Tuesday Talks-Interview with Miranda J Chivers

Today we are blessed to have Miranda Chivers with us. Miranda is a retired Social Worker and former Tourism Owner/Operator. She is an avid researcher and constant student of the deeper Christian life. The twists and turns of difficult seasons in her life produced gems of God-inspired insight. She believes that our failures can be our biggest assets and provides us with the tools to teach others. Her mission is to heal hurting souls by sharing her own experiences through both fiction and non-fiction. Welcome, Miranda. Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I’m a baby-boomer—born and raised by Mennonite parents in a rural area in the cold Canadian prairies. Although I was raised in a very strict religious environment, I questioned everything. The answers I received were unsatisfying. At the age of sixteen, I left my protected environment to explore the real world. I chased knowledge and spiritual meaning through low valleys of depression, chronic illness, poverty, homelessness, family dysfunction, and abuse. This colorful background shaped my personality and shifted my understanding of humanity. I learned to balance despair with an intimate connection with God.  The cornucopia of life experiences morphed my faith dramatically.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write? Who’s your favorite author?

With my social work background, non-fiction is my first go-to for both reading and writing. I blog on various Christian themes, relationship issues, and mental health.

I’m learning to write fiction since my life reads like a fiction novel, I have lots of material to draw from.

 I love reading historical fiction and memoirs. I’ve read most of Brock and Brodie Thoene’s books.

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

I don’t remember not loving books. I had three brothers and no sisters. Living in a sexually segregated society, I wasn’t allowed to play with the boys. We had no TV and one radio. Living in a rural area without playmates, I created imaginary friendships. Fantasy became a coping skill to conquer loneliness. Books were my comfort.

At the age of eleven (1966) I wrote to a writing school asking them if I could take their course. They wrote back thanking me for the interest, but they didn’t accept students under the age of eighteen. I was crushed and spent the rest of my life hiding my writings. I published in the school newspaper in high school, briefly wrote a social column in a community newspaper, and published a few academic pieces as a social worker. I always wanted to write a book but never had the courage to take the plunge—until now.

Tell us about this book.

Unequally yoked: Staying Committed to Jesus and Your Unbelieving Spouse is a non-fiction manual for living. It addresses the common problems faced by those living with a spouse who doesn’t accept your Christian truth or believe in God the way you do. It helps the Christian spouse reframe their perspective of their non-Christian spouse’s belief system and respect those differences.

Although the book is targeted to the believing spouse, it is also helpful for the non-believer since it focuses on the importance of understanding how your spouse thinks and learns.

Reviews from both Christian believers and non-believers state the book is applicable to all relationships, regardless of faith.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

I was really surprised by how much I knew on the topic. Although I started with a few questions, the project grew very quickly.

I discovered I was still the little girl who likes being alone with a good book. Only this time, I was cocooned behind a desk—writing. I found the process of writing comforting. But when it came timeto let others read my work—I was a nervous wreck. I’m a private person. Sharingmy writing means sharing my soul. That’s tough for an introvert to do.

Our marriage changed both during the book writing season and after. Both the task of writing and the content of thebook helped us understand each other better. My husband was very patient duringthe process—waiting for me to come out of my cocoon. He learned to accommodatemy creative moments and irregular dinner hours.

I was worried about the impact on our marriage when my husband read the first draft. He didn’t know what I was writing, so he was surprised by the final result. The book opened the doors ofcommunication and we discovered new levels of intimacy—despite almost thirtyyears of marriage.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I start with a mind map. I write down rabbit trails of information. These become ideas that may or may not be useful.From there I create a rough outline. I’m a pantser and a researcher. I startwith a headline and write from that.

My digital notebook is full of ideas that might be useful in a future blog or book.

Is there a special place you like to write?

I have an office in my home that’s all mine. I don’t share this space with anyone.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

I never planned to write this book. It came out of a mind-map experiment.

At the age of sixty, I made a commitment to myself to publish a book. But I had so many ideas, I didn’t know where to start. I listened to the experts. They said to write what you know. This topic kept coming up in my doodling, so I started expanding the rabbit trails. When they started to merge, I knew I was on to something.

