12 Tips to prepare for interviews

Lawyers are always told never ask a question you don’t already know the answer too. And so it is when a writer is preparing for an interview. Here are tips to get you ready for just that.

  • Write out a series of questions about yourself and the book you will be promoting. Tailor them to various scenarios. Questions surrounding your writing journey, the what-if moment of your book, and how you got from page one to the end. Write out twenty questions knowing they will only ask a few of them.
  • Write out the answers to those questions. Then practice before a mirror answering those questions until the responses sound natural.
  • Often an interviewer will ask for a media kit. This is that lovely packet of info about you and your books. Include a series of suggested questions. Pick your favorite questions to include. This helps both of you to have a smooth interview.
  •  Having prepared a string of possible questions if the interviewer likes to interview off-the-cuff (I hate those) the answers you give will sound natural because they will more than likely be a variation on the list you prepared.
  • Practice your physical appearance. Sit up straight, don’t fidget, think about the position of your feet if you’re sitting. Do this before a mirror as well. If you can record yourself, you can correct things that might distract from your interview. I find myself wanting to itch my nose or push tiny strains of hair out of my face. It is very distracting on a video interview. While doing a radio interview, sit up straight and focus on the interview. Pretend the interviewer can see your face. I laid down part way through a podcast interview. When the interviewed aired, my voice dropped to almost a muffle at the point where I laid on the couch. UGH!!
  • Avoid filler words. If you ever took a speech class, you know what I mean. Rather than pause the speaker fills those spaces with Uh, you know, you know what I’m saying, ah, um and other slang word that become a distraction to the listener. After hearing a speech by the CEO of the company I used to work for, my co-worker had counted at least twenty times in his brief speech he’d said you know. Even though what he said was important, his pause words erased its value for that listener.
  • Talk slower. I talk fast, naturally. During a live interview, even a recorded one, you may find your voice speeding up, wanting to get every point in as quick as you can. Practice talking slower. Record yourself and listen to your pacing and pronunciation.
  • Don’t just focus on selling your book during the interview. Engage with your listeners. Save the last few minutes to give the audience the information needed for a purchase. If the interviewer asks if you have anything to add at the end of the interview, that is the perfect time to hold up your book, restate the title and give your buy links.
  • You don’t need to be perfect because your audience needs to feel they can connect with you. But you don’t want to sound so bad that it takes away from the message you want to get across. That’s why practicing the answers to your questions makes your conversation smoother.
  • Avoid profanity or words that may offend. Know your audience, you want to sound professional and prepared.
  • Know your audience so you can reach their felt need. As a romance writer, I don’t always focus on the romance elements in my books. I sold New Duet to a male veteran because my hero was a wounded warrior. I focused on the areas of my story that would appeal to my present listeners.
  • If the very idea of doing an interview terrifies you take a class. A public speaking class at your local community college is an option. There are organizations such as Toastmaster who can give you the tools you need to speak with confidence. Carol Kent’s Speak Up conference is a wonderful place to learn as well.

My last comment. Don’t be so critical of the details after hearing and seeing yourself in an interview that you crawl under your bed in humiliation. Each opportunity to share about your book you will get better. The interview I did where I laid down on my couch part way through to me sounded bad. I talked too fast and my voice wasn’t consistent. I was surprised to learn that interview was the most listened to podcast for three weeks running.

Do you have any tips to prepare for interviews? Share in the comments.

My novella Healing Hearts is part of this collection. It’s the prequel to my upcoming release Rescuing Her Heart. If you haven’t read The Cowboys here’s the link

Healing Heart

Lonnie Holt’s external scars remind him of his failures, his internal scars torment him. Genny Collins seeks safety at the ranch once owned by Lonnie’s uncle. When Lonnie and his brother arrive, sparks fly and distrust abounds. While Lonnie and Genny fight the love growing between them, his past haunts him, and her past pays them a visit.

Rescuing Her Heart is available for preorder.

As her husband’s evil deeds and abuse haunt a mail-order bride from the grave, can she learn to trust again and open her heart to true love?

On visitation rounds as a lay preacher, the last thing rancher Jed Holt expects is to be shot at from the barn next to a burned-down homestead. But the soot-covered woman hiding inside needs protecting, and Jed is the man to do it whether she likes it or not.

