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Interview With Deborah Raney

Hi Deb, and welcome! Forever After, the second in the Hanover Falls series, is due for release this spring. What excites you most about the anticipation of a new book release?
I love hearing from readers, and a new book always brings a new flurry of letters and e-mails from readers. I've always said that reader letters are like fuel for my writing engine. I treasure the encouragement—or sometimes, even the gentle chastening—they bring.

You’ve written so many inspiring stories over the years, and the list keeps growing! Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from?
After writing my first novel, I worried I'd never come up with an idea for the next. But I quickly learned that ideas are everywhere I turn! I just had to open my eyes and learn how to recognize them. My stories come from real life (with all the details changed, of course), from the movies I see, magazines I read, the nightly newscast, song lyrics—even obituaries in the newspaper. The secret is to let my imagination loose to make each story uniquely my own.

Do you have a particular book or series that means the most to you?
There will always be a special place in my heart for my first novel, A Vow to Cherish, which was made into a film of the same title. Its theme is one of commitment in marriage, a subject very dear to my heart. And I'm blessed to say that I've seen such commitment demonstrated in the lives of all my grandparents, my parents, my in-laws, my siblings and their spouses, my children, and in my own marriage to my husband of 36 years.

My two series for Howard/Simon & Schuster have also been very special to me. The fictional towns of Clayburn, Kansas and Hanover Falls, Missouri have almost become real for me, and it's been a delight to revisit the characters and settings I've come to love as I've created these stories.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
This might sound odd, but I really believe timing is everything. The psalmist wrote that our times are in God's hands, and I've trusted that to be true from the day I gave my life wholly over to God at 17. There have been times I thought He was moving awfully slow to answer my prayers, and yet when the answer came, it was clear that it is never too late and never too early, when God is involved. I'm trying very hard to learn to wait on Him and to ask Him to correct the desires of my heart to match His.

What do you enjoy most, and least, about your career?
I love being able to work from anywhere––home, the sunny deck overlooking our garden, a quaint coffee shop, the car (don't worry, not while driving!) It's wonderful to have such a portable occupation, especially now that our children and grandchildren all live so far away! This will sound contradictory, but least enjoyable is how difficult it sometimes is to work from home. When you make your own hours, it's very difficult to say "no" when a friend wants to go to lunch, or a neighbor asks a favor. I spend more time than I should feeling guilty either because I did say "no" or because I said "yes" when I really should be working.

After that first sale, I’ve heard some authors say they experience fear that they may not be able to sell another book. You’ve certainly proven that’s not true! Did you experience any fears or doubts at the beginning of your career?
Oh, my goodness! Until I held my first printed copy of my novel in my hands, I was sure every single day that my publisher would figure out that I really couldn't write worth a hoot, and that my book would be cancelled. Even after 23 contracted books and almost 17 years of writing, I still have doubts and fears about my abilities as a writer. But I'm learning to remember my faith in God's perfect timing, and to not sweat the bumps along the way nearly as much as I used to.

You’re the mother to several grown children and a grandma too! What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Now that we are empty nesters, it really is much easier to find that balance. I can write in the car on trips to visit the kids, and when we're there (or they're here) I arrange my schedule to give myself a few days' vacation and just enjoy them while I can!

As for other responsibilities, I learned early on that if I was going to be a professional writer, certain other things would have to go by the wayside. Once I created a mission statement for my life and my career, it because much easier to say "no" to things that did not fit within that mission statement.

How does your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I actually wrote two different versions of my first novel––a secular one, and a Christian one because I couldn't decide which realm I wanted to write in. I had contract offers for both versions, but it didn't take me long to realize that I would never be able to tell my stories with the depth and spiritual nuances they required if I was writing for a secular market. I chose a Christian publisher and I've never regretted that decision. I try to let my writing reflect the things I've learned in my own spiritual life, but usually it's the other way around––I end up learning about life and growing spiritually right along with my characters!

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Attending the Hollywood premiere of A Vow to Cherish was definitely way up there on the list. But I'd have to say that some of my proudest moments are the times when each of our four children let me know they'd read one of my books (as a teen or young adult) and offered sincere compliments.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
When I teach at conferences, I always tell aspiring writers not to fret too much about "finding your voice." God has made us each unique, and unless we're deliberately copying another writer (and sometimes in spite of that) our voice can't help but break through. So if my stories are unique, it's because God made me unique. It's hard to judge one's own work, but a compliment I hear often about my writing is that my characters seem like real people. I think that's because, for me, as I'm writing, they do become almost alive!

If there was anything you could change about your writing journey, what would it be?
A few years after my first book was published and the movie was enjoying great reviews, I let success go to my head a little. If you knew me at that time, you may not have noticed because I had my I'm-so-humble act down pretty well. But in my head, I'd placed myself on a pretty tall pedestal, and it was painful when I inevitably tumbled off. I wasted some very good months of my life worrying too much about sales and promotion and about where I fit on "the lists" compared to my writer friends, etc. I won't say I'm completely cured of that ego problem, but I'm really quite content these days to enjoy whatever measure of success God sees fit to give me, and to not sweat anything He chooses not to give me. I've seen His wisdom often enough that I'm finally learning to trust His hand on my life.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring or newly published authors?
Don't sweat the small stuff––and it's all small stuff. If God gave you a gift for writing, your job is just to write. Yes, do everything you can to grow ever better in the craft. Yes, take advantage of any promotional opportunities God places in your path. Yes, seek to have success as a writer, but not to the detriment of other aspects of your life. God had everything about your life figured out from the foundations of the earth. What makes us think we could do any better planning our own lives?

I love the way the late C.S. Lewis put it: "The next moment is as much beyond our grasp, and as much in God's care, as that a hundred years away. …In neither can we do anything; in both God is doing everything." He also said, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing." True words, those!

Thanks for sharing with us, Deb!
It was my pleasure! I can't say enough about what an inspiration and encouragement ACFW has been in my writing life!

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