Author Interview – Lynnette Bonner

The daughter of missionaries, Lynnette was born and raised in Malawi, Africa. After graduating high school from Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya, she attended Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington where she met her husband, Marty. They married in 1992 and moved to Pierce, Idaho a few years later.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd’s Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works from home.

NOTE: One person will be chosen at random from those who comment to receive a free e-copy of Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Tell us about your latest project.

Can that be “projects”? I’ve never been a writer who can only write one story at a time. Currently I’m working on the 3rd book in The Shepherd’s Heart series, Fair Valley Refuge. The first two in that series are contracted to OakTara. I’m also working on a romantic fantasy, two contemporary romances, and another historical romance set in Africa. So many stories, not enough time to write.

My first novel, Rocky Mountain Oasis, just released with OakTara. I started writing that book during a time in my life when I was under a lot of stress. And for a long time I wondered if God had given me that story just to get me through those few years. The second book, High Desert Haven, is due out in 2010. So I’m currently working on promoting Rocky Mountain Oasis, and I’ll also be working on doing final edits to High Desert Haven.

We love to hear about your journey to publication.

I always loved fiction and would read for hours in high school. But I didn’t start writing until about 1993 after my first son was born. Even then, I didn’t seriously pursue the craft until probably 1999.

I completed Rocky Mountain Oasis around 2000 and shopped it to several (okay, about a million) publishing houses and agents. If they were in Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide and said they were looking for historical fiction, they probably got a proposal from me. Then the rejection letters started trickling in. Publishing houses said, “Unfortunately, we find we must decline the opportunity to publish this project.” Agents said, “With great regret, I must pass on this opportunity….” And I began to realize the mountain I was attempting to climb.

Then in late 2001 a small e-book publisher said they wanted to publish the book! I was thrilled. The contract was good and didn’t require me to sign my first born away, so I signed with dollar signs dancing in my head – after all, the internet was booming! Surely my wonderful story would take off and I would soon be known world-wide, right?

Well, ahem, I made about 90 cents before the company went out of business a couple months later, and those were sales to my neighbor down the street and my
brother, I think.

When the e-book publisher went belly-up, I was back to square one. By that time, I was homeschooling my two oldest kids and had a toddler to boot. Writing got put on the back burner. 2003 ushered in the birth of our daughter and in 2004 we moved from Idaho to Washington. I was still homeschooling and not writing. But through all those years I just kept praying about Rocky Mountain Oasis. I told the Lord the book was in His hands (I’m pretty sure He already knew this.) And that if He had given it to me just to help me through those tough, stressful years, I would try to be content with that. But I kept asking Him to direct my steps where the book was concerned. I specifically remember praying that if the Lord wanted this book to be published He would need to “drop a publisher in my lap” because I didn’t have time to shop it around again.

My mom is also a writer and she called me up one day in early 2007 to tell me about a new publisher on the scene, OakTara. One of her critique partners, Linda Reinhardt, had just gotten a contract with them. I checked them out and they had super simple submission guidelines, so I zipped up my file and fired it off to them. (Problem – their guidelines didn’t call for zipped files.) By December I still hadn’t heard from them – and I thought, “Well, I’ll try sending it to them with the files unzipped. Duh! So at midnight on December 23rd, 2007 I fired off another cover letter with my now almost 8 year old baby attached. They were the only publisher I’d submitted to in 6 years.

Since OakTara’s guidelines at the time said to expect to hear from them within 8 weeks of submission, I pretty much gave up when I hadn’t heard anything by April. Then on June 9th, 2008 I got the email that stopped my heart for a couple beats before it started pounding again like a herd of wild children. (Ooops, horses! I meant horses.) Words cannot describe the thrill of reading, “Rocky Mountain Oasis is precisely the type of novel OakTara is interested in — quality fiction, from a fresh perspective – and we’d like to offer you the opportunity to join OakTara’s growing stable of authors.” I didn’t come off that high for several days.

What is one weakness you have as a writer and what do you do to overcome it?