I was terrified when I realized what I waswriting. What would people think of me, of us? But I couldn’t quit. I needed tofind out how it would turn out in the end. Would this book change my life, mymarriage, my family? Was I willing to risk everything for this book?

As it turned out, the ending wasn’t as dramatic as my imagination.

What advice would you give a new author?

Write every day. Find a time that works best for you and stick to it. Communicate with your family so they understand you cannot be disturbed. Turn off all devices that might interrupt your creative flow. Make writing a priority.          

What project are you working on now?

Historical fiction. My story takes place in 1937 in Germany prior to WW2 but reaches back to WW1 in Ukraine and Russia.

I’m also toying with an Early Readers adventure book on faith.

I’m hoping to publish both books in 2019.

Where can we find your books?

On Amazon. See my author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Miranda-J.-Chivers/e/B0791MGZP7

The link for “Unequally Yoked: StayingCommitted to Jesus and Your Unbelieving Spouse” is https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0791LJYX8

Tuesday Talks- Interview with Melissa Jagears

Melissa Jagears - Author

We have Melissa Jagears with us today. Melissa is an award-winning author and a homeschooling mom who writes Christian Historical Romance into the wee hours of the night. Hi Melissa, tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

We were quite poor. My father was often in trouble with the law and my mother worked her hardest to make sure we didn’t know how bad off we were. I enjoyedschool though, and reading, and so as long as I had something to read and workon, I was pretty happy. My parents weren’t Christians, but when we moved statesto crash at one of my grandparents’ because we were essentially homeless, theirrule was you went to church if you lived under their roof. So, my parentsstarted looking for somewhere else to live J and I enjoyed going to church.Thankfully my mother continued taking me and my sister if we wanted to go tochurch after we moved out of the grandparents’. I excelled at school, so with lotsof scholarships, I got a degree in English and taught English as a SecondLanguage to junior high and high school students for several years before Ibecame a mother. After my first year of stay-at-home momming, I needed more thanpatty-cake to keep my brain occupied and started writing. I never was a writerfrom “the moment I could pick up a crayon.” I was just an “I think I could doit someday” sort of person. When my daughter was a year old, that someday came.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

Christian Historical Romance, no question. As to favorite author, if you’d asked me before I started writing, it’d have been Lori Wick, easy. I still have sentimental feelings for all her books, but I’ve ruined my blissful love of every book by “going behind the curtain” and learning to write. There are talented authors I certainly enjoy but no one has yet made me love everything they’ve written like Lori Wick did 20+ years ago….oh wait, I’ll say it’s Julianne Donaldson. Mainly because I loved both novels she’s written and since she’s basically stopped writing, that means I totally love all her books and the second I see the next I’ll buy it. 

What age did you realize you loved books?

My mother says since I was 18 months old, I’d sit with a book and “read” it intently. I don’t ever remember not loving books…except when I got fed up with the Nancy Drew ghostwriters for not writing books fast enough that I had for another book to come out…..and I couldn’t be bothered to find something else better to read while I had to wait, so I just quit. Cold turkey quit reading because nothing could be better than Nancy Drew….I don’t remember how old I was when that happened, but on my 13th birthday someone gaveme a Lori Wick novel….and since I got it as a gift that meant I was obligatedto read it….I haven’t stopped reading for pleasure since—though children makeit hard to read as much as I like. Seems they want to be fed on occasion.

I guess they do… lol. Tell us about this book.

I wrote this book before I got picked up by Bethany House but had shelved it because I couldn’t get the end right. Eight years later, I decided to see if my improved writing skills could help “old writer me” out of the mess. Thankfully,I believe I had enough new skills under my belt to untangle it from itsproblems.

