Monday, May 28, 2007

Interview With An Independent Editor: Rachelle Gardner

Today I’m privileged to interview Rachelle Gardner (pictured at the left with her husband, Brian, and her two daughters). Rachelle and I met at my first writing conference, when she was an editor for a major publisher and I was a real “newbie” in writing. Now she’s an independent editor, and I’ve asked her to shed some light on exactly what that means.

RM: You’ve got a lot of experience in Christian publishing. What do you like about being an independent editor?
RG: I like being in charge of my own schedule! Being an in-house editor at a publishing company is extremely demanding in terms of time and energy, and typically includes a good deal of travel. With two kids in elementary school, I like being in control of my workload so I can be here for my kids. Yes, I often work late into the night as well as on weekends; but I’m the one making decisions about when and how much I work. With young children, I’ve found this to be an ideal set-up.

Another thing I enjoy is that as an independent, I’m not involved in acquisitions, which took up the bulk of my time when I was in-house. I was always looking for the next great author to publish, which is a taxing and stressful job! Now I get to focus purely on the books themselves, working with each author to bring out their very best. It’s a luxury, being able to spend so much time deeply immersed in story, plot, characterization, dialogue and all the other aspects of a great book, and not have to worry about finding 20 more books to fill the publisher’s list for the next year! I can really focus on each author, and I treasure the relationships I build.

RM: Are all independent editors offering pretty much the same services?
RG: Yes, the common services include manuscript evaluations, substantive edits, copyedits, and book proposals. We all have our own ways of figuring our fees, and no two editors will do a project in exactly the same way, but we all provide the basics.

RM: Do independent editors mainly work with unpublished writers?
RG: On the contrary, most of us work mostly with writers who already have a book contract. Most of my clients are publishers, rather than individuals, who hire me to edit a book that’s already contracted and has a release date. I occasionally work with unpublished authors, but I need to be choosy about how many of these I accept, due to the limited hours in any given day!

RM: I hear a lot about “developmental edits.” What does that mean?
RG: Sometimes called a substantive edit (although Zondervan calls it a macro-edit), a developmental edit looks at the “big picture” of your book. How’s the story working? Are your characters compelling and believable? I look at plot, characterization, dialogue, pacing, flow, scene-crafting, dramatic structure, general appeal and overall fiction technique. Other considerations may include hook, point-of-view, suspense, and readibility. Author's style and voice are addressed. What's working, what's not, and why? Is it interesting enough that readers will keep turning the page? Does the ending satisfy?

RM: What’s the difference between a developmental edit and a line edit?
RG: Where developmental editing addresses the big picture aspects of story, plot and characterization, line editing is polishing the writer's style and correcting things at the sentence or “line” level. We deal with incorrect or awkward grammar; suggest improved word choices; restructure paragraphs and sentences where necessary; help the author refine voice and tone; and generally make the prose shine. Special attention is paid to character consistency, dialogue, and scene structure. This level of editing is appropriate only once the manuscript has been developmentally edited and is in good shape as far as content and structure are concerned.

RM: If a writer has a good idea but it’s presented poorly, what can an independent editor do to help?
RG: It’s kinda like when you’ve made a new recipe and you know something’s wrong with it but you can’t quite figure out what. You don’t know if you’ve put too much salt, or not enough sugar, or a combination of both. A professional chef could taste it and identify the problem. It’s the same with your book. You may be too close to it to be able to put your finger on exactly what’s keeping it from working; your friends or crit partners may not have the experience or training to be able to figure it out; but a qualified editor should be able to identify the issues and make suggestions for improvement.

Of course, this can be tough―the soup can’t always be saved! Sometimes the writer is new to the craft and may not understand what the editor wants, or may not yet have the expertise to carry out the changes and improve the manuscript. Sometimes the problem is on many levels, in which case the author simply needs to continue working on craft. Just because the editor is able to identify the problem isn’t a guarantee it will be a great book.

Like we always say… an editor can’t make a bad book good. But we can help authors make good books great.

Another thing to remember is that with fiction, the “idea” is a small part of the equation. The execution is what’s important. Honestly, great ideas are a dime a dozen, but it takes a good deal of work along with talent to write a great book.

