Back in October I wrote an entry called “Taking Nominations”. Since then I have found a couple of other ladies who write books that fit the criteria I listed in that earlier post. I’m including my own answers in these questions. A little later I’ll post more information about Wilburta’s and Christine’s books and where to get them. If you want more info before that, please check out their websites.
Wilburta Arrowood is a member of the Liberty, MO, church of Christ where her husband serves as an elder. Wilburta writes Christian women’s fiction and short stories. She has two books published by Publishing Designs, Inc. of Huntsville, AL. The first book, For the Love of a Child, addresses a mother’s struggle with anger, bitterness, and revenge. Several of her readers have used the book as an outreach tool, since it addresses baptism in the storyline. The second book, For the Love of Money, is a sequel, and addresses addictive gambling from a Christian slant. Wilburta is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, with lots of experiences to fuel her novels. Her goal is to make her stories real enough to be entertaining and enjoyable and doctrinally sound enough to be useful. She speaks regularly at ladies days and writer’s meetings, and enjoys fitting her topics to the needs of her audience. http://www.wilburtaarrowood.com/
Award-winning Arkansas author Christine Lynxwiler has been writing toward publication since 1997. She sold her first story in 2001 to Barbour Publishing. Since then she’s written and sold fourteen Christian romance novels and novellas including the best-selling Arkansas, which has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide and Forever Christmas which hit #12 on the CBA Fiction Bestseller List. A four-time winner of the prestigious American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award, Christine recently signed a new six book contract with Barbour Publishing of Uhrichsville, Ohio. Her new release, The Reluctant Cowgirl, received a 4 ½ star review from Romantic Times and was an RT Top Pick for April, 2009. Besides The Reluctant Cowgirl, her latest novels include Promise Me Always, Forever Christmas, and Along Came a Cowboy. Also just out is Alibis in Arkansas, three cozy mysteries complete in one volume, co-written with two of her sisters–in Christ and by birth–Sandy Gaskin and Jan Reynolds. Christine and her husband, chiropractor Dr. Kevin Lynxwiler, live in Highland, Arkansas, with their two daughters. Kevin serves as an elder at the Ward Street Church of Christ in Hardy and Christine teaches Bible class. http://www.christinelynxwiler.com/
Donna (D.H.) Parker was born at Grandma’s house in the rural Missouri Ozarks during an ice storm. Despite some circumstantial evidence to the contrary, she did not grow up in the 1800s. She did grow up with a close-knit family and twin younger brothers who aided and abetted her imagination. The most important things in her life are God and her family. She also loves books, both reading and writing them; old things and their histories; and music, especially Celtic and bluegrass fiddle music. Donna has three books in print and two more will be available later this year. Her husband serves as an elder at Prattville church of Christ in Alabama. Donna is involved with cradle roll class and Bible correspondence courses. They’ve been married over three decades and have two adult sons. http://donnaparker.w4aw.org
1. Have you always been a writer?
WA: I was writing some in high school. I had a teacher tell me I would never make it! I’ll admit it took a good long time, but I do have a couple of books out.
CL: I’ve always loved to write. There was a time in my life where I put away the desire and fulfilled other obligations. When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter and a stay at home mom, I picked that desire back up and started writing with a goal of being published.
DHP: I think I’ve been a writer since day one. Just before I started school, my mother put a pencil in my hand and taught me to write my name. When I realized that I could make marks on paper and other people would know what I meant, I felt like she had given me a magic wand. (Ok. My idea of great literature back then was fairy tales.) I’ve always written, although writing with the idea of being published came much, much later.
2. What motivates you to keep writing?
WA: The desire to help people. My books are women’s fiction with a “moral,” and I hope readers can relate to my characters and grow from their experiences.
CL: Some days the only thing that motivates me to keep writing is the fact that I have a contract to fulfill. But most days, I’m motivated by a love of the written word and by a story burning a hole in my heart wanting to get out. J
DHP: Sometimes I’m not motivated. I wonder why I even try. Surely I should be spending my time on more important things. Then somebody who’s read one of my stories tells me how it affected them. I’ve brightened their day, or made them think, or given them a respite from pressing troubles. That’s motivation.
