Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Beginning of an Unforgettable Event - with Yvonne Leyman

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 copies of her books sold. She founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years and now directs the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat held annually in October at Ridgecrest/LifeWay Conference Center in NC. She mentors students for the Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild. She earned her Master’s Degree in English Literature from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her recent publications include Aloha Brides (Barbour, a collection of three historical Hawaii novels), A Knight to Remember (Heartsong, April 2012), the second in a series set in Washington DC, and Let it Snow (Heartsong, December 2012), third in the DC series. Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the Titanic  is her 50th novel.
SKC:  We welcome you here, Yvonne, and are looking forward to hearing about your book. Tell us about it.

YL The ship of dreams vanished, disappeared as it sank into the sea. In its place emerged a nightmare. The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic was not the end of the story for the 2207 passengers, plus the crew. It was the beginning of an unforgettable event that changed history, changed culture. There were only a few hundred saved in the 20 lifeboats. Not only were hundreds and hundreds of souls lost that night, but the event touched people throughout the world. Each person had family, friends, acquaintances and their lives too were touched and changed.

Some may want to compare this story with the book and award-winning movie Titanic, as I did when beginning this project. There is no comparison however. That is their story. This is mine and my desire, hope and prayer is that my readers enjoy this book, find it entertaining and filled with events and characters that come alive in their hearts and minds, and know what it means for a heart to survive.

SKC:  Sounds really good. I look forward to reading it. I'm curious. What keeps your mind from wandering away from the discipline of staying on subject each day when you write?

YL  I can’t say that I always keep it from wandering. But the acceptance of this book came late because Ramona Richards wanted a Titanic novel and I had a proposal for one. I had to write the entire book in about six weeks. No time to think. The thirty years I’ve had of learning the craft and practicing the creativity kicked in. When I awoke at night, I went straight to the computer. When I had a moment of looking out my office window at my panoramic mountain views I would recall an incident that could be included in the story, such as the way my neighbor got her dog. Now that experience is in my book. If I felt an instance of concern, I went immediately to my knees at my bedside and prayed. I ate at the computer. When my mind wandered, it wandered to my characters and story.

SKC:  Wow! Six weeks is a fast turnover. I would love to be able to do that. I cannot begin to say that now. Good for you. Tell, us, how do you come up with your characters’ names and your subject matter?  

YL My story covers fifty years, but begins in 1912 so my names are compatible with those who would be in first class on the Titanic. I also tend to visualize a person by a certain name. Lydia strikes me as not being a stereotypical name, but that of a pretty, plucky person. Caroline is a basic trusted name of one I’d like for a friend. Craven is one who craves certain things and indeed he does. Last names depict nationalities. John is a name that is accepted, popular, and doesn’t depict anything in particular. William comes from royalty. Armand is French. JoAnna was a name her parents chose and I used it because it’s a playful pseudonym of a writer/friend who first suggested I write about the Titanic.

SKC:  Sounds like you come up with your names about like I do. How has your background influenced your writing?

YL  In every way. This book is a composite, or culmination of all I know in craft and creativity that has developed in the thirty years I’ve been writing.  Many incidents and events in the story are based on personal experience or experience of people I know. It’s what I’ve learned as I’ve lived my life with successes, failures, negatives, positives, little faith, strong faith. My characters are who I am and what I  know of myself, others, and life.

SKC: Most of us as writers enjoy writing the book of our heart.  Then we find that the book of our heart isn't what the market wanted at all.  If you can't sell the book of your heart, what would you be willing to write to get published?

 YL I thought I knew what was the book of my heart, one set during WWII. I’ve wanted to write it for over twenty years but it didn’t fit into a category and is complex. However, as I was writing Hearts that Survive, it became the book of my heart. What I experienced in the way it flowed, the way my characters were more real than my own life, my love for the story, and the closeness to God and gratitude to Him for giving me the ability and opportunity to write far exceeded “what the market wants.” I write category books because I can, and because I’m a writer, and I have stories to tell, there’s purpose in my plots and themes, and editors want them. I think my WWII would be a good follow-up to my Titanic book, but if it doesn’t sell, I plan to write the kinds of books I’ve written for thirty years.

SKC: Once again, we thank you for being with us, Yvone, and for being so generous to giveaway one of your books.

YL Thank you for this opportunity. I hope the one who gets the book will thoroughly enjoy it.

To the readers: What have you discovered during your reading or writing to be the book most dear to YOUR heart?

 To get in touch withy Yvonne personally, you can find her at the following:


  1. Yvonne's book sounds interesting. Six weeks! Wow! I once had only six weeks to do a nonfiction book, Words To Live By For Women. Seems like several books out right now on the Titanic. Love to read this one, as well as the others. Many more stories and perspectives to contemplate about this incredible tragedy.

  2. Great interview. I think the book I've read that is closest to my heart and there are many would be (recent book) Redeeming Love, and (classic) one of Victoria Holt's because I keep going back to them again and again.
    Janice Ian

  3. Wonderful interview. I've enjoyed many of Yvonne's books. I think it would scare me to death to have to write such a huge, potentially emotional book in such a short period of time. I look forward to reading it.

  4. This sounds like a wonderful book and I look forward to reading it. As for a book that is near and dear to my heart it would have to be Rumer Godden's "In This House of Brede". It is just so well written and it is a wonderful book about God and community in English monastary.

  5. I want to read one of these books too. Funny I haven't before now. Please enter me.
    Carol Lindsey

  6. Thanks Janet - yes, there continues to be great interest in that magnificent ship and tragic sinking - so many lives lost. Janice, I too like Redeeming Love and Victoria Holt. Thanks Jess, for reading my books. I have never, and probably will never again, write a book like this (or any) in such a short period of time. See Ramona Richards comments on the BRMCWC site (Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conf). BW, I've considered touring a monastery - sounds so interestesting. Thanks for commenting, Carol. I want to read all those Titanic books.