The final installment of our interview with Paula Moldenhauer and Kathleen Kovach is today's post.
I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did.
Questions about the Writing Process
1. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
a. Be patient. I’ve worked with a lot of “newbies” and with rare exception what I find is a God-given talent that has not yet been coupled with an understanding of craft. The average amount of time it takes for a novelist to traditionally publish a first book is ten years from the time they start writing toward publication. (This was right on for me! I thought I’d beat the odds, but nope. Ten years.) Those who make it are those who are willing to persevere. It’s not always the most talented.
- Put your time in. Work hard to learn craft. Attend conferences and workshops, read craft books, join a critique group, WRITE. Then, don’t give up. (BTW, the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference (http://www.writehisanswer.com/colorado/ happens in May in Estes Park, CO. It’s great place for someone just starting out. The atmosphere is encouraging and casual while the workshops are packed with important information.)
- Don’t try to do it alone. The American Christian Fiction Writers professional organization (ACFW.com) has been invaluable to me. Kathy and I both believe in it so much we’ve poured countless hours into serving writers through that group. She is the Rocky Mountain Zone Director, and I’m the Colorado Coordinator. If you’re in our area, check out all ACFW Colorado has to offer through our website and blog (www.acfwcolorado.com)
- Build face-to-face (or at least email to email) relationships. Besides the national support, writers need the support of other writers FACE TO FACE. Smaller groups like a local ACFW chapter, a critique group, or a prayer group of writers can make all the difference. I actually have all three! Pray about these people. You'll need trustworthy friends who will celebrate and support you--and you'll need to offer that back to them. If you don’t know anyone in your area, develop a more vulnerable relationship with a writer-friend on-line.
- Embrace the truth that God directs your writing journey. Years ago He told me, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8, NLT) In 2007 I finally got the encouragement of having an agent. Right after that, stuff started crumbling in my family. My husband almost died of heart blockage. Things happened with the kids. Family members had 5 surgeries in less than two years, 2 broken bones, a mysterious illness, and we eventually almost lost everything we owned. I had to stop seeking publication to focus on the needs of my family. But God used those years to continue to develop me as a person and a writer. Coming out of the difficult season in 2011, I got my first book contract. He knew best.
Tell us how you really feel, Paula. lol All I can add to that is don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it. Learn at your own pace, (I’m still learning!) and don’t expect to churn out a best seller on your first or second or fiftieth try. Just give it all to God and see where He takes it.
2. Where do you find your inspiration?
Real life. I love people watching. Today at church a woman made a point to leave an open seat next to her, right by the aisle. We go to a huge church with several thousand attendees, so you can come and go without seeing anyone you know. Next thing I knew I was writing a romance based on that empty seat. I had to turn off the author brain and refocus on worship!
I also have taken from real life. I watched a show once where a man who had been abandoned by his mother had allowed cameras to follow him when he saw her again for the first time since he was a child. It was heart wrenching. This adult turned into that little boy and sobbed on his mother’s shoulder. That scene would not leave my memory. I eventually wrote about a man who meets his mother for the first time since he was little in “God Gave the Song,” a story in the three book anthology Oregon Weddings. Unfortunately for my character, she is in a coma, but has made an odd request of him that he must fulfill. I must admit, however, that often my ideas simply come from those pesky voices in my head.
3. What kept you writing during times of disappointment or interruption?
After I wrote my first (unpublished) novel, I kept asking the Lord what was next. Would the book sell? Would ministry come out of it? All I received back was the same verse over and over. “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 (NLT). Looking back I’m glad I didn’t know how long and difficult the journey would be. There was a four year period the Lord didn’t allow me to even write fiction. There were lots of wonderful unexpected things, like a four-year period of devotional writing ministry and another period where I wrote children’s Sunday School curriculum. I remember looking at the stars one night and thinking that if I died, I would be content to know I’d done something with eternal significance. I trust the Holy Spirit that children will know the Lord because of things He poured through me into that curriculum. I haven’t always liked the pathway I’ve walked on this writing journey. There was a lot of disappointment, but I do believe fully that HE is leading me on the BEST pathway, so it will all be RIGHT in the end.
To be honest, I don’t handle those things very well. I went through a very hard season not too long ago where my muse packed her bags and moved to Tahiti until things settled down around me. I could not write. God, in his infinite mercy, withheld any contracts at that time so I wouldn’t have to be on deadline.
4. How did you know you were called to be a writer?
For me the calling came in stages. I remember being convinced years ago while doing Marlene Bagnull’s Bible Study for writers, “Write His Answer.” I got it at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference before she was even directing it. I made it only part-way through the study the first attempt, then laid it aside and had two more babies! Later, I did finish the study. God confirmed my calling over and over in many ways, often through Marlene and the conference she later directed here in Colorado. But you knew, when you can’t not write, you kind-a get a clue.
It’s amazing how Paula’s and my journeys parallel. I, also was called to be a writer, or maybe I should say released to write professionally, at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in 2002. I never felt a conscious calling, but story telling has been a part of who I am for as long as I remember. I joke that I had a pen clutched in my tiny fist when I was born. It was purple with sparkles. I self-published my first piece as a child when I wrote a poem about a fat cat in a black hat. I made copies by hand and sold them to my friends for a nickel. I made twenty-five cents.
May your day be blessed,