Nancy Mehl’s interview

» Posted on Dec 9, 2008 in Blog | Comments Off on Nancy Mehl’s interview

If you want to be entered in the drawing for Nancy’s book Cozy in Kansas, please leave a comment with your email address or email me at The drawing ends Sunday evening.

Nancy’s interview:

1. What made you start writing?

Actually, I began writing when I was very young. It was definitely spurred on by my love of reading. Even in grade school, I could check five books out of the library and take them back the next day. I fell in love with books. Writing seemed like a natural transition.

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

I got serious about writing novels when I was forty, so it’s been fifteen years now. (Whoops! Just gave away my age!) I’d been watching Murder, She Wrote, and I thought, “Hey, that’s what I want to do!”

Selling my first book didn’t actually lead to publishing my first book. Unfortunately, I got caught up with a small publisher who breached our contract. I left them and got involved with a large POD publisher who released my first novel, Graven Images, in 1998. From there, I published two more novels with smaller publishers. I signed with Barbour in 2005. I count the small publishers as actual publishing credits, but not the large POD company since they publish almost anyone who submits to them. Barbour is the largest publisher I’ve ever signed with. I absolutely love working with them.

3. How do you handle rejections?

Not as badly as some. I tried to learn from them. Almost every rejection added to my ability to improve my writing skills. Of course, a few times I had to “reject the rejections.” After you write for a while, you begin to learn your strengths and weaknesses. It helps you to sort through all the opinions out there. I can tell now what rings true and what doesn’t. And I’ve also begun to see that there are no absolutely “right” answers. Some things boil down to style and judgment.

One important thing I’d like to say about rejection: it can either make you or break you. Writing takes a tough skin and the ability to keep going. I’ve seen quite a few good writers fall by the wayside because they couldn’t handle rejection or criticism. It’s sad because I’m certain if they’d hung on, they would have been published eventually.

4. Why do you write?

I write because I truly believe I’m called to it. And I love it. At this point in my life, it’s just part of who I am.

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

Good question! I’m already working part time in social services and running a volunteer group. Maybe I’d sleep? LOL!

Seriously, I’d probably be much more involved in activities with my church. I used to love to work in the church, but I really believe that writing is my ministry now – what I’m called to. It’s important to stay where God plants you. It’s hard to not jump into other things, but if I tried to step into an area where I’m not supposed to be, I’d hurt myself, the person who is supposed to be there, and the ministry. I don’t want to do that. Sometimes it’s harder to say “no” than it is to say “yes.” Hopefully, someday I’ll be able to quit my job. That way I could write AND perhaps get more involved in my church. Of course, that’s all up to God.

6. What are you working on right now?

I’m starting a new series with Barbour. The Curl Up and Dye mysteries will introduce Hilde Higgins, a young woman with a strange job. You could say she “sees dead people.” Hilde is a hairdresser for funeral homes. I’ve finished MISSING MABEL, the first book in the series. It will come out in Barbour’s mystery book club ( in the summer of ’09. Right now, I’m writing, BUMPING OFF BINKY, the second novel. These books will release to the public later next year.

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

Absolutely. I believe every author does. Our experiences and beliefs shape our characters. It isn’t true that you should always “write what you know,” but when it comes to expressing inner thoughts and motives, understanding them helps to bring a note of realism to your writing.

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

COZY IN KANSAS is a compilation book that contains the first three Ivy Towers mysteries. Ivy Towers is a young college student from a large city who is called back to Winter Break, Kansas to settle the estate of her great aunt, Bitty Flanagan. Bitty owned a rare bookstore for many years, and Miss Bitty’s Bygone Bookstore has been left to Ivy. She intends to take care of her aunt’s funeral arrangements, decide what to do with her possessions, and get back to school. However, things change when she discovers that Bitty may have been murdered. And an old boyfriend resurfaces, complicating things even more.

The three Ivy Towers mysteries, IN THE DEAD OF WINTER, BYE, BYE BERTIE, and FOR WHOM THE WEDDING BELL TOLLS, tell the story of Ivy’s life in Winter Break over two years’ time.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes. Make certain you’re writing for the right reasons. Wanting to be an author because you think it’s glamorous or because it will make you rich will send you down the wrong path. It comes with lots of rejection and loads of hard work. (And only a few authors make enough money to support themselves and their families.)

I believe everyone has a calling. Find yours. If you truly believe you’re supposed to write, just remember that it will take a huge commitment. You can’t put in the kind of time it requires unless you are willing to make sacrifices. However, if you believe you’re on the right path, go for it. And never give up. I’ve had plenty of chances to quit, and I’ve watched many good writers fall by the wayside out of frustration. Remember that adversity can make you stronger. It can be a very positive thing.

10. How important is faith in your books?

Very important. If I couldn’t share my faith, I wouldn’t be writing. I don’t believe in burying God-given talents in the ground. Seems like there might be a parable about that?

11. What themes do you like to write about?

I find that the themes in my books tend toward redemption, forgiveness, and finding the love of God. Too many people think God is mad at them. An unfortunate teaching has circulated through the church and to the world that God does terrible things to His children to “teach them a lesson.” That couldn’t be further from the reality of who He is. I try to weave the truth of God’s love throughout everything I write.

I’ve also noticed that most of my characters have relationships that have been broken because of hurt and unforgiveness. So restoration is also an important theme.

I pray and think about specific themes before I write every book. I try to envision one particular person out there who is facing a mountain. Then I write for them. I’ve received several comments from readers saying that something in one of my books reached out and touched them and their situation. That’s the best part of being an author.

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

Man, that’s a tough question. One Ivy Towers novel had a particular theme that ran through it that meant a lot to me. God gave me a special way to present it. In FOR WHOM THE WEDDING BELL TOLLS, the message was: There is no one so broken that God cannot mend them.

I must say, however, that the new series I’m writing means a great deal to me. My protagonist has a friend who is into New Age philosophy. Bringing her out of a belief system that can’t give her the love she’s looking for – and presenting her with the good news of the Gospel, should send a powerful message. My hope is that readers who don’t know God will identify with this character.

13. What is your writing schedule like?

Very, very rigid. It has to be. I get up at seven in the morning and spend time with God. Then I write from nine to noon. From noon to five, I work at my “other job.” If I get behind in my writing, I use the weekend to catch up. I’m blessed to have my “work office” in my home, so switching over is easy. But all it takes is a doctor’s appointment or some other errand to disrupt my schedule and cause problems. I’ve become rather reclusive. I’m unable to accept many lunch invitations. I just don’t have the time.

Someday, I believe I’ll be able to write full time. I’m trusting God for that. My days would be much easier!

Thanks, Margaret for the interview. God bless you!