Photo of Amy Wallace, Deborah Raney, Tricia Goyer, and DiAnn Hunt at a ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) get-together in Atlanta.
Today I’m starting a new feature that you’ll see regularly on this blog.
10 Questions for . . .
I started out with one of my writer-friends, Deborah Raney. If you haven’t met Deb, I’d have to say her personality sparkles as much as her books. (And I really, really love her books!)
Deb’s newest book is the reissue of A Vow to Cherish from Steeple Hill. Then, next January her first book with Howard Books (now a division of Simon & Schuster) will hit the shelves. Remember to Forget is contemporary women’s fiction and a subtle allegory of new life in Christ. Deb has also just started working on the second book in that series, tentatively titled Leaving November. And next June, Steeple Hill will release Within This Circle, a new sequel to A Vow to Cherish. Busy lady!
1 0 Q u e s t i o n s f o r . . . D e b o r a h R a n e y
1. Tricia: Deb, you’ve talked about the “power” you feel in creating fictional worlds and placing characters in the midst of tragedy. (You meanie, you!) What are some tragedies you hope to explore in future books?
Deborah: Donald Maass in Writing the Breakout Novel (an excellent book on the craft of writing) says that in our fiction, we should explore the very things that plumb our own greatest fears.
While some of the tragedies I’ve written about do represent my own fears, I’ve yet to explore some of the deepest ones. If I get brave, I’ll write about these issues: being responsible for the accidental death of a child, being abandoned by a beloved husband, being left to care for an aging, cantankerous parent. None of these are issues I’ve had to deal with, or even suspect I might have to deal with, but they are things that chill me to think about because I’m not sure how I would handle them should God ask me to walk those paths.
2. Tricia: I’ve noticed A Vow to Cherish has been re-released. Why do you think readers are so drawn to this story?
Deborah: I guess, in a way, A Vow to Cherish does delve into that fear of being abandoned (albeit unwillingly) by a beloved spouse. But I think more than that, we all long for a marriage that is strong enough to overcome even the ultimate tragedy. We all hope that we have a spouse who loves us as much as John Brighton loves his sweet Ellen.
I wrote the original manuscript only twelve years ago, but still, it was necessary to do a major update to bring it into the twenty-first century—giving my characters computers and cell phones, for starters, and then updating the medical information about Alzheimer’s disease. But I found the human elements of the story didn’t need changing. Our longings and dreams for a committed marriage are constant. I’m thrilled to have the book available now for a new generation of marriages. And I’m so pleased with the gorgeous new cover.
3. Tricia: If you had a paid trip to go anywhere for research, where would you go? Why?
Deborah: For years, I’ve dreamed of traveling Europe—ideally living in Italy or the UK for six months to a year to write a contemporary novel set in what I think is the most romantic part of the world. I guess I’ve romanticized England, especially, since hearing my grandfather talk about the trip he took back there when he was in his seventies, to visit the place where his mother was born. Some of my love for words and stories came from my Granddaddy Reed. He’s been gone for over ten years now, but he had the most beautiful voice. I can still hear him quoting poems from memory and saying this simple, beautiful table blessing that always touched me.
4. Tricia: You’re writing a monthly column on Crosswalk.com with your daughter. I remember when I was newly married I was too uncomfortable to talk to my mom about some marriage topics. Are there any topics you both say, “Let’s not go there …”?
Deborah: Tobi and I have had such fun writing together. I feel I’ve gotten to know my daughter—and her husband—so much better just through the experience of writing this column. But yes, there are probably a few topics that we won’t play hardball with.
We can’t write about parents, because my parents are still living and Tobi’s parents are—well, they are just horrible ogres! LOL! Tobi and I have both been blessed with in-laws we adore and have a wonderful relationship with, but still, that’s probably not a topic either of us would be comfortable talking about in anything but a positive way. And though we have written about romance, we all know that kids (of any age) don’t ever want to imagine that their parents actually have…well, you know… LOL. So we probably won’t be going there any time soon either. Then again, if our idea well runs dry, those would be excellent topics, now, wouldn’t they? ; )
5. Tricia: What’s one writing book you still go to for help in your own writing?
Deborah: My all-time favorite is still Stein on Writing. That was one of the first books I ever read on the craft of writing and it continues to inspire me every time I read it. A new favorite though is James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. Even though I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, Jim’s book is a real kick-in-the-pants when I need a jump-start. : )
6. Tricia: What cd is in your player right now?
Deborah: Mozart. I just finished reading Nancy Moser’s fascinating and amazingly researched novel, Mozart’s Sister. I love choosing a “soundtrack” to whatever I’m reading or writing, so that was a natural. I love classical music. But usually when I’m working on my contemporary novels I listen to movie soundtracks. Since they were composed to be background music, they are perfect to write by. For a list of some of my favorite music to write by, go to the October 5 Charis Connection blog entry here:
7. Tricia: If you had time to start a new hobby, what would it be?
Deborah: I sort of have started a new hobby this year, whether I had time or not. ; ) After breathing a sigh of relief to get Kid #3 through college last year, my husband and I finally bought our first home. It’s a newer home that needed very little work to the interior, but the yard was just a huge, fenced-in field of grass with a few young trees. My husband has spent every spare minute the past few months building hills and berms and hauling in sandstone rocks from his grandfather’s pasture in the Smoky Hills of Kansas. He’s built three little rock gardens and planted native grasses and wildflowers everywhere and it is just beautiful. (There are a few photos on my Web site.) Where I come in is when it’s time to water, weed, prune and deadhead all those plants and flowers. We enjoy walking in our garden every morning and working there each evening. It truly has made us appreciate the glory of God’s creation and how much He must love us to place us in the midst of such beauty.
8. Tricia: I heard somewhere you birthed kids during a few different decades. Which
Deborah: Yes, it’s true. What a claim to fame, huh? I was told by several doctors that I probably would not be able to have children, but the Lord blessed us with our oldest son in the 70s, another son and daughter in the 80s, and then He knocked our socks off with a surprise little girl in the 90s. We are so proud of our wonderful kids (who are now 29, 26, 24 and 15) and our very first grandbaby born in December!
9. Tricia: What is your favorite snack or drink while you write?
Deborah: I enjoy coffee—all kinds of flavored coffees, chai teas, mochas, etc.—and the whole process of making the coffee is almost a “ceremony” for me before I start writing each day. Sometimes I even grind my own beans or use a coffee press just for fun.
I try not to eat while I write because writing is a sedentary enough occupation as it is. But if I do, it’s either Coffee Nips or M&Ms, counted out and eaten slowly. Sometimes I play games with myself like “you can have five M&Ms after you’ve written 100 words.”
10. Tricia: Chicken or beef?
Deborah: LOL! Veggies! I’m not a vegetarian, but I could happily be one, I think. When my husband and I order in a restaurant, I usually give him half of my meat dish and I get all of his veggies.