3. Are there any genres you haven’t yet written that you would like to try?
WA: So far I have only written women’s fiction and several short stories, and one very bad historical novel that is buried deep in my computer files. I’m not sure I have enough time or strength to expand beyond that.
CL: I’ve always wanted to write fantasy. A couple of years ago, I would have said mystery, but my sisters and I collaborated on a three book series and it was every bit as much fun as I thought it would be. So who knows? Maybe fantasy is next. . .
DHP: My husband had some great uncles who, back in the 1920s, ran a still. Why they did is a compelling story in itself. During that same time period, but not in the same area, I had a great-great uncle who was a policeman. I would love to draw on those family tales and do a historical mystery set in the ’20s–with the names changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty), of course.
4. Do you have an agent?
WA: No. I have had a really bad agent, and one who offered me a contract that amounted to allowing him to have free access to my bank accounts. I decided to wing it on my own, and have been happy doing that so far. Love Inspired and Heartsong do not require agents, and some others may not as well.
CL: No. I had an agent for a while, but when I made the decision to stay with my original publisher, I also made the decision to let him go. I’d already forged relationships with Barbour and felt like I could negotiate anything that needed negotiating with them based on those relationships.
5. What would you say are the pros and cons of big-name publisher vs. small publisher?
WA: Big name publishers have much better distribution, thus a writer’s royalties would be greater, however they are often difficult, if not impossible to break into. Once an author does sell to a large house, they are limited to “generic Christianity” which prohibits specific doctrinal idiosyncrasies being addressed. Again, it is a dollar issue. They want good moral books that appeal to the masses. Some smaller houses will allow specific doctrinal issues to be addressed. For example, Publishing Designs, Inc. allowed me to include a baptism scene in my book, and it was specified that it was immersion. They are adamant about being sound, but they do have limited distribution. Soundness is most important to me, so I was thrilled when they chose to publish my books.
DHP: My current publisher is a small e-publisher, who also makes the books available in trade paperback. So far the company hasn’t quibbled about any doctrinal issue I’ve included, although the one that includes baptism hasn’t been edited yet. As Wilburta said, limited distribution is a problem. On the other hand, this small publisher is a delight to work with. I have input on many things that I wouldn’t with a big publisher. Also, I know my books will be available for at least two years, more if we extend the contract. Sometimes with big publishers, books have a very limited shelf-life, but at least they do make it to shelves. I think there is a place for both kinds of publishers. Small publishers can create books that are as good as, and in some cases, better than those produced by big publishers, so I do hope that the snob factor that has created a bias in some areas against smaller publishers will eventually be worn down.
6. What is Christian/inspirational fiction?
WA: It is a novel written with a Christian theme where characters grow in faith or maturity in their struggles to overcome the conflict that carries the story.
7. How does your Christianity affect your writing?
WA: Like peanut butter and jelly, I can’t have one without the other.
CL: In the same way it affects every other part of my life, I hope. When I write, I’m ever conscious of whether God will be pleased with what I’m writing. If I have any doubt that He will be, I delete it and start over. And I guess. . .revisiting question #2. . . that it also motivates me to write, knowing that my stories uplift and entertain while still bringing God’s influence on their lives into my readers’ mind. If I were writing secular fiction, I wouldn’t have that same motivation.
DHP: My books aren’t classified as “Christian” or “Inspirational”, although the mystery series possibly could be. Even though some of my books aren’t overtly religious, I want all my writing to affirm our Christian values and support, rather than erode, our faith.
8. I’ve heard some people in the church say that reading any fiction is a waste of time. What would you say to them?
WA: There are people who will not sit down and study the bible, but when it is offered, they will read a “good book.” Fiction is a great way to introduce non-Christians to an insider look at what Christian living is all about. I had one reader tell me a friend of hers refused numerous invitations to church until she read my book and realized Christian people are not all perfect and looking down on those who are not. We are commanded to rest, and reading a good, clean book is restful to both body and soul. Inspirational fiction with a Christian theme is not only relaxing, it is instructional in a most pleasant form.
