Christian Fiction Writer


What Are Your Writing Goals and Motivation?

What is your motivation to write? What are your writing Goals? What steps will you take to meet those goals?

Those questions really stumped me. Why AM I motivated to write? I don't have a good answer to that question. I only know that I HAVE to write. Can't help it.

My urge to write is strengthened by reading lots of fiction. But, I can't 'just' read a book. I have to write my thoughts about it. So, I write book reviews. (No, I wasn't a kid who loved to write book reports in school. I hated those assignments. But, I loved our weekly trip to the library to select books). I also want to ask the writer questions about his or her book. I want to know all about how he / she wrote the book. That led to writing author interviews. (I have several published at )

Eventually, I want to write novels. To that end, I take writing classes, have joined online writing groups, have begun attending writing conferences.

One of my weak areas is grammar. (I guess you can tell.) So, I bought several grammar and style books; signed up for some online courses, and accepted the position of Grammar & Style Columnist at . Naturally, to write content for this column, I MUST LEARN the subject matter; and this requires me to meet a deadline.

Fellowship of Christian Writers has been very helpful to my writing goals. A couple of years ago, I joined one of its online critique groups. I learned a lot through reading other's work, recognizing that something was wrong, but I couldn't quite say what it was; and then looking those questions up in writing books. Later, I took on the responsibility of moderating two online critique groups at Fellowship of Christian Writers.

What are you writing goals and motivations? Please feel free to share them by posting here.
Vicki McCollum


Interview with DeeAnne Gist.

DeeAnne Gist's first novel, "A Bride Most Begrudging," published by Bethany House, is a wonderfully entertaining historical romance. Bethany House selected "Bride" for their Edgy Inspirational category. Read more about this new genre in Christian fiction on DeeAnne's website, "What Is Edgy Inspirational?" at

(vtm) DeeAnne, how did you get your start as a writer?
(DeeAnne) My degree is in Elementary Education. When I had four kids in four years, I became a stay-at-home mom. I did freelance journalism out of my home and started writing fiction manuscripts at that time.

(vtm) Is "A Bride Most Begrudging" your first novel? Did you receive rejections for Bride before finding a publisher? If so, how did you handle those rejections?

(DeeAnne) Bride is my first published novel. I had written another one when I was learning the craft of writing. It's in a secret place that no one will ever find!...I hope!
Rejections are very much a part of a writing career. I learned that early with my journalism articles. I also learned not to take them personally. And I have a very strong faith, so I always knew that if the Lord wanted something to be published, He could certainly see that it was. So, when I received rejections, I just assumed it was because God had something better planned. (And did He ever!)

(vtm) Certain writers have a particular typewriter or favorite place to write. Have you found any specific set up more conducive to writing?

(DeeAnne) My favorite place to write is in an outdoor kitchen that we have in our backyard. Unfortunately, it's so hot here (100+ degrees much of the time), that I don't get to write out there very often.

(vtm) How do you progress from an interesting idea for a story line to actually writing a novel?

(DeeAnne) Once I have a premise for my book, I research that time period thoroughly. The events of the time, often provide me with plot points for my novel. And from there, I make up the story line.

(vtm) How do you research for your genre, Christian Historical Romance?

(DeeAnne) I basically just research the era I am writing about and write the story. Because it is a romance, I have a strong romantic plot line. But I don't have a Christian plotline, per se. In other words, I don't have a specific evangelical message with a conversion scene in the third act. I simply write the book and weave the faith issues into the story as I go along.

(vtm) Bethany House selected Bride for its Edgy Inspiration category. Can you explain that term? What about Bride puts it in the Edgy Inspiration category?

(DeeAnne) That's the million dollar question, I think. No one really knows what "edgy" is. For me, it is writing the story without being restricted by a taboo list. I simply let my characters say what they want, do what they want and think what they want. I don't censor them or restrain them in any way. Then, the chips just fall where they may. (Although if my characters get too far out there, my editor will rein them in some during the editing phase of publication.)
In the case of Bride, my characters were in a marriage of convenience and at some point hoped to annul the marriage. But as time went on, an attraction between the two characters sprung up. My characters wrestled with the temptations and impure thoughts that came with courtship. The difference between my book and some of the more traditional inspiration romances is that I revealed to the reader what my characters were thinking--pure or not. The question is. . . does that make it "edgy" or simply more realistic? Who's to say?