RM: Does it matter to a publisher that a writer has used an independent editor? Wouldn’t this indicate that the writer doesn’t have enough talent to repeat on his own?
RG: Hmmm… interesting question. The thing is, if you’re serious about being a writer, then the process of working with an editor is a learning experience. Most authors I work with, even those who’ve published multiple books, continue to learn with each editing experience, and their improvement is usually evident in the first draft of each successive book. Wherever you are when you begin the editorial process, you’re almost sure to be better when it’s finished. It’s not all about talent, as you know. It’s about doing the work to learn the craft. Wasn’t it Thomas Edison who said genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration? I think that’s true—and working with an editor is definitely an exercise in perspiration! ☺

Like I said above, an editor can’t make a bad book good. So even if you’ve hired an editor to help with your pre-contracted manuscript, there is only “so much” the editor could have improved it. The rest will have been your own hard work.

I guess I would have to say that your willingness to invest in an editor shows you’re serious, willing to take correction and willing to learn. These are important qualities for anyone who wants to be published more than once!

RM: I’ve heard the term, “book doctor.” What’s the difference between a book doctor and an independent editor?
RG: My understanding is that “book doctor” is just another term for an independent editor, as distinguished from in-house editors. I think it’s just terminology. As far as I can tell, book doctors offer the same range of services—evaluations, complete edits, etc.

RM: Any final words of wisdom for the readers?
RG: Many of you, once you get a book contract, will work with an independent editor since almost all publishers outsource some of their editing. There are a LOT of us independents, and we’ve all been in-house editors at one time or another. (I’m currently editing books for Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, NavPress and Bethany House.) So if you get a book deal, we just might get to work together!

As for writers who are unpublished and wondering if they might need the help of an independent editor to take their work to the next level―I do believe it can be a valuable process for both your book and for you. But it can be expensive, so it needs to be looked at as an investment in yourself as a writer; and I’d recommend, if you spend the money, you make every attempt to learn as much as you can from that editor.

One more thing: All the editors I know simply love their jobs! We love books and live and breathe the written word. Our passion is to come alongside authors, assisting them in producing their best work possible. While the process can be painful for the author (I’ve been likened to an axe-murderer) it’s ultimately worth it for everyone involved—author, editor and publisher. So don’t fear the editor!

Rachelle, thanks for doing this interview. I'm sure my readers will find it both interesting and helpful. I certainly did. I appreciate your time.

If you have any questions for Rachelle, you can probably find the answers (or send the questions on to her) at her web site. She also has her own blog, which is worth visiting on a regular basis.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorial Day

Memorial Day:

Some of us never saw a shot fired in anger. Others paid the ultimate price.

Whatever your politics or persuasion, please join me in honoring those who have served and in praying for the safety of the men and women who are now serving our country.

Mabry, Richard L.
Captain, USAF (MC)
1605th USAF Hospital
Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fall-Out From The Genesis Contest

The results of the Genesis competition are in, and I didn't place--no big surprise, at least to me. In case you're not an aspiring writer of Christian fiction, I need to explain that the Genesis contest is a competition sponsored by the American Christian Fiction Writers. If you've never had a work of fiction published, you're eligible to submit the first 25 pages of your work for judging by three professionals. I'm very pleased that a number of my friends qualified as finalists this year, and I wish each of them success--not just in this competition but in their future writing.

I really hadn't planned to enter this year, but as the deadline approached and I saw all the frantic activity of people polishing their manuscripts I just had to join in the fun. Besides, it only cost $35 to enter, and where can you get three professional critiques of the first 25 pages of your novel for less than $12 per crit? I entered my second novel, but shortly after I submitted it, I sent the full manuscript to my agent, Janet Benrey, who returned a detailed critique that led me to do a massive rewrite. Janet has a great eye and I appreciate her patience with me, but it was especially nice to see that each of the judges honed in on the exact same things she suggested I correct. See, it was worth it to get all those additional opinions.

Not only did I get an affirmation of the areas that needed work in my novel, I learned--yet again--not to get in a hurry with my writing. I've vowed that in the future I'll borrow a page from the book of Ernest and Julio Gallo and 'send no line before its time.' Writing isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. But in this case, there are ample opportunities to go back and run portions of the race again...and again...and again. I think I'll take even more time for editing and rewriting before I'm ready to send out any of my work in the future.

