On Writing Fiction
"My journey of writing fiction
I wanted to be a novelist."
Rather, by way of writing fiction, I wanted the struggles of particular overcomers—my parents—to be registered in the public consciousness.
I was afraid, not because of my ignorance of the craft (which was much greater than I suspected), but because I knew I’d have to acknowledge the emotions, the conflicts, and the not always noble motivations of my main characters.
What motivated you to write a novel?
I wanted to write it because my parents' story deserved to be heard and there was no one else to speak for them.
Not being part of their lives during the Great Depression, I knew I would be writing fiction, per se. I owed a debt of gratitude to them. The least I could do was tell their story.
What novels influenced you?
Of the most influential books that motivated me to write, only Robinson Crusoe
I discovered it in the home of my uncle, who was not a literate man. Our very humble, basic (read: no indoor plumbing) house on the prairie featured few books other than the Bible, but when I was about eight or nine, my father bought us a copy of The Volume Library, published annually from 1911 through 1947. This four-inch thick, 2,422-page compendium of all sorts of amazing information introduced me to the world of ideas—and places, central to most of my writing. I Married Adventure, by Osa Johnson, kindled my spirit of adventure and writing about interesting places.
What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?
For aspiring novelists, I offer three suggestions to move you toward publication:
- Join a writers critique group, preferably with better writers than yourself.
- Read extensively, not only in the genre you write in, but in others, as well.
- Attend writers’ conferences—one or two a year—and other gatherings of writers. You can learn from other writers, and you need to know you are not alone.
What are your future plans and dreams as a writer?
- To complete the sequel to my debut novel, Daughter of the Cimarron.
- Complete my memoir about my two years living and working in Africa.
- Write a book about and for men.
- I have a contract to write feature articles from time to time for a Christian publication.
- I always want to do what I can to help other writers. Several people recently asked me at a writers’ conference about a Christian writers critique group in my home town. I’m working now to get them started.