Trish Perry’s Interview

» Posted on Apr 11, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Trish Perry’s Interview

1. What made you start writing?

I always enjoyed dabbling, Margaret, and I’ve come across some dreadful, stinking short stories from my past, which I wrote without any great ambition. It wasn’t until I went back to school to get a Psychology degree that I noticed how much I enjoyed writing. My basic English and Composition courses really brought that awareness to the forefront. And a number of my professors gave me encouragement about my writing, which fueled the desire. By the time I finished my degree, I had already changed my mind about what I wanted to do when I grew up (even though I was already middle aged).

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

I started writing seriously around 1994. I signed my first book contract in 2005. I don’t want to discourage anyone with that broad span of time. Quicker “success” is possible; I just had a few other priorities during the early part of that decade, and the Lord knew I couldn’t handle childrearing, writing, and laundry all at once.

3. How do you handle rejections?

I do a pretty good Eeyore impersonation for about half an hour. Then I go into denial for a short sprint, branding the “rejecter” as a big fat meanie. Then I grow up (I’m still middle aged and still growing up, for Pete’s sake—that’s the second time I’ve mentioned it within three questions), and I take into consideration any comments the “rejecter” might have been kind enough to share. Then I get cracking at making improvements on the rejected piece, if necessary, and move on, listening for God’s guidance.

4. Why do you write?

Good golly, it’s just so much fun! There isn’t a real writer out there who doesn’t get a total buzz out of throwing words together to achieve a mood, a laugh, a good story, a complex character, or an “ah ha!” moment for the reader. The idea of spilling out, then crafting, words, which someone else will absorb and enjoy . . . that’s just a gift from God. And when something one writes goes beyond that—causes the reader to reflect, grow, empathize, or draw closer to the Lord—wow. They don’t even make roller coasters with that kind of thrill.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Something else artistic, but I’ve tried most of those outlets, and writing was the one that stuck. I’ve painted a bit, I sing, I dance (when no one’s looking now, but I was a big disco queen, honey), I’ve sewn wedding gowns and done needlepoint, I’ve done home decorating, I’ve scrapbooked, I gourmet cook. Everything short of sculpting nudes with Play-Doh, I’ve done it. Of course, if I had more free time, I’d also fill it with more reading.

6. What are you working on right now?

Three different projects. I’m just now setting aside the first project—a third book to my current series. The working title is ‘Til Depth Do Us Part, and it involves two characters who are featured in my first two published novels. I’ve had many readers ask about what happened to these two characters, and I want very much to write their story.

But. My publisher is interested in my focusing on a possible new stand-alone or a series based upon an imaginary book title mentioned in my second novel. In my second novel (Too Good to Be True), the heroine is reading a chick lit book that doesn’t actually exist. My editor loved the title and would like to see the actual novel come to fruition. So, I’ve started working out a storyline for that. Fun. And I like the inside-joke quality of that idea.

And the third project is a five-book series that my agent and I have bandied about. I’m excited about that project, too!

None of these projects is yet contracted, so I’m leaning on God’s guidance and blessing there.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Not intentionally, but I don’t think we can help but do a bit of that. I definitely pay attention to moments and dialogue in my real life that translate well into print. But my novels aren’t autobiographical.

On the other hand, neither am I one of those authors who over-mystifies the whole writing process. I mean, my characters definitely have their own personalities and often take my stories in directions I hadn’t expected. But, hello? They’re all coming out of my own little head. They’re not running the show; I am. Every unexpected turn is still the result of my own thoughts and subconscious drives. That stuff about fictional characters taking over the author’s story? (Oh, my, she has a gun! I didn’t expect her to have a gun! Or Gee, I hope my characters are going to be comfortable if my sister stays with us this summer.) What bunk. If my characters were that real, I’d get them to help with the housework.

We authors need to give God credit for creating us with complex, interesting minds that provide us with character traits and plot twists that surprise even us. In that sense, we always put some of ourselves into our books and characters.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

Too Good to Be True addresses how love and life can unfold in surprising ways. Our heroine, Rennie Young, meets the gallant Truman Sayers, a handsome young labor-and delivery nurse, after she faints in the boys’ department of her local Wal-Mart. Ren has just experienced one too many stressors in her life, so awakening to someone like Tru seems like a gift from God. But a recent divorce and other life disappointments cause Ren to question whether she can trust her heart and God.

And then there are their mothers . . .