Gayle Roper (pictured above with our writing class) tried to teach that lesson to me at my first Mount Hermon conference. Maybe this time it will stick.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Seven Things About Me

The big thing on blogs now seems to be for bloggers to post "Seven Things About Me." My friend, D'Ann Mateer, tagged me recently and I had to beg off because I was trying to finish a manuscript. But it's about time to live up to the challenge, so here they are.

1) I was the valedictorian of Decatur High School in Decatur, Texas. At the time, all my teachers said, "That will look so good on your permanent record." So far, no one has asked about it. So much for believing your teachers.

2) While in high school, I won the State Meet (University Interscholastic League) in Extemporaneous Speech. No one who knows me will be surprised by this.

3) I received my pre-med education at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas), graduating with a degree in chemistry and a minor in English. That apparently didn't do much for my tendency to insert commas at every opportunity, but it helped me understand English literature a bit better.

4) At North Texas, my Honors English Class included Bill Moyers and Pat Boone. No, we haven't kept up with each other. Neither of them have written to congratulate me on my success. I was the secretary of the Freshman Honor Society. My major advisor said it would look good on my permanent record. So far, no one has asked. So much for believing your major advisor.

5) I received my MD degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and during my time there I met my future wife, a nursing student named Cynthia Surovik. We were married in 1959, right after her graduation and at the end of my junior year. We scrimped for every penny, worked outrageous hours, and were so in love that it didn't really matter.

6) I was drafted out of my residency (specialty training) and sent to Lajes Field in the Azores. It took me three months to make arrangements for Cynthia and my son, Allen, to join me there--ever try to convince a Dallas bank to loan you money to buy a house in the Azores? I became the Deputy Commander of the 1605th USAF Hospital, mainly because every other doctor who outranked me rotated back to the US shortly after I arrived. The commander and I saved the life of the baby daughter of one of the Portuguese nationals on the island (removed a coin lodged in her throat) and were written up in Stars and Stripes for it. At the end of my tour of duty I received the Air Force Commendation Medal. The Base Commander said it would look good on my permanent record. So far, no one has asked. So much for believing the Base Commander.

7) Cynthia and I were blessed with a wonderful family (pictured above: from oldest to youngest--Allen, Brian, Ann). We had forty years together before she was taken suddenly by a brain hemorrhage in September of 1999. Then God blessed me with the love of another wonderful woman, and Kay and I were married in 2001. Shortly thereafter, He called me into Christian writing. My book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, was published in 2006. My publisher said it would look great on my permanent record....

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ask The Authors: Rewrites and Critiques

Sometimes it frustrates me that I end up doing a significant amount of rewriting before I feel that a manuscript is “ready.” It's doubly frustrating when others read my work and make suggestions for improvement--I somehow feel that I should be able to do this all by myself. To assess how that stacks up against the experience of others, I’ve asked a number of published fiction writers to answer two questions. I think you’ll find their answers interesting. The questions are:

1) From first draft to finished copy that goes to the printer, on the
average how many times do you revise or rewrite a novel?
2) Other than your agent and/or editor, is there a person (or
persons) you depend on to read and critique your work before
submitting it?

Here are the responses (in alphabetical order):

1.) Four
2.) My wife!

1. After first draft: (a) to Jeff Gerke for review and I repair high level stuff, (b) to my editor who does developmental edit review, from which I get 30 page letter with all the painful corrections (macro stuff). In parallel with my developmental edit inputs from editor, I seek inputs from 30+ personal friend/reviewers, of which you are one. I also get a word gardening session in during this phase, where a freelance editor helps me cut down the word count (c) line edit conducted by editor on the corrected copy, (d) second line edit on the corrected corrected copy, (e) proof of typeset document once received from publisher, (f) proof of the paper copy of the final typeset document. That makes seven edits, if you count the work in the section (b) as two edits, which it is.
2. Jeff Gerke gives me a painfully blunt assessment before I ship my work to the publisher. I always correct it after I see his insights before I ship first draft. I have 30+ reviewers, of which you are one, who help me identify specific failures in the book. Linda Nathan takes over my 'word gardening' just before the line edit phase. She helps me prune the extraneous words from my work. So... two freelance editors, and 30+ reviewers.

