WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
TP: I've lived most of my life in the Washington, D.C. area, and I love it here. I'm an empty nester now that my youngest child has gone off to college. I have a fantastic daughter (married to a gem of a man), a 19-year-old son (who is brilliant and funny), a grandson (my best bud), and another hotly anticipated grandchild on the way. I've worked for attorneys and for a Securities and Exchange Commissioner, and I was a stockbroker before I went back to school to get a degree in Psychology. I had to say goodbye to my big old dogs when I moved to a smaller home several years ago, but I'm definitely a dog person. Besides writing, I enjoy reading, singing, and dancing, and I love film.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
TP: When I was working on my Psychology degree, I discovered how much I enjoyed writing. My professors encouraged me to look into creative writing courses, which I did before I graduated, and by the time I finished my degree, I decided to change career paths. Rather than becoming a counselor, I became a novelist.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
TP: I thought about publication as soon as I started writing. So I submitted wherever I could - to small, artsy magazines and to big not-on-your-life magazines. I definitely faced my share of rejection, but I also starting publishing little things here and there. I started working on my first novel - a supernatural realm novel - before I finished college. I didn't make much publishing headway with that book, but I may revisit it at some point, because I still think it was a good story, written by a very green author. Because of the subject matter, that book was rather dark, so I was in the mood for something funny and light next. That second book was the one that landed me a contest win, an agent, and a two-book contract. But that didn't happen until I had been writing for ten years. I was not an overnight success! (Even now, I use that term - success - loosely.)
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
TP: The first novel I sold was my second completed book. And then my publisher asked me to write another book to be released before the one they bought. They bought both books but wanted certain things to have happened, story-wise, before my completed book came out. Confused yet? Since that first contract I've written a sample chapter on occasion, but I don't tend to write a complete novel anymore unless it's already contracted.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
TP: I had been waiting for word for a couple of months, so I was antsy. Then one morning during my devotional, God really touched my heart and calmed me down. I knew I needed to stop fretting and just leave it in His hands. If it was in His will, it would happen; if it wasn't, I needed to be willing to accept that. About an hour later I was on the phone with a girlfriend, actually telling her about that devotional, when my agent's email came through, telling me about the two-book contract. It was wonderful to get that news while I was fully surrendered to God and while I was on the line with one of my most supportive friends. We screamed together as I read the email. It was great fun! I'll never forget that.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
TP: I view life differently now - I mean, I'm not always seeking a story, but when something comes along that would make a good story, I try to tuck it away, just in case. And my sister said something to me the other day that I hadn't really thought about. Because of interacting with various Christian writing groups, I've gotten to know so many wonderful people I didn't know prior to 2004. I had a small group of local writing friends who remain my closest friends still. But now I can always count on finding someone somewhere who has the answer to a question or who has experienced something I have or to whom I can minister. Or complain. Or with whom I can freak out, whether in a good way or bad. So being a published author has vastly widened my circle of friends, and that's a fabulous blessing.
WG: What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
TP: I think the first big surprise I got was when I went to my first American Christian Fiction Writers conference and discovered how many published Christian authors there were! I had no idea the industry was as huge as it is. Well, I guess I wasn't so special after all, was I?
