Help me welcome Wilburta Arrowood, author of For The Love Of A Child.
Every reader likes to learn more about characters as they get further into the story. How do the secrets of your characters come to life?
I try to write the characters actions as true to life as possible. I think about how a person would react to a certain situation and base the character’s responses on that knowledge, and of course, it is important to keep chronological and age appropriate issues in mind as well.
Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters. What an interesting question and how difficult to answer! I like to think my characters are unique personalities, but when I do the evaluation mentioned above, I’m sure a good bit of my personality and moral principles come through to the page. On the other hand, if I am writing a villain, I would pray that aspect comes from observing others rather than directly from me. That is not to say I don’t have a few undesirable traits, but I’m working on those, and in all probability my villain would not only not be doing so, he would probably be oblivious to the need.
Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins, or do you have to tweeze each word out? Yes and yes. Some days things come very easily, and others it is almost impossible to get anything usable on a page. Usually, though, I think about the scenes before I sit down to write and they come fairly easily. Editing may not be so easy, though.
What led you to the career choice of becoming a writer? I loved to read, and I saw a need for clean women’s fiction. Many of the romances on the market are too graphic for my taste and that of many of my friends. I wanted more of what I liked to read.
Have you had to overcome any obstacles in your writing journey? Of course. When I started getting serious about writing, I had no background in the field and I spent years reading and studying how-to books, going to conferences and writer’s meetings and absorbing everything I possibly could. I worked full time, so I had to squeeze in writing time around my job and family and church responsibilities. Often the only time I could squeeze out was a few minutes on my lunch break. Once I had a manuscript completed, finding a publisher willing to take on my “voice” and theme was another hurdle to be conquered. I waited several years before that happened.
What are some of the spiritual themes you like to write about? I like to tackle tough emotional issues. My first book deals with anger, bitterness and revenge, and then redemption. The second deals with good folks getting caught up into a gambling addiction and the struggle to do what feels good and what is right.
How long have you known that you wanted to be novelist? Most of my life, but for many years I did not really believe I would ever be able to get anything published. I knew I could write, but I heard friends speak of all their rejection letters and how devastated they were, and I doubted my work would ever be “good enough.”
We’d love to hear a little about yourself and your writing journey. I started writing while in school, then as my family grew I quit, but still had the desire. At one point I saw a notice in the newspaper about a conference to be held here in my home town. There was a contact person to call and she strongly urged me to attend. I did and from there I learned of a local writer’s group, other conferences and networking opportunities. I became involved and eventually developed enough confidence to join a critique group and start sending material out.
What is the hardest part after the book is published? Doing my own publicity. I am by nature a shy person—although I have learned to be rather assertive. Many people think once the book is published you are done and can go on and write the next. Not so. Few houses have a publicity budget for new writers. Whatever money they spend is to promote their “big” names. A new author does not have to do her own promotion, but if the book does not sell well, she won’t sell another. Publishing is a business, and they are not there to stroke your ego. You make money for the company, or they don’t spend their dollars on you again. It is that simple.
What is your most difficult problem with writing at this time in your career? Keeping the material fresh and determining that indefinable “what the editors want right now.” I never “write to the market,” i.e. follow the current fad, because it changes moment to moment, but I do try to follow basic guidelines.
How are your inspirational Women's Fiction different from other titles out there? I have included specific doctrinal issues in my books, and most inspirational houses want what I call “generic Christianity” without doctrinal specifics. I knew that, and I knew that is a dollar-based decision, since they want to reach the broadest audience possible, but my story required specifics.
What are you working on right now? I am working mostly on short stories for Christian magazines, due to some external issues I am dealing with currently. I find it very difficult to concentrate on book length works right now, but I MUST write, so I am doing the shorts.
What other books of yours are coming out soon? Nothing currently. I do have some books started, but as I said, they are on the back burner for the moment.
What is the most important thing on your current ‘To Do ‘ list? Keep writing. Don’t let the flame die.