1. I pretty much try to write the manuscript as I want it. But during the writing I will go back probably about twice to read and change. Turning it in at that point is just the beginning, though. I receive the macro edit, so then I must do the rewrite. Only after that does the book really start to shine. Then there's a track change edit, then a copy edit, and finally the proof stage. So by the time the book's printed, I've read through the story PLENTY of times.
2. No. Neither do my agent or editor read my work before it's submitted as the first draft. Only then does the macro editor read it. My editor doesn't even know how the book's going to end--and that's as it should be in suspense. The macro editor especially needs "fresh eyes" to read the manuscript. If he/she knows the twists that are to come, it spoils those fresh eyes.

1.) I write a first draft, let it sit, then edit it. Usually my critique friends have a first look as well, so the edit consists of my own editing in addition to their edits. Then it goes to the publisher. I usually go through one substantive edit and then after copyediting it goes to print.
2.) Yes, I have a small critique group (Leslie Wilson, D'Ann Mateer). We call ourselves Life Sentence. They are invaluable to me. They are my first eyes before I send something out.

1) For each chapter, I write a first draft. If it takes me more than one day, I edit the first part before I start the days work. Then I do another edit of it before the critique group that meets in my home sees it. I make the suggested changes that I agree with, then send it to the online critters I work with. After the whole thing is done, I do another edit of the completed manuscript, then send it in to the editors. So there are a minimum of four or five edits or rewrites. Often there are more, but I start with a well-thought-out chapter-by-chapter synopsis, even if the publishing house doesn't require one.
2) There are several people who attend the critique group in my home. There are maybe four or five in the ACFW critique group I participate in. And there are three very good friends who live in various parts of the world who critique my work.

1) I tend to revise as I write. Rather than start where I left off the day before, I re-read and edit what I've already written. I have to discipline myself to stop so I can get my fresh material down. I also think of things throughout the writing process at odd times, such as when I'm in church or just going to sleep or driving. I jot down the item and add it to my story. Once my story is finished, I like to let it steep for as long as possible, weeks if I can. Then I go back to it with a fresh set of eyes and edit/revise one more time.
2) I've done it different ways. Early on, I had a critique partner, and we spotted things in each other's work that helped each of us. Now, no one sees it. But I'm open to that changing. I'm teachable and need all the help I can get.

1. I rewrite as I go. I seldom have to do more than review sentence structure and grammar.
2. My wife reads everything before I send it off.

1) I don't actually do "first drafts" etc. of my novels, so this is difficult for me to explain. I tend to work in what I think of as "chunks." I do a few chapters at a time, revising a bit as I go on each one when it's completed, then I go back and work through that section again, sometimes at least twice. Then I do a few more chapters and repeat the process. I do this all the way through, writing and revising, then taking the "chunk" just completed and going through it more closely again. Once I have an entire novel, I go back through all the chapters and fine-tune what I've done. I suppose I could do this a hundred times and still not be satisfied. I probably drive my editors wild.
2) No one sees it until I submit it--not my agent, my editor, my husband, or my dog. No one. I'm way too much of a perfectionist to let anyone see it until I finally submit the manuscript. Nor do I talk about it to anyone either, the exception being to give my editor a little info on just what I'm doing, and to give my husband what he needs to know to help walk me through an "action" scene (or read a map for me--I don't do maps).

1) 5 or 6 is typical for those I do by myself. The ones I did with a coauthor took about 15 drafts to get right.
2). Yes, I use Meredith Efken, a freelance editor. Meredith gets my writing and knows the difference between the parts that work and the ones that don't.

1. I revise approximately 8 to 10 times - minimum.
2. Yes! I have two critique buds and my husband.

1) I self edit ferociously as i go along.....nearly every chapter, when i finally feel it is ready to go, i will read out loud .....if it passes that test, it is put with the rest of the chapters that will be going to my editor (jennifer enderlin, st/ martin's press).....usually, using her notes, i do an end-to-end sweep of the book, rereading each chapter, often out loud again--seldom does all this take more than 6 weeks.......there may be one more shorter fix, but that will be it....
2) My editor is my only reader until she says the book is done or until she says there's a that point my agent and several others become "cold" readers--i.e. readers who have little idea what the book is about......i do have several other readers i use for different purposes such as language, description, or "everyman" reaction.....i will usually have them reading while my editor is making her final reading.....

