Molly Jo Realy is an award-winning writer, editor, social media ninja and author coach. Nicknamed the Bohemian Hurricane, she encourages people to embrace their unique talents and gifts to come alive and celebrate life every day. Recently rooted in South Carolina, she celebrates with her family, her cats, a good cup of coffee, and an addiction to pens. Visit her blog and author website!
While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Amazon bestselling author Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and bestselling novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler who thinks he’s a teddy bear. You can find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
Why did you choose to write Southern Fiction?
I don’t necessarily think I chose it. It sort of chose me, it’s just what I write. I live here in the South. I write about people where I live. It’s part of the romance of the South that’s a little bit different than some areas. Eva Marie Everson says, “We don’t hide our crazy relatives in the South. We put them on the front porch and celebrate them.”
What sets Southern Fiction apart from other genres?
My main way of writing is I always have an ensemble cast of strong women going through life together, warts and all. There’s usually lots of humor in what I write just because that’s how I view the world.
Where do you draw the inspiration for your stories?
Usually it’s just a basic idea. For my Chapel Springs Series, for the first book, it was an overheard conversation. It was about marriage, and what this young woman thought. I just ran with it. I thought, “If she thought that, a lot of people would too.” I just ran with it and it became a story.
What’s the difference between three dimensional characters and two dimensional characters?
Two dimensional characters are not fully developed. You’re main characters are fully developed. But two dimensional characters serve as a background like in a piece of artwork. If you don’t have that two dimensional background, the main thing doesn’t pop out. They are flat. They lack the depth. They’re only partially developed, and they’re very often stereotyped. They are vital in a novel.
What are some of the lies characters believe about themselves that drive their actions?
Amy Wallace taught me about this. She had studied psychology in collage, and that is where this came from. As a novelist, we can use it happening anywhere in their lifetime, but for most people their lies develop when they’re a small child, usually under five.
Typical lies people and characters believe about themselves:
– I’m a disappointment
– I’m not good enough
– I’m defective
– I’m too much to handle
– It’s all my fault
– I’m helpless
– I’m unwanted/unlovable
– I’m bad
Interestingly, one of my favorite ones is “I’m helpless or powerless to fix things.” That leads to a fear of being controlled, which is an interesting characteristic to give someone. This is where you can develop a lot of conflict for the story is with the lie they believe, and then it colors their hold worldview.
How do you develop the setting for your novels?
Most of mine are fictional towns. In my Chapel Springs Series, I based it on Dahlonega, Georgia and Black Mountain, North Carolina. I love the nostalgia of it; I love the smallness of it. I love that you can walk it all in a very short time. In the Southern Season book, my mayor had been asking me for ages to write a story and set it in Sugar Hill, so I finally did. And I had to take some liberties, because Sugar Hill never had a down town. It was a bedroom community that incorporated a little over 75 years ago. They have for several years been building a downtown, but for the book I had to take liberties, and just put it in an author’s note.
What does your writing process look like? Are you an organic writer or an outliner?
I’ve changed a lot, and the funny thing is I’ve gone the opposite of most. A lot of writers start out total seat-of-the-pants and discover they have to become an outliner. I was a total outliner and discovered I’m becoming more and more seat-of-the-pants. I need a plan to follow. I have to know some of the scenes. What am I going to do to get them there, and I’ll plot out about a third of the book that way, but not in a lot of detail. Then I just let the characters go, and they change all kinds of things on me.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Enjoy your journey. It’s really rare that your first book is going to sell. I mean, that would be extremely rare. So finish it. Edit it. Move on, and just enjoy the journey that you’re on. I have made lifetime friends, deep friends. That’s part of the journey. Meeting people like you, and sharing and networking. For the Christian writer God has a time and a place. So let Him worry about that, and enjoy.
