Nancy Moser is the best-selling author of thirteen novels including Crossroads, the Christy-award winning Time Lottery, The Seat Beside Me, and the Sister Circle series coauthored with Campus Crusade co-founder, Vonette Bright. Nancy has been married 31 years—to the same man. She and her husband have three twenty-something children and live in the Midwest. She loves history, has traveled extensively in Europe, and has performed in various theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She needlepoints voraciously, kills all her houseplants, and can wire an electrical fixture without getting shocked. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included. Check out: www.nancymoser.com.
What new book or project are you working on?
Just out is “Crossroads”, which is about a matriarch who buys up the dying small town where she lives and gives it away in a contest. It becomes populated by people who want a fresh start—who are at a crossroads in their lives.
In the fall of 2006 I have two more books coming out, “The Good Nearby.” It’s about people searching for meaning, searching for “the good nearby”, and about a woman who has the number 96 appear in her life over and over (what does it mean?).
Also coming out in the fall is probably the book of my life, “Mozart’s Sister”. It’s my first historical, and is virtually a memoir of Mozart’s sister, Nannerl (did you know he even had a sister?) She had just as much talent as he did, but because she was a woman, she didn’t have the opportunities. Her story is quite fascinating and will hopefully spur readers to use their own gifts to their fullest potential.
Right now I’m working on a book called “Solemnly Swear” which is about the people on a jury for a murder trial. Information about my books can be found at www.nancymoser.com.
I loved The Sister Circle series. Who conceived the idea? How did you team up with Vonette Bright?
The idea stemmed from need. Since we wanted to reach women, we needed a vehicle where women characters of many ages and backgrounds could come together. I have always loved Victorian homes… Plus, my mother-in-law lost her husband in 1996, and was left with a ridiculously small life insurance policy, so that sad fact was the impetus for the widow Evelyn.
As far as coming together, Dr. Bill Bright (Vonette’s husband) had coauthored some Christian fiction with Ted Dekker. He saw the power of Christian fiction to change lives. Where a friend or loved one might not read a book that’s entitled, “How to Know God!” you can hand them a Christian novel and say, “Hey, read this, it’s a great story” and they’ll get some of the gospel message through the back door. Jesus recognized the power of fiction—He used parables all the time.
It all started back in Feb 2001 when I got a call from one of Vonette’s representatives asking me if I would be interested in coauthoring a novel with her. We met. We hit it off. And four books came out of it.
Out of that initial Sister-idea have come many spin-off opportunities for women. Now, Brenda Josee (who has thirty years in Christian publishing) and I put on an all-day Said So Sisters Seminar that celebrates sisterhood and helps the attendees discover their God-given gifts.
We also have Sister Circles formed in churches all around the country. And we have just released a Sister Stuff Notebook that gives churches some fun but scriptural studies for women to do in their Sister Circles. The information for all this will soon be found on www.sistercircles.com, or by emailing Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you divide up the work? The style is seamless throughout the book. Did you each take characters to write? If so, will you reveal who wrote which ones?
We brainstormed the books, then I wrote them, and Mrs. Bright edited with me. She also provided a lot of much needed spiritual wisdom regarding the issues of being unequally yoked, forgiveness, etc.
Do you enjoy the co-authoring experience more than writing by yourself?
Coauthoring is a completely different experience. The biggest perk was that the opportunity led me to sisterhood with Vonette and with Brenda Josee (who was involved in the process, and who is now my speaking partner). But writing-wise, I’m pleased to be writing on my own again.
Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?
[Ane: Nancy has an amazing testimony of her writing journey. To read the full story, please take time to visit her website at http://www.nancymoser.com/testimony.cfm ]
Do you still have self-doubts about your writing?
In regard to whether I should keep doing it? No. I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Yet when I’m in the midst of getting a book started and I don’t know the characters yet, and the words aren’t flowing, and I have no idea how I can ever keep the plotline going for 95,000 words . . . I doubt. I wonder why I chose this profession at all. As with any profession, there are highs and lows, good times and bad. And struggles along the way. But I wouldn’t ever want to do anything else.
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?
No. I was always very persistent. When I received a rejection (and I have received 100’s for articles, stories, and novels) I would give myself ten minutes to cry, pout, and feel sorry for myself. Then I’d go over the submission, make it better, and send it out yet again. Fate finds persistence irresistible.
What mistakes did you make while seeking an editor or agent?
First off, you don’t seek an editor. One is assigned to you once you get a contract with a publishing house. And I had nine books published without an agent. But note: having an agent is getting more and more necessary. A lot of publishing houses will not look at unagented work. The important thing about any professional relationship is having respect for each other, being willing to listen, being heard, being trustworthy and dependable, and liking the other person. Right now I am blessed with great editors, and a great agent.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
Don’t give up. And be willing to learn. I’ve done critiques at writer’s conference when the newbie writer is adamant about not wanting to change anything. They are closed to advice. This author will never be published, or if they do miraculously get published, will never be published again. Getting the reputation for being high maintenance or uncooperative can kill a career. Writing a novel is all about editing. Changing it. Making it the best it can be.
