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Interview with Christina Suzann Nelson

She’s won a Christy Award but that doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing in her writing and publishing life. Christina Suzann Nelson shares her “typical” writing day plan with us, but acknowledges that life is far from typical for her right now. How does she keep going? Read on to find out what energizes this fellow writer.
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First, tell us about the genre of the books you write. They're contemporary in setting, but how else would you describe them?
My books dive deep into the experiences and emotions we feel in different circumstances. I like to pair this with mystery, taking the story past the crime or unknown aspect, to the people who are tied up in the search for answers.

The stories are usually set in smalltown Oregon with characters who may look at a situation with completely different perspectives.

Your stories seem to have some element of mystery and suspense to them. What draws you to writing those kinds of stories? And what is it you hope readers will come away from your stories thinking or feeling?
I love a good mystery! I want to search for the clues and attempt to figure out what’s going to happen. What’s even better is when the author totally surprises me. Those twists are one of the things that make a novel memorable to me.

It’s my hope that I can provide this level of entertainment to my readers while offering a glimpse into the lives of people with different experiences than they may have themselves.

One of your books, The Way It Should Be, won a Christy Award recently. What was that experience like for you? I know no one probably consciously sets out to write an award-winning book, but did you have a feeling about the story when you wrote it? What is it about that book, do you think, that got people's attention?
Winning a Christy! I’m not sure I can adequately put the experience into words. My career goal was to be nominated for a Christy…NOMINATED! When that happened, I was overjoyed and completely unprepared for my book to actually win.

The Way It Should Be is an outpouring of my heart. It went deep into the real struggles and joys faced in a hobbled child welfare system. Awards didn’t cross my mind. I just wanted to share the beauty of foster care in a way that wasn’t sugarcoated. My hope and prayer with this story was to reach the people God wants to take the next step toward standing up for a child and to allow readers to spend a time in the shoes of a woman struggling with addiction.

I received more reader e-mail about this book than any other. It touched my heart to read the stories of family members and friends chained to drugs and alcohol, but I was honored to have the opportunity to shine a light on a struggle that’s very real in our communities and in our churches.

Stories give us the chance to see life from another angle. They teach us to look at the heart of our brothers and sister instead of the actions that are only on the surface.

Did I read somewhere on your website that you have SIX kids? How do you find time to write? What's a "typical" writing day look like for you?
Yes! We have six kids. The two youngest are ten and twelve, but the others are grown and, for the most part, out of the house. Life is busy! Covid retrained me in the art of writing anywhere for any amount of time I could get.

Lately, the greatest challenge to my writing time has been my husband. He was in an ATV accident in October, breaking his neck, back, and skull. Praise God, he is alive, mobile, and expected to make a full recovery.

A typical writing day prior to the accident looked like this:
7:30am – The girls and Jason take off for school and work. After they leave, I shower and prep for the day.
8:30 – Email and any marketing needed
9:00 – Write!
10:00 – Take the dogs for a walk
11:00 – Write!
12:00 – Lunch and a break
1:00 – Work on the conference stuff for CCWC (I’m the director)
2:00 – House stuff

And, if the girls have extra activities after school, more writing.

I try to be out of my office when they get home. When life is normal, I can do that, but life is rarely “normal” around here.

Where does the spark of a story come from for you? How do you get started pursuing an idea? And are you a plotter or a pantser or some combination of the two?
Stories usually come from my wonderings about how a circumstance changes and feels to the people involved. I send my publisher a synopsis prior to starting, but the characters and the situations have a way of taking off on their own. I used to try and be a plotter, but it ruined the story for me. If I’m not having fun writing it, I can’t imagine the book would end up fun for the readers. There’s a middle ground I try to stick with where I lightly sketch out nine points for each of the three acts. This provides me a lot of freedom to let the story grow organically.

Once you're published and have some awards to your name, it can seem like the process is smooth sailing. What are some of the bumps you've had along the way that you're willing to talk about?

Smooth sailing, you say? I’m not sure I’ve hit that point. First, let me just say that I love my job. It is an honor and a privilege to write novels. But it’s hard work. As an author, you need to be constantly learning and improving your craft. This is an art that will never be mastered, and that makes the challenge even better.

Aside from writing, authors must also take responsibility for marketing their work alongside the publisher. We don’t want to be obsessed with sales numbers and profits and losses, but if we aren’t making money for the publisher, they aren’t able to pay all the amazing people we get to work with.

My future as an author is not fully in my hands. Unless my work attracts enough readers, I don’t bless my publisher, and if I can’t help them pay the bills, I won’t be offered a new contract. I think that’s just the way of this business. It keeps me from getting lazy! And, God has a plan.

What fills your time when you're not writing?
So many things! I have a ridiculous amount of creative energy. I’m currently renovating my staircase, restoring the hardwood floors in the hall, planning a bathroom remodel, and working with epoxy and live-edge wood. I also love hiking and riding my bike. And, I have six kids!

Who are you reading right now?
Carmen Schober.

Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing, and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones, and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family, and the unexpected turns of life at

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