Jeanette Windle’s interview

» Posted on Jun 18, 2009 in Blog | 3 comments


This week I’m hosting Tina Ann Forkner with Rose House and Jeanette Windle with Veiled Freedom. If you want to enter the drawing for the book, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at margaretdaley@gmail.com. The drawings end Sunday (June 21st) evening.

Jeanette Windle’s interview:

1. What made you start writing?

Writing has always been such a part of my life, I can’t remember ever consciously wanting to write. The missionary kid boarding school I attended in the Venezuelan Andes put great emphasis on proper composition (we were doing term papers with footnotes in junior high), and we spent far too much time writing to ever daydream about it. I was newspaper editor and yearbook copy editor in high school. In college I did some short stories, then as a young missionary, my writing was mainly prayer letters and ministry material.

I can say wrote my first book literally out of boredom. My husband and I were the only expatriates at the time in the southern Bolivia city where we were living, working with a Christian ministry organization. While my husband was on traveling through the Andes mountains for two weeks at a time. I was stuck at home with three preschoolers, no car, TV, radio. Once my preschoolers were in bed, I had only the handful of English-language books I’d read dozens of times. I finally decided if I had nothing to read, I’d write a book instead.

That became Kathy and the Redhead, a children’s novel based on my growing-up years at boarding school. The book was published by TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission), my parents’ mission that ran the boarding school. Writing it rekindled my love of creative writing, and I’ve never really stopped since.

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

See above for the first question. After Kathy and the Redhead, I began writing Spanish-language material for women and children at risk as well as writing as a journalist for a variety of international and Christian ministry publications. I also began working on a young adult mystery/suspense series set in a multi-cultural background. Multnomah published my first CBA title, Adventures in South America, in 1994 (a story in itself how that came about from Bolivia). That eventually grew to the six-book Parker Twins Series, published some years later by Kregel Publications.

My first adult fiction release, CrossFire, set in the counter-narcotics war in Bolivia, was released in July, 2000. Then came a teen novel, Jana’s Journal, and a second political/suspense novel, The DMZ, set in the guerrilla warfare in Colombia, followed by, FireStorm, a sequel to CrossFire. My first Tyndale House Publishers title, Betrayed, was released in 2008. My newest Tyndale release, Veiled Freedom, set in Afghanistan, is hitting bookstores right now.

3. How do you handle rejections?

Like most authors, I suspect, I collected a hefty file of rejection letters in those early days. They were especially discouraging since back then one had to provide the postage for a publisher to reject you–and postage to Bolivia, where we were still ministering, wasn’t cheap! Nowadays at least, they generally come by email.

The rejections I’ve appreciated most were those that included feedback as to where I could improve the story. That these were snail-mailed at that time to Bolivia, from where I was blithely and ignorantly sending off my manuscripts to the top ten in Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers Market Guide, says much about the graciousness of some of those editors. I plowed every suggestion back into my writing and thank God those original poor excuses for manuscripts never made it into print.

I certainly remember my share of tears and discouragement. Because I was in full-time ministry, my constant prayer was that God would close the door completely if He didn’t want me to write. I didn’t want to waste time that could be used profitably elsewhere. But every time I was ready to give up, God would open a door to keep writing–usually an acceptance letter.

When we moved from Bolivia to a new ministry leadership position in Miami, those rejection slips were one thing I was quite happy not to have room to bring stateside. At the moment, I don’t really do free-lance, since I have more than enough writing that has already been requested, so the rejection slips aren’t part of my life. Which doesn’t mean they’ll never be again!

4. Why do you write?

I write because I am a story teller. We serve a wildly creative God who painted the skies and flowers, put music in the bird’s song and rivers, created universes of places and peoples. And just as God gave artists and musicians the ability to create with color and sound, so a story-teller’s ability to create worlds and characters and drama of their own imagining is a small reflection of God’s own creative powers, one of the ways we were made in His image.

What I love about writing fiction is the tapestry it offers to weave together countless scattered threads—historical, political, social, spiritual—and the very real people involved, to create a single impact, a single focused spiritual theme. While the books I write are fiction, the peoples and places and issues they bring to life are only all too true.

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

Probably what I do now when I’m not writing. More speaking, ministry travel, mentoring Christian writers around the world.

6. What are you working on right now?

I am writing now the sequel to Veiled Freedom, working title Freedom’s Furnace. So if you enjoy Veiled Freedom, keep your eye out for another piece of Afghanistan’s story in a few months.

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

While everything in my novels is based on actual occurrences and the situation on the ground of the countries about which I write, not all comes from my own life. A good example: depictions of the Colombian guerrilla camps in The DMZ came not from my own experience, but from personal friends who did spend up to years in captivity. However, one advantage of having traveled in thirty+ countries on five continents is that I can pull a lot of sights and sounds and smells from my own memory banks as well as research and interviews. More importantly, the emotional and spiritual threads of my novels and their protagonists have been birthed very definitely from the life journeys through which God has taken me and the spiritual battles and lessons involved.

