Thursday, January 28, 2010


Virginia Smith is the author of twelve Christian novels as well as dozens of articles and short stories. In 2008, she was named Writer of the Year at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Stuck in the Middle, book one in her Sister-to-Sister Series, was a finalist for ACFW’s 2009 Book of the Year award, and A Taste of Murder was a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Ginny’s website was listed in the top ten writer sites of 2009 by Writers Digest. She and her husband divide their time between Kentucky and Utah, and escape as often as they can for “research trips” (or so she says) to scuba dive in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

Welcome to A Pen for Your Thoughts, Virginia. What books or project are you hoping to tell us about this week?

VS: My newest book is Third Time’s a Charm, the funny and heartwarming story of a professional young woman struggling to balance career, church, budding romance, and a personal crisis. As if that weren’t enough, a couple of matchmaking sisters crank up the tension and the fun. This is the third book in the Sister-to-Sister series, following Stuck in the Middle and Age before Beauty, but you don’t have to read those books before this one.
When I created the Sister-to-Sister series, I modeled the characters after my relationship with my own sisters, so the books are very close to my heart. Plus, I drew heavily on personal experience to write this book. Third Time’s a Charm is lighthearted in places, but it confronts some tough issues, too.

SKC: Sounds really good. They all do. What special something inspired you to come up with your very first book?

VS: My first novel was Just As I Am, the story of a purple-haired young woman who becomes a Christian in her mama’s country church. She doesn’t change her hair color, or remove her nose ring or lip stud, even though the conservative congregation thinks she should. Instead, God’s changes happen on the inside, and soon they overflow into the world around her. The inspiration for that story was a visiting singer in my church several years before facial jewelry became a common sight in churches. I wanted to explore how a contemporary young woman like her lives out her faith, but I really didn’t want to pierce my nose to find out personally. So I created a character who did.

SKC: Isn't it great how we can make our characters do what we want. Describe your writing genre and sub-genre, and why you chose what you chose.

VS: That question isn’t as easy for me to answer as you might think, because I write in several genres. I have published six mysteries in the sub-genres of cozy, modern, and romantic suspense. I’ve published two chick lit novels, one romance novel, and three contemporary novels. I choose to write in multiple genres because I enjoy reading in multiple genres. I figure other people do too.
Third Time’s a Charm is contemporary, though it does have a strong romantic element as well as many humorous incidents. In this case, the story itself dictated the genre. The main character tackles an issue that many women in our society today experience – overcoming the ripple effect of her parents’ divorce and her father’s subsequent desertion. How can you establish a lasting relationship with a man, or with your heavenly Father, when you feel rejected by the most important man in your life? There are some major self-esteem issues to overcome. But as my character discovers, our Father is the One who heals all wounds and binds up the brokenhearted.

SKC: Not everyone can write in numerous genres. Tell us about some of the authors who have given you insight on how to express your own voice, and have taught you the most about development of style.

VS: One of the most helpful writing classes I’ve ever attended was taught by Deborah Raney at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2005. She is an amazingly talented author, and she presented tons of techniques for deepening characterization and maintaining tension. I took pages of notes that I still refer to, even after twelve published novels.
Another author I’ve learned a lot from is Brandilyn Collins through her book, Getting into Character. The whole book is terrific, but she has a section in there on writing realistic dialogue that gave me one of those light bulb moments of, “Aha! So that’s how you do it.”

SKC: I'll have to get Brandilyn's book. I haven't read that one yet. When you are in the middle of series and deadlines, Virginia, does it cramp your creativity, or enhance it, and why or why not?

VS: Oh, deadlines definitely enhance my creativity. I think that comes from spending over twenty years in the corporate environment as a computer project leader. I learned how to develop a plan and lay out the steps in order to accomplish a project by a specific deadline. And I learned the importance of never missing a deadline, because to miss a date can mean huge cost increases for the project. And if you come in ahead of schedule, that can mean significant savings. Now that I’m a full time writer, I still find myself motivated by deadlines. I lay out the tasks I have to accomplish in order to get a book finished, just like a project plan, and work toward the final deadline. I still work hard to bring a project in ahead of schedule. So far I have never missed a deadline, and on most of them I’ve been early.