Author Michelle Barfield is a former first and second grade public school teacher. Now a stay-at-home mother of two, she uses her love of teaching to write children’s books. Michelle is the author of two children’s books: The Sully Bug and Weezy’s Wedding. Her debut novel, The Well, was released in 2014, and is currently being adapted as a Christian film.
Caleb: Tell me about your journey writing The Well.
Michelle: I have to start by saying it was a God thing. I had no desire whatsoever to write a novel. I was comfortable with children’s books. And God put this story on my heart, and I tried really hard to ignore it, but you know how that goes. You can’t ignore God but for so long. Finally, I shared it with my husband, and he said “You have got to write this story down.” I said, “I don’t even know where to start,” and he said, “Just sit down in front of the computer and start typing.” That was probably the best advice that I got. I sat down, and it just started to pour out like water. I have a producer that has committed the next year to The Well, and he is interested in doing a feature film.
Caleb: What was it like adapting your novel into a screenplay?
Michelle: With the book, you can write so much background. It’s much more visual with a screenplay. It was different, and I had a lot to learn. I kind of jumped in with both feet.
Caleb: What was it like transitioning from writing children’s books to writing for adults?
Michelle: I taught school for eight years, first and seconds grades, and I’m a mother. So I always feel like I have plenty of material for children’s books. I always felt pretty comfortable there. I was very intimidated with transitioning into the novel. I thought that I may spend all this time, and put my heart into it, and not be able to finish. But, God just put it out there. I probably, myself, would have never said “oh, I’m going to write a novel,” but I just had no choice.
Caleb: With this being your debut novel, what are some lessons you learned throughout the journey?
Michelle: I learned to write from your heart. Don’t try to force it. Don’t try to make it something. Don’t try to send it in a certain direction. Just write from your heart.
Caleb: What inspired your characters, and how did you go about developing the story?
Michelle: Several people who read it, thought that I based the main character, Ava, on myself. That was certainly not my thought process. She’s a doctor. She’s a missionary in Africa. As the writer, of course I put some of my personality in her. There’s a little bit of my mom, my dad, my husband, my son, my daughter. Little things that are each one of them.
Caleb: How did you research the setting and lifestyle of a missionary?
Michelle: Our church sends our youth group to Haiti. They have a relationship with a church there and they go often. I was able to talk to a lot of people who had been there. The Well, the whole thing behind that is that Ava, the doctor from the United States, she goes over as a doctor. Then she realized that one of the main causes of this illness there is water borne illness from drinking unclean water. So she reaches out to her contacts in the United States to put a well in that would help this poor, rural area. That’s very realistic to what’s going on in Africa right now. Just keeping it as true to life as possible.
Caleb: What advice would you give to someone working on their first novel?
Michelle: I would just say that if I can do it, anybody can do it. Write from the heart. Write what you love. Write what makes you feel that you’re doing something positive.
Best-selling author. Award-winning filmmaker. To date, Bill Myers’ books and videos have sold over 8 million copies. Not bad for a man who never wanted to be a writer.
As author/screenwriter/director his work has won over 60 national and international awards, including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award. His DVDs and books have sold 8 million copies. His children’s DVD and book series, McGee and Me, has sold 4.5 million copies, has won 40 Gold and Platinum awards, and has been aired on ABC as well as in 80 countries. His My Life As… book series has sold 2.1 million copies. He has written, directed, and done voice work for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey radio series and is the voice of Jesus in Zondervan’s NIV Audio Bible. As an author, several of his children’s book series and adult novels have made the bestseller list.
He is also managing partner of Amaris Media, International – a motion picture and media company currently developing several projects for both children and adults. The motion picture, The Wager, starring Randy Travis and based on Myers’ novel by the same name, was released in 2009.
Bill has been interviewed for Good Morning America, ABC Nightly News, The 700 Club, TBN, as well as hundreds of broadcast, internet and print organizations. He can be reached at email@example.com
Caleb: What inspired you to write Supernatural Suspense?