It’s a marriage of convenience story, which is my book drug of choice and has one of my favorite heroes I’ve written, and I “moved” from Kansas to Wyoming. The initial twist that drove my creative juices was what would happen if the reason you married for convenience was suddenly no longer valid after you’d already tied the knot.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

Ha! How not to write too much of myself into a heroine—a lesson I have had to learn repeatedly when any of my books have a heroine that is at all similar to me. Don’t ever expect me to mirror my true self in a character unless I’m writing her as avillain—for evidently, what’s in my head is often not something a likeable/relatable heroine has going on in hers.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I do a ton of different outlining worksheets before I start writing now. These are worksheetsI’ve made up for myself after synthesizing information I’ve assembled from going to conferences and reading writing craft instruction, etc.

Then when I think I’ve got a story that will work after going back and forth between those worksheets, I write the story in stream of consciousness storytelling form, like “Joe is doing his banking job. In the middle of denying some crazy loon a bank loan, his love interest comes in with guns ablazing and holds up the bank. Joe is gobsmacked by the woman in high stilettos and a black satin Zorro mask who cleans out every man’s pockets in less than 5 minutes leaving lipstick kiss prints on each man’s cheek, and walks out as if she knew no one would run after her—which no one did. When Joe comes back to his senses, he pulls the silent alarm, then shakes his head at himself and calls 911.”

Sometimes the amount of words it takes to write that storytelling document is enough to fill an actual book, but it goes fast because I’m not worrying about spelling, punctuation, paragraphs, good writing, realistic dialog, nothing. I just write it to see how the story goes and where I have plot holes and pacing problems, etc. I fiddle with the story in that form until the plot works. Then I use that as a guide to write the book.

Is there a special place you like to write?

Special place, no. Special circumstances, yes. It has to be silent and I need to be reasonably sure no one will interrupt me.

What advice would you give a new author?

Don’t be eager to throw your first book up on Amazon or expect it to be salivated over by agents and editors—it’s more likely to be flat rejected and embarrass you years later that you ever acted as if it was good enough to catch anyone’s eye. Don’t be assured that your 5th book, or even your 10th, will be of the quality you’d expect of your own preferred reading material. Consider the potential years it will take for you to write multiple books—which may never see the light of day—as your “college education.” It takes at least 4 years of basically all day studying to get a degree, so don’t be disappointed or embarrassed with the time it takes for you to become a writer who can compete with your favorite authors. No sophomore in college gets frustrated and depressed that they aren’t already hired as a meteorologist, social studies teacher, dentist, or journalist—they know that if they are to be on par with their professional competition they need to keep plugging away. Now, they may learn they’re not cut out for the vocation during those years of work and might change their mind about chasing that career or major, but they don’t get frustrated that they haven’t made it after two semesters of work. As a writer, you can be thankful that, though you can go to college for writing, writing in the comfort of your own home is cheaper than college and a viable alternative.  

What project are you working on now?

I’m working on the next book in the Frontier Vows series that follows Romancing the Bride. I feel like it’s too early to tell you what it’s about, but characters from Romancing the Bride will show up again, just like they do in all my series.

Where can we find your books?

I have a handy page on my website that lets you know all the places you can find my books. http://melissajagears.com/my-books/  Some of my books are in some stores and not others for random reasons, so you can also click on a particular book’s cover and find where you can get that one. But most stores online have my books, or you can ask any brick and mortar store to order it if my book isn’t on their physical shelves.

Tuesday Talks-Interview with James L Rubart

James L. Rubart is the bestselling, four-time Christy Award-winning author of nine novels, and has won numerous other accolades for his unique, mind-bending stories

Today we have the honor of speaking with James L Rubart. Jim claims to be a 28 years-old trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons. He’s the best-selling, Christy BOOK of the YEAR, CAROL, INSPY and RT Book Reviews award winning author of ten novels and loves to send readers on journeys they’ll remember months after they finish his stories. He’s also a branding expert, co-host of the Novel Marketing podcast, and co-founder with his son, Taylor, of the Rubart Writing Academy.  Hi Jim, tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I was born in Seattle, went to college at the University of Washington, married my dream girl, and now live in eastern Washington. We have two outstanding adult sons and one outstanding daughter in law. (And three kittens, of course.)

Looks like good things do come in threes. :} What’s your favorite genre toread and write. Who’s your favorite author?

