I offer many thanks to Tanara McCauley, who invited me to participate in a blog hop to explore and share my writing process. I met her at a Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul conference in Colorado two years ago, and she is just as lovely in person as she is online. This talented writer is a semifinalist in the Contemporary category of the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest. Find out more about this hard-at-work, faithful wife and mother at tanaramccauley.org.
Okay, Tanara, you asked me for the answers to these four questions, so here you go!
1. What am I working on?
When I can find time to breathe I’m working on the baby I gave birth to about sixteen years ago—my book, that is, and not my first child, who arrived about the same time. A Long Time Comin’ (oh, how appropriately named!) is a mother-and-child love story that spans three generations of southern women. Set in North Carolina, my novel shows how unforgiveness affects this most basic of bonds and how this root of bitterness gradually burrows into other relationships. I’ve “finished” my voice- and character-driven story several times, but God has been showing me that He’s not finished, that there’s still refining work to do. So, I keep plugging at the editorial process of rereading, rethinking, and rewriting.
I’m also working on a new writing venture, an online journal called His Fruitful Vine, with Andrea Thorpe, another homeschool mom. We’ll talk about issues related to marriage and family, education, home management, and faith. She is so much more organized and technology gifted than I, so it will be quite the collaborative experience for both us!
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I just write about what I know and what I do, about what I love and who I love and the wonderful God Who loves me—and since no one else has walked in my particular pair of flip-flops, my work has a different flavor. My blog isn’t a “how to”; it’s more a “how I,” a personal testimony. And it is the same with my book: though it is a work of fiction, it reflects me. It’s about stories I heard as a child growing up in North Carolina. I give these stories and experiences fictional faces and names, but real emotions and history. While it’s a novel about an African-American family who’s spiritually and emotionally limping through life, anyone can relate to the problems they face. Many of us have mothers and/or daughters who we treasure but who confound us at the same time. A Long Time Comin’ is an everyman and -woman story, but I show how only God can bring light to what was darkness, heal the broken places, and make what was dysfunctional functional.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Like most of my children, my oldest was not a good sleeper, so I found myself around 2:00 a.m. with my arms wrapped around him and my fingers tapping out this story on the keyboard. I’d heard all these wonderful anecdotes from my parents, my grandmothers, and my aunts and uncles, and I wanted to get them down before they were lost. Out of that desire sprang this fictionalized account of Granny B, the Southern matriarch of my book, and her relationships with her eight children and one of her grandchildren, Evelyn. My book honors my grandmothers; it commemorates their faith, strength, and courage to raise large families on their own and the godly heritage they left behind. I’m excited about one day writing about the other people living and breathing in this first story.
Ironically, I was dragged into blogging kicking and screaming. I’d always pictured myself churning out bestsellers on the top of some high anonymous mountain somewhere, but today’s publishing world forced me to create a “platform” (cue the scary music). I’ve always considered myself a private person, so I struggled with the idea of baring my personal life. Two years later after that first slightly banal post I find myself lying fully supine on my virtual couch, sharing all my booboos and shortcomings as a wife, mother, and writer, and I do it because God has led me to this point—not to publicize a book, but to share what He’s doing in my family and in me, and I pray that resonates and inspires.
4. How does my writing process work?
“Pressure makes diamonds.” Sometimes that’s thinly disguised as procrastination, but that’s basically my life philosophy. As a homeschooling mom of seven I just don’t have time for a full-blown, organized ritual. I just get-er done, writing when and where I can, and that’s generally during the “third shift,” in my bed, after the last of my little people has knocked on my door for the final cup of water or “cup milt,” what the baby calls his cup of milk. When inspiration hits I go with it, sometimes staying up to the wee hours to flesh out an idea for my book or complete a post. If the bulb flickers “on” before I can get to my computer I jot down notes for my book in this lovely flower-covered binder and blog ideas in a smaller red-leather book; I also use the notes app in my phone if I’m truly pressed (but since my husband works for a paper company I really try to keep food on our table by sticking with paper). I often run edits and rewrites by my editorial staff—my husband and my two oldest children—and if I get the okay, I keep it or post it. Most of all, I believe in praying over every word and editing, editing, and editing again. I drive my husband crazy with rereading, but I think it’s important to get it right. I think if I’d been married to Lot, I would have been a giant salt lick by the road with the way I look back over my work.
Tag, You’re It!
Part of this hop is naming other writers willing to participate in the blog tour. Andria Gaskins is a stay-at-home mom, entrepreneur, and prize-winning cook. Her debut novel, A Woman’s Worth, is scheduled to be released Spring 2015. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two boys. Find her answers to these questions within the next two weeks on her blog at www.andriagaskins.com.