Interviewing One of Our Own Today… The Fabulous Ronie Kendig!

Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology and is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. Her novels include Dead Reckoning (March 2010, Abingdon Press) and Nightshade (July 2010, Barbour Publishing), Book#1 in The Discarded Heroes series. She speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Ronie can be found

Ronie, we’re so excited for your success! How long did it take you to get published?

I started writing to get published in 2002—have my first rejection letter with that date on it. It wasn’t until 2007 that I signed with an agent, and then the first contract came almost eighteen months later. However, I have been writing since high school.

Do you think an author is born or made?

Wow, the whole nature vs. nurture thing, huh? Well, I think it’s a little of both. There are many out there who could write if they would apply themselves and stick with it. But I think there are definitely writers out there who have a gift with words. The way they string together words is pure poetry. My “twin” and critique partner, Dineen Miller, is one of these.

What is the first book you remember reading?

As a youth, I had a great love for Richard Scarry books. Does that count? In middle school, the Sweet Valley High books were very popular with me and my friends. I think it was then that I stumbled upon these flip-side books that had two stories in one. My little creative brain loved those—and especially Jerry Jenkins’ Jennifer Grey Mysteries. In high school, I fell in love with Stephen Lawhead’s Empyrion books.

What is the theme of your latest book?

Trust was the theme of the last book I wrote, Digitalis (book #2 of the Discarded Heroes series through Barbour Publishing). That book will release in January 2011, and it involves a retire specops Marine who deals battles flashbacks.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

In September 2007, my agent and I met at the ACFW conference. God orchestrated it so Steve and I could chat without anyone else around. I shared with him how I was having a hard time with some critiques (I was involved with many more writers than I am today). Steve leaned across the table, narrowed his eyes, and pointed at me as he said, “Ronie, you know when a story works. Trust that. Stop second-guessing yourself and letting others tear you down.” I admit I am very sensitive person. Some have seen this as a downfall, a negative. I see it as a tremendous blessing because I am very compassionate and empathetic, and these qualities have helped me craft deeper characters. Without the admonishment and encouragement from Steve, I don’t know that I would be as confident in what I write as I am now. (Thanks, Steve!)
Are takeaway messages (in your book) important to you?

Absolutely. I pray that in every book I write, the reader experiences a measure of hope and certainty. My books won’t have preachy chunks of scripture-quoting (not that I think that’s wrong—for some books/authors, it’s perfect!). My faith is a natural part of who I am and how I live. I’m not an in-your-face person, so I think that the elements of faith and hope tend to be more subtle . . . unless I’m writing an in-your-face character (like Max Jacobs from Nightshade). There is a message in every story I write. I’m not up to empty stories that impart no truth or value.

When do you know you’ve got the finished product and it’s your best effort?

In conjunction with the answer about juggling suggestions from critique partners, I’ve learned to listen to the “radar” that keeps me writing better. If my radar goes off, I stop and try to figure out what’s off. It can be something as small as wrong dialogue. If I can’t figure out what’s wrong, then I chuck the scene and rewrite it fresh. As I write, if something still tugs at my mind as “hmm, wonder if people will think that’s cheesy . . . “ then I go back and tweak it, chuck it—whatever it takes to make it stronger.
Do you begin writing with a synopsis in hand, or do you write as the ideas come to you?

This is a fascinating questions to me because, for the large part, I am a seat of the pants writer. But unless you have name power like Ted Dekker or Karen Kingsbury, you generally don’t sell off concept. So, I need a synopsis. But I railed at this early on because to me, having a synopsis destroyed the freedom to let the story come alive. Then “big brother” John Olson gave me a sage piece of advice: write the synopsis, then throw it away, and write. He helped me learn to write a compelling synopsis, so I had a guide but not a rigid set of parameters to write from. That freedom enabled me to be flexible, to have a strong plot but not be controlled by it.
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
This might be an atypical answer, but I don’t read the same type of stories I write. To me, it’s dangerous because I don’t want to accidentally glean ideas or elements from someone else and find them in my stories. So, I enjoy reading historicals (Lisa Bergren, TL Higley, Kaye Dacus), contemporary romances (Mary Connealy), or supernaturals (Robert Liparulo’s Dreamhouse Kings, Eric Wilson, Ted Dekker, Jim Rubart, John Olson . . . )
What is your best advice on maintaining a good editor-author relationship?

Realize that you both should be working toward the same goal: making your book the best it can be. The editor has a vested (financial) interest in making your book saleable. You have a vested (emotional) interested in seeing it fly off the shelves. I try hard to keep that in my mind as I work through edits. Everyone says you have to have thick skin to make it in this business. For me, I’ll never have thick skin. It’s not who I am. But I do know how to handle a hard edit. I know how to separate the two. Thankfully, I have a couple of good friends who allow me groaning and mumblings without thinking ill of me. Then, I kick into gear and get the edit done.
We often hear how important it is to write a good query letter to whet the appetite of an editor. What tips can you offer to help other writers pen a good query?

Don’t settle. Make every word count—and keep it short, to the point. The focus should be your story, not necessarily you, although that’s a good selling point (this “advice” assumes it’s a fiction piece). Keep the blurb about your story to something eye-catching and compelling.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Yes. It was last year, and while I’d prefer not to mention the actual incident, I was completely ready to walk away. Matter of fact, I emailed my awesome agent and said, “If I am really this bad of a writer, why did you sign me?” Thankfully, he’s married and has three daughters, so he knew I was on the ledge and knew not to push (again, thanks Steve!). Instead, he encouraged me and gave me more of his sage advice.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

In all honesty, this is the most difficult aspect of being an author for me. Lock me away for days with nothing but an IV of fluids and a laptop, and I’m good. Ask me to market my latest book and I’m catatonic.
Parting words?

Writing is one of many journeys in life. It is no more or less important than others. However, if the mission you are on is only fulfilling to you, then I challenge you to broaden your horizon; reach out to others. We’re not alone in this world.