The Face Nov 2008

Is being a writer something you always dreamed of doing? If not how did you become a writer?

I never dreamed of being a writer. I never fantasized about writing the Great American Novel, never dreamed of living in a garret and suffering for the sake of my Art. I'm a practical person, more focused on the nuts and bolts of things than the whys and wherefores.

But apparently I've always had a natural aptitude for words and I've always been a reader. So when a friend suggested that I change my college major from music to English, the idea of working with words appealed more than singing on the road for the rest of my life. I'd been doing that, you see, and my voice was tired and my suitcase worn out. Duct tape could only patch things up for so long . . .

So I graduated from college with a degree in English Lit, taught high school English for a year, then worked at a large church writing curriculum. I kept telling myself that when the time was right, I'd quit my job and actually become a writer. I finally decided that the time would be right when I plunged ahead and did it. I quit the day job (and I'm NOT recommending you do this!) and had stationary and business cards printed up--freelance writer for hire. I mailed those cards and a brief letter to every advertising agency and magazine in my mid-sized town, then I was amazed at the responses. A great many business people, apparently, were happy to hire someone else to write their letters, brochures, advertising copy, etc. I bought and studied books on how to write effective letters, brochures, advertising copy, etc., and set about establishing a reputation for being fast and dependable. I figured I might not be the most talented fish in the sea, but at least I could be prompt, professional, and diligent. And I learned . . . from my employers and from my mistakes.
For five YEARS I worked for magazines and businesses, and I learned as I went along. I read and relentlessly studied books on the craft of writing. I rewrote and polished and rewrote again.

In 1988, an artist friend and I entered a contest for unpublished children's book authors. I wrote a manuscript after studying a book on how to write children's picture books (what else?) and then forgot about it. A few months later, I learned that out of 500 entries, our manuscript won first place--and first prize was publication. IF I HAD LONG, LONG HAIR was therefore my first book. At the same time, I was writing about my family's experience with adoption and sold a nonfiction manuscript to a book publisher. Those first books gradually moved me out of periodical work and into the book publishing field--after years of learning and writing and reading and studying. I am STILL learning and reading and studying, for each genre requires that a writer master certain requirements.

So when aspiring writers ask me for advice, I tell them to go to the library and find a copy of Writer's Market. Study the periodicals market; study book publishers. Find out what they want to buy and concentrate on writing that--if you want to sell your writing. If you want to write for yourself or for your loved ones, go ahead, write what is on your heart. But if you want to write to sell, you have to learn how to write and behave professionally. Another wonderful place to learn is at a writer's conference. There are many wonderful conferences around the country and throughout the year. Find one, go, and learn before you try to submit something to a publisher.

My philosophy is that a writer is like a builder--if you know how to use the construction tools and if you are familiar with the blueprints for various jobs/genres, you can master the work. But it requires study and basic know-how.

Each co-writing book is a little different, because each co-writer is different. The most important thing is spelling out up front how the process will work and specifying a schedule. That's about the only "special preparation," but it certainly requires good communication!

Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you when you do your actual writing? Is there anyone or a critique group that helps you with your plot twists and turns?

No, I've never belonged to a critique or brainstorming group, as I like to figure out my plots myself. Ideas come at me from all directions, but mostly through the things I read and/or study. What inspires me as I write? The mortgage! Without it, I'd probably be lazy!

I know you probably hate this question but I'm going to ask it anyway (I know that we can't pick a favorite child but if you had to) out of all the books you have written which is your favorite? If you don't have a favorite, which was the most, fun to write? Why? Which book of yours was the most difficult to write?

I really don't have a favorite book, but I do have a favorite character: Sema, the gorilla in UNSPOKEN. She became so real to me that I still weep every time I read that book.

The most difficult book? Probably THE NOVELIST. Anyone who has read that book will understand why.

Some authors tell me that they plot out their story step-by-step, other say that they write by the seat-of-their-pants. What kind of writer are you?

I'm a hybrid. I do a basic plot skeleton, this little device I developed for teaching, and it gives me the major "bones" of my story and then leaves me free to flesh things out as I write. So I think I have the best of both world. I know where I'm going, but I'm free to play around while I get there.

I know that you lead a book club in your neighborhood, how did that come about? How long have you all been meeting? What are some of the books your group enjoyed and why? Do you lead most of the time or does your group take turns?

