Author (and pastor’s wife) Amy C. Blake has just released a new adult suspense novel called Whitewashed. I’ve already snagged my copy and can’t wait to read it. Meanwhile, Amy is visiting here and answering questions about Whitewashed, writing, and life!
Hi, Amy. Welcome!
Readers love to know about writers, so tell us a little about yourself, family, dogs, cats etc.
I’m a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four from Columbus, Ohio, and we have a spoiled, 11-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Chrisgo. I earned my BA and MA in English from Mississippi College, the place on which Verity College in Whitewashed is loosely based. My husband and I met at Mississippi College and argued against each other in Argumentation class. We still debate about who won the argument because the teacher voted for him while the class voted for me (which, of course, means I won).
What are some of your favorite activities?
I love to read suspense and YA fantasy, along with other genres. I enjoy playing games like Spades, Rook, Euchre, and Dutch Blitz with family and friends. I also like cuddling on the couch with my kids watching good movies.
What made you want to be a writer?
I’ve always loved to read, though for years I never had enough self-confidence to believe I could become a published author myself. Eventually, I took a couple of writing courses, attended writers’ conferences, and decided to give writing a try. I started with short stories, articles, and devotionals and was encouraged when some were published. Then I moved on to books. My first novels were pretty bad, but they helped me learn how to write. Now I’m glad I stuck with it through the discouraging seasons.
If you could do anything that you are not doing now, what would it be?
Right now, I’d love to be sitting on Poppa and Grand’s porch in Mississippi soaking up some sunshine. These Ohio winters are too cold!
Tell us about your new book. What age range is it for? And with female protagonists, I’m guessing it’s mainly for girls, or is it for both genders?
Whitewashed is primarily for girls, especially those in the older teen/younger twenties range who are transitioning into adulthood. However, I’ve had a few male readers tell me they enjoyed the book, and many women all the way into their senior adult years tell me they couldn’t put it down.
What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?
Whitewashed has several themes interwoven into the plot, but I’ll just tell you about one. Patience is a real stickler for truth, so much so she sometimes can’t see people. She’s even been known to scream truth in the faces of people she loves, and in so doing caused much more harm than good. I want the reader to learn, along with Patience, that truth and mercy go hand-in-hand. Just as God is a God of truth who is merciful to His children, we should be people of truth who also show mercy to others.
Whitewashed is book 1 in the On the Brink series. The other stories feature Patience’s sisters, correct?
Actually the other two On the Brink books feature Patience’s two best friends, Nat and Christy, who are also homeschooled. Christy’s story is set in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, and ties into the 1920s when Buckeye Lake–with its amusement parks and nationally-known ballrooms–drew huge crowds. Nat’s story is still in the works, though I’m pretty sure it’ll be set in Washington DC.
Eighteen-year-old Patience McDonough has a plan. Despite her parents’ objections, she will attend Verity College in Hades, Mississippi, and live with her grandparents. She’ll complete her degree in record time and go on to become a doctor. But things at the college are strangely neglected, her class work is unexpectedly hard, Grand gets called out-of-town, and Poppa starts acting weird—so weird she suspects he has Alzheimer’s. On top of that, she has to work extra hours at her student job inputting financial data for the college—boring! But soon her job gets more interesting than she’d like: she finds that millions of dollars are unaccounted for and that something creepy is going on in the Big House basement. She discovers secrets tying her family into the dark beginnings of Verity, founded on a slave plantation, and she is forced to question the characters of people she has always trusted. Finally, confronted with a psychotic killer, Patience has to face facts—her plans are not necessarily God’s plans. Will the truth set her free?
Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Mississippi College. She contributed to Barbour’s Heavenly XOXO’s for Women,Book Lover’s Devotional, and Every Good and Perfect Gift. Amy wrote short stories and articles for Focus on the Family,MatureYears, Significant Living, Vista, Encounter, and other publications. She won awards at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference and West Branch Christian Writers Conference. The Trojan Horse Traitor quarterfinaled in the 2011 ABNA contest. Her juvenile fantasy novel The Trojan Horse Traitor, releases in November, 2015, and her new adult suspense novel, Whitewashed, released February 15.