Oh, wow. There are so many, how do I pick just one? Hmmm… my biggest weaknesses are probably grammar and spelling. I get so into the story that I forget to pay attention to the rules sometimes. I overcome them by surrounding myself with critique partners who help me in that area and using spell-check and a lot.

What is one strength you have as a writer and to what do you attribute your success in this particular area?

I’ve been told I write a great story with strong dialogue, and if that’s true, I attribute much of my success to prolific reading of great authors. I also try to let a story sit for awhile after I’ve completed it, then I go back and reread it and make corrections where I don’t feel the dialogue is smooth, or the story-line needs tweaking.

If you could go back to the young writer you were when you were just beginning, what advice would you give yourself?

Well, in many respects I still feel like a young writer just beginning.

But one thing I would tell myself would be to keep writing to the finish, even through all the rejections.

I didn’t complete my second novel until after RMO was accepted. Although I started plenty of new stories as ideas struck.

What’s one publicity tip you can share that you’ve gotten a good response with in promoting your work?

I’d have to say, “Be bold.” Publicity opportunities don’t generally come knocking on your door. You have to go looking for them, and ask for help from others in promoting your book. I think sometimes we have this idea that it’s not “real” publicity unless it is offered to us on a silver platter. I know that asking for help with promotion (from a blog owner, for instance) isn’t always comfortable, but authors are a tight group and are generally very willing to help out another writer.

What do you do to improve as a writer?

I frequent – lots of great information there, I peruse writing blogs of all kinds – from agents to newby writers. I study writing books. I read books in my genre and books not in my genre. I try to attend a writing conference each year. And I do plenty of rewriting.

What are a few of your favorite books not written by you?

I’m a fiction junkie. I cut my reading teeth on the Peter Rabbit stories by Thornton W. Burgess. In high school, I read just about every Christian fiction book I could get my hands on – but the Thoene’s books stand out as my favorites from those years. Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion trilogy, Jeanette Windle, Linda Windsor and Linda Chaikin’s early works are all favorites of mine, too.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

As of the writing of this interview, the book is still not out. But I remember one lady who read one of the early versions of the story telling me that she cried at one spot in my book. It amazed me that I had been able to create such depth of emotion in her.

More recently, I had someone read the excerpt from Rocky Mountain Oasis on my website and email to ask me when it would be out because they couldn’t wait to read the rest of the story. That was a very nice feeling.

Do you have a pet peeve to do with this business?

I suppose if I have a pet peeve it is that it is so hard for writers, even good writers, to get their foot in the door. But, as with any business, it takes dedication and perseverance to prove that you are serious, and I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

What’s your favorite part of being a writer/least?

My favorite part is that I get to tell stories. What better job is there in the world than that? My least favorite part is that I can’t only tell stories, I also have to promote them.

What has surprised you most about this industry?

I don’t know that much surprises me in this industry. I am intrigued by the speed at which publishing is changing. When I first started submitting Rocky Mountain Oasis, every publisher wanted paper copies and SASE’s. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a publisher that wants you to submit via snail mail. With the advent of the Kindle and other e-book readers, and bookstores struggling, and POD publishing on the rise, I think there are many more big changes in the near future. I’m excited to be along for the ride.

Advice to aspiring authors?

Of course it goes without saying that you need to work hard to make your writing the best it can be.

But my biggest bit of advice to aspiring authors would be to never give up. The publisher that just rejected your manuscript might not even have had the time to read it. They may be full up on your particular genre. The editor might have eaten a whole pizza the night before and not slept well. You just never know why your piece was rejected. Don’t give up.

Also, I highly recommend getting a good critique partner. There’s nothing like having someone else who understands just what you’re going through to encourage you and/or give you a kick in the behind when you need it.

Parting words?

I’d like to give a big thanks to Novel Journey for giving me the opportunity to be here today. I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey with your readers.

Also, I’d like to give away an electronic copy of Rocky Mountain Oasis to one commenter on today’s post. It will be the full book and you’ll get instant gratification because you won’t have to wait for it to arrive in the mail! You can read more about the book here.