For example: I wrote “The Quest” while waiting to get a yes on my first novel, “The Invitation.” I didn’t know about length restraints and ended up having to cut 74,000 words from that book. 41% of the novel tossed! And along the way I’ve had some novels go through extensive, multiple edits. Getting rid of characters, combining characters, completely revamping plot lines… If I would have been unwilling to do this, I would have lost the respect of my editors. And probably wouldn’t have gotten another contract.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
It involved the rejection that led me to write “The Invitation” (see answer above). That agent rejected my work and said they didn’t like my writing style. If I had listened too hard, and let myself be completely swayed by one opinion, and changed the essence of my writing voice . . . I might never have gotten a novel published. There’s a fine line between listening to others’ opinions and trusting your own heart. It’s also a continual process. I am still learning. And changing.
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
It is very frustrating to know that once a book is printed an author has very little control over sales. Sure, we can send out postcards, do a few booksignings (highly overrated) but the truth is, sales are what they are. And the best publicity and marketing comes from word of mouth. So if you as a reader like a book, tell everyone you know! That kind of marketing is priceless and can make a book soar. The bottom line is God’s got it.
What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?
It’s a business. Even if your publisher is a Christian publisher, and your agent and editors and everyone you deal with is a Christian, it’s still a business. And business rules apply. They aren’t going to publish you or keep your book in print because they like you. Or because you tell them, “God led me to do this.” Not that they don’t believe God was involved, but it comes down to facts and figures. Numbers don’t lie. Numbers rule.
Was there ever a difficult set back that you went through in your writing career?
A few years ago I was trying to figure out the direction of future books. I’d been writing contemporaries for both men and women, plots with a twist a little beyond the ordinary. Then the women’s fiction of the Sister Circle books. I had plane crashes, tornadoes, time travel, and a Victorian boarding house… What next? Cozy mysteries? Psychological thrillers? I must have put together four or five proposals for new series—complete with sample chapters. I was searching for direction. Aching to know where to go next.
Then God found me and changed everything, answering in a way I never expected.
The event that opened my eyes to what to do next happened while I was standing in the home of the Mozart family in Salzburg, Austria in the summer of 2004—that little three-room apartment where both Wolfgang and his sister, Nannerl were born. In truth, I was only half-listening to the guide, being very close to tourist-information overload.
Yet one statement reached into my weary brain and ignited it: Most people don’t know this, but Mozart’s sister was just as talented as he was, but because she was a woman, she had little chance to do anything with her talent. That one statement stayed with me all the way home to the States.
At the time I was putting together a proposal for a contemporary novel (I only wrote novels set in the present day.) Because of the tour guide’s comment, I got the idea to have one of my characters write a book called “Mozart’s Sister”. My agent sent the proposal to publishers.
Within days we got a call from Dave Horton, an editor at Bethany House Publishers. “I don’t want the contemporary book, I want the book the character is writing, Mozart’s Sister, an historical book about the sister’s life.”
“But I don’t write historicals.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
“But I don’t write in first-person, in one person’s point-of-view throughout an entire book. I write big-cast novels in third person.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
“I hate research.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
Well then. He seemed so sure, so excited. I could not ignore him—actually, I could, but I didn’t.
And so, as so often happens when God offers us an opportunity and we say “yes”, it turned out to be the best experience of my writing life. And, irony of ironies, as I sat in my office with four reference books opened before me, I even found that I enjoyed the research. Imagine that. “Mozart’s Sister” comes out in the fall of 2006. I adore writing about women of history, giving them a voice. The next novel I’m writing is about Jane Austen’s life. Jane telling her story. First person.
What are a few of your favorite books?
I like the novels of Stephanie Grace Whitson (A Garden in Paris) and James Scott Bell, to name two. And I love biographies. And Ann Rule true crime books because of the psychology of the characters. I love to figure out why people do things.
What work have you done that you’re especially proud of and why?
Completing “Mozart’s Sister” because of the research and the new frontier of first-person, historical writing.
Do you have a scripture or quote that has spoken to you lately in regards to your writing?
“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Habakkuk 2: 3 (NLT)
Can you give us a look into a typical day for you?
I’m up at 4:30 or 5, take a 30 minute walk outside, look at emails, write in my diary and prayer journal, see my hubby off (our three kids are grown, and am ready to write by 8. I have a daily word quota I need to meet and I stick in my seat until I make it. Sometimes that takes four hours, sometimes two. In the afternoon I do research and family things. The point is, writing never leaves me. I get ideas in the strangest places and times. My husband complains that my mind never shuts off. Very true.
Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?
Depends on the book. But when I get a deadline I print up a calendar, month by month, and count out how many actual writing workdays I have available until the deadline (weekdays only). I divide that number into 95,000 (the usual word count of a book). That’s often 1000-1500/day. I keep track of how many words I get done on my calendar as I go. This is essential or else I’ll procrastinate and months will go by. I’m not a good last-minute writer.
Are you an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer or a plotter?
Mostly SOTP, though I do both. I start with a very open premise (What if you could go back in time and change something? What if you were rich and famous and felt compelled to give up everything and follow Jesus? etc.) Then I cast it like it’s a movie, and start writing. As I get to know the characters plotlines evolve. And as those evolve, the story gets more and more pinned down. But the plot and the characters are always subject to change. And editing. And re-editing.
What author do you especially admire and why?
Stephen King for his characterization. Amazing.
Jane Austen for her wit.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?
Favorite: Having written (old joke). Least favorite: starting a new book. Facing the blank page.
How much marketing do you do? What’s your favorite part of marketing?
I have a website and send out an email newsletter. I do booksignings if asked. I sell my books when I speak. I do radio interviews when my publisher asks. But I hate marketing. Just let me write!
Do you have any parting words of advice?
If you think you’re a writer, write. And read. And learn. Just do it. Today.