The Writer’s Desk with Karen Ferguson
Karen Ferguson is a freelance writer and small business owner with a background in K-8 education. A grateful wife, mom, and grandmom she loves words and the Word of God and is passionate about writing stories that grab and hold young readers’ attention while teaching them all about God’s unchangeable truths, and His unchanging love for them. She wants every child to know their life matters.
Karen loves reading, writing, staying active, and spending time with her family and their crazy Golden Retriever in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Q&A with Karen Ferguson
TG: Everyone always asks for an interesting fact, we’re going to flip the question. What is one boring fact about yourself?
KF: One of my favorite things to do in the evening is read, but if I try to read in bed after 8:30 pm, I immediately fall asleep… 😴
TG: Where did you get the inspiration for Guess How Much God Loves You?
KF: The Bible. This book is about the Creation Account as recorded in the Bible. I know there is some controversy surrounding The Beginning, and just how that happened, even within the Church. But none of us were alive then, and I’m a firm believer in the authority and authenticity of the Bible, so I relied on what God said happened at the very beginning.
But there is more to this book. This is the first of a six-book series, and there is a story thread throughout, with two main characters: Lucy Lu and Papa Joe. I didn’t want to just present facts from the Bible, I wanted those facts to be part of a personal story kids could relate to. And I wanted to create an experience for readers, something along the lines of the Magic School Bus series, so kids feel like they are living it firsthand.
The main motivator behind the book was frustration. I was seeing too many children’s books promoting anti-biblical principles. I remember how important it was for me to teach my girls about God in a way that was engaging, easy to relate to, and Bible-based, and now that I’m a grandmom it seems even harder to find these types of resources.
Young children are so impressionable and, unfortunately, they are bombarded with ungodly messages every day, in ways that would have been unbelievable ten years ago. I wanted to be part of the solution and create something dynamic, fun, and creative – grounded in the truths of the Bible – for parents and grandparents to share with the special children in their lives.
TG: Do you have any habits or rituals as a writer?
KF: Not really, although the words do seem to flow a bit better when I have a cup of coffee right beside me. One habit I gave up was obsessively self-editing as I wrote. I used to do this all the time and it really slowed me down and got in the way of creative thought. I’m getting better at letting the words flow freely in the first draft before I start editing too much.
TG: What habits would you encourage others to take up to be a more productive writer?
KF: Waiting to edit until the second draft. Think of your first draft as more of a free write practice. I also encourage you to schedule your writing time just like any other important appointment. This is something I’m working on myself, as I’ve had a nasty habit of putting off writing for other “more important” things far too often. Sometimes those other things are legitimate reasons, but I have found they can easily turn into excuses.
TG: What do you snack on or drink while writing?
KF: My favorite coffee: Kauai Coffee Company, Garden Isle Medium Roast. I discovered it when we were in Kauai many years ago and toured their coffee estate. I was thrilled to find it in local stores! The Hawaiian Islands hold a special place in my heart, so when I drink it, it feels like a little bit of paradise at home 🏝
I try not to snack when I write, once I get started it’s hard to stop 😋
TG: How do you overcome writer’s block?
KF: I take a walk or listen to music. Worship music, primarily. There is something rejuvenating about getting out into green space and fresh air that is so good for my brain and body. It clears the clutter in my head and silences that inner critic that can distract and discourage. Add worship music into the mix, and my heart and mind are ready for new ideas.
TG: Are you an “edit-as-you-go” writer or do you wait until the very end before you do any editing?
KF: I used to edit obsessively as I wrote, which slowed me down and caused a lot of frustration. After hearing from several writers about their editing practices, I either wait until the second draft if I’m writing something short or until the end of my writing session to do some light edits if it’s longer.
TG: What would you say is the most common mistake new writers make?