I founded our neighborhood book club in 2003, I think--and at that first meeting, only one woman showed up. I was ready to call it quits, but the other lady said, "Why don't we just invite people outside the neighborhood?" and now we have so many people we have to wear name tags. I usually lead it, because I'm the hostess, but everyone takes an active role. We usually read New York Times bestsellers, but we're open to almost anything.

Is being an author everything you thought it would be? If not, what has been surprising to you?
I don't think of myself as an "author"--that sounds so pretentious. I'm a working writer, a professional writer, whatever else you want to call it. It's hard work, and yes, I expected that. There are some nice moments--awards and fan letters, etc--but trust me, those are rare. Mostly it's simply showing up for work every day and staying inside when everyone else goes outside to play. (Or that's what it feels like!)

What do you enjoy most about the writing process? Why? What do you like the least? What project are you working on now?Can you give us a sneak peek?

What do I enjoy most? Being finished.

What do I enjoy least? Proposals. And now I'm working on LET THE DARK COME, which is about how I'm feeling at this moment. The inner plot is just not what it should be, and I'm still in the dark about it . . .

But here's the synopsis: Briley Lester is worried about her first capital trial—the prosecution has an airtight case and her client has no alibi. Briley plans on a mitigating defense—one that might get her client’s sentence reduced from first degree murder to manslaughter—until she realizes that powerful people want her client to receive the death penalty. When she stumbles onto evidence that could prove her client’s innocence, she must find a way to defeat an experienced prosecutor and the forces that are determined to see her client incarcerated—or buried. As she struggles to achieve true justice, Briley must conquer her own fears and dare to venture outside the self-protective boundaries that have prevented her from discovering her destiny.

I know that last year one of your books was made into a movie - The Note - How did that come about? Was having one of your books made into a movie a dream of yours? How involved where you with the making of the movie? Were you satisfied with how the movie turned out?

(This is the actress that played the lead in THE NOTE. She is Laura - from Luke and Laura General Hospital Soap-opera fame)

Lots of people have asked how to turn a book into a movie, and I still have no idea. God did it, and frankly, I'm happy to let him work things out because it can be a very frustrating process. Dreams? I try not to have dreams, because as a Christian, I'm supposed to follow the Lord, not my own whims. I'm happy to go where he leads. I had nothing to do with the movie, nothing to do with the sale of it. But I was happy with it, and I've been delighted to know that they're going to put a feature with me on the DVD when its released. It's one way I've been able to explain the spiritual reasons for why I wrote the book.

One of the most edgy and thought provoking books I have read by you is "The Pearl", I never really gave much thought into the ramifications of cloning. I loved how you brought that topic to life in such a real scenario of a mother and child. How did you come up with the idea for that book? One chilling scene in that book for me was the scene in the morgue – was that hard for you to write? I almost couldn't stand to read it (it was so real) I do think it was necessary to the story and set you up for things to that happen later. Did you do research for that scene and other parts of the book?

LOL. If that little morgue scene bothered you, wait until you read the funeral home books! :-)

I wanted to write "The Pearl" because I wanted to explore what happens when God leads us through the valley of the shadow of death . . . and we resist. If we say we believe in the sovereignty of God, then he is sovereign over all of our lives. When tragedies happen, God wasn't asleep, He didn't make a mistake. But how many times do we feel that he has let us down when bad things happen?

So cloning is the plot, but it's not the story. As to the cloning, I wanted to learn more about it. I knew I was against it, but why? I mean, if we could grow a new liver, why not grow one? Adding this dimension to the story gave me an excuse to research and understand it.

The first book I read by you was "The Debt" – Wow!! It really got my attention – what a powerful message. Where did you get your ideas for that book? What was the most difficult scene to write for that book? What was the easiest? I would love to see this book made into a movie? Any plans for that? If so who would you cast in the leading roles? Please Explain.

The idea for "The Debt" came to me in the shower, almost completely fleshed out. A friend and I had been emailing each other about what the world expects of Christians and vice versa. We talked about why Christians are surprised when sinners sin, or why we're surprised when the world doesn't understand our boycotts, etc. What do they want from us? Help for today, hope for tomorrow. Love. That's it. But how often do we hand them a boycott instead?

I'm not sure this book would make a good movie, because I wrote that book specifically for Christians. I don't think it would garner the kind of interest necessary to finance a movie with a decent budget.

