Frequently Asked Questions
How did you get started as a writer?
From the time, I was in high school I dreamed of writing horse books for girls. But then life got in the way. I was an education major in college, and then got married and had children. Still, I always knew someday I was going to be a writer. As I look back, I wrote a lot in those years but didn’t consider it real writing.
My kids were teenagers when my mother heard about a writing conference in Portland OR. She got a mailing that I’d never heard of. It was a God thing. Initially, I wasn’t going to go, but when she offered to pay my way, I went. I was totally blown away. I had no idea all the different kinds of things there were to write!
One of the best things about the conference was that three of us formed a writing critique group. We met at the conference, and then we met once a week to critique for the next five years. Because of that group, I had to write something every week. I had that deadline. During that season, I wrote a little bit of everything.
Then Mount St. Helens erupted. Immediately, I saw a story for kids in that. We had a horse named Cimarron who lived in our backyard. He became the secondary character in Tragedy on the Toutle. I wrote that one and loved it and knew immediately that I wanted to write something for adults on the mountain, too. But that story, The Way of Women, came much later.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
One of my biggest challenges is to keep my seat in the chair long enough to get the writing done. There are so many things I like to do….
Do you prefer writing historical or contemporary fiction?
Yes. They’re so different. People tell me that once they’ve read a few of my books, they always recognize my writing style no matter what genre I write. I get to write totally different stories with different styles, so I love to do both.
Someone once said they didn’t want to die with a song still in them. I don’t want to die with a story still in me, either. I have a lot of stories to tell and new ones keep coming.
How personal are your novels?
Jack London once said, “Every writer is part of every character.” At the end of every book, he’d finish the book, read it, and figure out what character he’d been that time.
Everything you are as a human being becomes part of your work as a writer because you have to draw on every emotion, and every experience in order to create memorable characters. A person with very little life experience doesn’t have a wealth of information to draw on. I am using all my 75 years of wealth.:)
Who influenced you the most in your writing?
Two mentors that I had at the very beginning of my writing career made a huge impact on my life. The first was Colleen Reece. She was teaching at Warner Pacific and has become a lifelong friend. Then Lee Roddy stood behind me in the lunch line and asked, “What is it you want to write?” I answered that it looked like I would have to write articles and devotions in order to learn to write. He said, “That’s not what I asked. I said, “What do you want to write?”
I said, “I want to write horse books for kids.”
He said, "What’s stopping you?”
Talk about a life-changing challenge. The best way to learn to write is to write. Shortly after that, Mount St. Helens blew, and I started writing about a girl and her horse set in that valley.
What were your favorite books as a child?
I loved Little Women. I read all of Louisa May Alcott’s books. I also read every horse and dog book I could find. I’ve been an animal lover all my life, so that’s what I read. The Black Stallion books were favorites, of course, and The Ponies of Chincoteague.
What books have most influenced your work?
Besides the Bible, Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water, The Rock That Is Higher, and her Crosswick Journals. Phillip Yancey’s Soul Survivor, The Jesus I Never Knew, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. The Secrets of Successful Fiction and Fiction Is Folks by Robert Newton Peck, Walter Farley's horse books. The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Diane Ackerman's Moon by Whale Light and her other books.
What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?
My first mission as a writer is to entertain. I want people to read my books and to laugh and cry, and be sad when the book is done. Too many writers think they have to have a message, and then they focus on that message instead of writing strong, entertaining characters. However, as Christian writers, we have the incredible gift that the Holy Spirit will take what we write and will use our words and our characters in ways far beyond what we know or understand. I have people write to me and say, “This is what I got out of your book.” I read those letters and say to myself, “That’s not what I wrote in the book!” But, because readers can relate to my characters and what’s going on, their lives are changed.
What is your favorite verse from the Bible?
My favorite of all is First Corinthians 13. Not the verse, the entire chapter. I love that.
Another favorite, because it was given to me at a time when I was in such desperate need, is from Psalms 56:8-9: “God loves you so much he’ll put all your tears in a bottle.” We need to be sometimes reminded how much God loves us, heights, depth, breadth, all of it.