(vtm) Do you have a "target" reader? Should a Christian fiction writer assume that all their readers have the same likes and dislikes in their reading selections? i.e., Do you have guidelines, from your publisher or your own, of what to include and exclude in your writing?

(DeeAnne) My target reader is the Lord. He's the only One I want to please. I don't worry about who my audience is or what people will think, or what type of stories are trendy, or word count, or any of that. It's all for Him. And in my case, that means that my story must be real, honest, well written and full of passion. It means I pray over it every time I write (and then some.) Every morning I ask Him to waken my ears to listen like one being taught. I very much want to be receptive to the Spirit and to let Him influence me during the creative process. If I write something that troubles my Spirit, then I pay attention to that prompting and pray over whatever it is that is troubling me.

And fortunately for me, Bethany House gives me the freedom to do that. They put no restrictions on me. Once the manuscript is finished, they, obviously, edit it. And I have found that those edits do nothing but make the manuscript stronger. And do all my readers have the same likes and dislikes? Not even close. That's why it would be such a nightmare to try and write for a specific audience. It's much easier when you only have One to please!!

(vtm) The main characters in Bride have high moral standards and strong Christian faith, (I especially liked Drew.) How did you develop your characters? Do you have a character formula for your books?

(DeeAnne) For me, the most important element of character development is back story. I write an extensive back story on my tow main characters. I start with their birth and track their lives all the way up to the first page of the novel. That way, I know what baggage they are carrying around--which makes a big difference inhow they react to any given situation. I also know, then, what their idiosyncrasies are. I have found this, more than anything else, takes my character from a one dimensional state to a three-dimensional one.

(vtm) In reading Bride, I was puzzled by the reverend saying that Constance must be "married in her hair," especially in light of recent American tradition of the bride covering her head with a veil and her groom not seeing her face until after their vows. What tradition prompted Drew to release Constance's hair from its braids before the marriage vows? ?By the way, it was a very sensual act! Obviously, these Virginia tobacco colonists were not Cotton Mather Puritans.

(DeeAnne) Most of the wedding traditions we use today have Victorian roots. From the 14th to the mid-17th century, it was the custom for any bride to be married with her hair hanging down her back. This was a recognized symbol of her virginity and "married in her hair" was the expression they used for it. And, you are quite right, the Virginia colonists were not Puritans. That was a New England thing.

(vtm) Is there some particular aspect of writing fiction that you can share with new writers, which would have helped you as a novice?

(DeeAnne) The advice I give new writers is to "learn your craft." I equate this to an athlete. You can be the most talented athlete in the world, but if you don't know the rules of the game, you can't play. Take classes, read "how to" books, join critique groups, go to writer's conferences, enter contests, and write, write, write.

(vtm) On a personal note, how does your Chritian faith impact your writing?

(DeeAnne) It has a huge impact on my writing. The entire reason I write is to use the gifts and talents the Lord gave me to the best of my ability for glorifying Him. I don't write a single chapter without talking to Him about it. And if I haven't spent time with Him the way I should, it shows up in my writing habits and production.

To read more about DeeAnne's writing, visit her webpage at, or her blog on writing at
You can buy "A Bride Most Begrudging" at

Interview with Brandilyn Collins

Interview with Brandilyn Collins. Her newest book, Web of Lies, may be purchased at

Vicki: Did you choose your genre, Christian suspense-thriller, or did it choose you? How did you begin writing suspense novels?