SKC: Those deadlines can be murder, I know. Many authors are often asked how they deal with writer's block. How do you overcome it?

VS: I know this sounds strange, but I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Oh, I know there are times in every writer’s life when they don’t feel the creative juices flowing. But you know what? There are times in every computer programmer’s life when they don’t feel the technical juices flowing. There were times when I was a corporate director that I didn’t feel like going to work and dealing with employees. You know what I did? I went anyway. And that’s what a writer has to do. When I feel “blocked,” I write through it. Sometimes I can’t think of anything to write except a letter, or an email, or a blog post. But I write. And for me, it is the act of writing that produces inspiration. I think it was Anne Lamotte who said, “A writer does not write when inspired. A writer writes until inspired.” I love that, and I’ve adopted it as my motto.

SKC: A great motto to live by. What for you is the KEY to writing a good book?

VS: The key is to let the story and the characters come alive in your mind, and then apply every skill you’ve ever learned toward the task of making that story as alive in the minds of your readers as it is in yours. Of course, that means you have to work hard to develop those skills. And you have to work hard to create a compelling story, and realistic characters. So I suppose the real key is to put forth lots of hard work!

SKC: That hard work always shows itself in the end, doesn't it. After you finish your present project what plans outside of writing do you have?

VS: I do a bit of speaking in addition to writing, and at the moment I’m looking forward to several speaking engagements. One is a lecture at a university, which will be a first for me. And on a personal level, I’m looking forward to becoming a grandmother this summer. My husband’s sons from a previous marriage have given us five beautiful grandchildren already, but this will be the first from my side.

SKC: As we close please let us know which book you plan to donate to one of our readers, and don’t forget to share a reflection question that deals with reading material, or writing techniques, or whatever else comes to your mind. I enjoy getting the followers and responders of A Pen for Your Thoughts to share their views about various issues. It will be from their answers we will draw a name for a winner of one of your books.

VS: I love the idea of a reflective writing exercise. Since I’m going to give away an autographed copy of Third Time’s a Charm, the reflection question has to do with one of the struggles the main character encounters: how can we show our faith in the workplace without appearing overbearing to our coworkers?

SKC: Great question! I look forward to seeing what people write in. Thank you so much for coming here to visit and for being a follower of A Pen for Your Thoughts, Virginia. How can our readers find you and also locate your books?

VS: Thank you for the opportunity to visit with you and the readers of A Pen for Your Thoughts! I invite everyone to click over to my website to find out about me and my books. You can also get to know a more personal side of me by becoming my Friend on FaceBook:

Okay, readers. It is now your turn. Check out the reflection above and send in your answers. We will draw the winner's name in a few days.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group. Betsy is multi-published through Steeple Hill and has been published in Christian Communicator magazine and Praise Reports: Inspiring Real Life Stories of How God Answers Prayer. One of her short stories, ‘Kickboxing or Chocolate’, appears in a Tyndale compilation book, and she is also multi-published through The Wild Rose Press. Betsy has a BA in Christian Communications and regularly contributes articles to She is a wife, mother, author, and avid reader who enjoys sharing the wonders of God’s grace through her stories.

SDC: Welcome Betsy. Over the last few years you have become both a well-known and talented writer. Before you tell us about your newest release coming, please fill us in on what got you started writing from the beginning.

Betsy: Thank you, Shirley! My writing actually goes back to childhood. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing, what was always in my soul! God purposed that in me from a very young age when I first pounded away on my parent’s keyboard and penned poems and short stories in notebooks. To actually be living my dream is a blessing I will never take for granted. I got serious about writing for publication around the age of 18 and attended conferences, made contacts with other authors, joined the ACFW, and the rest is history.

SDC: Tell us about your publishers. How did they find YOU?