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
TP: I usually schedule my daily writing quota according to when my book is due. If I only need to write 500 words a day, that's all I require of myself. I'll usually go beyond that, or I'll skip a day to run errands and then double up, but I only schedule as many words as will get the book finished well in advance of my deadline. Usually the daily requirement is far higher than that, though, because I also work a few weeks of cushion into the equation, as well as days I already know I'll need free to travel or for family obligations. It keeps me from stressing about my progress. So no, I don't really have a typical writing day, just a typical writing method.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
TP: I get more involved in that as time goes on. The Lord has blessed me with more book contracts than I ever expected to get, so I've reached many of my writing goals already. But with regard to the future, I'd like to have at least one book release per year. I've gone beyond that for the past several years, but that might change in the near term because I've had to cut back on my contracts in order to pursue some day-job training. I haven't been terribly progressive in seeking contracts while I make sure I'm all set in that respect. Still, I don't expect that to be the case for long. I'm just being practical at the moment, but I have plenty of stories swimming around in my head! I can't not write for very long.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
TP: I have to have complete silence and no distractions when I write. I'm not one of those coffee-shop kind of writers at all. But before I sit down to write, sometimes I'll use something to get me thinking a certain way. Like I'll read something funny if I need to add humor to my work - it isn't the same humor as what I'm reading, but the reading just sways my mood in the right direction. Watching films beforehand helps, too.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
TP: I do plot. I have a general idea of how my leads begin their journey and how their journey will end. I'll determine several specific points in the story where something significant will occur (and I get a pretty good feel for what those plot points will be), and then I write a short paragraph for each of the first three to five chapters before I go ahead and write the first chapter. With each chapter's completion, I'm able to foresee more of the storyline, so I review my outline and change those short chapter summaries and/or add more. I'm kind of a plotting pantser.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
TP: I always start with the characters. I mean, I'll have a very general idea (maybe a rough paragraph) about the story before I begin to flesh out characters. But I need those characters to be pretty full before I start planning, and I can't even begin writing in earnest if my characters don't feel rounded out and real to me.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
TP: Yes, that's always surprising. For instance, at one point it occurred to me that a number of my heroines have daddy issues - either their fathers are absent or disapproving or overbearing. The odd thing is that my own father is a total sweetheart and has always been amazingly supportive and appreciative of me. Perhaps (says the Psych grad) I feel safe in inventing heroines with this particular problem because I don't share their angst.
I've also found that the over-riding spiritual theme of my stories tends to involve the importance of one's leaning on God's guidance in all matters and decisions. Most likely that's because my walk toward Jesus culminated in my surrendering to His will about my dying sister, back in 1987. I felt such amazing peace when I asked Him to help me accept His will for her that I started asking for that same accepting spirit about everything in life. So the attitude seems to seep into my heroine's lives as well.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
TP: My dialogue comes pretty easily. I wish I was as quippy in real life as I can be when I'm in my heroines' heads!
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
TP: I'm a horrible procrastinator. Sometimes I'll be under a tight deadline and catch myself doing something stupid, like reading the recap of So You Think You Can Dance, even when I actually saw the show. That's just nuts. When I do something like that, I accept the fact that I don't get to break for dinner until I reach my word count. (I don't like to go back to work after dinner.) So I overcome that little problem by eating dinner at 10:30. Let that happen a few times, and you'll stop playing the procrastinator pretty quickly!
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
TP: It's always evolving. The more I write and the more I learn, the differently I approach each project. I imagine everyone is like that.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
TP: I love writing romance, but some of my books spill over into women's fiction. I love writing about women's relationships with other women. As a reader, I'm up for just about anything except gore. But everything else? Yep!
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
TP: I'm thinking more and more that I might like to try writing historical romance. I love reading it, and I keep thinking of things I'd like to write about. I've been asked by publishers to write historical romance before, but I didn't feel led in that direction until recently. Perhaps it's because I wrote a novel set in the early 1950s (Unforgettable). Granted, that's not terribly far back in history, but it stirred the embers a bit.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
TP: My standard advice is something I feel very strongly about. When I received my first copy of my first published book, I experienced a weird panic attack, fearing that the book would be a flop and that perhaps that would be God's way of telling me I shouldn't really be writing. Within moments He blessed me with the peaceful realization that He doesn't work like that. I was in the habit of dedicating every writing day of my life to His will. He blessed me with the awareness that, if I continued to seek His will for my writing, I could rest assured that my best is all He wants. He won't use rejection to steer me away from writing. Rejection will come - it's inevitable in this business - but that isn't His way of directing me. His direction is kind - if He wants me doing something other than writing, He will draw me lovingly toward that other thing. So my advice is to dedicate every writing effort to Him, and then follow your desire. He's the one providing it.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
TP: See above!
