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NORA INTERVIEWS DEE ANN GIST



Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is Jesus Christ our Lord.”

(Interview with Deeanne Gist - found on CBD.com with permission from Deeanne's publicist)

How did you get started as a writer?

With four kids under the age of four, I retired early from teaching to be a stay at home mom, but I was always on the prowl for ways to earn some extra income. My dad went to a writer’s conference and came home and said, “I have a way you can make money out of your home.” He knew I loved writing and that I had some abilities there, so he told me what he learned at this writer’s conference. I then put some query letters together and started sending them out to various magazines.

How long were you a journalist?

I was a journalist for several years, but I’ve always been a voracious romance reader. I was in the used book store and saw a little flyer that said “Meet Judith McNaught,” so I called to make my reservation and found out the organization hosting the event was a romance writer’s group that offered appointments with New York agents and editors.

With a great deal of naiveté, I thought I’d just sit down and write a novel to present to these agents and editors. The manuscript was, of course, horrible (though I didn’t know it at the time), but I still learned a lot getting from the prologue to the epilogue. With high hopes, I sent it in to New York and it kept getting rejected. The consistent feedback was that I could write, but I needed to learn my craft. It’s kind of like an athlete. You can be the best athlete in the world but if you don’t know the rules of the game, you can’t play.

So I joined Romance Writer’s of America. They’re fabulous for giving, what I consider, the equivalent of a degree in fiction writing. In addition to that, I read how-to books, went to conferences, listened to speakers, and listened to tapes. I joined critique groups and entered contests. I did everything I could because I refused to have any more rejection letters about poor craft.

If the writing’s there, learning the craft was just a matter of discipline. I made up my mind that if they were going to reject me, it was going to be for something other than poor craft. I shelved the manuscript I had thrown together and started Bride.
How long did A Bride Most Begrudging take to write?

It took me three years to write because I would get, like, seven chapters into the book and then I’d go to another, “how-to whatever” seminar and find out that I wasn’t supposed to head hop. I’d have to go back and rewrite those seven chapters over and then continue. I’d have to keep going back rewriting and rewriting to incorporate every the new thing I learned. And that took a while.

How did you come up with the premise for A Bride Most Begrudging?

I have always been fascinated with intriguing little historical tidbits I would find in those historical time-line books, or in an article somewhere. I just stumbled across an article about England wanting to establish the Jamestown area in the 1640s, but the men refused to stay in America without women. The Crown managed to round up about a hundred women to go over voluntarily. Those women became known as “tobacco brides” because the men had to pay for the volunteer’s ship passage with tobacco, the colony’s cash crop.

But that was only one hundred women and there were many more men. So, what the Crown did to appease the other men was to start emptying the prisons of their female felons and ship the women over. They simply sold these felons as brides in exchange for their weight in tobacco leafage, which was approximately around 120 pounds. Many of the ship captains transporting the felons were unethical and every once in a while would kidnap women of high moral character, transport them and sell them.

I went to our local genealogy library, pulled the Virginia 1644 book and started flipping through it. I found an account of a woman who had gone on a ship to say good bye to her uncle who was being transported to America for indentured servitude. The captain grabbed her, threw her in the hole, shipped her over and sold her as a bride. That’s when I thought, “what if” and took it from there. And, so far, that’s where my ideas have come from. Some little bitty nugget in history that intrigues me and I say to myself “what if” and then create a story around it.

How much research did A Bride Most Begrudging take?

I am a really slow reader and so it takes me a while. I can’t even tell you in hours. I would say, easily, half the amount of time I spend on a manuscript is in research and the other half is spent writing it. I have a year now to complete each book. The research is just as in-depth, so I find myself budgeting my time in a very regimented fashion to do as thorough a job on the research as I need to.

Is there going to be a sequel to A Bride Most Begrudging?

It’s a stand alone book. I don’t have any plans at this moment to make a sequel. I left myself open for one, but at this moment, it’s not in the works any time soon.

What is the next title?

My next release will come out between July and September of 2006. We haven’t gotten a solid date yet. It’s called “Sunbonnet Woman.” This novel is set in 1849, San Francisco, during the gold rush. Once again, I picked up a book and read about how the men of the gold rush flooded into San Francisco within a very short amount of time. Most of them left their families home because they planned to run in and grab some gold and run back home.

So, it was like a huge, giant bachelor party and they’re having a really good time. But, they’re really missing their women. Now, there were a few women there, but they weren’t of the respectable bend. You could tell the difference on sight because the respectable women wore sunbonnets to protect their skin. The men even started referring to them as sunbonnet women.