Favorite genre to read is time travel. Favorite to write is visionary. I’ve always resonated with Toni Morrison’s idea that if there’s a story out there you want to read and it hasn’t been written, you need to write it. Favorite author is C.S. Lewis. He did it all, children’s, fiction, non-fiction, but more than that, he opened up my mind and heart in ways no one did before or has donesince.

What age did you realize you loved books?

I was an extremely active kid, loved the outdoors, loved sports and wasn’t into reading. But my mom forced me to read half an hour every night. Quickly that turned into me reading hours every night and reading under the covers with a flashlight so my mom would think I was asleep.

LOL… I think many of us used the “flashlight under the covers” trick. When did you start writing?

Thefirst real memory was seventh grade when I wrote a short story for my Englishclass and got an A on it. I was hooked!

Tell us about your latest novel, The Man He Never Was.  

It’s a modern reimagining of the classic Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. Here’s the back cover description: 

What if You Woke up One Morning and the Darkest Parts of Yourself Were Gone?

Toren Daniels vanished eight months back, and his wife and kids have moved on—withmore than a little relief. Toren was a good man but carried a raging temperthat often exploded without warning. So when he shows up on their doorstep outof the blue, they’re shocked to see him alive. But more shocked to see he’schanged. Radically.

His anger is gone. He’s oddly patient. Kind. Fun. The man he always wanted to be. Toren has no clue where he’s been but knows he’s been utterly transformed. He focuses on three things: Finding out where he’s been. Finding out how ithappened. And winning back his family.

But then shards of his old self-start to rise from deep inside—like the man kicked out of the NFL for his fury—and Toren must face the supreme battle of his life.

Inthis fresh take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, James L. Rubart explores the war between the good and evil within each of us—and one man’s only chance to overcome the greatest divide of the soul.

That sounds exciting! What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

That the only way to win the war Paul describes in Romans chapter 7 is to die to myself, surrender fully, and step into the truth of who I am in Christ.

Is there a special place you like to write?

A few years ago I had a storage shed built and put on our property. I converted it into a writing room. It’s quiet, away from our home, cozy, and the perfect place to create stories.

What advice would you give a new author?

Buy a good pair of running shoes. Put them on. Sprint in the opposite direction. Just kidding. (Kind of.)The publication journey can be brutal, but if you can’t not write, do one thing. Keep going. Most people give up. Don’t do it. Press on. Raw talent is not what’s going to get someone published. It’s perseverance. And write from the gut level, deepest parts of your soul. If you’re willing to open yourself up, you will create stories that readers resonate with and your stories will bring them hope, and life, and freedom. Along the way, you’ll discover the greatest reward is not getting published but seeing your soul transformed because of your journey.                                                                        

What project are you working on now?

I’m finishing up my next novel, The Pages of Her Life which comes out next May. It’s the first story I’ve written where the protagonist isa women, so I’m quite excited about it. And I’m working on a series of novelswith my friend, Susan May Warren which think readers will love.

Where can we find your books?

Just about everywhere.Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Millions, CBD, LifeWay … and manybookstores.

How can people stay in touch with you?

Best way is to sign up for my newsletter which people can do at my website. http://jameslrubart.com/  Also on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/JamesLRubart

And a special offer for your readers, if they email me, I’ll send them a link to download a free song I wrote inspired by my first novel, Rooms.

Tuesday Talks – Interview with Shannon McNear

Shannon McNear, Author

Today we are privileged to have Shannon McNear with us. Shannon has been writing novel-length fiction since age 15. Her first novella, Defending Truth, from A Pioneer Christmas Collection, was a 2014 RITA® nominee. She’s a member of ACFW and RWA. Welcome, Shannon. Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I’m a wife (going on 32years), mother (8 here on earth, 1 in heaven), mother-in-love (3 oldest are married), grammie (oldest has 2 little boys), worship and youth leader, research nerd, seamstress, music fanatic, very mediocre guitar player … and always the socially awkward geek type. J I grew up on a small farm in central Illinois, wandering the timber and riding horses. Graduated from a small Christian high school and attended Liberty University for three semesters. Had a rather broken family situation but God provided me an amazing step/adoptive father who showed me what honorablemanhood could look like. Unfortunately he went to be with the Lord when I wasonly 17 and my younger brother was 10, but my mom’s rock-solid faith was aconstant throughout my childhood. The one thing I learned, through the ups anddowns, was the conviction to live my own faith in a genuine, transparent way.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