CL: There are many ways to waste time. Cleaning house can be a waste of time if you do it disproportionately to the other things you need to do. So can talking on the phone and certainly, watching television. I have received enough reader mail to know that my books can impact a readers’ daily life in a positive way by them watching my characters’ struggle, whether it be in their personal relationships or their relationship with God. Issues like forgiveness and God being in control sometimes hit home hard with a reader even though the characters are fictional. Reading fiction is like cross-stitching or going out to eat with friends. It’s what you choose to do with your leisure time. And not something for other people to pass judgment on.
9. Surely we have as many talented writers in the church as there would be in any other given group of people. Why don’t we have more true-to-scripture fiction in the market place?
WA: One reason is our belief in water baptism by immersion. Many faiths do not embrace that concept, and the publishers want something to appeal to the masses. Publishing is a business and they have to sell enough books to make a profit. If the readers ban their books, they are out of business, so they cater to the vast majority.
CL: The Christian fiction market place is like any other market place. That means it is based on supply and demand. Traditional publishers try to meet the demand of as many readers as they can. To do this, they simply restrict exploring any doctrinal issues and ask their writers instead to focus on the story itself. With my stories, I don’t set out to “preach” on a theme or subject. I write to entertain, being careful not to promote spiritual error, and the “theme” usually emerges subtly (I hope). I love to read and listen to sermons online. But when I pick up a fiction book, I want to read a good story. I think most people feel the same way, so that’s the “demand” that the market responds to.
10. What’s the greatest obstacle to getting true-to-scripture fiction into the marketplace?
WA: See above, however many Christians believe that just because they have a story to tell, or a spiritual agenda, they don’t need to study the craft of writing. They dash off a book and send it in with no concept of how to deal with conflict, point of view, or even grammar for that matter. Editors do not have time to teach someone how to write.
CL: Again, supply and demand. And quality of writing.
11. Any comments on the Christian Booksellers Association and how it affects fiction?
WA: CBA is “the” arena most bookstores use to determine what to purchase for their inventory. Their conventions are an arena where authors can show off their wares in hopes they will be chosen to be featured in all those thousands of bookstores represented by the organization.
12. Do you think that reading the “Christian” fiction the CBA sanctions could be dangerous to our spiritual health? Why or why not?
WA: No, I do not, if we are sound in our belief. We are told to study to show ourselves approved unto God, and when we read non-scriptural scenes in a novel, we should be able to discern those and dismiss them as unsound. By doing so, we are stretching our spiritual muscles. If we don’t know if it is sound or not, we should be inquisitive enough to look it up. Again we are stretching our spiritual muscles. There are things I read in the newspaper and magazines I know are not factual and they do not corrupt me, because I compare them to the Truth. If I do that with everything I contact, as scripture teaches we should, I should be fine. In fact, although the CBA books may not be doctrinally sound, they are at least clean and have none of the smut many books contain, thus for me are a much better choice.
CL: I think that any book we pick up, any song we listen to, any TV show we watch can be dangerous to our spiritual health. There is something persuasive about entertainment. We (as a whole) will accept things in the name of entertainment that we would normally never sanction. Having said that, I think the way to protect “our spiritual health” when reading, listening to music, or watching TV or movies is to never lose sight of the truth of God’s word. Don’t let “entertainment” sway you to believe anything different than what the Bible teaches.
DHP: I think it very well could be. I know I have read a good bit of inspirational fiction. Yes, they are good, sometimes great, stories. No, they don’t have profanity or “steamy” romance or glorified immorality. But all that un-Biblical information about salvation? I know what the Bible says and can see where the fiction has it wrong, but not all Christians have done enough Bible study to know the difference. Are some of the problems we’re having in the Church because this constant diet of untruth is eroding faith? Is it making people more accepting of unscriptural teaching? People who love to read will read something. That’s why I believe we in the Church–both authors and publishers–need to be providing faith-affirming stories.
I’ll close by saying that if anybody has more questions, please leave a comment. Also please help us get the word out about these books. Tell your friends or anybody else you think might be interested. 🙂