Delilah James’s nightmares began when she came to Kansas as a mail-order bride. Her husband was nothing like his letters. Now that he is dead, she can’t shake his abuse from her heart. Trusting men tops her never-again list, and taking a job on the Holt ranch as a housekeeper is a means to save money and bring her parents west. But her attraction to the compassionate former chaplain both angers and confuses her.

Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows. Can two broken people form a forever bond?

An Interview with Jake Marcum Hero of Secrets and Charades

s-c-jakes-quoteSecrets and Charades has a very interesting hero. Jake Marcum, rancher, Civil War veteran and doting uncle. I corralled him long enough to do this interview.

Thank you so much for stopping by.

Well, ma’am, Evangeline insisted it was my turn. Not so sure how interesting I’ll be but go ahead and ask your questions.

Tell us a bit about your childhood.

I had two brothers and a sister. Our family headed west when my Pa got gold fever in ‘49. Our wagon broke down near Ben Mitchell’s place. He talked sense into Pa and taught him all he knew about ranching. Our small spread adjoined Ben’s property.

What happened to your family?

My sister run off with some no count drummer. That’s a traveling salesman. Then Clevis went back to Kentucky to attend college. He wanted to be a lawyer. I’d rather ranch. When the conflict broke out Clevis planned to join the Confederate Army. Pa sent me to Kentucky to bring him home. My older brother persuaded me to join the cause instead. He died six months later. My little brother Robert died from an injury falling off his horse. My Ma had died before I went to get Clevis and Pa died while I was away.

herd of horses

photo by morguefile.com

What was it like when you returned from the war?

Tougher than the battlefield. There was this gal, Nora. I thought we had an understanding. While I was gone, she’d married my brother and expecting their child.   Well, I ain’t proud of my action at the time. Nightmares from the war made me unfit to be around. Ben Mitchell invited me to join his outfit. He helped me dry out and introduced me to the Lord. He’d lost both his sons in the war so he kinda adopted me. I inherited his ranch when he passed. A year later Nora died in childbirth. They buried her newborn son with her. My brother and I were working out our differences when he died. My niece, Juliet come to live with me. She was six. Having her in my life helped heal the rift between Robert and me.

After your conversion, did you still have nightmares?

Sure. God changed me and helped me be a better man. But when the responsibilities of running this spread make me lose sleep—the nightmares come. And worrying about Evangeline coming gave me a few doozies. I still have them. Not as often. I reckon it’s a cross I must bear.

What challenges did you encounter taking over a ranch the size of the Double M?

Yeah. The neighbors looked at me as a gold-digger. But  I think you mention it in your book. Anyway,  Ben was a real Duke or something back in England. He called the ranch the Royal M. I think his surname was something different before he came to America. Anyway, the Double M stands for Mitchell and Marcum.  Several of Ben’s crew have stayed on with me over the years. Cookie Slade was Ben’s old foreman before he got gored by a steer. He stays on helping where he can. Don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s the one who encouraged me to take in Juliet and get me a mail-order bride.Brides71

What were you looking for in a bride?

Let just say, I think God was laughing when I made my request. He knew the kind of wife I needed even if I didn’t.

What was your biggest challenge before Evangeline came into your life?

There were two. Too few cowboys to run the ranch.  My wealthy neighbor kept stealing my men by offering them huge wages. The loyal ones stay. Sides they don’t like that Farley character much. He thinks he’s King of the county.

The second, I had to juggle teaching Juliet to read and cipher around chores. So, her education was sketchy. I felt like I’d betrayed my sister-in-law when I saw how much of a tomboy Juliet was becoming. Nora wanted her daughter to be the bell of the ball, not a ranch hand. So, finding an educated wife to teach my niece was my number priority.

Thanks so much for spending time with my readers.

My pleasure, ma’am.

If you missed my interview with Evangeline, the heroine of Secrets and Charades click here.

Jake and Evangeline’s story Secrets and Charades is available for preorder on Amazon.



