Find a Christian store

Interview with Dana McNeely

In Biblical fiction author Dana McNeely's novel Rain, the prophet Elijah curses the land of ancient Samaria with a drought. It was easy for Dana to portray the conditions of living through a situation like this, seeing how she resides in a state that has not just one, but four deserts, and the average rainfall received in those deserts is less than 10 inches annually.

Dana claims, though, her spot in the sand in Arizona is an oasis. Her husband of 30 years, Mike, has turned their one-acre home site into a grassy orchard filled with a multitude of trees and flowers, a place where butterflies flitter about, and where Dana finds peace and joy as she walks in their shady backyard.

Not only has Dana experienced the type of drought referring to a lack of precipitation, but she also is familiar with another type of "dry spell"—the "I think I'm going to give up writing" kind.

Dana was employed for more than thirty years in banking finance, during which time she would write at night and on the weekends. After she became an empty nester, she decided to return to school and study creative writing.

"I joined a wonderful critique group that evolved from one of my classes. They were so helpful in pointing out both weak and strong areas in my offerings. After many false starts, Rain was my first completed novel, and The Loaded Pencils read and critiqued it through several iterations."

When Dana retired from her day job, she started seriously thinking about what she would do with Rain. She entered the manuscript into several contests, placing in a lot of them, including winning first in her category. Dana also submitted the manuscript to several agents and editors who showed interest in it, but ultimately said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

That's when the writing drought came.

"We're all discouraged when we're told, 'No.' I'm not any different. I briefly considered self-publishing, but it didn't take me long to decide I wasn't ready to do everything myself. I decided to just put the book in a drawer and forget about it. I felt a little sad about that decision, because I loved the story and felt it had worth for believers and non-believers. But I felt I'd done everything I could do, and it was out of my hands."

Dana had not interacted on social media for several months, but about a week after she gave up on her manuscript ever getting published, her Facebook message app pinged, "Hello." Dana figured it was some troll or a bot and she'd start getting text like, "Have you heard about our exciting plan for …" Instead, the next message that came in was, "Are you the Dana McNeely who wrote Rain, and if so, have you sold it yet?"

The messages continued in which author Angela Ruth Strong identified herself as one of the judges in the Oregon Christian Writers' Contest. Angela said she loved Rain. She had been going through a dry spell in her life, and she figured Rain would have been published by now, so she wanted to reread the book.

"When Angela didn't find the book, she went through some investigating techniques worthy of the sleuths about which she sometimes writes, and she eventually found me. She also told her editor, Miralee Ferrell of Mountain Brook Ink, about Rain."

Miralee was interested in seeing a query, so … Dana's "give up on writing drought" came to a quick end! Dana sent the query off, then sent a proposal when requested, followed by the full manuscript. After waiting for just a little bit, Dana was then offered a contract.

The author's opinion about this amazing turn of events?

"The Lord is sometimes slow, but He is never late."

Speaking of things taking a little while, Dana says it took her about six years to write and research Rain, and that she was researching as she wrote. She says she began her research by reading everything the Bible has to say about Elijah. She also was inspired by every page of the book Elijah by A.W. Pink, and Elijah and the Secrets of His Power by F.B. Meyer. She also read several very old books, such as Palestine and the Bible by Samuel Schor. Her bookcase is full of books of customs, foods, maps, atlases, history, and birds of Lebanon (because that is where Zarephath is and where Jezebel was from).

Why did Dana choose to write about people from Zarephath? She says she had gotten into the habit of reading through the Bible each year, and one day her reading section was in 1 Kings 17 and 18, beginning the stories of Elijah.

"When I reached the section about the widow of Zarephath and her son being brought back to life, I was captured by emotion. What would it be like, to die, go to the other world, and return? What would your life be like after that moment?"

Dana looked again at the Bible's account, seeking answers, such as who was this boy, other than a widow's son? And who was she? Dana says the only clue was the widow's poignant question, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"

"I can't express the feelings that flooded over me as a mother. I thought about this a long time: What sin could ever have been bad enough that she thought she deserved her son's death? I learned idol worship and child sacrifices were prevalent at the time. I pictured the widow and her son embroiled in those sins, wanting to get out with no idea how, and these two people became real to me."

Dana's current WIP continues with characters from Rain. The WIP follows the story of Caleb's young sister Miriam, the "bird girl" from Rain who is a young woman in the second novel. Miriam lives during the time of Israel's wars with Aram. She meets Elijah—and that's all Dana can share at this moment!

Wait—there is one more thing. Dana, who has two playful Miniature Australian Shepherds, Cash and T, and an "antisocial" cat, did put a yellow dog named Dagah in her first novel. Dana says there are also animals in her WIP as well. Although so far there aren't any butterflies like the many that cross Dana's path at her home in Arizona, the author says adding them to this second novel is a fine idea!
Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.