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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Trust Your Readers: Author Interview with Deborah Raney

The start of your writing career sounds like the plot for a book with a happy ever after ending. Your first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was optioned and made into a movie. Was it really as easy as that sounds? How long did that process actually take?
It really was! At least from my end. I’d sent a copy of the manuscript to World Wide Pictures and kind of forgot about it. A year after the book came out, I got a call from my editor that A Vow to Cherish was one of ten projects the film company was considering. A week later, I learned they’d chosen mine, and within months, the movie was in production! Ken and I got to go to Hollywood to the movie premiere in 1998—quite a highlight for this Kansas farm girl!

I’ve since sold movie options for two other novels and those processes were a little longer in the making, and as yet, no movies have resulted. Of course, Covid didn’t help matter. But we just renewed the options, so that’s a hopeful sign!

What inspired you to write that first book? What keeps you inspired after writing over three dozen books?
I was privileged to stay home with our kids for most of their childhoods, but I knew when it was time for our oldest to go to college, I’d need to go back to work to help pay tuition. What I didn’t know was that when that time came we’d have a 3-year-old “oops baby” who I desperately wanted to stay home with. 

I started trying to think how I could stay home, yet still make some extra money, and I felt like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Remember that book you’ve always wanted to write? Now’s the time!” So I started writing, and here I am 26 years later, still happily writing away—and with four kids who all have their college degrees. :)

What is the hardest part of writing for you? 
My hardest is writing the first draft. The blank page is so intimidating to me! I write from the seat of my pants (outlining takes all the fun out of it!) but that does mean that sometimes I really struggle with knowing what should happen next in my plot. 

The next hardest part of writing is finishing the book. By the end, I’ve grown to love my characters so much that it’s sad for me to write “the end” and say goodbye. This is even more true when I finish a series because I’ve been working with those same characters for three to five years by the time I write the final scene!

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
To trust myself. And to trust my readers. Too often, I overwrite because I’m afraid my reader won’t get what I’m trying to say. So my editors often write in the margins, “Trust your readers to get it!"

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
My husband is my biggest encourager and has so much confidence in my writing. Even though I’ve given him “permission” to stop reading my books at any time, he has still read every one (he’s currently reading my newest, Bridges) and always finds something to compliment about my writing. Ken’s comments mean all the more knowing that he deeply values honesty and never gives an insincere compliment.

What has surprised or 
frustrated you the most in writing/publishing? 
The answer is the same for both questions. I’ve been so surprised how much of a professional writer’s time is spent NOT writing! And sometimes I DO find that frustrating. On the other hand, I really enjoy some of the non-writing tasks that go with my job: research, traveling, speaking, social media, conferences, teaching writing, etc. I even love cleaning and organizing my office.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
Write what you know. I used to think that meant not stretching myself, researching new ideas, or writing outside of my comfort zone. It doesn’t mean that at all, but merely that my writing will be most natural and realistic when I am writing about settings that I know intimately and people who think a lot like I do. 

Of course I want the casts of my novels to be diverse and varied like the real world, but most of the characters whose heads I occupy while writing have a lot in common with me, and my novels are set mostly in my native Kansas or Missouri or elsewhere in the Midwest.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
I don’t think I would have stuck with writing this long if not for the wonderful writer friends I’ve made over the years. I’m an extrovert, so it would be torture if the whole of my job was sitting at a desk by myself typing! But I’ve been blessed to be part of several wonderful writers groups, both in-person and online, and that has made all the difference.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

Breath of Heaven is the third book in the Camfield Legacy series, following Beneath a Southern Sky (RITA® Award winner) and After the Rains

This story will continue following Natalie Camfield, daughter of Nathan Camfield, Daria Camfield Hunter and Cole Hunter as she returns to her father’s beloved TimonĂ© in Colombia, South America to join the love of her life, David Chambers, her father’s colleague at the mission in TimonĂ©. Their lives will soon be thrown into turmoil when Natalie goes missing and David must search for her in the wild jungles of Colombia.

What a delightful interview! Thank you for your time and insights. If you'd like to start or continue with the Camfield saga or learn about Deborah's other books, here are some links to get you started.


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