An Interview with Secrets and Charades Heroine Evangeline

secret-charades-front-coverToday, I’ve invited Dr. Evangeline Olson-Marcum to my blog. She is the heroine of my Historical Romance, Secrets and Charades, set in the imaginary town of Charleton Texas circa 1872. I thought an exclusive interview with Evangeline might be fun. I’ve asked her to share back-story and tidbits, not in the novel.

Welcome, Evangeline.

It is my honor. As I told Juliet, family history is important. So, please ask your questions.

Tell us about your parents and siblings?

I was born in New York, one of six children. I was the youngest girl and my baby brother Charley and I were close. My father Hans Olson’s parents came from Norway and my mother Molly O’Malley immigrated here from Ireland with her sister May. Pa owned a small mercantile, and she worked as a maid. It was love at first sight. They left New York when I was a wee thing and homesteaded in Wisconsin. Uncle Carl had offered to bring Pa into his business but he had his heart set on farming.

burgundy hair 2

How was life after your mother died?

Pa spoiled me. I have my mother’s burgundy hair and green eyes. While my three sisters have Pa’s blond hair and blue-eyed. I spent more time playing with Charley then learning domestic skills. Greta, Heidi, and Katie took turns mothering me. If they joined forces, I hadn’t a prayer. When I was 12 my father died and Ernest, the eldest took over the farm. By then Greta and Heidi were married and Katie engaged.

Are you comfortable telling my readers what happened when you were 13?

Not really. I’ll just say the months I spent in New York with Uncle Carl’s family changed me. I buried the details in a journal and the hurt hidden in my heart.

Why did you become a doctor?

My sister Katie married a doctor. Shamus was a pacifist. When the War between the States broke out, he offered medical aid to both sides of the conflict. She and I became his nurses. We gathered the wounded from the battlefield. Confederate and Union soldiers. Shamus encouraged me to pursue a medical degree. Unlike Katie, I discovered I liked restoring health. By the time, I found a medical school that accepted female students my apprenticeship under Shamus had put me well ahead of the male students. The challenge of staying at the top of the class as a female was exhausting. The professors and male students did their best to discourage me. After completing my degree, I went into practice with Shamus. Even though the community knew me, they did not respect me as a doctor.

1870s womanWhy would a doctor choose to be a mail-order bride?

My niece, Maggie, trapped me into it. And of course, the secrets from my past. God had me right where he wanted me. Your readers will have read my story for themselves.

What would you like readers to learn from your story?

My heart changed when I accepted the lesson Jesus had for me. The past does not dictate my future. The Lord forgives and offers a new beginning. I hope your readers will take courage and embrace their faith with confidence.

Thanks for coming, Evangeline

My Pleasure.

Here is the back-cover copy for Secrets and Charades:

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.

Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage.

If you want to learn more pick up a copy of Secrets and Charades available for pre-order.

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Mercy’s Rain: An Insightful Interview with Cindy Sproles

Cindy Sproles

Today I want welcome Cindy Sproles to my blog. Cindy is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is a conference teacher and speaker, working conferences all across the country. Her devotions are found in newspapers all over the eastern seaboard. Cindy is the executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireAFire.com. She is the author of four devotionals and compilations and her first fiction novel, Mercy’s Rain is now available.

I am so excited to have Cindy here to talk to her about her debut novel Mercy’s Rain. When I read it I remember thinking this is so well-crafted it reminds me of someone’s tenth rather than their first. I loved this sad hopeful story. So we are all on the same page (no pun intended) here is the book blurb.

Mercy Roller was raised by a twisted father who wore the collar of a Pastor, and chose to be Jesus, judge, and jury, by his own appointment. Abused, broken and bitter, Mercy lifts the hand that takes the Pastor’s life. In one swift action, she becomes what she despises most about the Pastor. Now she seeks redemption. Can the unconditional love of a mountain preacher and his friends, guide Mercy to find peace?

Mercy Rains

Cindy, thanks for being with us today. I am so looking forward to learning more about the process you went through writing Mercy’s Rain.

Why did you chose this subject? In your acknowledgement you say this is not your life experience. How did you ever capture the essence of Mercy’s broken heart and life without ever experiencing it? I went to bed one night and couldn’t sleep. At 3 in the morning, I flipped the television and found a documentary on child abuse under the age of seven. It broke my heart. So when I began to write this story, I tried to take my head into the place of these children. I wanted to find their hurt, brokenness, and anger. I wasn’t a hard story to write, but definitely a story that wore at my heart. I wondered, if this were me, how would I feel? If this were me, what would I do? Given my own personality, how would I handle this?

