Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jennifer Beckstrand's Got a New Release!

Jennifer Beckstrand, author of
1. So, first off, let me say I love the title of your new Amish romance THE MATCHMAKERS OF HUCKLEBERRY HILL. I’m so glad to have this opportunity to interview you, Jennifer, and get a little better acquainted. As Anna sang in The King And I, how about we jump in with 'Getting to know you? Getting to know all about you'? Tell us a little – your family, what you’ve been doing...

          For almost 30 years, I have been married to the same wonderful guy I fell in love with in college. I have six children. The four oldest are girls with two boys at the end. My three oldest daughters are married, and I have two grandsons.
          I have a degree in mathematics, which comes in handy when one of my six children needs help with algebra. After twenty-five years of being a chauffeur, cook, maid, and nurse, I started my writing career. I love writing Amish Inspirational Romance. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

2. Hey, we’re Seymour Sibs! I tell you, that Mary Sue is one special lady. I’m so blessed as I’m certain you are to have her as my agent! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? I’m sure with six children, it wasn’t a huge consideration for awhile.
          When I was younger, I had no aspirations to be a professional writer. I had an interest in math and statistics before starting a family. As a young mother, amidst diaper changes and soccer games, I discovered my love for writing as I wrote Christmas updates and PTA newsletters. After my fourth daughter was born, I had trouble sleeping at night, so I would lie awake and make up stories. I wrote one of those stories down and loved every minute of it. That’s how my writing career was born.

3. Oh, that is so fun, so it was right in the big middle of rearing all those blessings of yours that the writing bug bit! Tell us about your writing process—are you a plotter or a pantser?
          I am a plotter, but a fairly loose one. I don’t make extensive charts or character sketches, but I do draw up an outline of the story and solidify the characters in my head before starting a book. I try to write 10,000 words a week. A typical writing day involves four to five hours of intense writing segments. I make an hour-by-hour schedule, set the timer for one hour at a time, and write as fast as I can. This keeps me from wandering around the house looking for food or surrendering to a nap. As long as my fingers are busy, I can usually stay awake. Although even on good writing days, my son often comes home to find his mother sprawled on the couch trying to steal a few minutes of sleep. I spend about four hours a day writing, three or four days a week.

4. It must be wonderful to catch a nap during the day. I’ve never been able to nap unless I had a fever. Sounds like you’re pretty dedicated though and focused. Do you ever have writer's block? What do you do about it?
          Even if I am not sure what to write, I get in that chair and start typing. The most important thing every writer must know is that writing is hard work. I tell myself that I must go to work whether I have any inspiration or not.
          The ideas usually flow once I put in the effort to get myself into the chair. I have found that if I ponder and contemplate and stew, ideas will come (if I am awake) and a great plot or character will speak to me. The advantage of being a task-oriented, stay-at-home mother is that many of my daily jobs allow ample time for musing. I ruminate while puffing on the treadmill or running a vacuum over my carpet. I still do a lot of brainstorming right before I fall asleep. My best thinking is done in the shower—I’m notorious for long showers for which I apologize to my dad. (He had six daughters, and long showers were his pet peeve.)
          Food has always been a big distraction for me. If I can’t think of something to write, I get out of my chair to search for a Twinkie. Setting the timer on my writing has helped that problem quite a bit.

5. Wow, I can empathize with your dad as I’m rearing all boys – four grandsons now. And I had three boys myself, but God blessed me with one girl in the bunch. Still lots of testosterone to deal with. So you had five sisters, that’s awesome. Your house must have been so much fun. So how did you meet Mary Sue and land her as your agent? I know you’re blessed to have her represents your work.
First in Jennifer's APPLE LAKE SERIES
I originally wrote a historical Western that I pitched to an agent at a writers’ conference. Since the Western had an inspirational feel to it, the agent referred me to agents representing Christian fiction authors. Mary Sue Seymour took a look at my manuscript and asked me to try my hand at writing Amish. I sent her a few chapters of Kate’s Song, my first Amish novel, and she signed me a couple of weeks later.