Betsy: My agent is who connected me with Steeple Hill Love Inspired. She contracted my first novel with them only a few months after we started our partnership. I'm honored to work with Tamela Hancock Murray of Hartline Literary. We make a great team! And i enjoy working with my editor at Steeple Hill. She pushes me to be better and is a great motivator.

SDC: Teamwork is so important. I read in your blog, your purpose for writing and was blessed by that, Betsy. What kind of response do you receive from readers who have not yet come to know the Lord, or who have been influenced greatly by one of your books?

Betsy: Thanks Shirley. Actually, some of the most encouraging emails have come from readers of my Crosswalk articles, at I submit regularly to them, and was honored that my New Years story “Let Your Shine Before Men in 2010” was chosen as the home page lead article right after Christmas. It’s such a blessing to hear that God uses the words He gives me to touch others. As for my books, it is the same. I haven’t yet heard from anyone who professed to not know the Lord, but I pray that one day someone in that position will pick up my novels and come to know Christ. In the meantime, I love hearing that God uses my stories to deepen relationships with Him. I’m still in awe He would see fit to use me that way.

SDC: That just about answers my next question already. Let me add to that. How do you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories?

Betsy: With Steeple Hill Love Inspired, a faith element is required, but they don’t want to see “preachy” messages, so there is definitely a delicate balance there. Sometimes its tricky to accomplish, especially for someone like me who grew up in church and was led to the Lord at an early age. “Christian-ese” comes easy to me, and my editor always helps me see when I’ve used phrases or analogies that might not be understood by a non-church go-er. But I think when you take your characters through an external situation, it’s pretty simple to help lead them on a spiritual and emotional journey through it. It’s just with Christians in real life. When conflict arises, you have to choose how you will handle it, and taking my characters down that path usually comes naturally. And of course, a romance isn’t romance with love – I just hope that my character’s human love for each other will hint at the deeper love that Christ has for His church.

SDC: I see you use an agent. How did you go about finding yours, and what was your criteria for selecting?

Betsy: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I signed with Tamela Hancock Murray at the 2007 ACFW conference. She sold my first novel to Steeple Hill a few months later. I was very pregnant with my first child when I received the good news about my first contract. 2008 was a blessed year in so many ways! I knew Tamela and all the Hartline agents were sought-after and had a great reputation in the Christian book industry, and I also knew several of her current clients, who spoke highly of her. We seemed to be a great fit in both personality and goals, which is important, and that instinct has proven to be true time and time again since. My advice for anyone seeking an agent is to do your homework and learn about the agent. Just because they are well-known or respected doesn’t mean they’ll be a good match for you personally. All agents are different – some are more aggressive, some take things slower, some are a friend and cheerleader, others keep a more professional distance…you need to determine what relationship you want and then submit to an agent that fits that criteria. Matching yourself up with an agent who isn’t a good fit is a waste of both of your time.

SDC: I love to ask this question for the answers are so varied. What’s your favorite Bible verse that has sustained you recently and why?

Betsy: So many! But I think right now, especially in the midst of my husband’s recent lay-off from the fire department, that it would be:  Matthew 6:25-26 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

SDC: I love those verses in Matthew too. Many of us writers have favorite rooms or spaces in our home or around our homes that we use to get our creativity juices flowing. Where is your favorite place to go and why? Does it often play any part in your story writing?

Betsy: Usually, just sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop does the trick. It gets me in the center of the house, by the window overlooking our big front yard, with lots of light shining through the windows. But sometimes, I have to get away, and then nothing beats sitting at a table in Barnes & Noble with a hot Starbucks mocha. THAT is inspiration!! :::grin:::

SDC: I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read one of your books but I hope to soon. (In my spare time?) Have you ever considered writing about a character who leaves the United States and goes elsewhere to find his or her love? (Or do you already have a book like that that I have missed hearing about?)