Brandilyn: I chose it, and it chose me.
Eyes of Elisha, a suspense, was the first novel I wrote (although not the first published). However, I did write women's fiction as well as suspense, and would have continued in that vein were it not for a marketing meeting in Jan. of 2005 in which the Zondervan folks persuaded me to focus on suspense. For that meeting, my editor, the marketing director, and an outside consultant they'd hired to overview my career flew out west to our home in California to meet with me and my husband. The meeting ended up taking almost eight hours. Here's a bit about that meeting (taken from my own blog):
. . . We talked about who I am as an author. What my novels offer. We looked at the hard numbers of sales. We talked about other authors, and how I am different from them. What my niche is in the market. We talked about trying to market me over the two very different genres of suspense and women's fiction (technically called the contemporary genre). My killing side and my softer side, so to speak. The kind of suspense I'd ended up writing made the chasm between these two personas even greater, because I write intense suspense—the more scary stuff. Not too much of that kind of writing in the Christian world.It didn't take long for it to dawn on me just what a split personality I'd created.Now we faced an even bigger hurdle. I was gaining readers with my Hidden Faces series, but those readers would have to be put aside while I returned to women's fiction. By the time I returned to these blood-thirsty readers, a couple of years would have passed. Would they still be there?Looking back, I can't believe how easily I caved. Chalk it up to the prayers. Chalk it up to really wanting to follow where God lead. 'Cause I didn't wanna go there. About two hours into the meeting, I was talking the talk I'd vowed never to utter—that the smart thing to do was brand myself completely to one genre.And at the moment, my foremost genre was the one of murder and mayhem.Suddenly, just like that—I became a suspense writer. Only . . .-----------------
(Taken from Part 64 of my NES--the Never-Ending Saga of my journey toward publication in fiction, and beyond.
June 3, 2005 post.)

Vicki: How do you research your work?

Brandilyn: I use the Internet for a start, then go to professionals in the field. For forensics basics and story ideas, I watch true shows on TV such as Forensic Files, Cold Case Files, etc. I DON'T watch TV crime dramas such as CSI, etc., because their forensics basics are is not completely reliable.

Vicki: You have a great inteactive blog which makes you accessible to your readers. It must take alot of time to keep it current. Why do you place such importance on interacting with your readers? (I'm sure they love it!)

Brandilyn: In the marketing meeting referenced in question 1, my editor insisted that I start a blog. I groaned. "Are you kidding? Like I don't have enough to do!" And it is hard to come up with interesting posts every Monday through Friday. However, I know my NES story, plus all the inside looks at the publishing world and all the teaching of fiction techniques have helped people. Plus it's given me an immediate community of folks to draw from. When I needed auditioners last week for the unusual marketing plan for my next novel, Violet Dawn, and it's series, I was able to go to this built-in community. Besides, I love the BGs (my bloggees--blog readers). They're way cool folks. It's taken time to build this community, and yes, it involves much work on my part, but I am so grateful for them. I give to them; they give back to me.

Vicki: What is your favorite of the books you've written?

Brandilyn: I really can't name just one. Of the women's fiction, my favorite is
Color the Sidewalk for Me. Of my suspenses, it's Eyes of Elisha, Dead of Night and Web of Lies. I think. Ask me tomorrow, you might get a different answer. All in all, I hope my favorite book is not yet written.

Vicki: Do your own books give YOU nightmares?

Brandilyn: Nope. And they should. I am definitely warped, like my mother says.

Vicki: What is the next book in the pipeline?

Violet Dawn, first in the Kanner Lake series, launches in August. You can follow the link to read the back cover copy. And the beginning to Violet Dawn is also in the back of Web of Lies.

The BGs have been hearing about this book for a long time. I've been honest on
my blog about the difficulties in writing it. Have given them inside looks at its editing process through Zondervan, from macro edit to copyedit to proofing. Now many of them are entering into the marketing plan for the series, which involves some writing on their part, and plenty of perks in return (including a four-month-early read of the book). The post for Monday, April 17 lays out this whole scheme. Although this auditioning process is now full, there will be opportunities after this year for others to write for the new Scenes and Beans blog, which will feature characters from the Kanner Lake series. We'll see how this all goes. 'Twill be a very public marketing experiment.

The gist of Violet Dawn? DON'T get in the hot tub . . .

Seatbelt Suspense (TM)
Don't forget to b r e a t h e . .