Today, bestselling author Eva Marie Everson shares about her writing journey, her involvement with the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, her new book, Chasing Sunsets, and her embrace of Southern Fiction as a genre.
I wrote my first novel—serious first novel—in 1997 and it became the third book I saw published. It went on to be a three book deal with Barbour (Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows, and Shadows of Light). These books went way over the norm for Christian publishing at that time. Katie Webster, my protag, was an exotic dancer who found redemption first in her husband and then in her Lord. A lot of folks said I couldn’t write something like this and see it published, but I did.
For a while after that, I wrote nonfiction, did some editing, etc. Then my good
friend Linda Evans Shepherd asked if I’d like to write a book called The Potluck Club with her. It took 18 months of planning and praying and submitting before Baker/Revell picked it up, but it became a 7-book series that continues to sell—dare I say it?—like hotcakes!
While writing the books, it became evident through my Southern character Goldie that writing Southern Fiction was something I should concentrate on. I talked to my editor Vicki Crumpton about a few ideas, and voila! Things Left Unspoken and This Fine Life were released in 2009 and 2010. Chasing Sunsets (the first in the Cedar Key novels) releases this month—with more to follow.
What was the genesis of Chasing Sunsets? Was there a specific “what if” moment?
Yes! I found Cedar Key in 2004.
In probably 2008, I went back (for the umpteenth time). I took some magazines so I could flip through them while sitting on the balcony of my condo. I saw an ad for Liz Claiborne that had four blondes and one dark-haired girl posing in a beach-home setting, all wearing white. The dark-haired girl (a Latina) looked very pensive. A story popped into my head immediately. I set it in Cedar Key, wrote the proposal, took it to my agent and editor—and the rest is history. We found we had a 3-book deal.
What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?
I don’t know that I would do anything differently in that I see God’s hand in the way my story has played out. But, I wish I’d have seen the direction of writing Southern Fiction sooner. This really is my niche, this is where I’m most comfortable writing.
You are clearly in a season of success. Do you still experience self-doubt regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging? What are some helpful overcoming hints you’ve discovered?
Ohmygoodness. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. How many times do I write and write and write, giving it everything I have, and then sit back and say, “This is just awful. Just awful! You can’t write. What makes you think you can write?”
Sometimes that means I really just dumped some pretty bad stuff onto the page and I need to delete and start over, but other times it’s just me going through the self-doubt process.
Good news is that I know I am not alone.
I am a mentor with Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild . So when my students say the same thing to me, I can then relay to them what I’ve learned as I put myself through the paces of self-doubt. They, in turn, say, “Hey, if you feel that way—and you’ve got all these books published—maybe I’m going to be all right.”
I like to share a story from writing Chasing Sunsets. I was about 1/3 of the way done and I just wasn’t sure it was any good. So I called a trusted friend who is a voracious reader and asked her to take a look-see and give me her honest opinion.
Well, she did—and she didn’t like it either. I asked her, “Why not?” and she very honestly said, “I don’t care about Kimberly and Steven.” I realized then what the problem was and was able to fix it in re-writing. When I sent the manuscript to her again, she loved it!
It’s great to have that kind of relationship with another writer—someone you can trust to be honest with you. What advice would you offer to the wet-behind-the-ears writer beginning her or his writing journey today?
Well, obviously, as a CWG mentor, I suggest courses such as those offered by the Guild. And as an executive co-chair for the CWG Word Weavers (a national critique group), I suggest joining such a group. The feedback you receive will make you better.
And, of course, attend writers conferences, novel writing retreats, and read books on writing. And, finally, write!
Since you mentioned Word Weavers, which recently became a part of the Christian Writers Guild, let’s explore that a bit. What makes Word Weavers work?
Simply put: we work hard.
I was one of the original five who started the group and the first president as it grew. I worked in that capacity for seven years, all the while watching writers comes in green as grass and then getting published and winning awards.