6. I know she goes to lots of conferences; I met her at one, too. Seems besides being gifted at spotting talent, she’s great at guiding them(us), too. She told me to write her a historical Christian romance set in the 1800s and she’d sell it, and she sure did. Guess she knows what she wants. What about the editing process with your publisher? How’d that go?
          My first editor at Guideposts Books asked me to rewrite the entire second half of Kate’s Song. I was demoralized because I’d spent so much time on the first draft and had no idea how I was going to remake the ending. But the rewrite turned out to be just what that book needed, and I was extremely grateful to my editor for her feedback and hard work. Different editors have different styles, but I have appreciated every bit of feedback I’ve received.

7. So true, it’s amazing, isn’t it? Any advice you want to offer writers who haven’t landed a contract yet?  
          Read. Good writers are good readers. When I get in a rut with my word choices or characterizations, there is nothing like a good Orson Scott Card or Julie Garwood to inspire me.
          Read about writing. There are lots of great books on writing out there. Story by Robert McKee is one of my favorites. Self-editing for Fiction Writers changed my life. There are thousands of blogs out there about everything from grammar usage to plot development. These can be extremely helpful.
          Get an education. Attend writer’s conferences and writing workshops. This is a great way to meet other writers and learn about the craft.
          My most important piece of advice: Remember that writing is HARD WORK. Writing isn’t like cleaning toilets. Cleaning toilets isn’t fun, but at least you know exactly what you have to do to get the job done. With writing, I might put in three hours and have a paragraph to show for it. That’s the nature of the creative process. Even though it can be painful, it is important to sit in that chair and write even if you can’t think of anything to write. Even if you know that most of what you write is going to get deleted. No writer has a book handed to her on a silver platter by the Muses. Writing is hard. As long as you remember that, you’ll be okay.

8. I so agree, studying writing is all important. You can learn the craft of penning good creative fiction, but you have to be a story teller. No one can teach you that, it’s a gift. So tell us about your newest book, Jennifer.
Debuts January 7, 2014
My latest Amish romance series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, follows the escapades of two scheming Amish grandparents who try to help their grandchildren find suitable mates. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite?
          Huckleberry Hill, the first book of the series, comes out on January 7, 2014.
          In Huckleberry Hill, Lia Shetler is helping her pretty, spoiled sister Rachel secure the perfect husband–Moses Zimmerman. But the more Lia sees of Moses’s gently teasing ways and quiet understanding, the more she wishes he could be hers alone.
          Moses knew his grandparents couldn’t resist trying to find him a wife. But he never expected it would be the graceful, sensible Lia–a woman who is tall enough to look him in the eye and honest enough to make him question a promise holding him to his past. Now both will need the kind of miracles only faith and courage can bring to finally reach for a lifetime of happiness.
          RT Book Reviews gave Huckleberry Hill 4½ stars. “Beckstrand has written a sweet romance with a lot of heart…The storyline is feasible, the characters are well written, with both their strengths and weaknesses on display. Readers will treasure this series and put the first outing on their keeper shelf.”

9. Congratulations. That’s got to be so exciting! I’m thinking you might have some experience in falling for a guy that a sister likes, especially with five sisters! But I won’t go there. What did inspire your story?
          My mom is the perfect grandmother: loving, fun, energetic, and convinced that her grandchildren can do no wrong. When I first developed the concept for the Huckleberry Hill series, I was enchanted with the idea of a well-meaning Amish mammi who meddled in her grandchildren’s lives. I have always cherished my strong family ties, and faith and family are core values of the Amish. What a fun topic for a story!

