My writer friend, Susan Cushman, who hosted me when I went to Memphis for a television interview and book signing last year, tagged me in a blog series that asks three questions. I hope you enjoy my answers and please share your own answers in the comment section. I would love to hear from you!
(1) Why you write.
I write to better understand our world and my place in it—something I’ve done since I was six years old and kept a diary with a tiny gold locket and a picture of cherubs on the front. I write because I’m always watching for characters and listening for stories, and – when I find them, which I often do – I feel compelled to write these stories down, though I change the names to protect the innocent . . . and the guilty. I write because I want to offer others hope as they search for fragments of beauty in their life’s ashes.
(2) What you’re working on.
I just turned in the first installment in a three-book series that revolves around the Anabaptist (Mennonite/Amish) belief of Pacifism, or non-resistance, which will release with my publisher, Tyndale House, in spring 2016. The following books will release around every six months. The belief of Pacifism means that no one will take up arms to defend themselves, even if this means giving up their lives. However, when a cataclysmic event takes the 21st century back to the Stone Age, and the foundation of civilization crumbles, the Old Order Mennonite community of Mt. Hebron in Montana must come face to face with their corporate beliefs and decide if those beliefs of non-resistance are their personal beliefs because they are just or because they have never come up against anything which caused them to resist them.
(3) Your writing process.
I like to follow a loose synopsis but not an outline, and I guess I’m structured in the fact that I try to write and read every day. Monday through Friday, I get up at 6 and write in the living room with a cup of coffee. My two-year-old daughter gets up at 7, so my husband prepares her breakfast and has some special time with her until he leaves for work around 8. I do social media and respond to emails during her bath time, then I start writing again at 11 when she takes a nap, which sometimes lasts until 1 or—miracle of miracles!—even two. On the weekends, I sleep until 7, take a break from social media, and spend my daughter’s naptime working on blog posts or interviews, like I’m doing now. I read at night, until 10 on weekdays, 11 on weekends, averaging about three books and two audiobooks a month.
Reading inspires my writing process like nothing else. I keep a book next to the bathtub, one next to the bed, one in the diaper bag and/or my purse. Since my daughter’s birth, I haven’t had quite as much time to read, but I’ve made up for that by listening to audiobooks in the car or while I’m cooking. Hearing the story rather than reading it is almost more rewarding, in a way, as so many of the performers put their entire heart into the work (like the wonderful narrator, Tavia Gilbert, in The Outcast and The Midwife; I love working with her!). If I’m ever having a dry time creatively, taking a day or two to read or listen to a quality piece of literature refreshes me completely. For instance, I read The Orchardist while I was working on the first draft of The Midwife, and those lyrical passages reminded me that writing is an art form, and we should give it the respect and time that it deserves.