The problem arose when the sunbonnet women decided to civilize the men. They wanted ice cream socials and Sunday school and lending libraries. They pretty much wanted to rain on this territory-wide bachelor party.

So, I thought to myself, “What if you were one of the very first sunbonnet women to hit the shores of California and you were faced with civilizing this entire town of men who were totally out of control and loving every minute of it?”

And therein lies the tale of the Sunbonnet Woman.

Is this book going to be a series?

No, it's also a stand-alone book.

Do you have anything planned beyond the “Sunbonnet Woman”?

Yes. We don’t have a title for those books yet and I don’t want to really talk about them, if that’s okay. I’ve contracted for several with Bethany House, though, so you can watch for them to start coming down the pike about once a year.
Is this a series?

No. I’ve thought about doing series, but there are pros and cons to doing them. And I am usually so exhausted with whatever particular time period I’ve just spent a year immersed in that I don’t even want to thing about going there again. So, for now, I will continue to write stand-alone books.

This actually sounds like the books are based on a pattern of the pioneer women?

And right you are. When I originally pitched my first three novels to Bethany House, I referred to them as my “Woman’s America” series. “A Bride Most Begrudging,” “Sunbonnet Woman,” and the third one due out in 2007, all deal with women in our history who have entered into all-male environments. But even though there is a bridge of sorts between the three novels, they are considered stand-alone books because they don’t deal with the same characters--or offshoots thereof.

How did you come up with your characters?

I played the what-if game and thought to myself, “What’s the worst internal conflict you could possibly face under these circumstances?” So, with my characters, I start with their internal conflict and then build them from the inside out. That’s where the research comes in. It gives me plot points, so I know that if a massacre occurred during the time-frame that I’m writing about, I am sure to incorporate it into the book and into the struggles of my characters.

Who is your favorite character in “A Bride Most Begrudging?”

Oh, golly. I like all my characters, but, I guess I am particularly fond of Drew. And Mary. She was a real sweetheart. And Constance. I enjoyed her. And ... well. I’m beginning to sound like the song that never ends.

How personal are your novels?

I’m sure they are personal. I don’t see how they couldn’t be, but I don’t intentionally make them personal. I couldn’t even pick out what parts of the novels are personal and what parts aren’t. I’m simply not aware of it. If you were to ask my sister, though, she would probably be able to tell you. On second thought, let’s not ask my sister. That could be dangerous.

Who is the person who most influenced your writing?

My parents; I had dyslexia growing up and that was before learning disabilities were identified and compensated for. It was really frustrating because I understood everything verbally, but I couldn’t get the information to go from the paper to my brain. There’s nothing wrong with a dyslexic’s intelligence. It’s a processing thing. So, you recognize there’s something really wrong, but you don’t know what. You don’t realize you’re flip-flopping things. You just know that the words you’re reading are not making sense. It runs in my family, so my parents recognized it very early and they just told me over and over that I was smart and once I learned the information, I could use it. I just needed help deciphering the words on the page.

Still, I would come home from school so frustrated. And that can change into apathy because you just don’t want to face such a daunting task. But my parents kept reinforcing that I could do anything through Christ and that I wasn’t stupid and to persevere. Eventually I outgrew it.
I remember I was a sophomore in high school and Dad was still reading my biology chapters to me. Of course now I found out that one of the best things you can do for dyslexia is to have someone read aloud while you follow along because it trains your eye.

Dad did that my entire life. I think that’s one of the huge reasons, other than God’s grace, that I out-grew it. I’d always been able to write but I couldn’t read. My parents were so in tuned with where my gifts and talents lay that when my dad went to that writers’ conference and called me up and said that he found something I could do, I knew he was onto something.

Once I married and had kids and retired from teaching, I was always trying to help out at home by making us a little extra money. I would do the Pyramid things like the Amways and the chain letters and the 900 numbers. It got to the point where my husband just said, “Please, honey, please don’t make me any more money.” Ha! It was at this point that my parents suggested a writing career. They thought I would be able to excel in this area and do it at home while simultaneously tapping into that entrepreneurial spirit that I have.

What were your favorite books as a child?

Well I didn’t read much. All I would sit still for was my school work. I did manage to suck down a few Nancy Drew books but they were the originals, the 1936 version. Of course, I was in the eighth grade when I was reading those fourth grade level novels. But, I did read them and loved them. I think that’s where I got my love for historical themes because, you know, Nancy Drew was going around in that road-runner in her skirt and heels. I absolutely loved them.