How long did you work toward publication? Over 20 years. I’ve been told you have to write a million words before being published. I’m sure I did at least that many times a few dozen.
What three things do you know now about the publishing world that you wish you knew when you first started? 1. Read the guidelines, go to conferences and listen to the editors tell what they want. 2. Just because you have a brilliant manuscript that exactly meets their guidelines does not mean they will buy your work. They may have purchased one of lesser quality just the day before, but they are already committed to it. 3. Don’t quit. 4. Read the guidelines and don’t quit. 5. Read the guidelines and don’t quit.
Has being an author been everything you thought it would be? If not, what has surprised you the most? Yes, however I did learn long before I was published not to expect to get rich. Particularly with small presses, the monetary rewards are not always the glamorous picture many paint, but the thrill of being in print and having my work be beneficial to others makes it well worthwhile for me.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Everything in life can spark an idea. “What if--” becomes a very powerful tool when you apply it to many mundane happenings. Sermons often spark ideas for me. Walking in the mall, watching people, overhearing conversations in restaurants, newspaper articles, newscasts, everything and anything can send my mind off and running.
What has been the hardest part of writing your latest book and how did you overcome it? Finding a realistic resolution without it seeming contrived is always difficult. Just because something really happens in life does not mean a reader will believe it in a book. Thus, finding something believable is often a challenge. I brainstorm with friends and my husband. He has a great “off the wall” perspective sometimes, and although I usually can’t use those ideas, it often sparks something new in my brain.
What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst? Write what you know was the best. You will usually get things right if you know what you are talking about. Write what you know was also the worst advice I ever got. We can research and learn many things and thus broaden our own horizons as well as that of our readers. I cannot imagine a historical writer starting out “knowing” all she writes about, but she has researched and learned and thus, now knows her topic well. Don’t limit yourself to just what you know now. Learn new things and know those too.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels? How hard it would be. Writing novels is not for sissies!
If time and money did not enter in the equation, what would be your dream? I would like to be able to travel the world and spread God’s love to people who need it so desperately. That would include the gospel, but I would like to be able to meet the needs of food, clothing and shelter as well.
If you could only take five books with you on a journey of ten years, which ones would you take? The Bible, a dictionary, a first aid book, a bible dictionary, and Halley’s Bible Handbook. I know, boring to many, but I love bible study. I think I could spend the rest of my life and not comprehend all there is there to learn, and the first aid book might keep me out of really deep trouble.
What do you write besides books? I’ve written “The Little Book of Church Manners” which is just a small pamphlet, and I write short inspirational stories and articles for Christian magazines. For several years I was the editor for my local writer’s organization newsletter, so I have also written a few how-to-write articles and some on copyright issues, etc.
Tell us about your family and your ministry. I am married and my husband is an elder in our local congregation. Our children are grown and we do enjoy our grandchildren and great grands. I speak at ladies days and retreats and of course, so much of the day to day, like preparing meals for the sick, visitation, etc. I occasionally teach our ladies bible class. We are retired and we travel a good bit and try to encourage small congregations when we visit. I grew up in a tiny church, and I know their struggles. If I can be an encouragement to those folks, I want to do so.
What movie most impacted you as a kid? I’m not sure I remember enough to comment on a specific movie. I remember I loved the Saturday morning westerns because the good guy always won.
If you had 48 hours to hang out with any TWO people (besides Jesus), alive or dead in the history of the world who would you hang out with and what would you do? My husband and a widowed friend. We would laugh and giggle and visit, and when needed we’d pray together, all day long. We might snack on munchies, but probably wouldn’t have many real meals, because we would be having too much fun.
If you were planning a party with Christian authors of contemporary fiction, what six people would you invite and why? Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Christine Lynxwiler, Deborah Raney, Beverly Lewis, and Angela Elwell Hunt, because theirs is the fiction I currently enjoy the most. That list might change as I read the stack of books by my bedside, though.