While Ren and Tru develop a romance that seems too good to be true, they face obstacles in the form of their strong-willed mothers and their own human imperfections. Although the novel addresses some serious subjects, such as divorce, infidelity, adoption, and infertility, it is romantic comedy with that chick lit flair, like its predecessor, The Guy I’m Not Dating. Family relationships, with all their humor and angst, color Ren’s story and (I hope) make for a fun read.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you know you’ve been called to write, just stick with it. If you aren’t sure you’ve been called, try not writing. The Lord will draw you back, repeatedly, if that’s what He wants from you. And if He draws you to it, then embrace writing now—don’t expect your work to be more valid once you’re published. Your work is valid now.

That said, learn your craft and keep learning it forever. Get connected with other authors through local writers’ groups and online organizations (American Christian Fiction Writers is a fantastic group). And submit, submit, submit. Expect rejection, pray for acceptance. And go to Him every morning, before you even begin.

Something I’ve said in past interviews bears repeating here. Our God is not a God of discouragement. If He wants you doing something other than writing, He certainly isn’t going to tell you through repeated rejections. He will simply draw you to something else.

10. How important is faith in your books?

I can’t imagine writing an entire book about people without incorporating faith in the story. There would be no point. My books certainly aren’t road-to-conversion stories, but God is the umbrella over everything that happens to my characters. If I had a hero or heroine who wasn’t a believer in the beginning of the story and he or she didn’t find the Lord at some point, I would consider that a loose thread, a lack of change in the worst possible sense. Unless I had a sequel coming out, the book would feel shallow to me.

When I read secular fiction, I suspend that requirement. But I couldn’t write that way.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

My stories tend to use everyday life and personal relationships to demonstrate our need for trusting in God. Our need for God, period. We humans are such a kick. We can read our Bibles, study the Lord’s tenets, dedicate every day to Him, yet we still make such a mess of things just by being human. I like to grab at that human frailty and present it in a humorous setting so that readers will enjoy identifying or at least empathizing with my characters. I hope what I write helps readers to grow in their faith or at least to grow in their acceptance of others.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

That’s tough. I haven’t written that many books! I’d have to say my current release, Too Good to Be True, is probably my favorite, because I was able to put more time into it, so I feel the characters and story are a bit more developed. I wrote it before The Guy I’m Not Dating, and I actually only set out to write a romantic comedy, rather than a chick lit. That’s why Ren isn’t all wrapped up in her career or high fashion. She’s more focused on the various relationships in her life, which I find more interesting reading.

13. You deal with relationships in your books, not just a man and a woman, but child with parents, friends. How do you handle this in your books?

When I do my initial character studies, I develop the family and friends of the character as well, since those people play a large role in shaping who my character is. Those sub-developments aren’t as detailed, of course, but the more influence a secondary character has on my heroine, the deeper I delve into that secondary character’s psyche.

As I plot out the basic storyline, my heroine’s interactions with those characters are natural occurrences in her life, so they become natural factors in the plot itself. If I ever catch myself forgetting about one of the secondary characters, I make the decision to either add interaction where it’s missing or remove that character altogether.

14. What is your writing schedule like?

I’m a self-admittedly deadline-driven author. I love writing, but I’m easily distracted by life in general and by time-wasting writing (emails, blog surfing, etc.). When I have a deadline, though, I sense my inner drill sergeant and get the job done. That involves spending time in silent prayer and Bible study in the morning, then a little warm-up (usually involving answering emails—a girl’s gotta have some contact with the outside world), then I dive in. I break for a quick lunch, for a homemade latte break around three o’clock, and usually for the evening around six, to make dinner. If I’m lagging, production-wise, I’ll go back to work after dinner, but usually the evening is family time.

I write a chapter at a time, which I send to my crit partners while I get started on the next. I’ve written at a chapter-a-day speed and at a chapter-a-week speed, depending upon when my manuscript is due. I’d like to be more regular with my efforts—that’s one of the things I pray about each morning!

15. Have you ever used your background in your writing-example having a stockbroker as a character?

My first novel, which isn’t published yet, involves a young woman who works for attorneys (as I once did) and who spends quite a bit of time under the care of a psychiatrist. I drew on my Psychology degree in writing the counseling sessions, as I also did for the school guidance counselor sessions in Too Good to Be True. And other influences in my background play out in countless ways in my stories. My daughter and her husband are funky-but-wholesome types who work in the hair industry, so I come across plenty of cool young people and fashions. I’ve been a single mom, a divorcee, a victim of infidelity, and many other roles that have colored the people in my books. Again, so much of what we write, although not autobiographical, is the product of who we are, whether we like it or not!