WG: Welcome Debra. Thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
DC: Hi, thank you for inviting me to your website, Winnie. To start with, I’m a widowed mother of 2 wonderful sons. I’ll not say more now because my life story is intermingled below in all the other questions. I can warn everyone that I write fiction, and am horrible at written interviews so hopefully this works. :)
WG: Let’s talk
a little bit 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.
DC: My 12th grade English teacher encouraged me to become a writer, but it wasn’t until my sons were entering pre-school that I decided to give it a try.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
DC: It took me 10 years, with a 3 year pause when my sons were in high school. So it was a 13 year journey that began in 1991. Six of those years I was involved with editors doing revisions on three different manuscripts, two years at a time. So during the last six years of my journey I was almost published. I can honestly say that rejection gets worse the closer you are to the carrot. When I received the last rejection, I had been working with one of the best editors in the country for 2 years (you know how long the turn around time can be. I waited 9 months to hear from the editor then revised and waited 7 months, revised again, and waited another 6 months to finally get the rejection. But the rejection came with an invitation to send something new in and also the editor wanted me to call and discuss any new ideas with her because she didn’t want to reject me on something because it resembled a project she already had going. On the one hand I was feeling pretty good because this editor really saw potential in me, but on the other hand I was crushed.) That’s when the Lord opened my eyes and helped me see that I could be almost published for the rest of my life but that my son’s were going to be graduating within 4 years and I needed to enjoy their last years at home without the heavy cloud of stress getting published had put over me. So instead of sending out anything else I stopped writing completely and focused on my family. It was the best decision I ever made.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
DC: I had completed 7 books before I sold, all targeted toward traditional romance at Harlequin and Silhouette. The 7th book sold, the one that I been rejected on last. But it was a completely revamped version, I went in and added an inspirational theme. It became a Golden Heart finalist and sold immediately to Love Inspired. I haven’t tried to sell any of my other books. I’m too busy writing more books in the series the first book THE TROUBLE WITH LACY BROWN started. It’s my Mule Hollow series at Love Inspired and I’m about to start book 8.
WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of selling that first book?
DC: I sold my salon. I had been a working hair salon owner and stylist for 25 years. And while I was working on book 3 in the series I was so worn out I just decided it was time. God had allowed me to finally find my market and I thought after all those years I needed to give writing my best shot. Plus, I had lost my husband seven months before I sold so I was under a tremendous amount of emotional and physical stress. Writing changed my life, because it gave me something new and challenging to focus on when I needed it the most.
WG: Let’s talk about your writing process: Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
DC: Because it’s basically just me at home, and I have writing goals that I’m shooting for, I write off and on all day. I’m usually working on 2 or 3 books at various editing stages at all times. I love it that way. I hate down time.
WG: So, what sort of goals do you set for yourself?
DC: I work by daily word goals (a minimum of 2000 useable words a day) and I impose strict deadlines on myself for when the book will be finished.
WG: Do you have a ‘mood setter’, something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
DC: No. I love the silence. Although, music and movies inspire me. Just not when I’m creating.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
DC: No. I choose characters who will have plenty of conflict to keep them apart and then I go with it. I’m very seat of the pants.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
DC: I usually start with a character. Sometimes it’s the heroine. Sometimes it’s the hero. In my series I have all kinds of women coming to Mule Hollow who are now waiting on the sidelines for a story of their own. But I have to wait until just the right cowboy comes along before I can see their story. When that happens I’m good to go. Because of this my readers are having to wait for their favorite heroine to get her own book. The book I’m about to start will be the story of Ashby Templeton. She showed up in book 1 and I’ve been waiting and waiting for the right cowboy. In book 7 Daddy Next Door, Dan Dawson showed up as a secondary character and instantly I knew he was the one for Ashby. My mind started doing the what if game and I finally started trying to figure out what exactly was Ashby’s story. Until that starts I’m not interested in forcing a book.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
DC: Because I’ve witnessed God’s timing in my own life so beautifully ( I could write a book on the way He has worked in my life looking back over the years and how perfect His timing was) that seems to be a recurring theme in my books. Also overcoming fear. Because I feel like everyone has something they are hiding from. Something they are fighting against that motivates them for good or for bad. And as for characters, I love sexy heroes who are put out of their element because of the heroine. And I love spunky heroines with a bit of fire in them and lots of flaws.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
DC: Write a little every day, set goals for yourself and never stop learning. But along the way don’t forget to enjoy your family. They are what is important and your time with them is precious. If you need to pause, do it. It might be the best decision you ever made. If I had sold to the editor of the Love and Laughter line I would have spent the last 3 years with my husband focused on selling more books. As it happened, God gave me a wake up call and because I listened to him and halted my march toward publication I have no regrets about the last 3 beautiful years I had with my husband and sons as a family. It will always be remembered as a precious gift. So maintain your priorities and if its God’s will that you sell, His timing will be perfect.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre?
DC: I read romance. I’ve always loved happy endings and the journey of falling in love.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
DC: Bigger books but always romance….maybe some women’s fiction with romance.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
DC: Work hard and learn from your rejection letters. And learn the art of scene and sequel and characterization. Also, study blurbs and first paragraphs. When I get the plot in my head it’s basically just a blurb that I bring to life. When I send an idea to my editor it has enough wackiness and conflict that I think they can create a reader snagging back blurb out of it. And then I give them a first paragraph that will draw the reader in. I think that’s been my greatest asset. And that was a learned ability from standing for hours in bookstores reading back blurbs and first paragraphs to find out what worked and what didn’t.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of ‘conventional wisdom’ that you wish you had ignored?
DC: Not really. I learned from everything.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What do you struggle with the most?
DC: I love the editing process. I write alone. No one but my
mother--she edits it for typos--sees the book before I send it to my
editor, Krista Stroever, who is the senior editor for Love Inspired. I
always look forward to her feedback and then I dive back into the
book and the magic happens. I think editing is a wonderful thing I
love the challenge of it.
On the other hand, I never did well with critique partners or with brainstorming, although before I sold I had two wonderful friends who I worked with. But that came apart when they both moved. I remained on my own after that. I’m a control freak, I want it to all come from my own weird brain…what can I say.
WG: When you’re not writing, what do you do for fun?
DC: I love road trips, short or long. I love romantic comedy movies and I love redoing or working on houses. Just yesterday I was crawling around on top of one of my rental properties fixing loose shingles….this sort of thing turns up in my books often.
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?.
DC: I don’t know who said it but this is what I live by.
”Plant your seat in the chair and write.”
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
DC: My 4th Mule Hollow book hits the shelves this month (February) Dream A Little Dream. It is a fun story that I had a blast writing. It’s about Molly Popp, newspaper reporter, who has been writing articles about the tiny town that advertised for want-to-be-wives for all its lonesome cowboys. Molly gets poor Bob Jacob’s into a lot of hot water and it’s just fun watching the poor cowboy try to figure out how to keep his head above water.
WG: Tell us about plans for future books.
DC: After Dream a Little Dream, comes Meeting Her Match (June 07) then Operation: Married by Christmas (Oct 07) and
then Daddy Next Door (Jan 08)
I’m currently working on book 8 in the series and because of the wonderful fan acceptance of the series, the end isn’t in sight yet. God is good!
WG: And before we close, tell us how your fans can get in touch with you.
DC: I can be reached through my website debraclopton.com or PO Box 1125 Madisonville Texas 77864
WG: Thanks so much for stepping into the spotlight this month. And I’m looking forward to reading more stories in that wonderful Mule Hollow series.
DC: Thank you Winnie for the opportunity - it was fun!