KF: Expecting instant success. Like anything in life, something worthwhile takes time to achieve. The reality is very few people achieve instant success in any field. We just don’t see all the baby steps those ‘successful’ authors took to get to that place. Also, comparing yourself with other writers. Don’t do it! 😊 Too often we compare our beginning with someone else’s middle or even end. God has a unique plan for each of us as writers, so don’t let small beginnings discourage you. Each step forward is important, no matter how small.
TG: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
KF: Don’t overfocus on building your platform at first. Focus most of your energies on learning how to be the best writer you can be. This is a paraphrase, but it was solid advice from Francine Rivers when I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting with her one on one at a writer’s conference in 2019. Of course, platform building is an important piece of the writing journey, but she explained how essential it is to first study and develop our writing skills, so we create something worth reading and sharing.
TG: What is coming up next for you?
KF: The second book in the Guess How Much God Loves You picture book series. It’s about the First Family of God (Adam, Eve, and the Garden).
TG: What book(s) are you currently reading?
KF: Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills for fiction, and Mysteries of the Messiah by Rabbi Jason Sobel for non-fiction.
TG: What is your favorite place on earth?
KF: The library of course… ;-). I have often said to my husband that besides home and church, it’s my favorite place, and it’s true. But if I had to pick a more exotic location, it’s the Hawaiian Islands. As my dad used to say, Hawaii feels like “Paradise on earth.” There’s a beauty and feeling of wellbeing that goes along with it that’s hard to explain. More recently I’ve fallen in love with Seaside Florida (30A) on the Gulf of Mexico. Or the Emerald Coast as it is called – and for good reason – the water is amazing!
TG: Cats or dogs?
KF: Dogs all the way (sorry cat lovers ;-)! Growing up I had both, but my husband is allergic to cats, so after 30 years with just dogs, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a cat now. Dogs are intensely loyal and loving, a true gift from God.
TG: What is one thing you can’t live without?
TG: What is the best song to blast when you need to be pumped up?
KF: I love worship music, and mostly listen to that genre, but I have to say, “We Will Rock You” by Queen pumps me up every time! When it starts playing my reflex is to stomp and sing the lyrics aggressively no matter where I am…😁
TG: If you could time travel to any point in history when would it be, and who would you be hanging out with?
KF: The 1950s. There is something about that period that is nostalgic, but still current enough to have things I appreciate like easy access to clean water, bathrooms inside homes, and cars to drive. I’d be hanging out with Elvis, for sure. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since I was a kid listening to my mom’s records after school and dancing in my bedroom. As an adult, I appreciate not only his sound but his contribution to gospel music.
TG: If you weren’t a writer, what job would you have?
KF: I’ve worked in many different fields over the years. There was a point when I referred to myself as a ‘multi-passionate professional’ because it was hard for me to choose just one path. In fact, I started my business doing a little bit of several things, as the idea of a niche was intimidating, and next to impossible to decide at first. But if I wasn’t pursuing this writing dream now, I’d probably be working in human resources, which was my last major gig before stepping out to write exclusively.
TG: Who is your dream co-author?
KF: Ted Dekker. I’ve enjoyed his stuff for years. Some of my favorites are the ones with intense (and sometimes creepy) plots. The way he writes is adrenaline-laced and never fails to pull me in, but what I love most about his work is each story has a redemptive quality to it. He always points to Jesus. Sometimes subtly, other times more boldly. It was his work that inspired me to write fiction so I would love to finish the manuscript I’m working on with his help 😉
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More about Guess How Much God Loves You:
Guess How Much God Loves You is the story of seven-year-old Lucy Lu, a colorful, creatively curious first-grader, who is starting to have serious questions about God.
- How old is He?
- Does He sleep?
- What does He do all day?
- And the biggest one of all—does God love me?
After one particularly hard day of being bullied by her classmates at school, Lucy feels like she doesn’t matter. She sits with Papa Joe, who has promised to answer her questions about God, launching them onto a journey to discover God’s never-changing, never-failing, never-ending love.
What follows is a wild adventure through the Bible, where Lucy and her papa find themselves in the middle of each page of the exciting story of God’s love and faithfulness for all people throughout all of history.