I am a mountain girl and we are taught to toss things over our shoulders and move ahead. As we know, that doesn’t always work. It eventually comes back to bite us. So in my head, I became Mercy. I applied my own self-reliance, honesty, and personal determination to Mercy. If that were me?

My ministry partner once said, “To write real emotion, you have to find your own scab, then scratch it. Scratch it until it bleeds. And when that happens, you can write the emotion as it bleeds onto the page.” All of us have hurt in our lives. I simply found the one that broke me, and I scratched the scab.

Being in only Mercy’s head gave me interesting insights into her past and her reactions to her present. How difficult is it to write from only her POV? It wasn’t hard to write in Mercy’s POV. First person seems to come natural to me. It’s human nature to talk about ourselves, to share our own personal experiences…it was no different for Mercy. She could easily talk about her past and she could tell you about her anger and frustration.

For me, I’m a storyteller. I can easily speak a story. Writing it was no different. I find great fun in embellishing the facts of a story so first person was not hard for me. In fact, being in Mercy’s head was much easier than telling her story from 3rd person. By telling it from her POV, we could see her reactions to the things that boiled in her past.

Mercy is a complicated character. When did she introduce herself to you and share her secret? How did you decide which secrets to tell your readers? Mercy started out as MaryBeth. By the time I finished the first chapter, MaryBeth wasn’t a strong enough character. This character needed to have a name that would haunt her. One that would drive her. I knew I wanted the story to be about redemption and mercy. What a better name? She introduced her real self to me at the end of chapter one. I went back and renamed MaryBeth to Mercy.

To me, and I know this sounds crazy, but there are letters of the alphabet that have a heavy sound. A strong sound. Names that begin with the letter M generally have a heavy sound, a hard beat. I liked MaryBeth, and even though the M is a heavy beat, having Beth added to the name softened the strength of the name. Mary is to cliché and overused. Since we are constantly saying “Lordy mercy,” in the mountains, the M on Mercy struck a chord. It fit perfectly.

What kind of research was needed to bring this story to life? I always research my cultural facts. It didn’t take much. I was raised here. My grandmother lived the hard life in the mountains and she trained my mother, and my mother trained me, in the skills of survival. I have a strong work ethic, something that is tried and true to the real mountain folks. I knew how to can, raise tobacco, garden, cook, sew. And I knew from the stories my grandmother told me of her life in the mountains, how the culture progressed. I did research the dialect, even though what you hear in Mercy’s Rain is how we talk, I know there are more modern versions of our slang. I made sure the dialect rang true. I made sure the life style in the 1800s rang true. In fact, even into the mid-1900s, life had really not modernized. Truth be known, when you get into the true mountain folks today, many still do things the old way. They may own a truck or car, but they still set tobacco with a horse and tobacco setter. They still warm their homes with hickory wood, and cook on the iron stove . . . even if they have an electric stove. Mountain life is simple. People don’t covet the modern desires of life. They love the smell of hickory smoke, the taste of home canned green beans, and sweet butter.

Was there such a man as The Pastor in the 1890s Tennessee? Or is he a figment of your imagination? This character is a figment of my imagination. But the weight of his authority is not. Circuit riding preachers were fairly knowledgeable men. They were also strong salesmen. They had to be in order to teach the love of Christ to a rather closed community of people. Most could read very well and had some portion of education as opposed to the mountain folks who could barely read and write. You’ve heard of people putting their X on the line? This is because they couldn’t write, much less read. An X was easy to make. The mountain folks, once they accepted the facts of Christ, were very faithful people. Since many had no reading skills, they relied on the Pastor to read and teach. Like any profession, there were evil men who hid behind the cloak of the ministry. They could live for free on the generosity of the mountain people and if they wanted to twist the truth to benefit their own agendas, they could. The people trusted. They were, by all intense purposes, ignorant. Ignorance is not an insult – it’s uneducated. And because of the lack of education, ignorance was a fact of life in the mountains. For every ten wonderful, good-hearted, and genuine Pastors that traveled the circuit, there was one just like Pastor Roller. But this is not only in the ministry, it’s in any profession. It could have just as easily been a medicine man, a farmer, or a sheriff. Evil does not exempt itself from a profession. It finds the weak and preys on them.

