Monday, September 15, 2008

Interview with Michelle Sutton

I first met Michelle Sutton in person when I picked her up at a mall. Okay, so there’s more to the story and to be honest, we’d seen each other before, but not had as much time to talk as we did that day when we left Metro Center and drove to our CWOW (Christian Writers of the West) meeting. It was a chance to really hear what was going on in her life, and I can tell you, there was a lot. But that’s normal for Michelle, whose new YA novel, It’s Not About Me, is now available. So, I thought you might like to get a taste of what this busy gal is like. Please welcome, Michelle Sutton!

AB: Hey, Michelle! Glad you could drop by. First, let me ask you the normal stuff—how long have you been writing? How did you get started?

MS: I’ve been writing five years and got started by just sitting down and doing it.

AB: How many stories had you completed before you got “the call”?

MS: Publishable stories? 9. Total number? 11.

AB: How did you end up settling on your genre YA?

MS: I love to write drama and romance so YA fits the profile. My book is a YA romance.

AB: You use the word “edgy” in describing your work. How would you define edgy in the context of Christian fiction? Where do we as Christian writers draw the line?

MS: I define it within the context of Christian fiction as daring to tell the truth about human hearts and our natural rebellion against God. Put simply, my characters think bad thoughts and make bad choices despite often being “saved”, and they always learn from that because God redeems every situation. For example, in one scene I have Tony telling everyone at Teen Challenge about how he found the Lord and the difference He made in his life, then he finds out his brother was seeing his girlfriend behind his back and he kicks his butt in front of the same people he just told about his new faith. That is real life.

AB: How did you get connected up with your publisher? What do you see as the strengths of going with a young house?

MS: I hooked up with my publisher back in 2004 at the Denver conference. She was my roommate and was impressed with the stories I told her I’d written. She said some day when she opened a publishing house of her own, she’d buy my stuff. Who’d a thought it would really happen? I sure didn’t. The strength of going with a young house is I have the chance to spark success for the company. I want to be the Tracie Peterson or Lori Wick of Sheaf House, contributing a large part to its success. Plus, I had input into the cover and my voice wasn’t “taken out” in the editing process. The story is fully “me”.

AB: Besides your new release It’s Not About Me, you’ve been wearing several hats in the writing world. Please tell us more about your other writing ventures.

MS: I can’t remember them all. Hehehe. I started out reviewing books as an influencer, then that grew exponentially, leading into me starting several social sites which are highly trafficked. Then I was asked to be Editor in Chief of an online magazine. And yes, it’s a paying position.

AB: What is a normal writing day like for you?

MS: Get up at five thirty, read my email, eat breakfast and drink coffee, then hop in the shower and race to drive my son to the bus stop. I call writer friends as I drive to work, then try to read or do writing stuff at lunch time and on breaks, then I go home. At night I eat and dive into email again before working on the magazine columns. Then if there is time left (usually there is NOT) I do some editing or writing. When I go to bed I read for awhile before I fall asleep. I play catch-up on the weekends and Wednesdays (my day off) between appointments.

AB: Where do you see your writing career in five years?

MS: I’ll either be a rich magazine mogul, or I’ll have many more books published (my preference), however, I suspect I’ll still have to work a government job for the insurance benefits. I hope to be published in more than one publishing house, too. I doubt I’ll be reviewing as many books as I am now.

AB: What was the one best thing you did to help yourself on this journey?

MS: Read several good books about how to write fiction and listened to my mentors when they gave me advice.

AB: What was your biggest writing mistake that you’d like to keep others from making?

MS: Don’t listen to too many people when they give you opinions or it’ll make your head swim and discourage you. Pick a few good critiquers and stick with them.

AB: Who are your favorite authors? What about them is the most appealing?

MS: Anyone who writes edgy stuff. Francine Rivers, Julie Lessman, Deanne Gist, etc.

AB: Julie is one of my crit partners and a dear friend—I agree that she is terrific! One of the most important questions I must ask: White, milk, or dark?

MS: Dark first, followed by milk and last is white.

AB: Where can readers get copies of It’s Not About Me?