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
TP: Oh, they used to bother me! My first awful Amazon review felt like a nationally televised pratfall. Now I shrug off mean reviews and give honest consideration to reviews that contain constructive criticism. Sometimes readers have good ideas about how books could have been better.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
TP: When I was a brand spanking new writer I actually had a well-known Christian novelist tell me it was perfectly fine to have my opening scene involving the heroine waking up in bed with her date from the previous night. My plan was for this bad girl to find the Lord, but no, no, no, there was no way that scene was going to fly with a Christian publisher. I don't know what that lady was thinking, but I'll never forget (or tell) who gave me that awful advice!
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
TP: The most rewarding thing is definitely the reader feedback. I always pray that at least one person - whomever God has in mind - will gain some insight or comfort from something in each of my books. It's such a reward to hear from a reader that one of my books ministered to her in some way. And it's always interesting to hear what it was that did that ministering. I don't write "message" stories, so I just never know.
The biggest struggle? I sometimes find I have to reign in my humor, which can get dark or smart-mouthed. Not everyone gets that, and I've had editors make me soften edges (or cut altogether). It's a struggle, because I know many, many Christians who appreciate that kind of humor, so the writing is honest. Sometimes the best thing about writing for the CBA is the safeness of it. Sometimes that's also the worst thing about it! But I'll take writing CBA romance over ABA romance any day!
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
TP: I love to get together with my girlfriends or my kids and go to dinner or movies. I love just sitting around talking and laughing. Great food is my favorite self-indulgence. I have to fight against over-indulging all the time.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
TP: Because I enjoy film as much as I do, I think I wanted to be an actress when I was a kid. Of course, I never pursued acting in school - just a dream! I was too shy.
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
TP: I feel like I've divulged all of my secrets over the past several years through one interview or another, so forgive me if this is a repetition. I'm a black belt in Tae Kwon Do - how about that? I was halfway toward my second degree when I decided to quit, because they were making me teach more than learn. Just think of all of the over-indulging I could be doing right now if I had stuck with it!
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
TP: For the laughs: The Office, Modern Family, and Psych. For the entertainment: American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. For the intrigue: Fringe. I can't even begin to list my favorite movies! Far too many. Just as with books, I like a wide variety of films - again, no gore. I even have to wait to watch Fringe on TV when my son is home from college, because it has moments of gore. I look away from those scenes, and he tells me when they're over.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotesinspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
TP: I like Robert Frost's, "The best way out is always through." That really fits the Christian life, in that God doesn't promise us a perfect life. But He promises to be with us as we go through it.
TP: Love Finds You on Christmas Morning releases September 1. It's a two-book set, the first of which (Deck the Halls, a historical romance) is written by Debby Mayne, and the second of which ('Tis the Season, a contemporary romance) are related to each other. Both stories are set in Cary, North Carolina. Debby's story is about a wealthy young man who falls for and pursues a less-privileged young woman who fears they're unmatched in too many ways. My story involves their great-granddaughter, who returns to Cary with the hope of buying back their home, only to find it bought out from under her by the very man who steals her heart.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
TP: It was fun starting the brainstorming with Debby and then coming back to compare notes after we had both started writing. I loved how many facets of our separate stories just naturally fell into place. Our inspiration was simply to write two fun romances with the connection of family and place. But we found a few other ways our characters matched up well with each other.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
TP: Debby actually visited Cary and took photos and talked with a few of the residents and businesspeople there, which was especially helpful to me, since my story was the contemporary one. A few of the places she discovered served as scene inspirations for me.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
TP: I've already turned in the manuscript for my next project. This time it's a novella (Labor of Love), to be put together with three other novellas for a collection called The Midwife's Legacy. It was interesting, after never writing collaboratively, to have two such projects in a row. I didn't expect to enjoy the effort this much! I keep hearing different release dates for this collection, the original of which was March 2012. Again, we're looking at three historical romances with the final one (mine) a contemporary. And they're all related by family and the midwifery profession. I think it's a lovely collection.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
TP: On my site (http://www.trishperry.com) I have a Contact Trish page, which provides an email box. That's the best way, and I love hearing from readers!
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!