Debra White Smith’s books, include: Romancing Your Husband, Romancing Your Wife, the Jane Austen Fiction Series, The Sister Suspense Series, and It’s a Jungle at Home: Survival Strategies for Overwhelmed Moms. Debra has over a million books in print.
The founder of Real Life Ministries, Debra has been featured on a variety of media spots, including The 700 Club, At Home Live, Getting Together, Moody Broadcasting Network, Fox News, ABC Radio, Viewpoint, and America’s Family Coaches. She holds an M.A. in English.
Debra lives in small-town America with her husband of 23 years, two children, and a herd of cats. For more information, visit
What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?
Book #5 of the Jane Austen fiction series is just releasing. It’s titled Amanda and is hitting stores now. This book is a contemporary re-telling of Jane Austen’s Emma. Like Emma, Amanda is a matchmaking meddler who can’t seem to keep her nose out of everybody else’s love life and can’t seem to get hers straight. The book is set in beautiful Tasmania, Australia.
Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.
When I sold my first novel, I simply received a contract in the mail. I had only been writing about 1 1/2 years. I was the ripe old age of 26. I was so excited, I started hopping around the room, screaming like crazy. I was wearing high heels at the time. I kicked them off, up into the air, and hopped around some more, screaming like a maniac…like I’d won 5 million bucks!
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?
One of the things that was hard for me as my exposure grew was readers posting negative reviews on websites and slamming my work. Yes, it was hard not to take it personally. Every author receives the occasional negative letter. But that’s private. You can throw that away and no one sees it. But, when a reader posts a negative review on a public website, it’s a different matter. After I got a few of these, I started surfing other well-known authors to see if I was alone in this. I found out I wasn’t. I saw that most well-known authors have readers who have posted negative reviews. Once I realized this it helped tremendously.
But, I still have to really talk to myself anytime anyone slams me. I’ve learned that many people think that well-known authors are celebrity types who have no feelings, won’t read the review, and are open for target practice. There’s nothing further from the truth. Most of us are just people who live in an ordinary world and who are trying to do their best to write their best. So, it’s hard when readers take shots at you, and it can breed self doubt if I’m not careful.
What I have started doing, though, is examining the slam for any grain of truth and seeing if I can improve the area they slammed. Sometimes, the negativity is so ridiculous, it’s funny. Sometimes, it’s like iron sharpening iron and you can become a better writer because of it. So, I guess God uses everything!
What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?
Hang in there. Don’t quit, no matter how many rejections you get. One of my series got over 30 rejections, then was bought by an editor who’d previously rejected it. It came out as a 4-in-1 novel collection and sold over 100,000 copies.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?
“Maybe publication isn’t what God wants for you since you’ve gotten so many rejections.” I believe this is a misunderstanding of the whole writing/publication process. Sometimes, it takes years to learn the craft of writing.
Rejection is often a big part of that process. I believe it’s healthy for writers to expect rejections and roll with the punches until that call comes.
God can and does teach us through the rejection phase of the writing. He can teach us to be better writers as well as new depths of tenacity. I encourage writers to look at the rejections as a season in their writing process. It’s something most all writers have gone through–almost like labor before giving birth. It’s a given and part of the publishing experience.
What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
Just getting published will not automatically earn you respect or recognition by a publisher. I thought that once I had a book, or a few books out, I’d get the same appreciation as some of the veteran authors did. Boy, was I WRONG!!
It can take years to build a reader-base and strong publisher recognition. Getting published is pretty much like taking your first steps in the writing industry. I think I would have saved myself a lot of frustration if I’d fully understood this.
I’m at about 50 book sales now with nearly 9 years of steady publishing, and I’m just now beginning to sense the respect that I naively thought I’d get at one, or a few book sales. It takes many years and lots of blood, sweat, and tears. If I’d understood all this, I probably wouldn’t have taken the lack of regard so personally and been hurt much less. But this thing called publication is a very challenging and sometimes difficult process for everyone. I think a lot of us probably need therapy by the time we’ve gotten established! Ha!
Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?