I loved how each of Mercy’s new friends represented some aspect of Christ. Were any of the characters patterned after people you know? No, not really. These folks were just good people. I wrote Mercy’s Rain to the general market. I didn’t set out to sell this to the Christian market. I wanted it to be prevalent in the secular world and therefore, I wanted people to see that in a world of horrible things, there are still good people. There are people who have scruples, faith, and true love. They have honesty and they have a love for Christ even in a world who says religion is unimportant. I know there are tons of wonderful people like my characters, the Johnsons. I’ve met them through the years. I didn’t base these characters on anyone person, rather I chose the nature of goodness and the face of Christ to develop them.

Cindy, are we going to see more of Mercy Roller in future books? I’m not sure. Mercy’s story is pretty much complete. But I’m still pondering bringing her and Samuel into a second story as secondary characters. I think their lives together could be great examples. So we’ll see. If the story lends itself toward them, I’ll add them.

What are your plans for future novels? There are three more books in this series. All Momma’s Children, Coal Black Lies, and Cobb Hill. All are part of the Appalachian cultural historical fiction stories. Each a standalone. And like I said, some of the characters from Mercy’s Rain may find their way into these stories. It is regional so we’ll see.

I always like to end my interviews with the author giving my readers a piece of writing advice. So, if you would give us one thing you’ve learned on your writing journey.

My best advice is not to marry your words. There are always better words. It goes back to my momma teaching me humility. “Cindy, if you are first place in a race, remember – there is always someone else out there better. Strive to reach better.”

I would apply this to your writing. There are always better words. Strive for better.

Thank you Cindy, for me our time together as been more than so inspiring.

We are giving away a copy of Mercy’s Rain to a lucky winner. Cindy has  also brought along a copy of her devotional New Sheets- Thirty Days to Refine You to the Woman You can Be. Just leave a comment with your email if you’d like your name place in the drawing.

new sheetMercy Rains

Links to:

Mercy’s Rain

Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel (Kregel Publishing)

New Sheets

New Sheets: Thirty Days to Refine You to the Woman You can Be

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An Interview with Author Charlotte Snead: The Why behind her Novels

Charlotte Snead pic

I am pleased to have my friend Charlotte Snead as a guest on my blog. I meant Charlotte a few years ago at the Write to Publish Conference. I was impressed with her enthusiasm about life. She had a novel written and she was going full speed ahead. She was new to the writing scene after retiring from a nursing career and raising a passel of kids. Her idea was gritty and she shared her storyline with passion.

Charlotte has published that novel His Brother’s Wife, and its sequel Invisible Wounds. She has begun her new series with Book one of the Sing Over Me Series. Each with a controversial topics, romance and redemption. She keeps it real in a tasteful and fun way.

Charlotte when did you decide to take up this writing life?

I took up writing at the urging of an elderly aunt, who loved our Christmas letters and my stories about my various ministries, urging me, “You ought to write a book.” My first book, an imperfect offering, self-published in 2008 was a response to a need I saw in the prolife community. Called Missy’s Choice, it portrayed a young Christian teenager who was raped by three boys and chose life for her baby. I was unwell at the time and hurried to complete it, thinking my time was limited. As flawed as that book was, I heard from those who chose life and even some who found Christ. Now that I am a better writer, my publisher has suggested a rewrite, so it will be published as Gracie, Goodbye, the first of a 5-6 book series called The Hope House Girls.

What’s your writer’s day like?

My perfect day begins at 6 or 7 AM, down in my basement. I have a hide-away I call “The Salt Mines,” because I work hard, and I desire my writing to be salt and light to the world. When no one is home, I work uninterrupted until lunch, and return after a break. Unfortunately some days I must attend to social media and a blog—marketing is the bane of my existence! One day a week is set aside for Mothers of Preschoolers. (I serve as the mentor mom.) I love being snowed in because errands wait and I do what I love.

