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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Long Process from First Draft to Publication:An Interview with Kathryn Cushman

Let’s go back to the beginning. Your first novel was published in 2007. I know that was nine years ago, but what inspired you to write that story?
A Promise to Remember was inspired by a true event near my home. It was not exactly the same situation, but it was a fatal crash involving teenagers and lawsuits. The story got me pondering the need for punishment vs. accountability vs grace. I wanted to write a story where I could explore those issues, and A Promise to Remember resulted from that. 

Did you get discouraged at all in the writing process? 
I did get discouraged in the writing process. A Promise to Remember was actually my third completed manuscript, but it was the first one to see print. I started writing in 2003 and got my first contract in 2006. Those in-between years felt VERY long.

How long did it take you to write that first book? 
I've written each of my books in the course of roughly a year. 

Did you start with the idea of writing a series? 
The Tomorrow's Promise books are mostly alike in theme rather than a true book series, although a couple of characters from Waiting for Daybreak make a cameo appearance in Another Dawn. I'm still thinking, though. 
I keep trying to come up with a series idea, but haven't really been able to do so. 

Book 5 of your Tomorrow’s Promise series deals with the Amish lifestyle. What drew you to writing that book?
I grew up near an Amish community in Tennessee, and after watching their lifestyle, I was always thankful that I lived with modern conveniences (especially cars, air-conditioning, and indoor plumbing :-) ). I began to toy with the idea of putting some modern women in the "simple" life, and see what would happen. The Almost Amish story line grew 
from that initial idea, and many, many, many discussions with my editor. 

How did you go about finding a publisher/agent?
Writers Conferences!! I attended my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference in 2004. I signed with my first agent in late 2005. He began to send out proposals, but it was during the Mount Hermon conference in 2006 when I made contacts with several editors that things really started rolling. Within a month, I had two offers. The importance of face to face meetings can not be overstated.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
At my first conference, I signed up to be in a mentoring group. James Scott Bell was the published author who led our group of about 12 learners. At that point, I didn't know enough to know that I didn't know much, but several members of my group understood it very well! It was pretty brutal, but James kept pulling them back and he found some points of encouragement for me. I went home and laid all their comments side by side and began making changes.

The next year, I signed up for groups again, and once again I was put in James Scott Bell's group. This time, he said to me, "Is this the same story from last year? You really took what you learned and ran with it. Well done." Six months later, I got the chance to attend a mentoring only conference. Once again I was placed in James Scott Bell's group, this time with a completely new story. I saw him on the sidewalk before class started and he said, "This is it kid. You're going to break in with this one." I'll never forget that moment. (Turns out, he was right. That was A Promise to Remember)

What’s the hardest part about writing for you?

First drafts!! I despise them. Especially the middle of the book in first draft. I have to force myself to sit down and type at that stage. With each successive read through, though, I enjoy the process more and more. By the end, I'm having my computer read the story aloud as I'm listening for sentence rhythm and word usage. That's my favorite part.

What does your editor remind you to do most often?

Increase the stakes! Always. In every single book. I now write hearing that voice in my head, and yet I still start out with weak stakes. Always. In every single book.

What type of publicity does your publisher expect you to do in promoting your book?

Thankfully, Bethany House is one of the few remaining publishers who tells authors to "do what you're comfortable doing". I've tried a little bit of everything, but I don't feel pressured at all.

What did you learn in publishing your first book that helped you in your writing?

Somewhere in the middle of writing every book I want to quit, set it aside, and start something else. I've learned to stick with it and finish.

What surprised you the most in writing/publishing your first book?

Surprised- The overwhelming support I received from friends and family. 

What frustrated you the most?
Frustrated- Not much actually. I was happy with the whole process.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
Wish I'd known sooner-- Getting published does not in any way help your confidence or feelings of self-worth like I thought it would. Those things have to come from God. Period.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
Write the books you are interested in writing / reading. Don't write toward the market, because by the time the book is finished, the market will have changed.

Do you have any other works in the process?
Yes, I'm currently attempting to survive through the next first draft. We shall see if I make it out on the other side :-)

That's all for today's interview. I will add that I just finished reading her current book entitled Fading Starlight. It flows well and has good character development that made me continue to turn the pages. If you'd like to learn more about Katherine's books, here's a couple of links to get you started.

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