Betsy: I actually have and am waiting to hear back from a publisher on that very topic right now. Stay tuned! I can’t really elaborate at the moment. ::wink::

SDC: Hmm, sounds intriguing. Have you ever written anything that you had to later toss? How would you describe your OLD file system of “works in progress” that you chose not to pursue?

Betsy: I really don’t have any stories that I have completely “given up on”. There is one romantic suspense novel I actually wrote, revised, wrote, revised, had critiqued by famous author Dee Henderson, and wrote and revised again. Literally this story went through 5-6 drafts, and it was the story that led me to acquiring my current agent. It’s still unpublished but I believe God has a purpose for it. I’m hanging on to it until I know what it is! It’s hard to see stories put aside indefinitely, but that’s where faith comes in. As authors, but especially as Christians, we have to trust God’s timing!

SDC: Boy, isn't that the truth. I understand you have a book you would like to share with one of our readers. That is always exciting to us here at the blog. Tell us which one you are planning to donate. Also, what question would you like to have answered to help me select the winner?

Betsy: Yes! My second novel with Steeple Hill is A VALENTINE’S WISH, which is a sequel to my first novel RETURN TO LOVE. I will be giving away a free copy of A VALENTINE’S WISH to the winner on your blog. If the winner hasn’t read the first novel yet, they can find it or have their local Barnes & Noble order it. (It’s not imperative that the winner read the first to enjoy the second, but of course I’d love for them to! ::grin:: ) A VALENTINE’S WISH releases in stores and online February 1st.

Here is the back cover for A VALENTINE’S WISH
Unless youth pastor Andy Stewart finds a suitable wife fast, he’ll lose his job. Yet the woman of his dreams is his best friend. And Lori Perkins is still smarting over a failed engagement, so he can’t just declare his love. His plan: he’ll be her secret admirer and woo her anonymously with flowers and chocolates. And then, when romance is on her mind, Andy will confess his Valentine’s Wish – to spend his life with her. There’s just one little problem. Lori seems to think her secret admirer is someone else!

And the first line, my favorite! “Unemployed. Single. And out of brownie mix.”

Here is my question for readers to answer in order to win: What is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you on or near Valentine’s Day?

SDC: Great question! It’s been a real pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Betsy. As we close, please tell us where your books can quickly be found and where our readers can look you up.

Betsy: Thanks Shirley! It was great to be here. Thanks for having me. Readers can find my books at or through Amazon or CBD. They are in stores (Walmart, grocery stores, Barnes & Noble, etc) the month of their release date and can be ordered through B&N or other book sellers throughout the year. I always enjoy hearing from my readers and can be reached through my website – – or my blog,

READERS: Be sure to answer Betsy’s question above to try to win a copy of her book!
Congratulations to Cynthia Chow of California. You have just won Betsy's Book! Be sure to watch for it in the mail soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You've Got to Meet Jamie Carey!

Here she is folks...JAMIE CAREY.
     When she was six, Jamie's parents met Jesus and soon after started a church. It changed everything. Road trips with her dad—to and from Bible studies across Indiana—filled with talks of things beyond earth’s bounds, creation and the fall, God and Jesus, the rapture, the earthly walk compared to the spiritual walk, and how we are born for more than what we can see or touch.
     The highlight of those nights was stopping at a truck stop in the middle of the night where her dad would spend a little of the offering basket on two slices of pie and a couple of Cokes. Nothing ever felt so special as a middle of the night slice of pie with her dad. And nothing could stop the writing pouring out of her.
     As Jamie's relationship with God grew, she discovered her heart was filled with songs and poetry. During high school she wrote lyrics for her brother's band and sang them too.
     After college, Jamie married, had two sons and decided to stay home with them. While she homeschooled she wrote skits, poems, plays and short stories for school and church. When her eldest son turned five she dove into the world of novels. She'd read romance novels for years, but couldn't relate to the flawless, saintly heroines in Christian romance novels. So she decided to write her own.
     Snow Angel was born on a frosty night in an old farmhouse in Fishers, Indiana, where the cold floor gave plenty of motivation for the snow scene.
     Jamie loves to write late at night when the house is quiet and the darkness seems alive. Her characters, Elizabeth and Noah had been play acting in her head for a long time so the story went fast.
     Ten years later Snow Angel was published and won the ForeWord magazine Romance Book of the Year winner, was a National “Best Books 2007” Awards winner, and a 2008 RITA Awards® Best First Book finalist. It was the beginning of her dream career.
     Jamie and her husband Tony live in Indianapolis with their three sons and a giant of a dog named Leo.
     If she could only say one thing to her readers it would be, "Live the dreams God has destined you for!"