MS: CBD, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble online and can go into any Barnes and Noble store and order a copy. However, right now just about every place is out of stock. I hope to do a book signing in Phoenix in October the weekend of the CWOW (October 4th) meeting and will be selling books there.

AB: How can readers learn more about you and your writing?

MS: Subscribe to my edgy inspirational author blogspot blog or check my website

AB: It was good catching up with you. Thanks for dropping by Michelle!

Abundant blessings!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

And the winner is

Of course Trish had more entries into the pot than any one else. But to be fair, I wrote each name on a piece of paper--Trish had four due to sending three others via her link. I put the papers into a plastic cup (for those of you who need the visual, the cup was red) and shook them up well. Honest. And then I drew out the winning name. Thank you everyone for stopping by.
Abundant blessings!

Monday, September 01, 2008

I'm Sorry and I Have Gifts!

Thought I’d better pop in here again and beg some forgiveness. It’s been a while and, in spite of my good intentions, I still have trouble getting to this regularly.

A few things have happened since I last posted. My grandmother celebrated her 102nd birthday—yes, you read that correctly. GrammaDear is 102 years old and going strong. She’s still in charge of dishes and plays a mean hand of Kings in the Corner though we finally found a jigsaw puzzle that gave us both fits. Phil and I spent a week with her this summer and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Then we came home to become grandparents. I know, I’m too young for that (at least that’s what I think you’re saying, right?) but what a sweet bundle of joy our new granddaughter is! She looks so much like her mother at that age, though a bit longer like her aunt. I think she’s going to be a tall one.

And then school started again. I taught at Academy the week before, sharing some projects I’ve developed for my gifted students with other teachers. It was my first time doing that and I had a good time--plan to do it again next year. Plus, getting my classroom ready, I decided to paint a couple walls. Okay, I didn’t just paint—I painted the world. I now have a giant world map on my wall. After finishing I realized I had left out a rather important body of water, so there was a contest to see who could figure out what was missing. The winner would get to paint the missing body of water into the map. Two of my fourth graders began coming after school everyday to try and figure it out--picture two boys staring hard at this wall. Finally, on Friday, they succeeded. D came in with a tiny map and pointed out the area but he couldn’t name it. J remembered having seen maps in the back of dictionaries (his favorite thing to read) and looked it up. Lake Victoria was added to the map in a very nice cooperative method—perhaps a tad more south than it should be and probably several miles larger than in real life, but it’s now on the map. Looks good.

Been doing some reading this summer, too. Two books I want to recommend to you. The first is actually Carol Cox’s third installment of her A Fair to Remember series titled A Bride So Fair". Carol and I went to the same high school (not at the same time, though it’s not an age thing—honest!Go Panthers!) and she is still a fellow Arizonian and a well published author. Her series reintroduces the Chicago World's Fair and all the wonder it generated to new audiences. A perfect match for an ol' history buff like me. I enjoyed the first two books of her series, but the third I think is my favorite--romance, excitement, intrigue--what's not to like? I am giving away a free copy just in case you want to check this out for yourself. Leave a comment and your name will go into a drawing to be held on Sunday, September 7.

The other book I want to recommend is The Shack. I’ve never read a book like it. And , next to the Bible, I’ve never read a book with bigger impact on my faith thoughts. I know there are people out there who will disagree with my fanfare, even to the point of crying heresy. However, the book was never meant to be considered doctrine. It is a fictional story that makes one think. And cry, and laugh some, and then cry some more. But most of all it makes one think. In my life the thinking is moving my relationship with my Abba closer, deeper. In a very real way it has brought a new level of peace to my heart.

So, I am making this contest a two book deal. Someone who leaves a comment will receive both A Bride So Fair and The Shack. The chance to enter will close at midnight Saturday night (September 6th). Oh, and just to make it interesting, if you tell someone about this contest, have them leave a comment and say you told them about it. That way your name will go into the drawing again—recommend 10 people, you get 10 extra opportunities to win.

Now can you forgive me for being lax about blogging? Please?

Abundant blessings, all!