What ministries are you involved in and how does that experience play into your novels?

I consider my writing to be my ministry, but I also serve on the Board of the Central West Virginia Center for Pregnancy Care, which I founded in 1985. I no longer volunteer on a daily basis, but I remain in close contact with our director and share in decision-making. I am also the mentor mom for the Mothers of Preschoolers group that meets in our church and devote every Thursdays to them. I give devotions at our meetings and when the team has its monthly meeting. I often speak at women’s gatherings.

His Brother's Wifeinvisible wounds_comp (2)


In your first book His Brother’s Wife and Invisible Wounds you set your story in the midst of wounded warriors and wounded women. Where did you get the ideas for these books?

My military books flow from my life experience. My son served in the Army for 22 years. My husband was in Viet Nam, and his brother was as well. My dad was a career military officer. When my daughter-in-law had two surgeries, I was in and out of Walter Reed. Seeing those Wounded Warriors getting on the elevators, struggling with their missing limbs, I wanted to tell their stories. Our son, now retired from Special Forces, carries a burden of grief for the over 60 close friends he has laid to rest in Lot 60, that part of Arlington Cemetery set aside for Iraq and Afghanistan fallen. I tithe the proceeds of His Brother’s Wife and Invisible Wounds to the Wounded Warriors Project.

Enjoying intimacy in marriage and understanding our sexuality are issues you address in these first two books as well. From a Christian perspective why is this important?

As the MOPS mentor, I have helped many women with marital intimacy. Their favorite presentation—we usually have guest speakers, but I take the helm each February to give my “Sex Talk.” We are crowded that day! Married 52 years, I know how important a healthy sexual relationship is in marriage. Tragically, the church doesn’t portray the joy God intends in his sacred gift. I want my books to encourage women to enjoy the gift God has given us.

Your settings are beautiful and often rural. Do you use photographs? Are they places you’ve been to?

You have given me an idea here. I should use photographs. Yes, these are places I know and love. I live in West Virginia on 20 beautiful wooded acres. West Virginia is a beautiful state, and Arlington Cemetery is a sacred place where my father and uncle lie. I have lived in the D. C. area as an “army brat,” and I have bowed my head at Lot Sixty to honor those who have laid down their lives so that we might be free. I have researched other places—I’ve never been to an opulent penthouse in New York, but to write His Brother’s Wife I went on line with real estate sites and took virtual tours of various properties. What a great age to be a writer!

Recovred and Free  book cover

Your newest series Singing Over Me focuses on a musical family. Book one Recovered and Free: The Song Of A Prodigal Father is about a recovered alcoholic. Tells us the why behind the story.

Recovered and Free also flows out of life experience. My mother was alcoholic, and I know the pain of the child of an alcoholic. I had to understand the disease to forgive. Sadly she surrendered to Christ on her death bed and I did not enjoy life with her “recovered and free.” I processed my forgiveness after her death, realizing she loved me to the best of her ability, given her handicap.

Is it a spin-off from another story?

The Singing Over Me series spins from my first book, Missy’s Choice, picking up with a healed, grown up Missy who helps her father return to the family he abandoned. Through his music, she finds her way to her own ministry.

When I am in Your Arms_comp(1)

What is the next topic you will be covering in this series?

The next book in the Singing series, due out soon, is When I Am in Your Arms, also a song title. The hero of this book is the incorrigible producer of O’Malley Productions, a Hispanic man who survived years of abuse in foster care. His healing, like Ian O’Malley’s, comes in the arms of his wife, where he feels God’s love.

Charlotte is giving away a copy of her book Recovered and Free: The Song of a Prodigal Father to a lucky commenter. Leave your comment with your e-mail address written as follows: my email at server dot com.

I will notify the winner to get your snail mail to send to Charlotte. I am running this give away until the end of the week. Wednesday  Charlotte will return as a guest blogger.  My father is having surgery as this blog is posting and will be hospitalized for the week. I will watch the comments. Please feel free to comment on Wednesday’s post to be added to the same give-away.

Charlotte Snead, published by Oak Tara, has three romance novels in print: His Brother’s Wife, Invisible Wounds, and Recovered and Free. Married to Dr. Joseph Snead, they have five adult children and one foster daughter. They have seven grandsons and live on twenty acres in rural West Virginia

Book links.