10. Indeed. I have fourteen grandsugars and would love it if they’d let me meddle a bit. I love it that such a godly group of folks have become so popular in novels. Sounds like yours would make a great movie. I can hardly wait to read it, and it’s only TEN DAYS from this interview! How long did it take you to write it? Do you adhere to extensive rewrites?
          Huckleberry Hill took about four months to write. I edit as I go (yes, I realize that this is not a very efficient way to write a book) so I don’t do extensive rewrites once I’m done with the first draft.

11. I’ve heard so often that an author has to market as well. Have you found this true?
          Yes! Marketing is hard work. I have a website and I’m on Facebook. My son is appalled that I have no idea how to tweet.

12. I’m a singer lady, but that tweeting is a talent all its own, isn’t it? I’m trying to learn, and my first historical Christian romance debuts in March, so I have about two months longer to wait. I might pick your brain a little since you’ve gone before… What specific marketing ideas worked best for you?
          Contests have been a great way for me to get my message out there, and I think Facebook is a wonderful vehicle for marketing. I’ll keep you posted on my tweeting experience, if I ever have a tweeting experience.

13. Oh, I’m certain you’ll master it, especially with that son to help you. My ten year old is my go-to when my iPhone confuses me. The younger generation is sure techie-smart! So Jennifer, what is it that you like to do you like to do when you're not writing?
          Most of my spare time revolves around my family. I attend lots of tennis matches, soccer games, and choir concerts. I am an avid reader. If you come to my house and I’m not writing or playing with grandchildren, I’m probably reading or doing a crossword puzzle. I also love to sing, direct musicals, and put on Shakespeare plays with my kids. And believe it or not, I love cleaning my house. (I really appreciate a clean bathroom, especially when mine is dirty.)

14. Hey, this Grami-mom of four boys is right there with you appreciating clean bathrooms. O'Pa at least has taught them to always put the seat down! And you’re a singer? We have that in common, too! So, who is a famous person who has inspired you?
          There are so many! J.K. Rowling is a particular inspiration to me because she embodies persistence and determination. She didn’t let less-than-ideal circumstances get in the way of her writing. She wrote in pubs on napkins—anything she had to do to get her story down. Then she was rejected several times before landing a contract. That kind of perseverance encourages me on the days when it’s not so easy.

15. I can’t even imagine trying to write a book on pub napkins, it’s hard enough on a computer. And to think how all the authors of yesterday had no such machine. Make a mistake at the bottom of the page? Type the whole thing again. Yuck. If you could go back in time, what person would you most like to meet and write their biography?
          Well, I truly dislike research. Would I have to do a lot of research? J Again, very difficult to narrow it down to one person, but one historical figure I would love to meet and spend the day with is Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always had a deep admiration for him.

16. Yes, ma’am, any ‘going back in time’ definitely requires lots of research because we didn’t live there or then, and to make the story realistic, you have to dig into history. What about the people in your life, has your success affected them?
          My husband is my greatest support and cheerleader and checks the reviews and sales numbers way more often than I do. My kids are proud of my success, and they give me feedback on my stories before they are published. I don’t think I will have really made it big in my son’s eyes until I have a Twitter account. It might be a good New Year’s resolution.

Sounds to me like you need to schedule an hour with him and get you that Twitter account set up and you tweeting! I’m sure he’s proud of you. And I’m plenty impressed that your children will read your stories. I resorted to tears to get my firstborn son to read an earlier book on a plane flight I dropped him off for. He took it and told me later he really enjoyed it, sounded surprised! Oh the joys!

          Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing this time and your life with me. I’ll be looking forward to getting to know you better and reading THE MATCHMAKERS OF HUCKLEBERRY HILL. I love your title by the way. I send blessings from Northeast Texas and pray that the favor of God will go before you and that your sales and reviews will be even better than you ever expected. And thank you, again.
See more at Jennifer's website! 
Hey, I hope y'all have enjoyed meeting Jennifer. If there's anything I missed that you want to know, just ask her in a comment. And Amish novels are enjoying a huge platform these days, what drew y'all to reading the genre?
Blessings from Texas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A First Day Treat! Meet the Author: Heather Manning

Isn't she beautiful?