1.) I’m going to guess eight to twelve times. I write with a sort of leap-frog method, reading and revising the words I wrote yesterday before I begin writing today’s new words, then at intervals, probably one-third and two-thirds of the way through, I reread the entire manuscript from the beginning, revising again as I go. Once I finish a first draft, my critique partner reads and comments and I go back over each chapter making changes with her comments in mind. Before I send the manuscript off to my editor as a “first draft”, I read again, with the intention of weaving in more of the 6 senses (although this is something I’m learning to do as I go now.) I read again to bolster characterization (since I know my characters so much better by the time I finally reach the end of the initial first-draft). Finally, I read my manuscript aloud, concentrating especially on the dialogue and accompanying beats.
Let’s see...that makes six or seven times. Then after I get my substantive edit, I read and revise again. There’s another read-and-revise in the line edit stage, another in the copyedit, and finally I read galleys—the last time I have a chance to make changes (and then only minor ones.)
2.) For the last five or six books, I’ve had a critique partner, another multi-published author who reads everything I write and gives me invaluable feedback and suggestions. Likewise, I read all her manuscripts before she sends them off to her editors and have learned so much through this process. I also have several non-writer readers, including my parents and a couple of friends––who read each manuscript with an eye to simple errors like typos, inconsistencies, dialogue that seems “off” and just an overall impression of the book. In addition, if my lead characters have a career with which I’m not familiar, I try to have someone who works in that field read the manuscript—or at least the sections that would require knowledge of my characters’ occupations. I’m always surprised how much “insider info” there is about various careers I thought I understood.

1) eight to fifteen revisions, on average; full rewrites, three
2) my wife

1. I revise as I go, so there are multiple revisions too numerous to count, especially of the first 10 chapters as I find the voice and conflicts, etc.
2. I have belonged to a critique group for years, one full of veteran, published writers. Their input is very important to me, especially in the beginning and in scenes of high conflict, to see that I'm saying what I think I'm saying, to catch character flaws, to tell me if what I'm trying is possible and logical or not.

My sincere thanks to each of the authors who responded to my question. Every one of them has been important to me in some way--by encouraging me in my writing, by teaching me things (whether in a class or just through reading their work), and by their friendship. I'm grateful.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

That Empty Feeling

I feel as though I should be writing. Hey, I know—I’m writing right now to post on my blog. But for the past I-don’t-know-how-long it seems like I’ve been working on a novel: completing a first draft, working on a revision, rewriting scenes and cutting others…all that stuff. And when the completed first novel was ready to fly, I had the second novel to occupy my time. But now both novels are completed, and they’re out of my hands and into those of my agent. So I feel at loose ends.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have projects awaiting my attention. The first draft of my third novel is 65,000 words along, but for some reason I can’t get interested in it right now. I’ve recently sent off a couple of magazine pieces and have other ideas in my “WIP” folder, but at this point there’s not a flicker of interest on my part. Maybe tomorrow.

In the process of writing and rewriting, I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve found that it’s easy to let the words flow, hard to trim down what you’ve written. To begin with, I follow Jim Bell’s advice to “get it down, then get it right.” Then I hear Karen Ball’s voice telling me, “write it with your author’s hat on, then tighten it wearing your editor’s hat.” And I remember Gayle Roper saying that if a scene doesn’t contribute to the story, it has to go. Finally, I see the red marks on my manuscripts where Dr. Dennis Hensley removed comma after comma (an experience that sent me flying to The Elements of Style).

But it’s all done, and tomorrow the completed manuscript of the second novel, as well as a fully reworked and tightened proposal, goes off to my agent. Maybe by then I’ll be ready to start completing novel number three.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Interview With Lena Dooley

Today we’re talking with Lena Dooley. Lena’s a real force in the ACFW and in women’s Christian fiction, and she’s been an encourager to me. Besides that, she’s a fellow Texan.

RM: I notice that there was a ten year gap between the publication of your first and second books. Then two years later you had four more published. After that, they just started coming like popcorn. Tell us about that.