"Uncharted" is another edgy and thought provoking book. What inspired you to write this story? What research did you do for this story? What scenes were easy for you to write? Which ones were most difficult and why? Any plans to make that into a movie? Who would you cast as the leads in this movie?

Uncharted has been optioned by a production company, so we'll see if it makes it onto film. I wrote Uncharted as I was working on my doctorate in theology. I realized that a lot of Christian books are happy, happy, but are we really telling the world what it needs to hear? Jesus spent an awful lot of time talking about hell, but some Christians don't even believe in it today. I do. I think it's a chilling reality, and something we need to write about. The challenge was creating an entertaining, interesting story around that concept.

I know that you have written non-fiction books and fiction books? Does fiction writing come easy for you? Or does non-fiction book writing come easy? I know that you have also written children's books – how different is it to write for that age group?

Nonfiction comes easy to me; it's where I cut my teeth. Fiction is hard and a continual challenge, but that's what makes it the most fulfilling. Writing for children is simple, but selling children's books is almost impossible. Kids' books are expensive to produce and the market is smaller . . . which makes it a more difficult sell. The only thing more difficult to sell is poetry.

Out of all the characters you have written, which ones are most like you? Which ones would you secretly want to be? Why?

LOL! I think all of them are a lot like me! They all tend to be hard-headed, practical beyond belief, independent, questioning women . . . ask my Mother, she'll say that's me. :-)

If money or time isn't a problem – what place do you enjoy most to go out to eat breakfast? What is the thing you most like to order? If you going to have that special dining experience what restaurant would it be at? Why? What would you order?

I love the strawberry crepes at Village Inn. Had 'em today for lunch, as a matter of fact.

Given our current gas situation we definitely have to come up different ways to get around in the future. Again I'm asking you to be creative here – what could we use or what would you like to use for future travel. Some authors have mentioned the Delorian from back to the future, the hovercraft from star wars, the "beam machine" from star wars, dragons, space boots, and camels. What would you like to use for future travel? Please explain.

I would fly. I have often wished that I could simply fly purely by the strength of my will alone. Maybe in heaven . . .

If you had all the time in the world (and just as much money) to do anything you wanted to do; what would you do?

I'd give the money to my husband so he could build a youth center and stay busy so I could write in peace and quiet.

What do you do to escape and get away from it all? Relax. Do you have a hobby that helps you do that? Is there a hobby that you just enjoy doing? If so what it?

My hubby and I took our first cruise a couple of years ago to mark our 26th anniversary. We enjoyed it so much we try to take a cruise every year.

Where are your two favorite places to shop and why?

Home Depot and T.J. Maxx. Because I love tinkering on my house and I love bargains.

If you found a magic lamp and a genie was going to grant you three wishes – what would those wishes be and why?

I'd like to be able to fit into all the clothes in my closet. I'd like to have a clone. And I'd love to figure out what's wrong with my current novel in progress.:-)

If you could have super hero powers for a while which ones would they be and why? (you are the author here be creative)

I'm not sure this exists, but I'd like to be Clock-Stop Woman--and be able to stop time for everyone else so I can get more stuff done in a day. :-)

Nora: I appreciate you hanging out with us Angela and allowing us the opportunity to get to know you better.

We really look forward to reading and discussing your book "UNSPOKEN" for our September selection at book club. This has been fun!

Blessings on your writing and your speaking engagements.

Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins 
The Book Club Network blog
Book Fun Magazine


  1. Loved the interview, Angie and Nora! I'll be seeing Angie in about 12 days at the ACFW conference.

    Angie, I got tickled to see you shop where I do. LOL I can't wait to finally meet you in person and compare dogs. Nora has met our Shadrach. He's actually a small mastiff at 168 pounds, but he's still growing.

    See you in Minneapolis!

  2. Great interview, Nora and Angie!

    I'll be seeing Angie in about 12 days at the ACFW conference. I'm going to take a couple of photos of Shadrach to show her. :D

    Nora, did you know Angie has TWO Shadrachs? LOL Hers are Charlie and Babe.

    Anyway, super interview. It's fun to see Angie shops where we do. :D

  3. I've read an advanced copy of The Face and I can tell you it's TOPS. I reviewed it on my blog.

  4. Nora, I can't believe you found pictures of my favorite strawberry crepes! Thanks for the fun interview. :-)


  5. I can't wait to hear Angela speak at ACFW - I've been reading her books just so I'll be familiar with as many of them as possible when I get there :-)


  6. Hey Nora,
    Liked the article. I especially liked the fun ones like her favorite place to eat, shop, and hobbies. It made her seem more personable.