My favorite chapter in the whole Bible is Psalm 103. I keep that passage in my “hip pocket” at all times and when I’ve blown it I remember that the Lord is patient and kind and slow to anger and remembers that I am dust.
Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?
After I sold my first novel, it was about 6 1/2 years before I sold another novel. Hundreds of rejections! Nearly killed me! But, I hung in there and kept persevering. The perseverance paid off. When I started selling books in 1997, they went like wildfire. Since 1997, I’ve sold nearly 50 books and have had over a million books in print. I’m SO GLAD I didn’t quit during that 6 year interval.
What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)
I love Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen but that’s fairly obvious. I think my second favorite novel of Jane Austen’s is Northanger Abbey, just because the heroine is so wacky. I love her!
If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?
I have no idea. But, I CAN tell you that I highly identify with Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh books and cartoons.
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?
As for novels, I’m very pleased with the Jane Austen series. I’ve had a blast writing those books. That series was a long-time dream of mine and it’s been very rewarding. Within the series, I think my favorite book is Northpointe Chalet, based on Northanger Abbey, because the heroine is so hilariously scatterbrained and charming.
As for nonfiction, I’ve been very pleased with Romancing Your Husband and Romancing Your Wife. We have had tons of feedback from people who’s marriages have been revolutionized by these books. My next book on marriage is releasing July 2007 and is titled Marriage Revolution.
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
I used to, but I’ve pretty much had all my pets peeves put to sleep. They’re very bothersome pets, take up a lot of time, create high vet bills, slobber everywhere, eat too much of my thoughts, take up too much brain space. I really just try to manage what God has given me and leave the pet peeves to other people’s care. Grins.
Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?
It’s like a scrambled egg. I have two kids, 9 & 11, whom I’m highly dedicated to and a full-blown ministry. There’s no rhyme or reason to my writing schedule. When I’m under a deadline, I’m often up until 3:00 a.m. writing or get up at 3:00 a.m. to write. Of course, then my sleep schedule gets weird too, but it’s all a part of the package of being a mom writer.
If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?
I love the steady flow and rhythm of C.S. Lewis. Very nice reading. His voice is so smooth and distinct that you feel as if he’s there reading to you. It’s like I can hear his physical voice. Very nice.
Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?
When I first started writing novels, I had all sorts of grandiose thoughts. I guess now, after years of doing this, I’d just like my novel readers to have a pleasant reading experience and a few hours of enjoyment while also finding truths that can help them along their journey.
Regarding my nonfiction, I’ve written on a lot of topics, but my primary passion right now is to see a marriage revolution take place in the Christian community and to see the marriage concepts that are taught come in full alignment with the teachings of Jesus Christ. If I can see that happen in my lifetime, I will know I have fulfilled my purpose in being alive and in being an author.
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?
Yes…during that 6 1/2 year interval between the time I sold my first book and my second. Now, I think of quitting every time I’m down to the last 50 pages of a book. I’m kicking and screaming and repenting of ever becoming a writer!
Ha! Then, I finish the book and I’m THRILLED to be a writer, so it’s all this neurotic insanity that’s part of the writing process.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?
I hate the last 50 pages of my books because I’m tired and I want to be through. My favorite part is receiving a new book and knowing my “baby” is now with me in all its glory.
How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?
I have a high-impact website that draws views from all over the world. If you develop a snazzy website, it draws readers and you don’t have to do anything but keep it updated. It’s a great perpetual marketing tool. I do quite a bit of cross-marketing. In other words, if I’m given a publicity opportunity, I milk it for all its worth for other books as well.
Since I’m a speaker, I also use my speaking engagements to promote my work. If your publisher doesn’t provide you with publicity material, I say connect with a company who can. I hand out thousands of postcards and book marks with my book covers on the front. Think in terms of re-investing your first earnings into your writing career, as you would with any business. You can’t be obnoxious enough when it comes to promoting your own work. Go out there, hit the pavement, and blow the horn about your books!
Being a recognized author and speaker is a lot of hard work! But it’s worth it when you know millions are impacted and finding truths that are making a difference in their lives.