WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
RA: I'm from Glencoe, Alabama (pop. 4500), a town very similar to the fictional Claremont, Alabama in my Love Inspired books. I've been married to my husband, J.R., for 27 years and have two children (or three, counting the "son" I gave a kidney to) and three grandboys (with another grandchild on the way in June - yay!)
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
RA: Susan Goggins/Raven Hart was the first author to read my work and encourage me to join Romance Writers of America and submit my writing. Deborah Smith then read my work and sent an email that encouraged me tremendously. And lastly, Gayle Wilson and Linda Howard have been my mentors throughout my publication process. I adore every lady mentioned and will be forever grateful for their encouragement in my journey.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
RA: I've always wanted to be a writer (my goal in first grade), but after college, I started out writing technical manuals and didn't show my fiction to anyone for fifteen years. I wrote twenty-one full manuscripts before selling my first novel (I didn't submit all of those manuscripts, but continued honing my craft through them - and later sold some of the manuscripts I'd been hesitant to show anyone). I did hit the contest circuit pretty hard and made wonderful industry contacts through contests.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
RA: As mentioned above, I completed twenty-one books prior to selling my first book. I believe I've sold ten of those twenty-one novels.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
RA: Basically, I received the call from my agent, and it went something like this: "They love your book. Your new editor is going to call you and talk to you about it in the next half hour, so be ready for her call." And then I screamed…a lot.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
RA: I think the fact that I'm a published inspirational author is what impacts it the most, because when you write inspirational fiction and try to remind your readers of God's importance in our lives, you often hear from those readers about their personal experiences involving their spirituality, or receive prayer requests, or learn how your book so closely resembles their own life experiences. There's nothing like receiving that kind of message from a reader and having the opportunity to tell others about God through my work.
WG: What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
RA: The additional opportunities to help others through my writing. I love that!
WG: What about your writing process? Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
RA: I am a morning person and do most of my writing early in the day. I usually start around 5:00 a.m. and am done by 3:00 p.m. I drink an abundance of coffee and snack more than I should when I'm writing =)
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
RA: I love to complete one good scene or chapter per day. If I hit that goal, I've done my job, but if the writing doesn't flow, I don't force it. When that happens, usually a short drive to clear my head and think through the plot or a short nap (believe it or not) will do the trick to get me going again.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
RA: I need complete quiet to hear the voices in my head. I am definitely not a writer that can work while sitting at Starbucks.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
RA: I started out as a seat-of-my-pants writer, but after several rewrites/revisions from editors, I learned that it'll save me time in the end if I form a detailed synopsis and stick to it (for the most part).
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
RA: Since I'm working on a series now, I start with the storyline. In the books I'm writing about Willow's Haven (a children's home started by the hero and heroine in Daddy Wanted), each book involves the children's home, so the storyline is key. However, since characters have recurring roles in these books, the characters are fairly easy to put into play in those plots.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
RA: Anything is possible with God. That theme flows through each book. This especially shows through my new short story, Emails from Heaven, that is a current release with a Valentine's Day theme.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
RA: I think the biggest strength is that I love to write. I write something every day and do not feel complete unless I have that option. I've written for as long as I can remember, and I sure hope that never stops =)
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
RA: My husband is a former All-American gymnast and owns several gyms in the southeast, so we travel quite a bit. I can't read or write when riding in a car, so I'm limited to what I can do on the road; however, I use that time to talk over plot points with him and bounce ideas. He's a terrific plotting partner.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
RA: I start each book with prayer, asking God to give me the words to tell a story that will best glorify Him and touch readers.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
RA: As a writer, my favorite sub-genre is romantic suspense. As a reader, my favorite sub-genre is historical.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
RA: No. I'd love to be able to write historicals, but history was never my strong suit. That's why I love reading other authors' historical books; I'm always learning something as I read a terrific story.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
RA: Don't quit. I wrote twenty-one manuscripts before selling my first novel. I'm pretty sure that's some type of record.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
RA: I can't think of one.
WG: Rejections, less than stellar reviews and notes from unhappy readers are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
RA: Thankfully, that hasn't happened often, but when it does, I move to the positive letters/reviews and remind myself of the readers who are truly touched by my stories.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
RA: None that I recall at this time.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
RA: Most rewarding: learning that one of my stories touched a reader's heart. Biggest struggle: the many changes in the industry and within publishing houses.
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
RA: Riding on a Goldwing across the country with my husband. Nothing but a Cajun, a motorcycle and a tent to keep me company - dream life.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
RA: A writer!
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
RA: I'm a kidney donor and love sharing the story of how anyone can save the life of a stranger - and in my case, that recipient is now like a son (it's on my website, under the "Living Donor" tab).
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
RA: I love 24 with Kiefer Sutherland - amazing premise, unbelievable writing and phenomenal actors.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
RA: "It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation." ~ Herman Melville
RA: Daddy Wanted is available now (print - January 22, 2015; digital - February 1, 2015). This is the book that will lead into my new series for Love Inspired called Willow's Haven, about a children's home for orphans and children that have been abandoned. I am SO excited about this series and hope that readers will enjoy reading it as much as I'm enjoying writing it!
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
RA: Daddy Wanted (and the Willow's Haven series) was inspired by my grandsons, Alanus and Jerry, who lost their birth parents within three months of each other when the boys were merely four and five. My son and daughter-in-law were newly married but felt on their hearts that God wanted them to adopt the boys. Alanus and Jerry have been a blessing to our lives, and I want to show others through the stories about the children's home that by helping/adopting children who have lost their parents, they can be blessed immeasurably too.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
RA: My research for this story simply involves watching our community and church pull together to help two little boys who've been through more than most people experience in a lifetime and the support given to a young married couple in their quest to follow God's plan and provide so much love to his children. It's been the most beautiful research ever!
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
RA: The next book for Willow's Haven will come out August (July 23 for print; August 1 for digital), and I've just submitted the proposal for additional stories in the series. I hope to write many stories set in and about Willow's Haven, because the premise is so near and dear to my heart.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
RA: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorReneeAndrews (I give away books and prizes each month on my Facebook page, so please take a moment to "like" it and get notifications!)
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!
RA: Thank you for having me!!