LD: God took me away from fiction writing during the ten years. I wrote curriculum. I laughingly say I became the curriculum queen. I wrote public school curriculum, private school curriculum, children's church curriculum, and children's Sunday School curriculum. He had a lot of things to teach me during that time. Then when He was ready for my novels to take off, He brought me back to them.

RM: How does James react to all the time you spend writing and speaking? He must be special.

LD: He is the only person who can come into my office and take me away from my writing. When I'm not on a tight deadline, I go whenever he asks me to. On the other side of that, he understands tight deadlines. He often goes with me when I speak. We are actually a team. I couldn't do what I do without his support--emotional, physical, spiritual. He is a very special man--God's gift to me.

RM: What effect does your background in drama have on your writing?

LD: I often tell people that the drama background has enhanced my writing. I have been a director, so I can visualize the whole scene, and dialogue is easy for me.

RM: Do the folks at church treat you any differently because you’re a writer? If so, is it a good thing or a bad one?

LD: Some people know, and some people don't. I don't make a big deal of it. There are a few friends who do though. I just tell people that I'm just an ordinary women who does the laundry and cooks the meals. Writing novels is just my job.

RM: Okay, now it’s time for you to tell us about your two forthcoming books.

LD: The Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner just released. It's a historical novella collection set in Arizona. The other team members are Vickie McDonough, Jeri Odell, and Frances Devine. I really enjoyed working with these ladies, and I think readers will love the stories. My novella is The Spinster and the Cowboy--really fun to write.

The June release will be Carolina Carpenter Brides. A contemporary collection set in North Carolina. Janet Benrey, Ron Benrey, and Yvonne Lehman are the other team members. This collection is about people who find romance in a home improvement super center. My novella is Can You Help Me? which also includes a mistaken identity.

RM: And, finally, what advice would you give an aspiring, but as yet unpublished, writer?

LD: Network with other authors, aspiring and published. Spend time with the Lord and write what He tells you. The only people who become published are the ones who submit. . .and submit. . .and submit. You get the picture.

Thank you, Lena. We look forward to your books, your postings, and all your contributions to our craft.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm On YouTube--Imagine That!

Boy, for a septuagenarian I'm really becoming modern. I did an interview last summer on Harvest-TV, and now my publisher, Kregel, has posted it in three places on the internet--four if you count their public relations blog. It's on YouTube, GodTube, and GoogleVideos. The quality of the image seems best on the last site, so that's the link I'm going to give you, but if you search for "Mabry" or "Tender Scar" on the other two sites, you'll find me. Here's the link. Just click and watch--it runs about six minutes.

For those of you who'd rather just "point and click," here's the YouTube version.

Thanks for tuning in. I'll be back with another post in about five days, at which time I'll continue my "all-redhead, all-the-time" interview series, this one with Lena Nelson Dooley.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Interview With Ane Mulligan

Today, we continue my “all-redhead, all-the-time” interview tour, welcoming Ane Mulligan, Zone Director of the ACFW. Ane is an accomplished and published playwright, who is “knocking at the door” with her novels.

RM: Ane, I’ve got to start by asking, “Why ‘Ane?’ Why not ‘Ann,’ or ‘Anne?’”

AM: LOL – That started as a bit of British humor by my Brit husband. When we met, he kept asking me if I spelled my name with an "e". Finally, as a joke, I wrote a note, which read: Yes. An e.

You get the picture. That was many moons ago. It stuck. I did a search on one of those websites to see how many people are out there with your name. I'm the only Ane Mulligan in the U.S. Cool.

RM: You were, at one time, a Legislative Affairs Director. That’s a far cry from the theatre. What sent you on that journey?

AM: You're well informed! My husband had accepted a position with a company in upstate New York, north of Albany. We arrived at the end of October. It snowed in November. With our son in school and my husband at work, I had way too much time on my hands. My husband suggested I get involved in the local politics.

Sounded good to me. Little did I know what my husband and God had up their sleeves. A few short months after I joined the Republican committee, I started a county chapter of Christian Coalition. It grew rapidly, drawing the attention of the state and national executive directors—to say nothing of the media. In liberal NY, this upstart newcomer had a thriving conservative group making waves.

LOL - There had to have been a serious lack of news that month.

