Angela Elwell Hunt is the author of many books for children and adults including the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series, The Truth Teller , and the award-winning children's book, The Tale of Three Trees. Christianbook.com recently spoke with her about her writing.

How did you get started writing? I used to be a music major when I first was in college. Because I can sing, everyone sort of assumed that that is what I would do. I took a year off to travel with the singing group Re-Generation and kind of got my fill of living out of a suitcase. One night on the road, Pastor Derek said, "You know, you have a real knack with words. You ought to consider changing your major to English." By that point I realized that life on the road as a professional singer was hard, it was physically demanding, and it was something that I really didn't want to spend the rest of my life doing, so I said, "Sure."  I changed my major and when I graduated, I kind of envisioned that I would combine the two. I thought what I would do is write dramatic plays for churches and then go into the church and choreograph them, that sort of thing.

Right out of college, I worked several regular jobs. We were waiting to have a baby and when the baby didn't come, and didn't come, finally I said, "You know, you need to step out in faith if you are ever going to be a writer, you just have to do it."  So I printed up business cards, and sent them to all the advertising agencies in town, and advertised myself as a freelance writer for hire. Sure enough, I started getting jobs. I was amazed at how many people couldn't write a business letter.

Then our daughter did come home. We adopted both of our daughters. I worked so hard to get my kids, I felt like I didn't want to give up any time with them. I would be a mom in the morning and then write in the afternoon while they were taking their naps. So it just kind of evolved.

You've written stories dealing with the end times, genetic engineering, historical romance, as well as children's books. Has there been one book or series that you have particularly enjoyed doing, or perhaps one that you found especially difficult?  I really like the book The Truth Teller . Picking a favorite book is kind of like picking your favorite child; it's really hard to do. But I do feel especially close to Truth Teller, I'm very proud of it, because it was such a far-out idea. I would tell people about it, about this woman who has a caveman's baby, and people would just blink. All my other publishers thought I had lost it. At one CBA, I sat down with my editor from Bethany House, and was spinning several traditional ideas by her, you know, "Let's try this, or let's try that," and she said, "Angie, what are you dying to write, what are you passionate about?"  And I said, "You know, I've had this idea about this ancient baby who has the truth-telling ability and I'm dying to write this."  And she said, "Well, send us a proposal." They bought it. It is an idea that is kind of on the edge, but I think it's a very Christian book. I think once people get over the "Oh my goodness! Where is she going with this?" it's fine.

You must have to do extensive research for some of the stories you write.  Do you enjoy that part of the writing process? Yes, actually I do. It hit me the other day about how much research I actually have to do. I don't sit down and do it all in one lump sum. I do some of it that way, but most of it, I'll be going along writing and as the character does something, I realize that I have no idea how you do that, so I stop right then and figure out how.  I called on more experts for the Truth Teller book than I have ever had to for any book.  I sent the manuscript to a physician, to a lawyer, to a physician's assistant, I had everybody saying if the things I wrote were true or plausible.

I think because I started in non-fiction, [doing background work in research is all part of that], so it's part of the way I learned to write. It's kind of just part of doing the job.

You create such memorable characters with distinct personalities.  Who has been your favorite character and why? I kind of liked Sterling Thorn from Charles Towne. He was a pirate, but he was a good pirate. He didn't want anyone to know that he was good. There is one scene where he kidnaps this girl and she says no, he doesn't want to kidnap her, and she's saying, "Take me with you." And he says, "No, Madame."  She says, "You're the pirate, take me." And he says, "No." Anyway, I kind of liked him. I found myself recently calling my heroes Thorn a couple of books later, and I had to go back and change the name. I really liked him. All my heroes kind of look like Pierce Brosnan and they all sort of act like my husband. 

How did you devise such an ingenious genealogy and storyline for the O'Connor women? Lisa Bergren, she is the fiction editor at Waterbrook, called me when they first started and wanted me to write for them. She said, "You know, I loved your medieval books, how about a female knight? Have you ever thought about that?"  I said, "Oh, that's impossible, that will never work." Then I started thinking, "How would that work?" So, anyway, they wanted to sign me for a series and she really liked the female knight idea and once I got into it I liked it too. But I thought, "I can't do three books set in the same time period. It's too boring for me." I said, "Let's space them out every couple of hundred years, and that way I get to explore a new time period every time."  So I got to thinking about what would be a good way to link these time periods all together. In The Keeper of the Ring series for Tyndale, I had done it with a ring, a physical ring, that got passed down from family to family, and so I thought it would be fun to do with the red hair with the white streak.

How do you successfully weave in a realistic spiritual dimension to your story and the characters?  All of the spiritual themes in my books usually revolve around what I'm dealing with spiritually at the time. When I wrote Jamestown, for instance, our church was going through a real season of suffering. So, I took the book of Job and sort of went through that. So to answer your question a) it goes along with what I'm going through personally, and b) I just try to make it a part of the character. Whether they are believers or not, they are struggling with something.

Have readers shared with you how your fiction has helped them in their own spiritual growth and understanding of God? Yes. I get letters. There is one lady who writes me a 4 or 5 page letter after every book. I'm amazed at what she finds in it. But that's the Holy Spirit. To me, a good book is like an apple or an onion. You have your surface story, which is like the peel, and under that you have layers of meaning. Sometimes I will put in a sub-dermal layer of meaning, especially in the children's books, but sometimes I think it is the Holy Spirit who brings out even deeper layers and speaks to the heart of readers. That's something I never put in, it's just something the Spirit speaks to them.

Do you have any books in the works right now?  Yes. I'm working on one called The Immortal for Word with a June 2000 release. I should finish it up at the end of this month.

What do you hope to accomplish through your writing?  I ask myself that all the time.  Well, I send each book out, it has a vision that the Lord has given me, and hope that someone else can relate to that vision. It may not be a bestseller, but I know that if it awoke in my heart it will touch somebody else's, because I know that there are men and women just like me out there. I just kind of pray that it will find its target and will speak to those people in the same way that it spoke to me.

 

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