Monday, June 02, 2008

An Interview With Julie Lessman and Book Give-Away

My good friend, critique partner and conference buddy, Julie Lessman, has written a sweeping novel in the spirit of Gone With the Wind. I've had the privilege to see it grow up from rough drafts sent via email to a breath-taking trip back into history through the pages of a published book. To say I'm excited for Julie is an understatement. She is one of the most talented people I know and I couldn't be happier for her success. She's a funny, high-energy lady who is passionate about what she writes.
If you’d like to be eligible to win a copy of A Passion Most Pure, please post a comment and leave your email info (without the "@" and "dot." Example: jcary at gmail dot com) to avoid those bad guys glomming on to your email address!
And now, it is my honor to interview her here and hopefully introduce her to more readers.

Welcome Julie!
Hi, Jenny!
Since we do know each other, I wanted to try to come up with questions you might not have heard yet, ones where I don't already know the answers. Here we go:

When did you first know you wanted to write?

Oh, that’s easy—at the age of twelve after reading Gone With the Wind. That novel so impacted me that I immediately began writing my own romance novel—a 150-page, single-spaced ms. entitled When Tomorrow Comes, which, by the way, is now a Janette Oke title! But that initial manuscript is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. I used to read it to my little sister, Katie, before we went to bed and she loved it. But then adolescence hit, and I soon abandoned paper romance for the real thing as a teenager.

Fast forward almost forty years later—I was sitting in a beauty parlor reading a Newsweek magazine July 16, 2001 cover article about Christian entertainment. It said Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and something in my spirit said, “It’s time to finish your book.” I started writing A Passion Most Pure one month later, finally selling it to Revell after 4-1/2 years and a total of 45 rejections.

Wow! I didn't realize there had been so many rejections. You are up there as a success story with Dr. Seuss!
So then what was the catalyst that put you on the path of edgy inspirational romance writing?

Gosh, Jenny, I’ve never been asked that question before, which is saying something after more than 35 interviews! I would have to say my driving need for love (I used to sneak downstairs at night when I was kid and watch romance movies on the TV when my parents were sleeping) and my very dramatic and emotional nature (I LOVE strong romantic tension, ala Gone With the Wind) were the main catalysts for writing passionate romance. Add to that my driving need for God after I became a born-again Christian, and the only direction I felt I could go was “edgy” inspirational romance.
I longed to write a book for women like me—those looking for more relevancy to their own lives, both in a passionate love story and the struggles encountered between God’s morality and the world’s. The American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Barna Group states, “nine out of ten women nationwide consider themselves to be Christian.” Yet most of these women purchase secular books depicting more passion than is currently found in Inspirational novels. They crave a great love story without the gratuitous sex, and in the case of women like me, long for compelling novels with strong romantic tension that are also threaded with God’s precepts. So basically I wrote what I wanted to read!

Who is your toughest critic whose opinion you respect the most (besides me;-)
Oh, wow, another great question! I would have to say my 20-year-old daughter because she does NOT read (no matter how many books I read to her as a child!!). It’s so bad, in fact, that I actually had to PAY her $20 to read the first chapter of A Passion Most Pure!! Fortunately, I’m happy to say, the rest of the book didn’t cost me a dime (grin). In fact, she actually loved it so much that she immediately read the next two manuscripts—for free!

Maybe that's what I need to do, pay my kids to read my work. Ha!
Next question: Where do you go for inspiration?

To my treadmill. I don’t know what it is about it, but I put my headset on and crank up the worship CD and start singing my heart out to the Lord (or wailing, as my daughter calls it!). And before I know it, I’ve got plot ideas and scenes popping into my head faster than I can jog on that silly machine.

Seeing that I first read your rough drafts for A Passion Most Pure nearly five years ago, where do you see yourself, writing wise, in five years?
God-willing, I see myself wrapping up what I hope will be a total of seven books on the O’Connor Clan. My publisher prefers 3-book series, but there are four Daughters of Boston, so I plan to incorporate the youngest daughter’s story, Katie (who is a pistol that comes of age in the Roaring Twenties) in a second 3-book series along with separate sequels for each of the two O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven. After that, I have had some good writer friends (who have read all three books in the Daughters of Boston series) suggest I write a stand-alone prequel for the parents, Marcy and Patrick, which I would very much like to do.