I had planned an all day seminar as a kick-off for the chapter and invited all our state representatives and senators. They came. So did the media. The following week, I was interviewed by the newspaper and asked how I'd gotten so powerful in such a short time. The journalist was referring to all the legislators at the event.

SECRET REVELATION TO FOLLOW: I called them on the phone and asked them. I didn't tell the journalist that, but truly, that was all it took. ;) Politicians love constituents.
And shortly after that, I was hired to be the New York Legislative Affairs Director, lobbying in the state capitol and in Washington D.C. on special occasions.

I'd always been involved in drama, but the first Sunday I walked into a church in Clifton Park, NY, a woman approached me. She fingered my then-long, wild red hair and sweetly asked, "Would you play the harlot in our Easter play?" Hello – welcome to our church. You look like a lady of ill repute! Sheesh.

LOL – that started a life-long friendship and a new ministry. Drama in the church. Whodda thunk it.

Well you asked!

RM: Do you find that your experience as a playwright has helped you in writing fiction?

AM: Except for writing good dialogue, it didn't. LOL When I finished the first draft of my first novel, I joined an online Christian critique group. Boy, was I a raw newbie … except for dialogue. I'd never heard of POV, didn't even know what the initials stood for and omniscient applied to God, right? Fortunately, I picked up a dear mentor, Chris, who taught me a whole heap of things. That manuscript is now ensconced deep in my files.

RM: You’ve been agented, if that’s an acceptable word nowadays, for almost a year. I know that a lot of unpublished writers are still trying to find an agent. Can you describe your experience?

AM: I did it backwards … sort of. I had a relationship with an editor from way back with my first novel. He'd loved my writing but the manuscript was episodic. I was ready to move on to another story, so he said to send it to him when it was done. Eventually it was and I did. He took it to editorial committee.

At that point, I figured I'd better move quickly, because legalese is a language I don't speak. I sent out about half a dozen queries. John Eames of Eames Literary Services read my full manuscript himself (I could tell because of some of the comments he made about it). When he offered representation, I signed with him, knowing it was where God had planned for me to be. John has championed my book ever since.

RM: What things have helped you most in your journey toward becoming a published author? And, if you don’t mind sharing, are there things that you hoped would help that didn’t?

AM: Joining that online critique group was the first big step. I learned so much. I was also introduced to a lot of great books on our craft. But most of all, I met my critique partners Gina Holmes and Jessica Dotta. We grew together as writers, eventually forming a small crit group of our own. We later brought in Elizabeth Ludwig, contracted by Barbour, and Michelle Griep.

Besides the best crit partners in the business, I went to writers conferences where I networked with editors and agents. I joined ACFW and networked more. That and determination is a formula can't be beat.

As far as anything that didn't work, I was pretty well guided and mentored. Deb Raney taught at the first conference I ever went to. That was the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Besides writing, she taught about the business and told us some of the pitfalls to avoid.

RM: You’re very active in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Association. What has that meant to you, professionally and personally?

AM: Everything! Professionally, it exposed me to a huge group of multi-published fiction writers, editors and agents. At my first ACFW conference in Nashville, I was amazed at the number publishing houses and agents there. ACFW gave me the opportunity to meet and pitch to them.

The professionally now blends over into the personally part. I have gained so many friends, and one who has become my mentor, Diann Hunt. Who else but a bunch of writers truly understand you? They know what's happening if my eyes glaze over and I tune them out. LOL They know that the voices in my head are louder than theirs at that moment.

RM: I’ll confess—I sometimes thumb through a novel published by a CBA house and think, “I can write this well, maybe better than this.” How do you avoid jealousy and resentment when others get a contract and you’re still seeking?

AM: I learned the secret from another writer, Rick Warren. It's all about God and not about me. I'm writing the stories He gives me. They aren't sermons or preachy, but they do have a message. If I do my part and hone my craft to the best of my ability, He'll do His part—in His time.

Besides, what if the people who your story will reach aren't ready yet?

RM: And I’ll give you the opportunity for a few last words for our readers.

AM: Hone your craft, never give up, and have a blast on the journey, because that's what it's all about.

Thanks, Ane, for joining my all-redhead, all-the-time series of blog interviews, for providing so much information about yourself and writing, and for reminding us that it’s okay to enjoy life—even to the point of “laughing out loud.”