Now let’s do that for a party for Christian authors of historical fiction, what six people would you invite and why? Angela Elwell Hunt, Janette Oke, Francine Rivers, Lori Wick, Tracie Peterson, Lynn Cote. I love the way these women write and make the characters and setting seem real.
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why? Jesus, because I still have so very much to learn.
What three things are you most thankful for in your life that others might think silly? A little dog who loves me and my husband unconditionally, a warm water bed on a cold night, ice cream on a hot day!
What is the most fun thing you have ever done? Made a month long driving trip to Alaska and back. That was AWESOME!
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading. I most enjoy clean romances, but I read al lot of self-help, technical how-to for my computer programs, mysteries—I prefer cozies, but read the gory ones, too now and then, a bit of paranormal—although I do not usually enjoy those as much as other genres.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? Yes, I used to read everything that came along. Now I am more selective, but if someone recommends a book I usually ask why they like it, then if I think I would learn something, I read to analyze how I can hone my writing to their level. I do still do some recreational reading, but again, I am more selective.
Other than the Bible, what is your all time favorite book? That is an impossible question. I think I enjoyed Francine River’s Mark of the Lion series as much as any, but then I discovered Karen Kingsbury and I had new favorites. It would be impossible for me to pick favorites because I enjoy almost everything I read and the book I’m reading at that moment is my favorite, until I pick up another.
When did you first discover that you were a writer? Am I one? ;-) I think the first I realized I might be a writer was when a teacher gave me high praise for a poem I wrote in high school.
What other books have you written, whether published or not? I have not completed other books. I have one about a fire fighter started, and one centered around a woman considering euthanasia that is about 2/3 completed.
How do you keep your balance in today’s busy world? In a nutshell, I don’t! I try to determine specific times for specific tasks, but to quote a friend, “When the phone rings, we determine what we will be doing that day.” My husband has responsibilities with our church and when he is called out, I often go with him, or have an in home duty that corresponds, and right now that takes priority over my writing career. I know that is not the way it is supposed to be, but at this point in our life, this is so.
What are the five best things writers can do to meet the challenges of the 21st century? 1. Learn the craft 2. Go to conferences and network 3. Find a good critique group 4. Study the market 5. Finish the book!
What can you tell authors who have been receiving only rejections from publishers? Find a good knowledgeable critique group and listen to their input. They may not share your vision, but they will be able to help you with technical issues.
What would you tell an aspiring writer? Write!
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful? Write, study the market, and be persistent. I can’t emphasize the study the market comment enough. Often you will get unique insight by attending conferences, or listening to other published authors. For example there is a house which requires the hero and heroine meet on the first three pages of the manuscript. You won’t find that in the guidelines, but the authors who are published by that house can tell you it is so. There are other unique quirks for various houses, and you need to know those things before you submit. Editors may also disclose those kinds of requirements or preferences in conference workshops. Listen to them. They want you to succeed. It makes a difference in their bottom line as well as yours.
Is there an area in your writing that you are working on developing more? All of them. We never learn it all, and there is always room for improvement.
If you could recommend only one ‘How To Writing Book’ what would it be? Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. It is technical and sometimes hard to follow, but the man knows his stuff.
Tell us about your story. In a sentence:
For the Love of a Child is a story of anger, bitterness, revenge, and redemption. Margaret Ceradsky becomes a Christian, but still hunts the man responsible for her daughter’s death.
Margaret’s daughter has died, and Margaret wants revenge. She spends her life looking for the man responsible, because she intends to make him pay big time. When she becomes a Christian how does she reconcile all that anger and bitterness with her new faith? That man is still responsible and her daughter is still dead!
How did you choose your characters’ names? I chose some from the phone book, some from baby naming books, paying attention to meanings of the names, and some just popped into my head when I introduced them on the page and the names “just fit.”
What gave you the inspiration for this story? My husband and I fostered abused children for over 20 years, and I built up a lot of anger at their plights. Writing Margaret’s anger helped me dispel my own.
