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Interview with Angela Breidenbach

As well as being an author of fiction, devotionals and cookbooks, Angela Breidenbach serves as an assisting minister in her congregation in Missoula, MT. She also coaches one-on-one in writing, pageant competition, media presentation, and weight loss/physical fitness. A Healing Heart, an Abingdon Press Quilts of Love Book is Angela’s debut fiction.

Angie, you’re involved in a variety of public and private activities that not only enrich your own life, but others as well. Since your website mentions that you are a Toastmaster trained public speaker, I’m wondering if you joined Toastmasters because you were shy, or because you weren’t and wanted to help others?

I honestly joined Toastmasters because I wanted to learn how to speak professionally. I loved public speaking and needed the skills. There’s an art to connecting with an audience. Just “sharing” doesn’t do the job for a professional speaker. Like writing, I think growing as a speaker is a lifelong journey too. I met so many people that joined for personal growth that it really impressed me as the way to help people overcome shyness and gain confidence.

How do you divide your time to balance out the writing with your other activities?
I think my biggest challenge is I’m easily overcommitted. I’m praying now for guidance to let go of the “good” and embrace God’s plan instead. I love learning so it’s easy for me to get caught up in tidbits. I coach, edit, speak, and freelance professionally too. I have to schedule it all in my calendar. I have a specialized system that I’m always tweaking ;) But it includes a day timer, Google calendar, automated to-do app, and my smart phone. I also jot things on a wall calendar for my hubby. He can’t keep up with when I’m gone speaking or just coaching at the gym for fitness/weight loss clients.

Do you believe your electronic nonfiction sales helped or hindered your fiction publication journey?
Yes, I believe my cookbooks, as e-books have been really helpful. They’re a great place for me to try out promotion ideas. I’m really excited to see the final results of offering my cookbook, Creative Cooking for Colitis, as a gift free during the first three days of my new release, A Healing Heart. As of April 2, 2013, the cookbook was #4 in Top 100 Free Kindle books. That blew my mind because I hadn’t really done any promotion until that night after it’d already zoomed up the chart! But according to all the “experts”, this book going up the charts is supposed to bring all my other books to a higher level of notability on the Amazon algorithm. I won’t know this quickly, but I’m sure enjoying what’s happening now.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I think about the faith struggles I have and try to write those into my characters. As I talk to God about whatever dilemma I’m having or how I’m feeling, I think other people deal with those same challenges. Writing those into characters lets me explore both the challenge and the answers. A Healing Heart gave me a chance to share my workaholism struggle through Mara, but God surprised me by using my own book to convict me of the fourth commandment—to honor working six days and resting on the seventh. I’m convinced God uses our writing to minister to us, the writers. The beauty of using a talent He gave me to change my heart as I wrote is the most perfect creative irony I’ve ever seen! Talk about deep POV!

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Every time someone says something I wrote made a difference in their life, that’s the greatest moment because my goal is to stand in front of the Lord and hear him say, “Well done.” I think my soul will sigh in absolute delight if I can hear those words.

Where do your story and character ideas come from?
Stories race through my head. I think God wired me this way from the beginning. I can’t not write. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing letters or in my journal. It’s truly impossible for me to not write somehow. I’ve been known to get up in the middle of the night to write down a dream.

I think some people are wired with a different “wonder” gene. We’re all blessed with specific strengths, experiences, and heritage. All those things come together to make us uniquely who we are with our own special purpose and message. People share that message in different ways like doctors, social workers, and actors. So very different. I happen to have the strengths of being a learner with strong interest in how the past makes the future happen. I understand if I do A then B will happen causing a chain reaction. I begin to wonder: What happens if… and I’m off on that chain reaction adventure in my head. Then I wonder what kind of person would do such and such. What kind of person would they love? Who would love or forgive or never forgive… When these things start happening, I call in my writing buddies for a plot brainstorm. I’ll pray over it, wake up with the gist, and then take it to the people I trust and say, “What if me to death, please.”

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I have a very eclectic experience and knowledge base. Those strengths, experiences, and heritage I mentioned above all come into play in my writing. One of my unique experiences blends with my heritage. My grandfather was born in 1883. He was 80 years old when I was born. He moved across country in a covered wagon and sat with me to watch the first man on the moon. I think that’s a little rare in our time. I also come from a schizophrenic mom. Now most people wouldn’t think that’s something to talk about, but God gave me the desire to be transparent to help others. But one of the side effects of my mom’s life is that she didn’t understand how the world worked around her. Because of that, she couldn’t pass on the normal mother-daughter relationship or education on how to interact in the world. I’ve had to be very intentional in learning how the real world works and what it means to be a woman, mother, and friend. All those “normal” social cues are often learned through our parents. I learned by observation of others. So I think that power of observation really helps me create interesting characters.

One of my favorite moments of ACFW Dallas 2009 was watching you explain how you won your Mrs. Montana title. Has anyone ever made a video of your . . . er . . . performance?
I’m laughing here as I remember that time! I haven’t told that story in forever! I was unfamiliar with tanning beds. But if I tried to compete without some sort of color, my features would be invisible and the glow would be blinding. (I’m a tad white, to say the least. I’d be lost in the snow except for my dark hair.) So I attempted to tan. I’d never done that before. Who knew tanning beds could be so, um, complicated? You’re supposed to close the top? So I tried again. The gals were a bit incredulous at my inept tanning skills. They gave me an abstract lesson. I guess I didn’t catch on, but I did figure out how to close the door. I chased little covering cloths all around inside the machine when the air turned on. Suffice it to say that I ended up covered in spots and stripes. Luckily a spray tan helped camouflage the disaster (that’s a whole ‘nother story). And I’ll never try a tanning bed again ;)

Finish this sentence... My journey to the Mrs. Montana International 2009 title began because I______________________________________
. . .because I listened to Steve Laube. He told me to go build a platform. Then he told me to go become Mrs. Montana. So I did. Along the way, I met the most amazing people and had Tosca Lee (yes, the NYT best selling author) as my coach. I had the blessing of being a spokesperson for the Go Red for Women campaign with the American Heart Association, the Jadyn Fred Foundation, and Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries. I used a lot of what I learned about heart health in A Healing Heart so I could continue to help women learn that we present different symptoms during a heart attack. I wouldn’t have learned any heart health information without having been a spokesperson for Go Red as Mrs. Montana International.

Any parting words?
When I coach, speak, and teach I try to help people understand their strengths and how those strengths blend with experience, heritage, and purpose. Each of us has a unique voice in the world. Don’t idolize someone so much that it paralyzes you from reaching your personal purpose. Everyone has a circle of influence. Start there. Help people in that circle and your platform, message, and opportunities will grow naturally. Be observant and gracious along the way. Learn who you are and watch at each crossroad for what direction the Lord wants you to go—then follow it.

Thanks for sharing with us, Angie.

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