1) Why did you choose to write fantasy?
I have always loved the fantasy genre. It began when my dad introduced me to The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. As a child, my imagination soared beyond this world. I would imagine I was a unicorn, or a lost princess, or some other fantastical thing.
When I became an adult, I began reading more science fiction and fantasy. I enjoyed the stories I found, but wished I could find an engaging story that also brought me closer to God. I walked into a Christian bookstore one day and asked to see their science fiction and fantasy section. The lady gave me a strange look and then pointed to a lone Frank Peretti book at the end of the aisle. I enjoyed Frank Peretti, but was hoping for more. I went home disappointed.
Shortly after that event, my husband said I should write. I had never thought about writing, and wasn’t sure I wanted to. Then I had an idea of a woman who, with a touch of her hand, could see inside the soul. It took eight years to write and find a publisher, but this year my debut book released. It is an epic adult fantasy that follows a woman named Rowen who possesses this terrifying power. The first book in this series is Daughter of Light.
2) What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
The most challenging part of writing this book was the scenes where Rowen touches a person and sees inside his/her soul. For example, there is a scene where at man attacks Rowen in her room. In the first draft, I did not write what she saw when she touched the man because I was afraid to go there myself. I knew the man was evil. But to put his vile nature into words scared me.
My editor said I needed to show what Rowen saw. So I went back and wrote that part. I was careful not to be overly graphic about the evil. But I also needed to convey what looking inside someone would feel like, especially a man like this. So I wrote it, and felt the same way Rowen did: horrified and dirty.
But that is what this story is about: the journey of a woman who sees what God sees and how it changes her and those around her.
One other challenging part was weaving four stories into one. The main story is that of Rowen, the woman with the ability to see inside people. But as she goes through life, she impacts the lives of three other people, changing the course of their lives as well: a captain of the guard, an assassin, and a scribe.
I’m always amazed at how God brings along people who cross our path, and how we come away changed. The same happened with my book. What started as one book morphed into three when I came to realize these key people were changed by Rowen and the events surrounding her life.
It makes for a complex series, but a richer one as well.
3) What are some examples from the story where you drew elements from real life?
I once heard that to write powerful stories, one must first live life and draw from that. When I first started writing, I was 24 years old with a toddler and newborn. I hadn’t really been through a lot. As the years progressed, God brought me through some incredibly dark times including unemployment, cancer scares, almost losing a child, moving all over the country, and giving up on my dream of writing.
I drew on the emotions I felt during each of those events: the struggles I had with my faith, the fear, and at times how lost and alone I felt. These experiences helped me write many of the scenes in Daughter of Light. I have not been through what my characters have, but I understand what they are feeling, because I have been there, in this world.
One of my characters, a scribe, grows up in a very religious order. Because of her upbringing, she believes if she just follows the rules and behaves in a moral way, then everything will turn out.
However, bad things happen to good people. At first she clings to her faith, still hoping that if she continues to behave, she will be rescued. But when she isn’t, she questions everything she was brought up to believe.
I went through a time where I almost lost my faith. I remember how devastated I was, how disappointed I was in God, and the anger. I drew on this time in my life to write this scribe’s journey.
4) Do you plot or write by the “seat of your pants’?
I am a writer who plots. My books begin with a character. I see this person in my mind and I start asking questions. Who is she (or he)? What is broken inside of her? How did she get to this place? And what is going to happen to her next? Slowly I start seeing the world my character lives in and take notes. Then I meet the other characters, and a plot starts to form.
I cannot write a book without knowing the beginning and how it’s going to end, along with all the climatic moments. I see my outline as a map through a forest. I need to know where I am going. However, I don’t mind not knowing all details until I reach that particular curve in the road. I can still be surprised as I write the first draft.
5) What is your writing schedule like? Do you write only when inspired?
If you have a deadline, you do not have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. You have to write. When my children were little, I wrote during their naps and at night. Now that my children are in school, I write while they are at school.
However, I am always brainstorming: while doing the dishes, folding laundry, and commuting. I keep files on my computer for each book idea. Inside the folder, I put descriptions, dialogue, character information, pretty much anything that comes to me for that particular story. Then, when I am ready to start writing the story, I already have a lot of it figured out and can spend what time I have at my computer on writing.
6) What is your favorite Bible verse?
I love the book of John, especially the first chapter. “In the beginning was the Word…” “The Word gave life to everything that was created…”. The story of God saving us did not begin with a baby in a manger; it began when God first chose to create, knowing what would happen next.
But I think my favorite verse is this: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5). I have been through a lot of darkness in my life: cancer scares, months of unemployment, almost losing my youngest son, and hurt by the church. But God was still there. The dark circumstances of my life could not blot Him out. It tried, and there were moments I felt I could not see God anymore and despaired. But He never forsook me.
You can see the influence of John chapter 1 in my own writing. I believe that in the darkest of times there is still light, and that light is Jesus Christ.
7) Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes?
I love this quote by L.M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables): "The book may or may not succeed. I wrote it for love, not money, but very often such books are the most successful, just as everything in the world that is born of true love has life in it, as nothing constructed for mercenary ends can ever have."