Pat Nichols Turned to Novel Writing after Retirement

Today I welcome Pat Nichols to Jubilee Writer, she and I have a lot in common. We share a publisher and are both members of Word Weavers and ACFW. And …well, I’ll let her tell her very interesting story. Pat

Eight years ago, my husband and I completed our retirement-travel bucket list, prompting the question, “What’s next”. Having spent twenty-five years in the corporate world, I was accustomed to meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals. It might sound crazy, but I kind of missed the fast pace. Not enough to get back in the rat race, mind you. But enough to consider starting a second career. One I believe God prompted me to pursue. Writing novels.

While I cut my teeth on two, not-ready-for-primetime manuscripts based on real people, three fictional characters began to form in my mind. Strangers with different backgrounds. Emily, from a small southern town, and Rachel, an Atlanta native. And Sadie, a convicted felon returning to the scene of her crime. They eventually found their way into my third manuscript.

From the beginning I’d planned to create an ongoing saga with a small town functioning as a key character. Thus, I researched everything I could find about series, finished book one, and began writing the sequel. Late in 2017 I was blessed with a contract from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Months into the editing process readers chose The Secret of Willow Inn as the title. It will be available on Amazon presale in late September or early October and released January, 2019. Earlier this year, I received a second contract for book two in the series, scheduled for release January, 2020. I’m currently working on book three and plan to continue the series until it comes to a logical conclusion sometime in the distant future.

I first realized a calling to write in the eighties during a three-year assignment as a public relations manager. Creating articles and stories for newspapers gave birth to my passion. Many years and numerous assignments passed before the opportunity to tap into my creativity resurfaced. Now with my computer sitting on a lap desk, I write five days a week from a recliner in my living room. The thrill of deadlines and goals mingled with the flexibility of retirement.

In addition to my friends in the North Georgia ACFW chapter and my Word Weavers group, my wonderful husband of fifty plus years is my best support. Although he doesn’t read novels, he listens to my draft, catches errors, and provides excellent feedback.

A friend recently asked how long I planned to continue writing. The answer? Until God takes me home or I wake up one morning and totally forget where I left my computer. I’m counting on the first happening before the second.

I feel the same way, Pat. Thanks for sharing your encouraging story.

Here’s Pat Nichol’s bio:

Pat Nichols launched career number two as a novelist, proving it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Drawing on years of corporate experience working with hundreds of amazing women from all walks of life, she creates stories about women who face challenges in the pursuit of their dreams. She lives in an Atlanta suburb with her husband of fifty plus years, is the mother of two, and grandmother of three. She is grateful for God’s blessings and unfailing love through all of life’s peaks and valleys.

Visit her on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/pat.nichols.52459

https://twitter.com/PatNichols16

https://patnicholsauthor.blog

 

Instagram

 

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Back Cover Copy of The Secret of Willow Inn:

Two women fighting for their dreams, one who’s long lost hers, are united by tragedy and a long-held secret.

Pregnant with her first child, Emily Hayes is eager to help her mother finish transforming an estate into the Willow Inn and write a novel about Willow Falls’ colorful history. A tragic event threatens her parents’ plans to refurbish an abandoned hotel and transform the obscure Georgia setting into a tourist destination.

Sadie Lyles left Willow Falls a murderer who’d killed the town hero. She returns as a despised felon and seeks solace in the town’s café. Emily struggles to unite the close-knit community and becomes Sadie’s biggest advocate. She strives to uncover the truth about the crime and save her town from dying.

To appease her father, Rachel, a VP in his Atlanta real-estate-development firm, relegates her acting dream to secret performances for imaginary audiences. After meeting charming, flirtatious Charlie Bricker, manager for Willow Falls’ future vineyard, she vows to break free from her father’s control.

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A Visit with Shellie Arnold Author of the Barn Church Series

Shellie Arnold has graciously agreed to visit me again. Her books always speak to my heart on some level. Welcome, girlfriend.

Shellie Arnold

Hi Cindy. Great to be back here.

Let’s start with a question I love to ask. When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

Honestly, when I first considered writing I was in the eighth grade. I wanted to help marriages. I wanted to help people avoid the pain of divorce. I had no idea what the writing process would look like, no idea what to do to pursue publication. Only that I wanted to give people what they needed to have healthy marriages.

I actually confided this in the one person I thought would support me—the key word being “thought.” That individual’s reaction “Who would buy it?” crushed me. For years I didn’t talk of writing. I set it aside figuring that person knew what they were talking about. Then someone else I trusted (and there weren’t many) encouraged me to consider writing. She didn’t know of my conversation years ago with another. My desire to help marriages had only strengthened, so I let myself begin.

I for one am glad you didn’t let the naysayer crush your calling.

Now share with us how you do research for your books?

For the Barn Church series books, rather than trying to accurately describe and document a setting or town, I created my own. I did have to research maps and other details to make that town fit where I wanted it to, but I think creating my own setting decreased the stress of writing a series. If I wanted a water tower outside the town, I could put one there! LOL

As far as non-fiction, I’m working on my first marriage topic book regarding sexual intimacy in marriage. That is requiring a lot of research and time, because I’m pulling from many resources to support my approach to the subject.

You mentioned the Barn Church series, your first three novels. How does your non-fiction tie in with the series?

Great question. My burden is for marriages and families. As I said earlier, my original intent with regard to writing sat on the non-fiction side. I’ve only been pursuing fiction over the last decade or so. But my desire to offer tangible, actionable help for hurting marriages never left. To me, in my fiction, I can talk about the feelings and background and thoughts of my characters, as they process their dilemnas. The non-fiction books I hope to complete, and the teaching materials we are currently producing all deal with the subjects, issues, and problems presented in my fiction.