I go back now and there are some really huge words in there and I must have just gleaned over them. I can’t believe I was able to read these. Then I guess when I was sixteen the first adult novel I read was Mary Higgins Clark’s, “Where Are the Children.” She ended each chapter at a peak and then she’d start a new scenario in the next chapter. In order to find out what happened, you’d have to read two or three chapters. By that time you’d have two other chapters that ended in a peak and so it was, like, you could never put it down. I just loved it and really ate it up. Then shortly after that I discovered romance novels and I’ve been a romantic at heart my whole entire life, even with Nancy Drew. I was frustrated with her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. That relationship never moved forward. Not in any of the books. It drove me nuts.

What message would you like your readers to take from A Bride Most Begrudging”?

That’s a really tough question. I can tell you what the theme is but, what message they take away is between them and God. To me I just wrote this book to use my gifts and talents to glorify Him. I just gave it to Him. What He does with it is between Him and the readers.

What's the theme of A Bride Most Begrudging”?

You can overcome fear. And the only way to overcome fear is to release it to the Lord--knowing when you release it, that if He chooses to allow your worst nightmare to come true that He’ll be with you and you can be devastated, but you won’t be defeated.

What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?

That’s easy. To glorify God..

What is your favorite verse from the Bible?

Oh, I hate that question, too, because there are so many good ones. There’s lots and lots of precious ones. I have a different one every day because it’s so dependent on what my circumstances are. I could be going through something and reading and the Lord will just give me this wonderful Scripture and that will be my favorite. I don’t know if I could possibly choose just one.

But if I have to, I’d probably go with the one about love. Romans 8:38-39.

NORA INTERVIEWS DEEANNE

Hi, DeeAnn;
We are reading your book very first book "A Bride Most Begrudging" for our book club pick this month. I just have a few questions for you.


Is your spouse a hands-on or a hands-off partner? How much does he or she have to do with your fiction writing?

When my very first book, A Bride Most Begrudging, arrived in my mailbox, I rushed up to my husband’s study and said, “Look! Look what came in the mail!”

He cradled it in his large hands, heaved a sigh and said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to read it now.”

Ha! When he finally got around to reading it, he was out on an oil rig--of all places--and had to read it under the cover of darkness or those roughnecks would’ve pitched him right over the railing and into the sea. J He emailed me later that week and said--and I quote:“Well, honey, I finished your book. It was really good. I was so surprised!”

LOL. So, naw. My sweetheart is not involved with my writing at all.

How did you get the idea for your first novel "A Bridge Most Begrudging?" Did you come up with the title to the book? If not what was your working title? I love the fact that you put the historical events that were real in the back of the book. I love that I totally entertained and learned something along the way.

I am always on the prowl for interesting little tidbits that occurred in our country’s history. I discovered that the Virginia colonists refused to stay in America unless the Crown sent them some women. The Crown’s solution was to empty the female felons out of their prisons and sell them for their weight in tobacco leafage as brides. From there, my research revealed an instance where a woman was actually kidnapped, transported and sold against her will. I decided to fictionalize what happened to her.

I had titled the book, Tobacco Bride. But “tobacco” was too taboo a word to use in the Christian industry, so the publisher changed it to A Bride Most Begrudging--which I am very happy with, along with that fabulous cover!

I totally love that you write about tough, smart women in your books. How did you come up with the idea for your second book "The Measure of a Lady"? Did you come up with the title of the book? If not what was the working title? I really liked this book as well – powerful message! Was it more difficult to write you second book from your first? Please explain.

I found a book on the half-price table that highlighted the difficulties “respectable” women had when first arriving in a gold rush town full of rowdy men. I wondered what it would have been like for that *very first* woman on the shores of San Francisco, and then built a story around that premise.

The working title I used was Sunbonnet Woman because the respectable women were referred to as “sunbonnets.” A pretty hoo-hum title. I like The Measure of a Lady MUCH better (also thought of by my publisher). Love that cover, too!

Writing the second book was the hardest book I’ve ever written because it is the first time I had a deadline for a book. I felt as if that big finger that Uncle Sam has was pointing at me and saying, “Be Creative!” I also worried that Bride was just a fluke and that I didn’t have what it took to write any more novels. Since then I’ve heard that is such a common reaction of new writers that it is called the “sophomore slumps.”

In your third book "Courting Trouble" I really didn't expect Elsie to go to places she went in that story. How hard was that for you to write? I recovered because of how you handled the ending of the story. The message and how you described it was really good. I loved how you had Essie become who she was meant to be not just in per suite of someone's wife. What parts of that story were easy to write which ones were difficult? Why?