I know from previous interviews and from our own sharing that you credit contests for helping you to sharpen your writing and make needed connections. Was there anything you did in this writing journey that you would caution others not to try?
The only thing I would caution aspiring writers “not to try” is going the publication route alone—focus on getting an agent first! I learned this the hard way (three years and 39 rejections on my own) before I finally hooked up with my agent who sold my book in a 3-book deal after only six months. Many of the publishers I queried on my own took as long as three years to reply simply because they are SO busy and SO inundated with manuscripts. Ironically, after I got published, I discovered that the unagented proposal I sent two years prior to my current publisher (following an ACFW conference appt.) was STILL in the publisher slush pile!! If it hadn't been for my agent (who my editor respected and trusted), I honestly believe I would not be published today, but still in that deep and dusty pile.

What are you reading right now? Who is your all-time favorite writer (besides, me or any other member of Crit 19;-)?
I just finished up both Cheryl Wyatt’s A Soldier’s Family and Amber Miller’s Promises, Promises (excellent, both!!) because they were the May selections for the ACFW Book Club. And, yes, Jenny, I remember your stories from our ACFW Crit 19 group as well, especially The Huguenot, which I loved!
The check is in the mail, sweetie;-)
Right now I am reading Vickie McDonough’s Spinning Out of Control (also excellent!), followed by Jamie Carie’s Snow Angel, which I heard is wonderful.
My all-time favorite writer? Clearly for me, Margaret Mitchell because Gone With the Wind is the greatest historical novel I’ve ever read, not only for the rich and sweeping Civil War tapestry that Margaret Mitchell created, but for the wonderful impact her haunting love story had on me at a very young age.

If you weren't writing historical romance, what genre do you think you would be writing? Why?
Probably contemporary romance because romance is my passion over and above anything else. I am more of a “Calgon, take me away,” type of gal rather than “slice-of-life,” so I don’t read a ton of Women’s Fiction or nonfiction, mostly lovely, uplifting, heart-pounding romance. The bigger the book, the better, in my opinion (which explains the … ahem … length of my own novels!). Turn my head with romance and nail me with God’s precepts in the process—that’s my kind of book! Like Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love or Liz Curtis Higgs’ Scottish trilogy—Wow, “pure” enjoyment!

I agree--you know I'm a big fan of Liz!
Moving on: You've touched on this a bit already but, once this series is through (and we know there are still two more books coming in the Daughters of Boston series--can't wait!) where will your next series take you (and your readers)?

Well, once I finish off the O’Connor clan, which I hope will take me through seven books, I have contemplated another series about the O’Connor nieces, which would take place during WWII, so that could be fun and still incorporate the original O’Connor family that I love.

Chocolate—dark, milk or white?
Grin. Best question of all! Milk, with white a close 2nd!! And put them together, and you WILL hear moaning. 

Any parting words?
Well, first I want to thank you, Jenny, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readership. In closing, I’d like to share a really cool quote I found that some have attributed to Maya Angelou: “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.” I absolutely LOVE this quote because it is the total essence of what A Passion Most Pure is all about, and I hope and pray this message will resonate with every person who picks up my book.

Also, I LOVE to hear from readers, so they can contact me through my Web site at, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter. Currently in my newsletter, I am having a contest to win a signed author copy of Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, before it even hits the stores! Also, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog of which I am a part that talks about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” You can find it at Thanks again, Jenny, and God bless!

Thank you, Julie! I am so proud of you and honored to call you friend.
To you and to all our readers,
Abundant blessings!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nobody Does It Better. . .

than Lisa Samson. And I’ve got proof.

I haven’t run a contest here for a while so I figure it is about time.