SKC: What a great introduction about yourself, Jamie! We welcome you here and are anxious to hear about your new project. Tell us about it.

Jamie: Angel's Den is set in 1808 in the "Gateway to the West" city of St. Louis. Lewis and Clark had returned a few years earlier from their monumental trek to the Pacific and Thomas Jefferson had doubled our nation with the Louisiana Purchase giving folks a refueled interest in traveling west. Enter Emma Daring, a woman who has had a sheltered upbringing in St. Louis and has little idea the stage upon which she is about to be thrust. A man comes along who sweeps her off her feet with his perfect looks and charming ways, but he has dark secrets and demons that seek to destroy his new wife. Emma Daring has no idea how strong she is going to have to be.
     Angel's Den became something more than a novel as I wrote it. As the story unfolded, I became aware of what so many women around the world experience in their marriages and relationships with abusive men. Whether the abuse is physical, emotional, verbal, sexual or an overall suppression of a woman's identity, I believe there are millions of women who will relate to Emma's struggle. I didn't know how God was going to save Emma. I was surprised who showed up to help her. I hope and pray that anyone going through something similar will find, as Emma does, her landing place of security and hope. That's my prayer for this book.

SKC: And such an inspiring prayer for so many. What first inspired you to write and what keeps you going now that you can add to your testimony above?

Jamie: My voracious love of reading and not finding enough books that I wanted to read first inspired me to write. I like the darker, gothic styles found in books like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, The Scarlet Letter, The Last of the Mohicans, Les Misérables, etc. I also love historical romance. I guess I wanted something that mixed the two and I wasn't finding it in CBA. Now? I'm very blessed to get to write what I want and people seem to connect with it and enjoy it too. PTL! I believe I'm doing what I was put on this earth to do (aside from being His daughter, a wife and mother, sister and friend, etc. :). It's very satisfying work and I am so thankful!

SKC: I have to agree with you. Even the plugging away each day and wondering when one will get somewhere is satisfying somehow, I think. Starting and ending a book is often the most difficult for so many writers. Describe how you come up with the beginning and end to your story.

Jamie: I think the beginning and end are the most exciting parts. It's the middle that I struggle with sometimes. The beginning for me is usually a scene I've had play across my mind for months. It might be very short and small, but it gives me this impetus - a feel for the characters, a mood, a starting off point. It's a little nerve wracking to start typing on that first blank page, that's true, but I equate it to running full speed down a diving board, taking that big jump at the end and then diving into the pool. Thrilling!
     The end is always bittersweet and teary for me. If I'm not bawling at the end then something is wrong and I rewrite it until I am! I always want to leave the reader with a big sigh and a tear or two (happy tears!) trickling down their cheeks. Endings are where "happily ever after lives" and I'm a big "happily ever after" kind of girl!

SKC: What do you believe is the KEY to writing a good book?

Jamie: I had someone once tell me to "cut my wrists and bleed into the work." That might sound a bit dramatic but I've found it to be true. When I'm writing a scene and it's not going as well as I know it could, I stop and look at it and just about every time I realize I'm not being honest. I'm saying what I think people want to hear, or what I "should" be saying, or some level of compromise so that I appear a certain way. That's a real trap to a writer (or anyone trying to create). I have to remind myself that God sees every little, minute, teeny-tiny detail of my every thought, motivation, personality, all the circumstances that have shaped my thinking/emotional responses/reactions. He knows it all. And He loves and accepts me as a spotless lamb because of what His son did on the cross and my faith in that. Then I take a big breath and write what's true and hope it rings true with others.