My guest today on “How I First Published” is Jodie Bailey, telling how she got her first publishing contract. In my humble opinion, at least, she’s living every writer’s dream. She actually signed two book contracts in one day! Read on for my amazing interview with Jodie about her experience writing and publishing Christian women’s fiction and suspense. (As an avid quilter myself, I’m looking forward to her upcoming novel in the Quilts of Love series!)
What was your first published novel?
Freefall came out in November 2012. It’s the story of an Army officer who has to team up with her ex-husband, a Special Forces soldier, to determine who is framing her for smuggling and murder. It was actually the third novel I completed. And I’ll tell you a secret. I still have hopes that those first two will be published someday…
Was it a traditional publishing contract or did you go indie?
Traditional. Love Inspired Suspense picked it up and they’ve been very good to me ever since. To be honest, I don’t think I have what it takes to go indie. I need someone assigning me a deadline, someone waiting on the other end, or I’ll never get motivated enough on my own to finish.
How did that come about?
I had written two women’s fiction/romance novels, and those caught the attention of Macgregor Literary and my agent at the time, Sandra Bishop, but the setting was a tough sell. One day, Sandra asked me off-hand if, as an Army wife, I’d ever thought of writing military suspense. I said no, absolutely no, not my thing. Within a day, I had this scene in my mind of a man hiding in a woman’s closet, only he was the good guy. Why was he there? What did he want? It grew from there. Sandra sent the proposal to LIS, and I met Emily Rodmell at a conference. She sent me back a revision letter and I made the changes requested. In the meantime, my husband retired from the Army and I went back to teaching. A year later, three weeks into my first school year back, on August 31, 2011, Sandra called and told me they wanted the novel. I found it ironic that after being a full-time writer, God sold my first book immediately after I stopped writing full time.
How did this make you feel? Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example.
I literally hit my knees in the middle of the hallway. We were eating dinner (pork chops… I remember) and my phone happened to be beside me at the table, which it never is. The minute I saw Sandra’s name, I knew something was up and stepped into the hallway as she said, “Emily wants the book.” My body couldn’t take it. I was on my knees in the hall saying, “You’re joking” repeatedly. As in, that’s all I said for about two minutes. That was the highest of highs. It was a rush. Honestly, it still is. And then came the work of rewrites and edits. There are moments it is exhausting, moments when it feels like the words will never be right and what I’m putting on paper is garbage, moments when I’m writing and wish I could be editing or editing and wish I could be writing, days when I just want to give up and READ FOR FUN… but honestly, in the end, when you know God’s used it, it’s peace. Not a high, just peace. Though there is that high when you hold it for the first time. I spent half an hour with my nose stuck inside of the pages of Freefall the day the box arrived, just smelling it. I wanted all of my senses to remember the first time I held my own words in print. Well, except for taste. I definitely didn’t lick the book. I figured sniffing it was weird enough.
Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.
Well, it’s all happened very, very quickly… at least to me. And I firmly, firmly believe with everything in me that God is driving this bus. As soon as we finished rewrites on Freefall, Emily asked if I had anything else, so I sent her the proposal for Crossfire, which I’d written a year before. I also pitched a book to Abingdon for their Quilts of Love line. They passed, but then, after I’d already forgotten about it, they contacted Sandra and said they wanted the Quilt book at the same time LIS said they wanted Crossfire. I signed two contracts on the same day in October 2012. I still haven’t quite taken that in. Crossfire came out in January 2014 and the Quilt book, Quilted at Christmas, will be out in October.
Just before Christmas break last year, I was asked to pitch a Christmas novella to LIS, and I wrote it over Christmas break. That will be out in October also, in the compilation Holiday Defenders. I’ve just pitched another military suspense to LIS and am working on a proposal for a women’s fiction for Abingdon.
Jodie Bailey is a wife, a mom and a writer who believes Mountain Dew, dark chocolate and a trip to the Outer Banks will cure all ills. In her spare time, she reads cookbooks, rides motorcycles and searches for the perfect cup of coffee. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband and her daughter. You can visit her any time at www.jodiebailey.com