What makes it work is that it is about community. When one of us gets published, we all get published. When one wins an award, we all win an award. This isn’t a “come let me pat you on the back” kind of group. This is a “come let me show you what works and what doesn’t” kind of group. We keep one another accountable.
How is the transition to being a part of the Guild going? Any challenges that have had to be overcome? What positives have come from the affiliation?
Obviously, there are challenges when one group becomes a part of another, but this really has been smooth! The biggest challenge, if you can call it that, is how quickly folks from across the country—the world in fact—have said, “We want to form a Word Weavers group in our community!”
Larry Leech, Cheri Cowell, and I (the national leadership team) are working really hard to keep up. We’re amazed, but thrilled, at what we are seeing so far.
Christian writers have to rise to the bar that has now been set in Christian publishing. Word Weavers is a natural fit with CWG because we are about excellence in craft. Not just craft. Writing is one thing. Writing well is another.
As a mentor with the Guild, what is your philosophy of mentoring? Why is mentoring a good thing? What does it offer the mentee? The mentor?
My philosophy is to give each student the best I can. If they want me to just pat their backs, they won’t get that. I let them know when they do well and I tell them what to do to write better. I also try to give them ideas for publication.
Mentoring offers the mentee the opportunity to have someone who has been at this a while look at their work and help them shape their craft. For the mentor—well—let me tell you a story:
I have a student (and this is just one of many who inspire me) who has so totally moved me; every time I get a lesson from her and go over it, I end up in tears. She is amazing, not just in her ability to write (though that is surely there) but in what she has had to overcome to write.
The day she gets published for the first time is the day I “get published” again because my heart is so with her and her work. I’ll be as proud as if I’d written the words myself.
What is the best writing advice you have ever heard—or wish you had followed? Why?
Find time to rest.
Once I get on a project, I’m like a maniac. But I learned the hard way to take that one day of rest. I believe Shabbat was created for man to both pause and reflect and thus be drawn back to God. It’s like the balancing scales have returned to side-by-side. I have so learned to find peace in rest.
What one issue ignites your passion? How does this fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn’t write?
|Eva Marie’s Mountaintop Experience in Israel|
I have a great love for Israel, the Old Testament, the commonality of the Jewish and Christian faiths and how, without Judaism, the branch of Christianity would rot off and die. When I write nonfiction, I write a lot about how the Old Testament and the New Testament support each other.
When it comes to fiction, I feel very strongly that life happens and then it catches us (so often) unaware. We hit those bumps in the road because we were not prepared for the results. Everything is fine—and then it is not.
That becomes evident in my fiction. These are the times we have to dig in and find our strength in God. It may seem subtle at first, but when you really look at my work, God’s hand is all over the place.
Sometimes you get a second chance
at your first love
Kimberly Tucker’s life hasn’t turned out the way she thought it would. While her ex is living it up, she struggles to understand what went wrong. When her two sons end up spending five weeks of summer vacation with their father, Kim plans a respite at the family vacation home on tiny Cedar Key. As she revisits the long-forgotten past, she discovers that treasures in life are often buried, and sometimes you do get a second chance at love.
Let yourself get swept away to an island retreat of warm tropical breezes, sandy beaches, and the most glorious sunsets you can imagine.
“In Chasing Sunsets, Eva Marie Everson takes her readers on a beautifully written journey through one woman’s unexpectedly altered life. The convincing cast of characters and lovely imagery had me wishing I could pack my bags and run off to Cedar Key.” Jennifer Erin Valent, author of Fireflies in December, Cottonwood Whispers, and Catching Moondrops
“In Chasing Sunsets, Eva Marie Everson tells a poignant story of grace, second chances, and the depth of a family’s love. I rooted for sympathetic and lovable Kimberly Tucker through every page. Thoughtful, romantic, and warm as a tropical breeze. Highly recommended.” Julie Carobini, author of Fade to Blue
Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.