Interview With An Author

Well, a short one at least.

Erica Vetsch is one of my parishioners. She also happens to be an author who has just had her first book published – “Squeeeeee!” (I believe those where her exact words when she found out.) You can check out my review of her new book, The Bartered Bride, here. I had a ton of questions for her about writing, developing plot lines, her methods of character development, how her faith in God through Christ Jesus affects her writing and so forth. She’s on quite a blog tour at the present time, however, so I settled for three questions at this moment. Check out the tour schedule On The Write Path.

ERICA VETSCH is married to Peter and keeps the company books for the family lumber business. A home-school mom to Heather and James, Erica loves history, romance, and storytelling. Her ideal vacation is taking her family to out-of-the-way history museums and chatting to curators about local history. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Calvary Bible College in Secondary Education: Social Studies. You can find her on the web at On The Write Path.

As Erica’s pastor (and let me tell you, she needs a fair bit o’ shepherding, I can be the first to tell ya!), it’s been a blessing having Erica and her family as a part of our congregation. She can brighten a teaching discussion like you wouldn’t believe. Her thoughtful insights and questions during such discussions prove to be a delightful challenge. Peter and the kids are just plain fun to be around (especially at the annual New Year’s Day party they host). However, every once in a while, it’s fun to “turn the tables” on a parishioner and ask them some thought-provoking questions. I had a few for Erica about the writing of books.

What people has God brought into your life to help shape your thinking, sharpen your writing, and stretch your faith?

Starting with my parents? 🙂 Actually the first person who really expressed an interest in my writing was a high school teacher who gave me a love of literature and words. He encouraged me to read good literature and to write. I owe a lot to Mr. Heter.

God has also brought mentors in the form of writers who have taught me through their books on writing craft and teaching workshops. From the first writing class I ever took, taught by the fabulous Angela Hunt, to the dozens of writing books by luminaries like Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, Stephen King, and Debra Dixon, God has brought people into my life that have sharpened my writing.

I’ve also been blessed to be part of several critique groups over the years. These critiques taught me to suck it up, to listen more, evaluate, and find my own writing voice. I’ve currently got a couple of terrific crit partners who are honest, and who I can trust to make my writing better.

Does it challenge your faith when a manuscript is rejected?

It sure can hurt. I’ve had rejections that were positive like “The writing is there, the story just doesn’t fit our readership.” And I’ve had rejections that were just wounding, like “I hate Christian Romance and Christian Prairie Romance is the worst.” (This from an editor at a Christian publisher that published Christian Prairie Romance from time to time.) Talk about a kick in the head! But I realized this had nothing to do with me or my writing. This was an editor who let his personal prejudice against a whole genre color his behavior.

There have been times when I’ve wondered if I’m doing what God wanted, when it seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere on the road to publication, but He always brought someone or something to encourage me at just the right time. A positive critique, a kind word from someone ahead of me on the journey, a contest final or win. Whenever I have been tempted to give up, God opens another door for me to walk through. 🙂

What is it like to have a manuscript returned with many revisions after you have poured so much time and effort into the first writing?

My intial reaction. Shock. Embarrassment. Disbelief.

That’s when you have to set those revision letters aside and do an ego check. Ask yourself some serious questions.

1. Is everything in the letter horrible, or are there some atta-girls sprinkled in there that you can cling to?

2. Do you trust your editors? Do you seriously believe that their goal is not to humiliate you, to denigrate your work, to make you wonder why you ever started this publishing gambit anyway, to stifle your writing voice and kill your story? OR, do you believe they want to help you shape your book into the best story it can be, one that will be satisfying for the reader?

3. Do you really need a gallon of Cookies and Creme Ice Cream topped with a slathering of Hershey’s syrup in order to get through the letter or should you just suck it up and deal?

Then you start reading the letter with a modicum of objectivity. Consider carefully the suggested revisions, and evaluate for yourself what to keep, what to modify, and what hill to die on.

I’m deep into edits on a novel right now, and the edit letter was happily a short one with only minor tweaks. I expect to be finished with them in a few days. But the book prior to this? A Loooooooooong editorial letter that had me asking all of those above questions and that took me almost six weeks to complete the revisions from. But, that long revision letter was a wonderful lesson in being teachable, and an opportunity to show to my publisher that I’m an author who check her ego at the door and submit to an editor, who is willing to listen, and who makes her deadlines, no matter how painful the revision process might be.

I’m very thankful for people with abilities like this. It’s part of the joy of being a pastor: observing God’s children use their gifts for His glory and the delight of His people. I pray He’ll allow Erica to see more fruit from her labors.

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