  7. Interview was great! Can't wait the meet in September and discuss Unspoken with Angie over the phone. Great job Nora as always. See ya soon!


  8. What a great interview. I loved the fun questions at the end.

  9. Loved this interview Nora...and Angela Hunt,you inspire me.

    Thank you both,
    I enjoyed this one.

  10. Nora...great interview - as usual! I'm so glad that we are reading "Unspoken" this month. I can't wait to talk about it at our meeting. has been a long time since I have cried really hard over a book. I didn't think I would stop crying at the end of "Unspoken". Sema seemed so real to me by the end of the book. If your other books invoke such strong emotions, I think you have just found your newest fan!! Thanks for an awesome book!!

    God Bless,

    Chris of Dacula, GA

  11. Terrific interview!
    Thank you both,
    Valerie Anne

  12. Nora,
    I don't know how you find the time to read so much but I am very glad you do. You have given us great books to read. You certainly have read a lot of Angela's books too. I will start unspoken in the next few days.

    I find it interesting that your book club reads from the NY Times best seller list. Do you sometmes find it difficult as a Christian? Language and content are often too much for me. That is why I am so grateful for Christian Fiction!

    Suwanee, GA

  13. I loved this. Great comments and questions, Ladies. I laughed at the Village Inn and Home Depot references, you covered the current and former workplaces of two of my three kids. What about Bath and Body Works? Then there'd be a sweep. If you ever visit Iowa I think I could def. hook you up with some strawberry crepes and a few two by fours.

  14. Wow, what a great interview!! Thanks for that.

  15. Wow Nora!! What a great interview! And Angie, I thought I learned a lot about you every year at the Greater Phila Writers conference...LOL...but some of this stuff never came up! LOL...I love the strawberry crepes and Home Depot is one of my hangouts too!

  16. Hey Nora, fun interview! I love Angie. I'm part of her Heavenly Daze yahoo group. She talked to our book club 4yrs ago and she was awesome. We had read "Shadow Women". I love that book. One of the books she didn't mention here was "The Canopy" and I loved that book as well! I also loved Sema in "Unspoken". I work at Menards (midwest hardware store) so Home Depot is a naughty word in our house. tee hee hee

    Mimi B

  17. Angela, I love your work. "Unchartered" is one of my favorites. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days after I finished reading the last page. I even blogged about the book.

    I'm so excited that you're going to be our key note speaker at the ACFW conference. I hope we have a chance to meet.

    Nora and Angie, thanks for the fun and interesting interview!

  18. Great interview Nora. I love your books, Angela, and can't wait to read more of them. I really enjoyed the Heavenly Daze series and fell in love with Unspoken. I will never look at my pets the same way again. Please keep writing, Angela, and please keep posting interviews, Nora. You both have blessed me. Tisha

  19. Omg! Unspoken sounds sooo good and I'm dying to read it!! I'm going to try my best to make it to book club Monday night. :) Great interview!

  20. Great interview and great book. I want to be Sema when I grow up :)

  21. Wow, thanks for all the kind comments, everyone! I had a ball talking to Nora's two book clubs by telephone, and I'm so glad you all fell in love with Sema as much as I did.

    So . . . guess I'll be seein' you all in Village Inn or Home Depot! :-)

    Hugs all around,

  22. Nora & Angela:
    Great interview! Thank you Angela for taking time to speak with us Monday night. It is always such a blessing to get to know a little more about the person behind the pen.
    I truly appreciate the time that you take in bringing us good quality fiction which reminds us of God's love for us.
    Nora, From one Book Club coordinator to another,I truly appreciate all that you do to bring us together with the authors and to introduce us to new fiction each month.


  23. Angela,

    Thanks for a good book and the scripture from Job, Psalms, Revelations, and 2 Kings --- for giving me even more reason to be in awe of Him!


  24. Very good and interesting interview. Angela, what fascinating story lines you think of for your books.

    -Marlene Rauch-

  25. Angela,
    I am going to have to read more of your books. The 'funeral home' series sounds interesting as well as the many others. You have provided us with many to choose from.
    I enjoyed talking with you at book club this week. "Unspoken" is a great book and thought provoking.

    Suwanee, GA