Bill: I got a call, quite a few years ago, from Tyndale House publishers. At that time there were a lot of horror books for teens, so they called me up and said, “Would you like to write a Christian horror series.” I said I would be happy to write about the supernatural, but I’m not going to write horror. Because there’s two sides to the supernatural, and I don’t get why we always have to deal with the devil and the demons and all the horror. That’s part of it, but there is this whole other side to the supernatural. I did a ton of research for the series… everything from UFOs to Ouija boards to possession. I became sort of a reluctant supernatural know-it-all.
Caleb: How did you research these wild topics?
Bill: To me, that’s the best part of writing. People always want to talk about themselves. I’ve interviewed everybody from the head of the CIA Psychic Research Division, to the Son of Sam Serial Killer, to people who claim they’ve been abducted by UFOs. I’ve talked to a lot of people that have prophetic gifts. I have one, who’s become a friend now, who does miracles on a regular basis. There’s a whole world out there that we kind of ignore, because we think it’s too “fantasy”. It’s not fantasy at all. For me the best part is research, and the hardest part about writing is writing. But I guess that comes with the territory.
Caleb: What does your writing process look like?
Bill: I’m really, really disciplined. I can think of dozens of writers more skilled than I am, but they don’t have the discipline to finish it. I write two thousand words a day. I write in three two-hour sessions. Now remember, this is full time. Most people don’t have that, but you can still carve out the time, and say “I’m going to write for this amount of time every day.” And somehow, it turns into a book.
Caleb: I’ve heard some writers say that they like to write organically, and some prefer to stick to an outline. Do you outline?
Bill: You bet! I know every scene before I start to write. It takes me a month to outline a book. But I do that, so I don’t go down some weird rabbit trail. It’s a craft. It’s not some inspirational art. For me, the inspiration happens within the confines of a structure.
A lot of people say to me, “Oh, I wish I was a full-time writer like you,” and my response is usually, “I don’t think you do.” The joys of people who write part-time is that you write from the joy.
Caleb: So after all that research, how do you choose what to weed out and what part to base your story on?
Bill: I always start with a premise, a concept that hopefully hasn’t been done before. I do something called Plot Webbing. I put a circle and write the basic thing, like “dead friend.” Then I put spokes out and say all the crazy things that could happen with that. And then I put another spoke and do all the crazy things, and then I fill up the whole page. Most of them are bad ideas. Before you know it you have pages of bad ideas, but every once in a while, there’s a good one. The next step is that I try to find characters that are engaging, that are original. The next step is to give that character a want that drives them. As soon as I’ve got that, then the rest is just hanging the story on how the person gets it, or doesn’t get it.
Caleb: How do you come up with your characters?
Bill: I ask my characters different questions. One of the most powerful questions I learned is from a movie director. I ask my characters “what are you afraid of?” They start to become vulnerable and they start to become three-dimensional, if I spend enough time with them. Once you give the character a want, once you’ve got a high concept, once you’ve got character’s that are engaging, the writing pretty much takes care of itself.
Caleb: I know you write in many different genres, for both adults and children. What are the biggest challenges when you switch from one to another?
Bill: It keeps me on my toes and stops me from being stale. I love writing children’s books. Most of my children’s books are comedies, and they just loosen my self-importance and make me a kid again. Screenplays are difficult because the people that pay you for screen plays don’t always know a good story. Artistically, it’s not nearly as rewarding as it is writing a book. But, I’ll tell you, writing screenplays has made me a better novelist. One of the first things they teach you in writing is to show something and don’t tell the audience about it, but show it in action. You have to do that on a screenplay, because that’s all there is.
Caleb: If you had one piece of advice you could give to an aspiring writer, what would that advice be?
Bill: To write. To write every day. To set aside that time. To write good or bad. It’s like going to the Olympics. Nobody drifts into the Olympics. They work out every day.
Bill Myers can be found on Facebook and on his website BillMyers.com.