SKC: It certainly does with me. And I like the way you put it with that "bleed into the work" idea. I saw when I read up on you that you and your family live in Indiana. I have family there. How do you create your settings, and do you take advantage of the area that’s around you or do you research and discover new places?

Jamie: Where does your family live? My third book, Wind Dancer, is set in my hometown of Vincennes, Indiana. Other than that I have set my books in Alaska, Pennsylvania, England (Northumberland and London), France (Paris and Carcassonne) St. Louis and the west, and most recently, colonial Virginia. I LOVE traveling, both in my mind through books, websites, movies etc. and when I can in person. I think I need to write a book set in the Caribbean. I'm dying to go to Cabo San Lucas. 

SKC: My grandparents were from Muncie and I think Cowan. I have cousins and an aunt and others who live in Indianapolis too. Likely other places. It's been a while. I love to travel like you too, by the way. Back to writing. Why do so many authors have a difficult time coming up with their proposals?

Jamie: I guess proposals are a different style of writing than novel writing - more business oriented vs. creative writing. That might be challenging to some. I find article/blog writing challenging but not proposals so much. I have found that writing out a detailed synopsis before starting the novel can really help flesh out the story. Then again, it always changes as I write so sometimes it turns out better if I write the synopsis after I'm finished.

SKC: After you finish your present project what plans do you have?

Jamie: I am working on my sixth novel about a woman who comes to America from England and meets a ship captain. Lots of sparring going on between them right now which is great fun! It's a bit lighter than some of my other novels and that's been enjoyable to write.

SKC: Sounds intriguing! We appreciate that you are planning to donate a book to one of the readers here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. What would you like to ask our readers today?

Jamie: I can't think of any questions, but I would like to say a big thank you to anyone who reads this interview and Angel's Den! I hope you are blessed by it!

SKC: Then I will come up with that question for you, Jamie. In the meantime it’s been a pleasure having you here. Please let us know where your book can be found and where our readers can learn more about you.

Jamie: You can find my books at your local Christian book stores, Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, some Wal-Mart stores, online at Amazon and CBD. You can view book trailers and learn more about my books at Thanks so much for the interview, Shirley!

Okay, readers and other writers...Here is your question. Be sure to respond so you maybe win this exciting book of Jamie's.

I was really touched by Jamie's personal biography which she gave us in such great detail. What about her life moved you most?

Congratulations to Linda Wagner of St Paul, Minnesota and Michelle Vasquez of Hewitt, Texas! You both have just won Jamie's new book! Be watching for it and thank you so much for following us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rolling along with Miralee. Come by for an exclusive visit!

Please welcome Miralee with me these next few days...

Miralee Ferrell lives with her husband of 36 years on eleven acres in rural Washington State. They have two dogs, two cats, one horse, and a huge garden that they both enjoy working in, in the spring and summer. Reading, horseback riding with her daughter, sailing with her husband, and puttering in her flower beds are some of Miralee’s favorite pastimes. She serves on staff as a licensed minister (not a pastor) in their small church, ministering to women and leading prayer groups. She has 3 books out now and another releasing in April, and started writing in the spring of 2005.

SKC: Tell us, Miralee, about that favorite part of your newest book and why it is your favorite.

MF: That’s kind of hard, as it would be giving away something near the end that the reader will want to discover on their own. Let’s just say it’s a very emotional twist that happens concerning a young, orphaned sister and brother. I found myself getting teary eyed when writing it and again later when reading it. I love the places that go into deeper point of view where the reader truly connects with a character, as well.

SKC: I love those books that bring the tears. What inspired you to begin writing in the first place and what keeps you going?