So, if a reader wants to read a great story, hopefully I’ve delivered that. But if God uses my stories to speak to them about a particular area of their marriage, I want to provide resources and materials that can help them. That’s what I originally started out to do. While I hadn’t planned to get there through fiction, it makes sense to me God would also want me to use story to help marriages. After all, Jesus often spoke in parables.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Yes. My favorite verse(s) are Isaiah 1:18, 19 NIV. “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord. “[a]Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the best of the land;”

I love these verses because they tell me God is willing to discuss my sin with me—why I do certain things, think a certain way, where the lies I tell myself come from—when I approach him with a willingness to be obedient in the future. He doesn’t simply demand a certain standard of behavior from believers, although many people think He does. No, He comes alongside us and will teach us why we do the things we do, and how to live differently. I need that. I don’t want to be the same person today I was yesterday, and I don’t want to be the same person tomorrow I am today. Knowing God is with me for the long haul, no matter how long it takes to teach me and heal me, is critical to my life.

Does this verse correspond to your writing in any way?

Yes! Absolutely. Each of my first three novels deals with one specific problem that can be present in a marriage. I show both viewpoints—husband and wife—and they each have their own problems and issues, like we all do. Hopefully, the message of my favorite verses resonates throughout all of my novels. That God will forgive. He will make new. He will teach us and change us and guide us. He will lead us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. God will help all who ask. He’s always right there, no matter how big a mess we believe we’ve made of our marriage.

You sound like you’re speaking from experience. Would you care to tell us about that?

My husband and I had everything stacked against us when we married. Neither of us had learned how to resolve conflict. Neither of us had learned how to communicate effectively without anger or shutting down. We are both sexual abuse survivors. My parents divorced when I was a teenager—statistically, we probably shouldn’t have made it a year.

Consequently, we made so many mistakes of the years. Stupid mistakes. Mistakes from stubbornness and ignorance. From thinking we were doing the right things, and even demanding our own way about different things. But we didn’t want to let go of each other. And because God put love in our hearts, we wanted to honor and grow that love, even though we didn’t know how.

Learning to walk with God through repentance, learning, and change has not only made our spiritual lives rich, it’s saved our marriage over and over again. God isn’t stingy with wisdom, discernment, strength, or His love. All we have to do is ask with the right attitude, listen, and respond.

About Shellie:

Shellie Arnold is a writer and speaker on marriage and family. She truly believes—despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes—if a husband and wife listen to God, they can live happily even after. Her passion is sharing how God is helping her do exactly that. She maintains a blog at  http://www.shelliearnold.com and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources. Shellie is a mother of three and has home schooled for over twenty years. She lives in Ohio with her husband of thirty-one years.

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Buy links:

Amazon link for The Spindle Chair: https://tinyurl.com/ybfz46kd

Amazon link for Sticks and Stones: https://tinyurl.com/ybqbfx4k

Amazon link for Abide With Me: https://tinyurl.com/y7njecln

Shellie it is always a blessing to have you stop by. Hope to have you again in the future.

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Why Narrow Your Audience Focus

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Whose your audience.

No matter how I asked, “What’s your audience?” The author I was speaking with insisted “my books are for everybody.” This from a conference attendee who’d heard from the podium and in the classroom many times—you need to narrow your audience.

I write Historical and Contemporary romance. And everyone knows women are the biggest audience for romance. Some men read romance. But the focus audience is women.

I can say Secrets and Charades audience focus are people who love historicals. Or those who love inspirational fiction. Adding those demographics, I have narrowed my audience more.

We need to define our audience to market to those most likely to read our books. Boys do not read girl books. They don’t. But girl’s read boy books. Whether the main character is male or female, a girl will read it. This is why there’s a huge need of middle-grade boy’s fiction.  Harry Potter is a boy’s book series read by people of all ages around the world. Most boy’s books stay within the demographics of boys and girls between the ages of nine and twelve.

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It is important to narrow your audience even on non-fiction. This same conferencee insisted everyone needed to read the miracles God wrought in their life and the devotional would impact everyone. Although everyone might benefit from reading these books, everyone will not read it. The category everyone does not exist in marketing. Although everyone should read the Bible, it is still catalogued under religious. And as powerful as the words of a non-fiction writer may be there still needs be a baseline for your audience. The Purpose Driven Life was marketed to church people but has been read by the unchurched.

I saw two wonderful devotion designed for middle schoolers. The author had written two versions reaching both boys and girls. There were places to doodle. It’s unique to that age. Not my idea for personal devotions but I have one friend who has always doodled when she listens to preaching. It helps her process. Although she is a grandma, she might use these devotionals.

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Having a narrow focus can draw all those who love your subgenre. It can also draw those who don’t. Mom reads my historical and tells her teenage daughter a bit about the story. She decides to read it then tells her friends. Statistically, most teens are reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I may find a new fan base with other-world readers. History is another world. However, most of my sales come from romance readers.

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An audience focus that is too broad is like a play marquee that reads A Play. Your audience may not buy a ticket.

Limiting your audience focuses your writing before you get started. Your vocabulary and jargon must fit your audience. This makes it easier to market your book when it’s finished. Defined readership helps when you write your proposal and during appointments with agents and editors at conferences. It sparks more interest in your writing if your marketing audience meets a need of their house. “My book is for everyone” is a novice response. And no matter how much you believe that, it won’t aid you in getting a contract or even self-publishing sales.

Anyone have any tips for narrowing your audience focus? Please share in the comments.