I didn’t expect Essie to go the places she went, either. I originally had every intention of having a traditional ending, but while I was working on Essie’s character arc and praying over it, I realized that my character thought she wasn’t a whole person without a man. The Lord stopped me and said He had several gals (real ones) who thought the same thing.

I put my pencil down, telling Him how sad that was because all those girls needed was Him. He agreed, then told me that is what He’d like my main character to learn. I immediately began to argue with Him, stressing this was a romance and if my character’s big epiphany at the end was that she didn’t need a man, then ... where would the romance come in?

But the Lord was through talking. He said what He had to say. Now He expected obedience. I knew, in theory, it was literary suicide to write a romance where the girl didn’t get her guy at the end, but the only thing I fear more than having one of my books fail, is being disobedient to the Lord. So ... that’s why Essie doesn’t get her man at the end.

In your book "Deep in the Heart of Trouble" again I loved how you continued the story of Essie from the first book. I liked how you showed a different side of Essie and how both main characters struggled about who they were and who they wanted to be! Was that difficult to write? What was your inspiration in writing the two main characters Essie and Tony Morgan?

I wanted to make sure that at the start of the book Essie had been walking joyfully in her singleness for 4 years and was so fulfilled that when the Lord brought a flesh-and-blood man into her life she was rather resistant to the whole thing.

Deep was great fun to write. I had done a TON of research about the oil industry, but Essie’s bicycle club took over so much of the book that I never had a chance to refine the oil, ship it off on a train, market it or any of the other things I wanted to do. I think that was actually the hardest part about writing Deep--leaving out all that cool research.

Can you tell us what you are working on now? When will it be out?

My next historical is called A Bride in the Bargain. I’m really excited about it for two reasons. The first is: Bethany House is putting my 19 yo daughter on the cover of this book!!!! Is that so fun?

Second, it is a great adventure that takes place in 1866 Washington Territory. The east coast wanted to settle the west coast, so the government established a Land Donation Act offering 320 acres of land FREE to any man in the Territory who would settle there. But if you had a wife ... then you’d get 640 acres!

Well, of course, all the men immediately wanted wives so they’d qualify for the 640 acres. But there were no single women. So an entrepreneur collected $300 (each) from several Washington bachelors promising to bring them a bride from the east (where there were lots of Civil War widows and orphans).

When this entrepreneur arrives in Pennsylvania, he tells the women that he’d guarantee them JOBS as domestics, nannies or teachers. Never mentions anything about being brides.

Bottom line: He puts them on a boat, sails clear around the Horn and drops them off in Seattle. The women go knocking on the door of their “employer” expecting a job only to find when he opens that door that he is expecting a bride. J That actually occurred. I fictionalized what happened to one of those girls.A Bride in the Bargain comes out this June. (Actually, all my books come out in June.)

What was the first film you remember seeing as a child? What impact did it have on you?
The Sound of Music. That was back in the day when we dressed up in our Sunday clothes to go to the movies. J That movie pulled at every romantic bone I have in my body. Even at that young age I was a romantic at heart. I decided right then and there that when I grew up I wanted to be Maria Van Trapp.

Problem was, I couldn’t sing. Ha! I did, however, grow up and tell my husband I wanted seven kids--I was serious, too. He looked at me askance and said, “Only four.”

And four it was. To this day I have The Sound of Music soundtrack in my car and on my iPod. And I also get on my knees daily and PRAISE GOD that I don’t have seven kids!!!!! J

What is your FAVORITE books? Why?
My all time favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird. It was the first time I actually read a book before I saw the movie. It didn’t have a romance in it--though there was the potential for one (shame on Lee for not developing that)--but the entire story pulled at me. So masterfully written. So poignant. So eye-opening for a young, sheltered Southern girl. Loved, loved, loved it.

My all time favorite romance is a secular one by LaVyrle Spencer called Years. Spencer is at the top of her craft when it comes to historical romance and everything about that story appealed to me. When my big sister read it, she emailed me and said, “LOL. I got such a kick out of reading Years. No wonder you love that story--the heroine is you, from the top of her head to the tips of her boots.”

I emailed her back with one word: “Busted.” J
Word of caution: It’s secular, so if you don’t have a tolerance for that kind of thing, don’t read it.

Thanks DeeAnn for taking the time to stop by and answer a few of my questions. All the best to you.

Nora :D


Some links to check out for a live interview with DeeAnne Gist
http://www.mylifetime.com/lifestyle/entertainment/romance-buy-the-book/video/1641831768/1670007868

http://www.mylifetime.com/lifestyle/entertainment/romance-buy-the-book/video/1641831768/1670007904

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