At one time, I’d have saidanything speculative, particularly fantasy. But I also love historical. And Ilove romance done well. I can’t say I have a single favorite author, but my topfavorites include C.S. Lewis, Mary Stewart, Susanna Kearsley, Rachel Hauck,Ronie Kendig, Michelle Griep, Lori Benton, Elizabeth Camden … heavens, too manyto name!

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?  

I’ve always loved books!Words on the page have always fascinated me—I can’t even recall learning how toread—and third grade was when I discovered writing stories. I’ve never reallystopped …

Tell us about this book.

The Cumberland Brideis is #5 in the Daughters of the Mayflower series. It tells the story of KateGruener, daughter of settlers moving westward into Kentucky via the WildernessRoad in 1794, and Thomas Bledsoe, their guide. Kate loves to write and is fascinated by people’s stories, and though she rightly guesses that Thomas has plenty of his own to tell, he’s less than forthcoming about sharing them.

Is she too naïve to survivethe journey? Or when danger threatens, will she find a courage no one knows shehas?

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

Oddly enough—I had a fresh realization of how fascinated I am by people’s stories. That I need to have more courage to actually ASK people to share them—because they’re usually more than happy to do so.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

Writing on contract means that I’ve had to come up with at least a rough summary of the story, start to finish, and I actually find that helpful, though I’ve considered myself more of a “seat of the pants” writer. I love the process of discovering the charactersand story as I write—although the uncertainty can be terrifying!

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

Thomas’s journey was a lot more difficult than I expected. I wasn’t sure I could pull off his character arc, but several readers have said that was the thread which resonated most strongly with them.

Is there a special place you like to write?

In the summertime, I love sitting on my front porch swing, and in the winter, I usually sat in a very comfy recliner loveseat in one of our downstairs rooms—but while on deadline last year, I found I needed to be able to shut myself away from the rest of the family. So I cleared out a corner of what was then a very cluttered sewing room and discovered I loved having a dedicated space for writing. Gradually I turned half the room into a writing/office area. It really helps me get into that “I’mat work now” mindset.

What advice would you give a new author?

Read, read, read. And write, write, write. Don’t be afraid to study the craft. Listen to feedback, but trust your own story sense and writing voice. And above all, understand that getting published isn’t a destination unto itself—it’s a milestone on the overall journey, but also a higher level of responsibility, with new pressures and insecurities of its own.

What project are you working on now?

Another Daughters of the Mayflower title, this one set during the CivilWar.

Where can we find your books?

Amazon is a good place, or other online booksellers such as Christianbook.com, Books a Million, or Barnes & Noble. For The Cumberland Bride:

Amazon(both paperback and Kindle)
Christianbook.com (both paperback and ebook)
Barnes & Noble (both paperback and Nook)

Tuesdays Talks – Interview with Connilyn Cossette

This week we have the amazing Connilyn Cossette. Connilyn is a Christy Award Nominated and CBA-Bestselling author of the Out from Egypt Series from Bethany House Publishers. Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

Although we now live in NorthCarolina, I am originally from Washington State (the dry side, although I’velived on the wet side too). I’ve been married for 21 years and am the mother ofa 14 year old son and a 11 year old daughter whom I’m homeschool. I was raisedin the Church under the influence of two godly and wise women, my mom and mygrandma, both of whom have had a lot of influence on my career as a Biblicalfiction author. I was a voracious bookworm from the beginning and fell in lovewith words and language at a very young age. I did not start writing seriouslyuntil I was in my mid thirties however, due to a lack of confidence but Godtook me by the hand and led me into this beautiful career, in spite of myself-doubt, and now I cannot imagine doing anything else!

