How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?
Teachers encouraged my writing as I grew up. One college professor in particular inspired and nurtured my gift. I always had a vivid imagination, but I didn’t fully realize it as a “calling” until I married and began having children.
Soon after, it became apparent that I thrived on creativity. God built me that way. My mind, forever a wellspring of activity, turned to songwriting as its outlet for more than a decade.
In the mid nineties, I wrote my first novel. As a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mother of six, I needed something to stimulate me, something I could call my own. So when I had moments to grab, I poured words onto paper. Some of my most fulfilling times have been in front of a yellow legal pad or computer keyboard.
What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
I have stories about my internationally adopted children published in a nonfiction book, Loved by Choice: True Stories that Celebrate Adoption by Susan Horner and Kelly Martindale. Susan and Kelly allowed me to write my own stories for publishing credit. This book is available through Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
I am presently telling the stories surrounding my children in greater detail on my blog, Morning Glory: When God Whispers.
But historical inspirational fiction is my “genre.” I have three finished novels I am currently shopping to publishers, and I have started a fourth.
Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day?
I spend roughly one month on research, three months on developing a first draft of approximately 100,000 words, and many months to polish. Why so long? Up until now, I have been homeschooling children, and some with special needs.
My youngest son is now a junior in high school and works independently. Writing has been bumped to a place of greater priority. I spend hours each day, developing stories, rewriting, writing two monthly blogs, connecting on social media, supporting other authors, and learning the writing craft. I also read and review books and do a lot of editing for other authors and writers. I am a member of ACFW and a client at Hartline Literary Agency. My agent is Diana Lee Flegal. http://www.hartlineliterary.com/
What is the spiritual message in your latest book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?
The book of my heart, (the one I’d love to sell right now), is called Bramble Rose, Book One in Song of the Brush Arbor Series. (100,000 Words)
Its spiritual theme? Secrets often whisper justice, but in reality, they can be lies, which grow and reproduce into creatures bigger than life, bent on incapacitating genuine joy and peace.
What can a reader expect?
During the 1840’s, four Prescott brothers struggle to thrive on a homestead in the Missouri Ozarks after the sudden deaths of their parents. The oldest brother, Micah, bitter and overwhelmed, struggles to rear his younger brothers while hiding the shocking truth that their mother shot and killed their father before turning the gun on herself.
When a lost and lonely Irish girl, Laura O’Shannon, is foisted upon Micah, the splintered family is challenged in new ways, making him more consumed with maintaining an inflexible rule and harboring secrets that torment.
But when Laura’s love and faith come along, Micah’s self-imposed prison disintegrates bit by bit, his iron-clad heart melts, and his tough pretence surrenders to tender acceptance. Laura is God’s gift to him, and she’s been right under his nose.
Tell us about your other books.
Emmie Mercer, under the assumed name Dorothea Shelley, was once a southern belle. Reinventing herself and becoming a tomboy ranch foreman, she is fugitive to her past. She hopes to build a future but is a woman in a man’s world.
Jonah Davies abandons his career as a Deputy United States Marshal for a ranch in the rolling hills of North Louisiana and a life of faith. But he doesn’t know much about ranching. Making his home in a rambling house, he dreams of becoming a family man. But will he recognize love when the right woman comes along?
Polar opposites, these two are thrown into conflict when Jonah buys the ranch out from under Emmie. To him—the ranch is a stake in the future. To her—the ranch was meant to restore her former dignity and offer a safe haven. By the time Jonah realizes it isn't the ranch that has ensnared his heart, but Emmie, a post Civil War Confederate plot is hatched and threatens to destroy them both.
What’s the take-away value? Self-worth is measured only by the grace of a God, who freely did every work for us—past, present, and future— on the cross.
I have also authored the book, Mountain Ash and Ivory, Book One in the Colors of China Series (100,000 Words)
When waves of prejudice and intolerance crash upon their victims, washing them into a lonely pool, despairing—shall another, born of adversity, turn his back or extend his hand and heart?
During the era of the California Gold Rush a young, Chinese woman comes to America with her brother. When he dies, she is left alone in a country, which does not honor her gender or her race; she does not fit in with her own people, nor does she fit into the white man’s world. One man, grieving the loss of both his beautiful wife and children, must find the courage to love and accept this woman of different race. Is her love worth the world’s scorn and disrespect?
My new WIP is entitled A Thousand Generations, Book One of the Seasons in the Orchard Series. This is a peach of a tale that takes place in Pike County, Arkansas, where Ivy Clement and Joel Townsend are each homestead bred and their worlds too small. Who is more arrogant? And, who can survive the contest of wills? Joel, who leaves home and stumbles across an orphaned baby, or Ivy, who stays put and sacrifices her own happiness for three peach trees and two siblings?
Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through? Who’s inspired you the most?
Do I ever feel like giving up—uh—let’s see??? Every day! But the characters and stories cemented in my head and heart never grow quiet. They long to be revealed. They long to inspire. I’ve come so close to contracts many times over the past 18 years. I have lost count the times I’ve made it all the way to committee, especially in the last few years.
I cannot measure the frustration anymore. Each time hurts like the first. But if I try to get away from writing, I am always pulled back. An example?