His Brother’s Wife

Invisible Wounds

Recovered and Free

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Point of View from Author Virginia Smith

Today, prolific author Virginia Smith is joining me  for a little Q & A regarding POV (point of view.) POV can make or break the prospect of a book being published.

Virginia, I love your writing and so enjoyed reading recently Just As I Am
and Sincerely Mayla.  I was intrigued by your use of a single POV (point of view). This isn’t easy to do.  So, I thought who better to interview on POV
than an author who does it so effortlessly.Please explain the importance of POV in a novel.

I really think understanding POV is the most important thing a writer can do to create a good novel. It’s through the character’s viewpoint that a reader is drawn into the story world, and how they
experience the action first-hand. Whether the POV is first person or third person doesn’t matter – as long as the writer is true to the viewpoint, the reader will build a deep affinity with the character, and will step into the story through his or her shoes.

Now, I have to admit that when I first started writing, I had never even heard the term POV (short for Point of View).I had picked up on some characterization techniques by reading extensively, and
I sub-consciously identified what worked and what didn’t. But when someone first critiqued a story I’d written with a comment about my disregard for the “rules of POV,” I was incensed. I thought, “What in the world is that? Obviously, if I’ve never heard of it before, it can’t be that important.” Ha! Little did I know, that critiquer had pinpointed a basic flaw in my storytelling ability. It wasn’t until I began to work hard to understand viewpoint and its effect on a reader’s story experience that my writing skills
grew to the point of being publishable.

I have read some lesser known novels that were over flowing with POV in every scene. So much so I found myself confused .  In your experience how many character’s POV should be shared in a novel? In a scene? On
a page?

I’ve read books like that, too, and I’ve seen the mistake made by tons of aspiring writers in the stories I’ve critiqued or contest submissions I’ve judged. Some people seem to think that the more
viewpoint characters they use, the deeper and more intricate their plot will be perceived. In fact, skipping around between so many characters confuses a reader and dilutes their affinity to any single character, therefore diminishing their enjoyment of the story.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that every scene must be from the viewpoint of a single character. (I’m talking
about first- or third-person limited viewpoint stories, which are by far the most accepted in publishing today.) Every POV switch must occur after a chapter or scene break. No exceptions.
There is no hard-and-fast rule for the number of viewpoint characters in a novel. In general, I try to stay with two POV characters in a contemporary story, and no more than three in a suspense story.
(It’s fun to give readers a tantalizing glimpse at the murderer’s viewpoint every now and then, as well as the hero and heroine!)

I do hold to the idea that, when writing in first person, it’s best to stick with one single character throughout the entire book. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, when a writer
chooses to write in first person (as I did in Just As I Am and Sincerely,Mayla), she is making the choice to show the entire book from the perspective of a single character. I think those stories are more character-driven than plot-driven. The plot is still a critical element, of course, but the reader’s focus is most often on the character’s reaction to the action going on around them.

Here’s a funny story that happened when I was writing Scent of Murder, which was a finalist for the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. I turned in the manuscript, and my editor called me, aghast.
“Ginny, you have four viewpoint characters! Four! You can’t do that!” I couldn’t understand why. To me, they were all four explainable – hero, heroine, murderer, and police investigator.
We discussed each character and the reason I chose specific scenes to be told from each viewpoint. In the end, she convinced me of the wisdom of rewriting most of the scenes from the viewpoint of the hero or heroine, in order to strengthen the readers’ affinity with them. I reduced the scenes from the viewpoint of the murderer to only a few, and only when I needed to crank up the tension. And there were two scenes that, in my opinion, had to be told from the
viewpoint of the investigator. But I agreed to cut the other scenes from his perspective way back. When I finished the rewrite, the book totally worked! We were both happy with the result.


How important is the crafting of POV?

As I said, I think a solid handling of POV is essential to telling a compelling story. Each viewpoint has its own challenges.
When writing third person, it’s often a challenge to let the reader see deeply inside a character’s thought process. That’s what “Deep POV” is all about –using techniques to let the reader see the thoughts unveil as a character thinks them, without resorting to ‘telling’ (as opposed to ‘showing’). It creates that deep affinity I mentioned earlier.