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

I’ve always been drawn tohistorical fiction of all kinds and will pretty much read any historicalstories that I can get my hands on. It has always served to make the past comealive for me. I have so many authors that I admire but I would have to say forhistorical I adore Liz Curtis Higgs and her Scottish series above most others.

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

I was an early reader, in fact, my mother told me the other day that she regretted not reading more to me when I was young because I was reading on my own at about three and she couldn’t keep up with me! Reading was always my favorite activity and pretty much the only thing I ever got in trouble for in school was sneak-reading books under my deskduring class (especially…ahem..math). I was also consistently drawn towriting and took many creative writing classes during my school years but thismostly took the form of poetry. It wasn’t until I got inspired by my studies ofthe Exodus and the idea for Counted with the Stars refused to leave me alonethat I sat down and actually wrote a book.

Tell us about this book.

Shelter of the Most High is the second in the Cities of Refuge Series and builds on the story of Eitan, whom readers first met in A Light on the Hill as a young boy. It is also the story of Sofea, a young woman who lives on the ancient island of Sicily and is taken forcibly from her home by Bronze Age pirates. When the two meet in Kedesh, the City of Refuge, they will be forced to face a number of trials, from language barriers, to cultural and religious differences, to betrayal and entanglement in a murder plot. I fell in love with Eitan and Sofea and had so much fun bringing the two together and hope readers enjoy the journey too!

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

Gosh, it’s been so long since Iwrote it…but  I would say that Eitandeals with the problem of self-recrimination and not embracing the grace thathe was given many years before and I find myself doing the same and allowingthe Enemy to keep bringing up old sins. Sometimes I forget that I’ve alreadybeen forgiven and my sins are separated from me as far as the East is from theWest.  Eitan’s journey is a greatreminder to live the life of freedom that we were gifted by Jesus at the Cross.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

Yes, I do use an outline. I haveone that I’ve adapted for my own purposes. It’s nothing too detailed, justmostly general plot points and vague chapter descriptions and then I fleshthings out as I write. I’m kind of a hybrid pantser/plotter since I like alittle structure but give myself enough leeway to explore rabbit trails alongthe way.

Is there a special place you like to write?

I mostly write at my desk in my office but on days when I take my kids to their enrichment homeschool classes, I work at the local library next to these huge floor to ceiling windows that look out over a gorgeous wooded nature area. Now that the leaves are all beautiful colors the view is especially enjoyable. Usually, the squirrels give me a great show while I work and last month there was a proliferation of butterflies dancing out there too. I put on my headphones with brown noise to block everything out and am always very productive on my library days.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

There were a couple of plot twists that I did not plan for that kind of showed up as I explored the characters and their journeys but I can’t give any examples because they are major spoilers!

What advice would you give a new author?              

Find a tribe. I prayed that the Lord would provide me with some great writing pals and He provided me with some of the best, most encouraging friends I’ve ever had in my life. Look for people that are honest but tactful about sharing their critiques, people that build you up but keep you grounded, and people that are invested in making sure you put out your best work even if that requires a tough conversation. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and of course, many of us are introverts, but connecting with other writers that “get you” will make what could be a lonelycareer into a fun and mutually beneficial journey!

What project are you working on now?

Iam writing two books concurrently. I am working on the 4th book of the Citiesof Refuge Series which will release in 2020 and also on a shorter novel forGuideposts Fiction that will tell my own imagined version of the women whotouched the hem of Jesus’s garment. It’s been a challenge to write two books atonce but they are both coming along nicely. My biggest problem is that theCities of Refuge is in first person and the Guideposts is in third and I keepslipping into first person halfway through my scenes almost every single day! Inow have a note in big, bold red letters on every chapter to help remind me,but it’s still a constant struggle!

Where can we find your books?

My books are available wherever literature is sold, both in brick-and-mortar stores (don’t forget to shop independent bookstores!) and all online outlets. You can head over to www.connilyncossette.com or bakerpublishing.com for purchase links and for more information on all my novels.