Hello my friends!

I've wanted to jump on the bandwagon to promote other authors, and so here I am today to introduce you to a young woman with all the best to come! Meet Heather Manning who’s first novel SWEPT TO SEA debuted last month. I've had a great time visiting with Heather and here's what she had to say!
It’s so exciting to have your first book out. When was its debut and what do you have planned?
            My novel, Swept to Sea, debuted on November 15th. I have a series of guest blog posts and interviews scheduled around the internet, including a post on the USA Today book blog.

I heard about your USA Today news. That’s so awesome. So it’s almost been a whole month. Tell me this, how has it compared to what you thought having your first book out for the world would be like, and what’s been your favorite part?
            Being published is a little different than I expected, I must admit. It's kind of a weird but good feeling. I thought that I would be really nervous and just absolutely not know what to do with myself, and that no one would want to buy my book. But that is not the case, and for that, I am glad. :) I sometimes find myself thinking that someone out there who I've never met could be reading my book right now, and hopefully enjoying it. The thought makes me smile uncontrollably. 
            My favorite part about being published is getting to see strangers reviewing my book on Amazon, and all of the sweet texts and messages my friends have sent me who read my book.

How about we go back to when you first got the idea to write SWEPT TO SEA. I know you’re still in school and am interested in what got you started at such a young age. Can I ask how old you are?
Lovely cover, right?
            I first got the idea to write Swept to Sea in 8th grade. I have always loved inspirational historical romances and pirates, so I decided to write my own. I just turned 17 years old literally two days ago, so everything involved with the publishing of Swept to Sea happened when I was 16 years old.

I’m so impressed, Heather. When I was a little younger that that, a 7th grader (in 1962), an essay on what we’d be doing in the year 2000 was assigned, and I wrote I was an intergallactically famous author (so funny!), but I did not write my first novel until the late ‘80s! It must be exciting to think of what you can accomplish getting started so young! Tell us about SWEPT TO SEA. What’s the story about? 
            That is awesome. I wish I was intergalactically famous! LOL
Swept to Sea is about a young lady who stows away on a pirate ship to escape her abusive fiance. She ends up taking care of the son of the ship's revenge-seeking pirate captain. That's Swept to Sea in a nutshell. :)

Excellent! Many authors find it difficult to boil down their story like that. Good job! SO how about some fun insight to you. I enjoyed Carrie Underwood on that live Sound of Music almost as much as Julie Andrews. I’m wondering, what are a few of your favorite things?
            It's funny that you should ask that, because I really enjoyed that live Sound of Music as well. Musicals are one of my favorite things! Some of my other favorite things are eating donuts, reading, painting my nails, and acting in theater. 

Heather as Millie Owens in Picnic!
Oh yes! I saw your photos of you and the cast of a play. I love y’all’s costumes and I’m with you on Musicals! What about favorite FOOD, COLOR, AUTHOR (I always specify “that I don’t know”), and BOOK? Throw in anymore you think of, too!
            Thank you! My favorite food is...whipped cream, if you count that as a food. :)  My favorite colors are lime green and neon pink. I can't choose my favorite author, but a couple of my favorites are Mary Connealy, MaryLu Tyndall, and Deeanne Gist. My favorite book? Oh my goodness, I don't know if I can choose! I love anything written by the favorite authors I mentioned. 

Why don’t you give us the links where we can get SWEPT TO SEA (I love that alliteration) and your Facebook author page so we can go like it and support you! And I just want to say again congratulations on your success!
            You can find Swept to Sea on amazon, smashwords, and Astraea Press's Website.

Thanks so much, and thanks for having me!

Absolutely, Heather, it's been my pleasure, and thank you! I pray the Lord blesses the works of your hands! I'll be looking forward to seeing many more books from you in the future! Hugs from Texas!

Hey, I'm wondering - if you're an author reading this, how early did you know you wanted to write?