Today I am happy to share an interview with Starving Hearts author Janine Mendenhall.
When did you decide to become a writer? In other words, what made you actually sit down and write something?
About six years ago, vampires and werewolves–you know the ones from the Twilight series—convinced me to write!
Two of my children, who were in middle school at the time, had that irritating “everyone else gets to” complaint when I wouldn’t let them read the books. So instead of arguing, I decided to check them out myself.
Four days and 575, 710 words later, when I finished the saga, I allowed my kids to begin it.
At that point, I told myself: If Stephanie Meyers can do it, surely, I, with God’s help, can write something that will be interesting and will bring Him glorifying.
Every writer is eventually asked this question, but where do your ideas come from? Why do you write what you do?
My brain never stops working. I keep creating and exploring every single possible option in almost every situation with which I’m faced, including all choices and decisions my husband and I make in our daily lives.
It’s like planning all the contingencies one could imagine for what will happen on a two-week vacation, except I do it all the time.
Do any of you have this issue? It’s so bad I can’t drink water before I go to sleep for fear of waking up and accidently turning my brain on.
So to my husband’s great relief, writing gives my analytical mind a safe place to play with ideas without driving him crazy by telling him all the different things we have to do in order to, say for example, get to church on time.
And as far as why I write historical fiction/romance—specifically, late Georgian/early Regency—I’m fascinated by the social issues–like the slave trade–and the beautiful gowns and social customs of that era. In short: Jane Austen made me do it, and her time- period also protects me from having to write inappropriate scenes. It’s more fun to develop romantic tension by keep my couples apart, anyway.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you? How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
It’s not so much that I use an outline or that I’ve evolved creatively. It’s more that I did what one of the greatest popular fiction writers I’ve read told me what to do, and I developed some skill in the Craft by reading books on how to do it.
It’s my belief that no matter how creative one is, if she can’t please her audience–by building romantic tension, for example, or by providing realistic characters with flaws and strengths while maintaining suspense and a quick pace–my readers will stop reading.
So I’m always trying please my readers.
I must credit Steven James, a most excellent Christian crime/thriller author, with these ideas and any success I’ve had in the above areas. Before I took his Novel Writing Intensive and studied his Story Trumps Structure, my writing was mediocre, at best.
And I continue to reexamine his teaching and push myself to be the best I can.
What is the hardest thing about the creative process of writing? If you’re a Christian, what are the challenges you believe Christian writers face now and in the future? If you would, please tell us what was hardest thing about writing your last book? How long does it typically take you to finish your book?
Christian authors, at least it seems to me, must overcome a general reputation for making characters too perfect/unrealistic and having idealized conclusions.
Life is not easy. Everyone, including Christians, doesn’t end up with a happily ever after (HEA).
This is especially interesting, yet challenging to me, because my tag line is “experience the Ultimate happily ever after.”
Yet even in that, I’m speaking of Christ and not necessarily that all of one’s problems will be solved, although I will still try to give the HEA, since I believe in it.
I don’t really know how long it takes to finish a book because I wrote Starving Hearts while I was occupied working as a full-time school counselor, a mother of five, and a wife. That took me about four years to do that and then another year and a half to go through the publishing process.
God was certainly in the midst of the whole process, but it was challenging.
Demands for a platform—serious social media involvement, which builds said platform—and my introverted nature make the marketing aspects of a writing career so complicated I’ve been reduced to tears a few times.
If anyone ever tells you that a person can still write an excellent book and word-of-mouth will take care of it from there, I would say, is terribly mistaken.
Word-of-mouth is largely social media, and if you’re behind the times or too afraid to step out and try it, as I was, your book and its message may never reach the people for whom it was designed.
Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.
Ultimately it’s not so bad. I write because people, who may never hear the gospel in a church setting, might pick it up from my story or my website, and I care about them. So it’s the least I can do to reach them through my writing.
He’s also calling me to trust Him more as I learn how to do all of these new things so I’ll go along for the ride.
But the three hardest things:
- the technical know-how behind building a platform,
2. presenting myself as authentic and truly caring in a world filled with people marketing themselves as the same, but only seeking to sell a product, and
3. truly trusting in God’s sovereignty. (I say the words, but I keep worrying, which means I haven’t really applied my belief to my actions—still growing there.)
On the flip side, what excites you the most about the creative process?
Words have power, and the Lord has blessed me with the ability entertain/provide an escape to a different world using them. At the same time, with Peter’s and Annette’s story, I can also encourage my friends—my readers—to grow in the faith, even if they’re faith is at level zero.
Then we can talk about it on my blog and stay connected through email and social media. It’s a great way to connect with believers and non-believers alike, no matter where they live, and life doesn’t get much more exciting for me.
What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?
I’m reading Loving Well by William P. Smith, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, and Praying Successfully by Charles Spurgeon in addition to various “how to” write books including Steven James’s book, again.
If you would like and have the time, write a paragraph or two about anything you wish.
Life is challenging. My writing career has been full of what I’ve seen as barriers and hard work, but the Lord is faithful, and He will not stop working until He achieves His purpose for, in, and through you and me.
Whether you’re in the midst of a challenge or on cloud nine, dig in to Philippians 1:6. It has been very helpful for me. In fact, maybe you’d like to commit it to memory using a song
Enjoy this—one of my favorite songs– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNjZlHARnEk , and then email me.
I’d love to get to know you better.
Many blessings as you seek Him and grow.
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Author Bio—How many titles of movies and/or books can you find in this little write up?
My interest in reading and historical gowns started when I was about eight years old and grew into a magnificent obsession with beauty and happily ever after.
Now, after a day’s work as a high school English teacher & school counselor (and when I’m not writing Book #2 in the Triangular Trade Trilogy), I lose myself somewhere in time using: Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice or a number of other classics like Jane Eyre and Redeeming Love.
I cry at the mention of His amazing grace, both the movie and the hymn. But that’s understandable; they are tears of joy over God’s blessings.
Those tears may also stem from being lost in Austen one too many times.
My first Christian historical fiction/romance is Starving Hearts. Never Past Hope and Perseverance are the other two books in the Triangular Trade Trilogy, and I can’t finish them soon enough.
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