,” mostly because it was (a) romance and (b) inspirational. I just have to ignore those negative voices and keep reminding myself that until God tells me otherwise, this is what He’s called me to do, so I need to keep on writing.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
Aside from getting to live out my imagination on the page, the feedback I get from people who’ve read my stories is the best part of writing. When I hear that someone has enjoyed reading something I’ve written, or even better, when they’ve been touched or moved by it, it’s the best feeling in the world.
What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants? (Or somewhere in between?)
For the longest time, I was a seat-of-the-pants writer. I would come up with the characters (for me, the characters always come first) and then a general idea for a romance storyline for them. But that meant that I was never quite sure where I was going when I sat down to write. Now that I’m having to write on deadlines, I’ve become more of a loose-plotter. I need to know ahead of time several important events/turning points in the story that have to happen to get to the happy ending so that I have momentum to move me forward instead of being able to explore different avenues which may or may not lead to a compelling plot.
Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?
I try to know as much of my characters’ backgrounds as I can before I start writing, but one of the most joyful things about being a writer is when the characters do or say something unexpected—which usually leads to a much better story than what I originally thought was going to happen.
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
I’m currently working on book three of this series, A Case for Love, and just recently signed a contract on a historical trilogy with Harvest House, The Ransome Trilogy, set in England and Jamaica in 1814. The first book, Ransome’s Honor, releases in July 2009. I’m also in the planning stage for another contemporary romance trilogy . . .
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
Four people have had the most influence over my writing: my maternal grandparents and my parents. My maternal grandfather, Crawford Reid McLellan, in addition to being a chemistry professor was a painter. I used to sit by his side for hours watching images come to life under his brushes. He encouraged me to find out what my creative talents were and then to practice, practice, practice. My maternal grandmother, Julia McLellan, gave me a love for literature and reading. During the summers, she would read books to us such as The Secret Garden and other classics, birthing in me a love of language and story. My parents, Mike and Judy Dacus, taught me that as long as I persevered and strived to do my best, anything was possible—I could be or do whatever I put my mind to.
What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer? (If you could expand this to 1000-1500 words it would give me another way to feature you.)
Whenever I tell someone I’m a writer, their response is usually that they’ve always thought about writing a story, or that they have an idea for one, and then they ask me for advice about how to go about doing it. My response is this: Just like someone cannot one day pick up a stethoscope and scalpel and “become” a doctor, one cannot just pick up a pen and notebook (or start up a computer) and “become” a writer. Writing fiction is as much about learning and studying as it is about composing and creating.
I’ve heard it said that no one can consider himself a “real” writer until he has written at least one million words. I’m not sure it takes quite that many. I would revise that to say that it’s really hard to truly learn how to write well without having written at least two or three complete manuscripts, attended a few writing conference or workshops/classes, and read many writing-craft books and/or websites.
To all aspiring writers: get your manuscripts finished! Stand-In Groom was my fourth complete novel and the first I’ve ever completely revised, and it was an almost three year process from beginning to end. With each manuscript I wrote and completed, I learned more and more about the craft of writing. So instead of just concentrating on polishing and repolishing those first three chapters for contests or submissions, get the whole book written and revised, then start on the next one while you’re in the process of submitting.
What message would you like your readers to take from Stand-In Groom?
There are several themes in this book, and I hope that different readers will be touched in whatever way they need to be encouraged through the story, whether it’s remembering that compromising our Christian ethics leads to pain—for us and others around us—and that until we’re willing to face our pasts, to forgive those who’ve wronged us and stop holding grudges, we’re never going to be able to move forward into the happy endings God has prepared for us.
What is your greatest achievement?
Because of my negative experience the first time I was in college, I dropped out at age twenty-one. But God wouldn’t let me forget about the dream He’d given me to get my degrees in Creative Writing, so at age twenty-nine, I went back to college part-time while working full-time. My greatest achievement came to fruition on June 26, 2006, when I walked across the stage at Seton Hill University and received my Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
To write heart-felt, light-hearted stories that entertain and inspire while giving a little glimpse of how God is at work every day in our lives, if we’ll just take the time to stop and acknowledge His presence.
What do you do to get away from it all?
Because I now work from home, “getting away from it all” has a different meaning for me than it did when I was working full-time. When I need a break during the week, I call one of my best friends to meet up for lunch or dinner; if I just need to get away on my own, I’ll head for a local coffee shop for a “skinny” latte or to the community center to walk on the indoor track (during bad weather) or for a nice, brisk walk around the neighborhood. Vacations find me traveling to writing conferences or to visit family in Arkansas or Louisiana.