MF: I’m not typical of most authors who have always wanted to write. I loved to read and enjoyed writing letters to friends, and even writing projects in school, but I never envisioned myself as an author, nor did I write short stories, even in my head.
     What inspired me was a visiting pastor who prayed for me at a special service almost 5 yrs ago. After praying for a couple of minutes he shared with me that the Lord had told him I was supposed to be writing, and that whatever it was, it needed to be published. I prayed about that for 2 weeks, felt a definite confirmation, and started out.
     To begin with I wrote out of obedience. Now, I write because I love it and can’t imagine not writing.

SKC: What an interesting story. Thanks. How would you say you come up with some of your dialogue in your book to keep it realistic with each character?

MF: Being a prolific reader over the years has helped a lot. Plus, I ‘hear’ the characters in my head…their dialect if they have one, their voice inflections, the way they phrase their words. Sometimes they talk to me (especially after I’m in bed, LOL!) and force me to get up and write down what they have to say. Also, I’m old enough to have met many thousands of people in my lifetime, and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of individual communication styles to draw from.

SKC: Isn't that the truth! How do you settle in on creating your settings? Your backgrounds? Creating your color schemes? Any magic formula?

MF: No magic formula…my two historical romances are set in a specific town that my publisher chose (and I helped), so it was easy. The books needed to closely reflect the locale during the era I chose, so I carefully researched what was there at the time. I also visited both areas (which are now ghost towns) to get a feel for the topography, the vegetation, wild life, the weather, etc. I took pictures, studied old books, and in both cases was able to discover and meet with a local history buff who gave me a wealth of additional information.
     My two contemporary novels are both set in the area where I live, so it was easy to create the world where my heroines lived and make it realistic. I think of all four books, the two historical ones have the strongest, most vibrant settings.

SDC: As someone who is published, what insight would you give to an aspiring writer today?

MF: Never give up if you feel this is what you’re called to do. And don’t let others discourage you with their stories of rejections and struggles. Yes, you’ll have them, as we all do. Some sooner than others, some later, but there’s no sense in dwelling on what might be. Get connected with other writers who will encourage you, while staying open to constructive criticism from writer’s who’ve been down the path ahead of you and can help you avoid pitfalls. Above all else, cover everything you do in prayer. If God is in it, nothing can stand against you!

SKC: Amen to that. And you are so right. If God is leading the way, we can't give up. I know how easy that can be. Part of it speaks to living that disciplined life, doesn't it. Miralee, do you have any point in your novel writing when you come to a stand still? If so, what do you do to get yourself going again?

MF: The Other Daughter is the only book I’ve written where I never came to a standstill. That book flew off my fingers and onto the keyboard. Since then I often hit snags in the plot. I know the big plot points, but it’s trying to come up with the smaller twists and scenes that are challenging. Right now I’m about 40% of the way into a new book (an old west romance) and wracking my brain on where to go for the next couple of chapters, before another ‘big reveal’ happens.
     What do I do? Usually sleep on it. I’ve had some of my most productive writing at night time. If I’m having trouble, I’ll often try to work on my book late, instead of watching TV with hubby before going to bed. Writing gets my mind going and doesn’t allow me to fall asleep easily. Usually not a good thing, but if I’m stuck, it often helps. I’ll start thinking of new ideas as I’m drifting towards sleep. The key is to get myself woke up enough sufficiently to write them down before they disappear, LOL!

SKC: What do you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far since becoming a published writer?

MF: There are so many! I remember about two years into this journey my husband was feeling a bit overwhelmed on my behalf. My debut novel was due to release, and I’d been deep in edits, revisions, and premarketing. He asked me “If you’d known how much work this was before you started, do you think you’d still have done it?” I had to answer yes. It’s stretched my mind, pushed me to think in new ways, kicked in my creative brain cells that hadn’t been used in years. I’ve met an entire new world of people that I didn’t know existed and made so many friends….my agent, editors, other authors, people who help influence others to buy my books…I think that’s the most important thing to me….the people. I’ve also had many ministry opportunities as a result of writing, and that’s always what this has been about for me. I never cared whether or not I was published for the money sake, I wanted to reach hearts and touch lives.