Lisa’s latest, Finding Hollywood Nobody, is great reading fun. In case you don’t believe me, I’m giving away a copy, just to prove it. Here’s all you have to do: Tell us your favorite recipe for making Grilled (or Toasted) Cheese Sandwiches. Everyone who leaves a comment with their recipe on my comment page will go into a drawing and the winner will receive a copy of Finding Hollywood Nobody. It’s that easy. And in case you’d like to know a little more about the book before you commit,click here to see my review.

All this talk of cheese is making me hungry so I’ll close and go whip up some fetticini alfredo--or something equally cheesy.

Abundant blessings!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Blog Tour Time

I know it’s been a while and I promise to catch you up soon. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know what I’ve been reading—at least one book I’ve been reading.

I inhaled the third book in Tricia Goyer’s Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War, A Whisper of Freedom and joined her blog tour. Click here to see all the other stops.
To help promote, Tricia’s running a Me-me. Here are my answers.
1. List three things you would do with a chest full of gold (assuming you got to keep it!)
a. Give to my church
b. Set up a fund for my family.
c. Set up a charitable donations foundation—ones I like: Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse, Silent Blessings, KLOVE radio
2. List three charities/missions/organizations you support (and why).
See above (that was easy)
3. List three ways you have volunteered your time/services.
a. Helping kids in the school room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital
b. Cleaning up trash from streets in our town
c. Tutoring after school to help kids
4. List three things you keep "hidden" when company comes over.
a. My bedroom
b. The Arizona room
c. My bathroom
5. List the last three things you've lost.
a. one of my diamond earrings (this one is killing me)
b. my temper (this one, too, but for other reasons)
c. one of the Blokus games from my classroom
6. List the last three things you've found.
a. how to play some computer games I didn’t realize I had
b. a micro SD card I’d forgotten I had
c. my meds—Alyssa had cleaned for me and I couldn’t find them at first. (oops, guess I should have listed this with number 5.

You can answer these yourself in the comments or just link to your blog. Also you can read my review here. Yep, I loved it.

During the tour, you can enter to win one of FIVE signed copies of A Whisper of Freedom by signing up for Tricia's newsletter here!

Three brave "players" will be selected at random to win their own lost gold (Gourmet chocolate coins and all three books in the Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series). To enter all you have to do is answer the MEME on your blog and then leave a comment on Tricia’s blog tour post here" that you’ve posted your MEME. Easy.

I’ll catch up soon, promise.

Abundant blessings all!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

It's All About Timing, Talent and a Great Make-up Artist

I was on the freeway the other day, listening to the radio. I mention the freeway (the Black Canyon, a.k.a I-17) because when I relate what happened, I want to you appreciate my driving skills. No accidents occurred.
A commercial came on advertising a touring company presentation of Camelot--coming to town in February. This is a professional touring company and according to the ad, it has received rave reviews.

I'm not too proud to show my age and say I fell head over heels for Franco Nero as Lancelot in the movie version of Camelot. That's the movie that introduced us to Richard Harris--before he immortalized MacArthur's Park for Jimmy Webb and long before he gave us Harry's rather happy professor of wizardry. I've come to expect someone along the lines of Richard Harris when imaging King Arthur singing Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight. I mean, the precedent is set, the gauntlet tossed.
There is a standard, people!

Apparently creativity trumps standard and precedence. Lou Diamond Phillips has picked up the gauntlet and is really to warble for audiences around the country.
Pause here a moment and let that sink in.

Yes, Lou Diamond Phillips. As in Richie Valens in La Bamba, the street gang math wiz in Stand and Deliver. Think Young Guns, friend to Keiffer Sutherland. Think ethnic.
My brain just couldn't see it.

So I did some research. Below is a video interview with Mr. Phillips and a bio website. After discovering them, I have to admit, it might work. At least I'd be willing to check it out. Take a look yourself and let me know what you think. For years, my mantra has been "Timing's everything." Now, I'm thinking talent and a great make-up artist can go a long way, too.

Abundant blessings!

Lou Diamond Phillips bio

Saturday, January 05, 2008

With a Heart of Gratitude

While working on another blog post (honest!) I came across this--my friend Karen sent me this link and I want to share it with you all. Enjoy!
And as always,
Abundant blessings!