How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?
My own anger was an influence when I wrote of Margaret’s feelings, but her story is all her own. I never had a child die. I never sought revenge against anyone, and I was a Christian long before we began fostering children.
If your hero/heroine were a pie, what kind would he/she be and why? Heroine would be gooseberry—bitter sweet Hero would be cherry—a little tart, but all good. ;-)
Are there any themes inFor the Love of a Child that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed? Revenge is not so sweet as it seems at first. God can turn a very bad situation into a blessing when you least expect it.
How do you choose your settings for each book? I tend to write what I know. Both my published books take place in my section of the Kansas City area where I lived.
What were your most difficult parts to write? The anger.
Your favorite? The resolution.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book? God loves you and his pattern for life is the most rewarding we can possibly find.
Who would you say are your readers? Predominantly adult women, however I have had several men tell me they read it, or their wife read it to them, and they really enjoyed it.
And what kinds of things can readers expect from your books? I hope they find believable characters dealing with realistic issues in ways that will help the reader find a richer life.
What are the best and worst things to research and writing? I can sit and research for hours and love to “visit” other places and times, but that takes away from my writing time.
Introduce your story with the first page.
For The Love Of A Child
By Wilburta ArrowoodMargaret Ceradsky stared at the shaft of sunlight which illuminate the lid of her daughter's casket. How dare God be so cheerful on this day.
Margaret watched the preacher's eyebrows lift and fall as he spoke. His hands fluttered back and forth, and she heard the fluctuations of his voice, but the impact of his words was lost on her. What could he possible say to ease her agony? Had he ever lost an only child? Had he sat day after day and watched his beautiful daughter waste away? Could he even begin to guess how Margaret hated Andrew Bartimus?
Margaret blinked when she realized the preacher had paused a moment for prayer. Tears no longer flowed from her eyes, for the ducts had dried long ago. Over a year ago to be exact. She remembered the day her beautiful Angela had come home and said, "Mom, we have to talk."
Margaret tried to listen to the preacher, but she couldn't concentrate. She counted all the potted plants at the front of the room.
Margaret glanced across the chapel aisle and saw Angela's doctor sitting in a pew, eyes focused on the preacher, who continued to drone on about God's love and forgiveness.
Rage raced through Margaret. What did Angela need to be forgiven for? She was only twenty-three, and there she lay in that white, satin-lined box with pink gladiolus and baby's breath draped across the lid.
A secret delight ran through her at the thought of one Andrew Bartimus burning in hell for all eternity.
Twenty-nine plants. She tried to concentrate on the preacher's words. Margaret's hands ground into one another. The whole universe seemed at peace, almost joyful, and she resented it. She swallowed the bile that rose in her throat. Dust particles danced in the sunbeam that had shifted to the floor.
The preacher said something about repentance and eternal joy.
Margaret was positive Andy would never repent, and she could, at will, call up a visual image of huge buckets of Satan's red pulsating jewels raining down on Andrew's dark head. His hair singed and smoked, and the skin on his ears blistered, broke and oozed fluid. His lips were cracked, and he lifted his hands in silent plea for a sip of water. Margaret held the sweat-covered pitcher of ice water just beyond his reach and smiled before she told him, "Burn in hell for all eternity, you fiend."
God would never forgive Andrew Bartimus, and Margaret didn't intend to even try. Somewhere out there Andrew continued to live his life and do his evil deeds, but her Angela, her once beautiful Angela, lay here in a metal box soon to be shut away from the light of day forever.
Yes, Margaret promised, you will burn in hell, Andrew Bartimus, but first I'm going to find you and make you pay in this life for what you've done. I WILL find you, and you will wish you could die.
Where can we find you on the web?
For the Love of a Child
For the Love of Money
You can order Wilburta Arrowood's books through her web site. Support a great Christian author by purchasing her book. http://www.wilburtaarrowood.com
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Wilburta, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing with us.