SDC: As we are learning more about you we would love to know about some of your favorite books as a child. Tell us about them. Did they have any effects on how you write today? I like to ask this question on occasion because it is true of so many of us writers.

MF: I have a lot of them that I loved. As a preteen it was the Nancy Drew mysteries. I collected many of them, and still have the old hardbacks today. During that same time period I also read and collected Cherry Ames and Sue Barton nurse books.
     As I got a little older (in my teens) I discovered Zane Grey westerns. He writes at a lot deeper level than Louis L’Amour, and I fell in love with Grey’s descriptions of the old west, the history, the characters and the stories he would weave. I also stumbled onto another couple of old authors, Gene Stratton Porter who wrote Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost, among others, and Harold Bell Wright, both amazing authors for their time period. I read and still own every novel they both wrote and have read all of them at least twice.
     Yes, I’d have to say my reading has influenced my writing. I often think of Zane Grey as I’m working (currently) on my new Western romance. It’s not your typical prairie romance, it’s more old west with cattle rustlers, cowboys, horses, and yes, even some gun fights, LOL! I don’t go to the depth on my descriptions that he did, but I’m trying to make sure that the scenery and local come alive for my readers, and the characters truly stay with them after the last page is finished.

SDC: I would say so! By the way, do you enjoy working with an agent, or do you go the route alone?

MF: I have a wonderful agent, Tamela Hancock-Murray with the Hartline agency. I signed with her when I was shopping The Other Daughter, and it’s evolved from a working relationship to a friendship. I do well at pitching new proposals and am not a bit shy about talking to an editor, but I like having the covering of an agent when it comes to the contract process, or if I hit any snags during the publication process.

SDC: What is next on the horizon for you in your writing?

MF: As I mentioned, I’m working on a proposal right now for a Western romance. I’m presenting it as a three book set and have two publishers interested in seeing it. I’ll be sending it to the first one in the next week or so. I’m also working on a possible third book with Kregel that would follow secondary characters we’ll meet in Finding Jeena (which release April 2010, and a women’s contemporary that’s burning to be written as soon as I can make time.

SDC: I understand you have a book to offer to one of our guests that write in. Tell us about it, and what question might you have for our readers?

MF: Here’s the back cover blurb for Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon
Against the backdrop of the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls in a historic Oregon logging community, a schoolteacher finds herself torn between a past love and the man who could be her future. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Garvey promised her heart to Nathaniel Cooper the night he disappeared from town. Four years later, just as she’s giving love a second chance with Andrew, a handsome logger, Nathaniel suddenly returns to town with a devastating secret. While grappling with the betrayal of those she trusted most, Margaret risks her reputation and position by harboring two troubled runaways who might be involved in the murder of a local man. As disaster strikes the town and threatens the welfare of its citizens, Margaret will be faced with the most important choice of her life.

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s read both my women’s contemporary (The Other Daughter) and my first historical romance, (Love Finds You in Last Chance, CA) to know which one they enjoyed most, and what type they’d like to see me write in the future. Do you think I’m stronger as a contemporary author, or historical? And does the idea of a three book series of Western romances interest you at all?

SDC: Good question for finding out more about what people like about a person's writing. READERS, even if you haven't read Miralee's books yet, we want to hear from you your thoughts regarding Western romances.

Thank you so much for being here, Miralee. Tell us where we can find you and your books.

MF: Several places…my Love Finds You books are available in Borders, Barnes and Noble, WalMart, Sam’s Club (later this year), Amazon,, and other online sites, and all my books are usually found in Christian bookstores or online. You can read more about each one, as well as upcoming projects on my website and blog:  and
     Thank you SO much for inviting me to speak to your readers. Also, if anyone has a book club they belong to who chooses one of my books, I’m available for phone chats or in person (if it’s not too far away).

 READERS! Don't forget to write in and I hope you win one of Miralee's books!

We have a winner! Congratulations to Nannette Conway of Pinson, ALABAMA.
Be watching in the days ahead for your book, Nannette.