First Person POV is in some ways easier than third. Everything in the entire story is filtered through the viewpoint of a single character. The writer is free to indulge in more lengthy passages of
internal monologue, as long as they are true to the ‘voice’ of the character, and relevant to the story’s plot. Readers interpret long passages of narrative as internal dialogue, and they’re drawn closer to the character.

What is the biggest hurdle to writing POV?

The challenge of First Person POV is to keep the plot moving while only showing the perspective of one character. The reader
can’t know anything that the character doesn’t know. If not handled properly, that can drag a plot down. One trick, I think, is to handle the transitions from one action scene to the next
without making the reader feel like they’ve missed anything during the time lapse. Every scene has to move the plot forward (as is true when writing any viewpoint), and the reader has to feel satisfied that the story is progressing.

Another challenge to first person POV is the simple fact of story length. It’s hard to write 80,000 words and develop a story with multiple sub-plots while only using one character’s viewpoint. That
character has to have a lot going on at the same time! In that respect, third person is easier – the reader can switch back and forth between the hero and the heroine, and the things that each of them do independently of the other.

The hurdle of third person, of course, is to create that deep affinity with the reader for multiple characters. When you leave one character’s viewpoint, you want the reader to feel reluctant to
leave, and at the same time eager to get back to the other character.


When is it good to show the POV of a secondary character?

When writing first person, I don’t ever show a secondary character’s viewpoint. The entire story needs to be told from one
character’s viewpoint, in my opinion. I know it has been done effectively. Angela Hunt’s book Doesn’t She Look Natural does it to great effect. But Angie is a gifted writer with a strong track record, so she can get away with things a less experienced writer can’t.
In most cases, slipping into another character’s POV makes the reader feel distant.
In third person POV, a writer can expand the
field to secondary characters. Still, a reader’s affinity is disrupted every time a POV switch occurs. For relationship stories, such as romance, it’s extremely effective to show the development of the relationship from the viewpoint of both the male and female leads. But more than those two tend to pull the reader away from the developing romance. Not a good idea.

In a mystery or romantic suspense, it’s also okay to throw in a scene or two from others’ viewpoints, such as the villain.
I’ve done that in most of my mysteries, and it is a great device for increasing tension. It’s fun to let the reader in on things that the hero and heroine don’t know. But I can’t overdo it, or I risk distancing them from the main characters. I keep those scenes very short, and purposefully distant, so I don’t give away any clues as to the murderer’s identity.

In my quest to perfect my own fiction writing I read a lot of
novels. And I am amazed when an author gives me the POV of a minor character. Less than minor really, a one- dimensional,-pass- through –the- scene- never-to –be- heard- of -again -character. What would have been a better way to let the reader know this character’s reaction without getting into her head?

Having learned my lesson from Scent of Murder, I’m a firm believer that the reader gets the most enjoyment from a story if they experience it through a limited number of characters. In the case of Just As I Am, I worked so hard to create a strong relationship between the reader and Mayla, I wouldn’t dream of introducing another character, because I would risk breaking that bond. So I’d skip the pass-through character. To me, the story was all about Mayla and her world. Ifshe didn’t know it, then the reader didn’t need to know it.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights on POV on my blog. Can
you update us on your latest novel and new projects coming up or speaking engagements?

I’m staying busy. At the moment, I’m under contract for five novels. (Yeah, I know. I’m working really hard!) I just
finished the first of a 3-book romantic suspense series. It’s called Deadly Imposter, and will be released sometime next year. Right after I wrapped that story up, I started work on my
first historical novel, a western set in the 1880’s on a cattle drive. I’m having a lot of fun with that!

I’m really excited about my next book to bereleased. Lost Melody is my firstbook co-authored with bestselling author Lori Copeland. It’s about a young woman who suffers an injury that destroys her dream of being a concert pianist– but soon after, starts having dreams of a different kind. She feels compelledto warn the residents of her seaside town that they must evacuate before a
coming disaster strikes. Lost Melody will be released in October. Zondervan did a beautiful book trailer, which you can
see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar-UaEPMZbA


Thank you so much for letting me talk to you
and your readers on your blog, Cindy!