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

Despite the ugliness of war, I rejoiced in the post-9/11 overthrow of Afghanistan’s Taliban, believing it presaged new hope for freedom and peace in that region. Neither freedom nor peace ever materialized. Instead today’s headlines reflect the rising violence, corruption, lawlessness and despair. The signing of Afghanistan’s new constitution, establishing an Islamic republic under sharia law–and paid for with Western coalition dollars and the blood of our soldiers–tolled a death knell for any hope of real democracy. And yet the many players I’ve met in this drama have involved themselves for the most part with the best of intentions. The more I came to know the region and love its people, I was left asking, “Can outsiders ever truly purchase freedom for another culture or people?”

That question birthed VEILED FREEDOM. A suicide bombing brings together a disillusioned Special Forces veteran, an idealistic relief worker, and an Afghan refugee on Kabul’s dusty streets. The ensuing explosion will not only test the hypocrisy of Western leadership and Afghanistan’s new democracy, but start all three on their own personal quest. What is the true source of freedom–and its cost?”

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read, read, read and write, write, write. It is the saturation of mind and heart with good literature and prose that creates good writers as well as the practice of the craft. Any would-be writer who cannot tell me what they are currently reading or say they don’t care for reading but just want to write are immediately crossed off my list as serious potential writers.

Also, writing is hard work, not just inspiration. It is, in fact, a mind-numbing, hair-pulling, excruciating process of creation to which the birthing of one’s own children pales. I always tell want-to-be writers, if you can keep from writing, do! It’s a hard, unforgiving field. If you have to write, whether it’s published or not, then you’re a writer, and like a musician or artist, you can’t be anything but. And it does feel wonderful after all the work of birthing the world and characters and message of a new book to hold it in your hands and see the finished product.

10. How important is faith in your books?

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and I cannot write without that world view permeating every thought, plot line, character. I do not even understand how Christians can write a book that does not ‘leak’ their faith and outlook on this universe. For me personally, writing has always been a call to share my faith in such a creative and interesting fashion that readers who would not necessarily even set foot in church would be drawn in to the world I have created and the God who is there. My ultimate goal in every book I write, however much a “thriller,” is to share with the reader my own heartfelt conviction that, for all the turmoil and conflict and pain in our world, this universe does make sense and has both a purpose and a loving Creator.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

Below are just a few of the themes that have spilled over into my writing from the people and places and heart lessons of my life:

The DMZ: “Those who are not willing to bleed and die for what they hold dear will always be held hostage by those who are.”
CrossFire: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine . . . yet I will rejoice in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
FireStorm: We are not called to safety, but to stand strong in the storm.
Betrayed: ‘Do what is right and do not give way to fear’ (1 Pt. 3:6)

And, of course, Veiled Freedom: True freedom can never be attained through guns, aid, or any outside source, however well-intentioned, but only through the transforming love of Isa Masih (Jesus Christ) changing individual hearts. Change a heart, change a nation.

If those themes sound more troubling than joyous or peaceful, let me assure you that they are not because our safety, and the safety of our families and our country, are not, and never will be, in the absence of the storm, but in the presence of a Creator God who rides on the wings of the wind, whose laughter crashes through the thunder and lightning, and who in the midst of any storm cradles His children safely and tenderly in the palm of His Almighty hand. If I did not have that absolute assurance, I would not have the nerve to research, much less write, the stories that I do.

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

My last book, whichever that currently is. My goal is to write each book better than the one before, and I think my readers would agree they’ve come a long way since my first children’s novel. In truth, I never look back or even read books I’ve already written. Since I am always in the process of having finished my last book while writing the next, I find myself always astounded at how well the last one turned out even while I’m pulling my hair out and sure I’ll never do as well on the current project. Different readers have different favorites. What thrills me is when readers write to say that one of my books, whichever one it might be, has impacted their lives and hearts.

13. What is your writing schedule like?

I basically write my current fiction manuscript from 7 AM (when my remaining teenager is out the door to school) to about 1 PM any day I am not on the road. By then my creative side of the brain is no longer at its best, and I do smaller projects and editing the rest of the day. Though once a book is birthed, I will be doing the rewrites a solid twelve hours a day until it is finished.

3 Comments

  1. Don't enter me into a contest as I have the book already, but what an amazing interview! Your books are so full of meaning….i really liked the Bolivian ones too as I visited Bolivia when I was 17 and we almost moved there and fell in love with the country….
    I am just having a hard time believing that as talented of a writer as you are, that you got rejections!!

  2. What a interesting interview that was. Your books sound like they will be very interesting to read as well. Please enter me in the drawing.

    Blessings,
    Jo
    ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

  3. Another delightful book to read!
    Many thanks, Cindi
    jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

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