In April of 2009, I received a rejection letter from a major publisher. That was it. I quit. I told God, if You want me to publish, then You’ll have to bring a contract to me. I called my agent to tell her I was throwing in the towel. She wouldn’t let me. Neither of us sent out proposals or manuscripts over the following months. Diana waited on me to come back, but I didn’t. Then in April 2012, the phone rang. A gleeful Diana chattered away in my ear. The same major publisher, who’d rejected my work the same month in 2009, not only appreciated it and remembered it, but was ready for it. God had my attention.
I hurdled into work mode. The rest of spring and over the summer, I did everything I was told to do and oftentimes overnight. I created my website and began social media connections on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest. That fall, my manuscript had morphed into a first class novel. I made sure of it. What happened? The Christian publishing industry took a financial down turn. Just before getting a contract, I was let go for monetary reasons.
The list of people who have inspired and guided me is amazing!
Early on, Dr. Gilbert Morris did everything in his power to help me. I am so thankful he recognized my talent, though I now realize how raw and inexperienced I was. He has continued to encourage me to keep writing and pursuing publishing over the years, and he has allowed me to use his endorsements on countless submissions. He’s helped so many. What a giving man!
Lee Hough of Alive Communications was a huge inspiration, as well. I met Lee in the nineties when he was working for David C. Cook. In 2004, when he worked for Alive, he called me at home to personally say my stories were certainly publishable and to not give up. Though he believed at the time my stories could sell as they were written, he proceeded to give me many months of personal instruction and free of charge. Why? Because he was honorable and true and not too important to notice someone small who had nothing going for her other than potential. Lee knew I didn’t have the time or means to leave my children and attend conferences. A family man, he admired me putting my children first, yet he wanted me to succeed. He assigned his personal assistant, Diana, to help me for close to a year. Diana was wonderful to me and taught me so much. Lee very recently left this earth for his heavenly home. He was a man with great influence, a man with a lot of friends in the publishing industry. His client list? Terri Blackstock, Vicki Courtney, Tim Downs, Jen Hatmaker, Miles McPherson, Nancy Rue, Randy Singer, Rich Stearns, Mark Tabb and Lynn Vincent… to name a few.
God has given me tremendous mentors and cheerleaders. Author Susan Horner has tirelessly worked with me to hone my writing skills, and oh, the prayers she’s prayed for my courage, favor, and lurking deadlines. I just love her so much!
Authors Janet Teitsort, Cindy Sproles, Ace Collins, and Jan Watson have read chapters and encouraged me to stay the course, as well. Against hope, God has given me hope each and every time I’ve wanted to walk
At conference in 2012, Timothy Shoemaker sat with me at dinner. He asked about my background, and when I told him all the things that had happened to keep me going for more than eighteen years, he asked, “What can I do? I want to do something.”
When I told him I needed a greater understanding of POV while rewriting Bramble Rose, he delivered a crash course to me and a couple of friends until wee morning hours. Selfless. Understanding.
So why? Why is my fiction unpublished? There is One who holds this answer, and He compels me to keep going. Recently, when Bramble Rose climbed all the way to committee at one of the major Christian publishing houses, then was rejected because they had too many novels in its genre slated for 2013, God gave me the following scripture:
But as for me, I will look to the Lord and confident in Him I will keep watch: I will wait with hope and expectancy for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7 (Amplified)
Why not self-publish? In one sentence, God hasn’t released me to do this. It’s really about reach. Publishers offer clear cut roads—paved ways into bookstores and conglomerates, along with tried and true methods. The greater the reach? More lives touched.
One day, when I sign a contract for a novel series, there will be a few people—a very few—who will truly understand my victory. My sweet husband, Randy, is one of them. He’s listened to my gnashing of teeth in anger and breathless weeping in heartache.
Why do I do this over and over again? Why do I wait and wait? I am a believer, and I am a writer.
Jennifer Hudson Taylor once left this comment on one of my blogs. “(Ann,) I love how God told you He was opening a "window", not a "door". I believe the door is when things fall into place and we don't have to do much, but a window is when we have to work a little harder to believe, have patience, and wait on His timing, while we do our part to help bring the miracle.”
Could this be truer?
This is my very first interview—EVER. I am told it is never too soon to get my name “out there,” but there is One who has known my name all along. He knew me in my mother’s womb, and called me His own before I had to choose a genre or a brand, tribe or following. He plans my days and records them in His book. He’s a writer, too.
How can you help me? The best thing anyone can do is pray for the mountains to move, my days to be productive, and my heart to stay soft. Pray for my stories to carry substance—to be bright in the dark. And, leave comments on my website and blogs to encourage me to keep going. Keep telling me it’s worth it to be a Christian and a writer.
Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out?
You can find me at http://www.anncoopermccauley.com/. You will find my writer’s blog in my website header. I love giving books away from authors and often have opportunities to do this. All I require is a comment on the blog.
You can read my personal stories by pushing the button with blue flowers on the website homepage. The button will take you to my blog, Morning Glory: When God Whispers. You can also find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anncooper.mccauley and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ACMcWrites.
Thanks for joining us today, Ann!