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Interview with Deborah Raney

When award-winning author Deborah Raney isn’t writing, she’s speaking and teaching the craft she loves. Recent empty nesters who dearly missed their children, Deborah and her husband of forty years recently moved from small-town Kansas for life in the big city of Wichita to be closer their growing family which includes five grandchildren and counting.

Deborah, I can’t help noticing the similarity between your character setting in the Chicory Lane series and your own empty nest syndrome. Was the story idea sparked by events in your personal life?
I think it’s safe to say that all of my novels have been informed and inspired by events in my life. In fact I’m sometimes amazed that some of my favorite authors, not yet in their forties, are able to write so beautifully and profoundly about life! One such writer, my friend Courtney Walsh, planted the idea for the Chicory Inn Novels one evening while we sat yakking late into the night after a conference. I’d told several family stories during our visit, and at one point Courtney said, “Deb, you have so many fun family stories, you ought to write a book about a big extended family like yours! Or better yet, a series!” That got my wheels turning, and I’ve been excited about the people who live on Chicory Lane ever since!

Have you ever dreamed of owning a Bed and Breakfast?
I actually dream of it often. Until I get to the part about ten loads of laundry a day and hours of bookwork and red tape tax stuff. I truly love meeting new people, hosting people in our home, cooking for guests…especially breakfast kinds of food. So maybe I’d make a good hostess for a B&B, but I think it’s best if I not actually own one. Thankfully, I’m blessed to get a little taste of the B&B life twice a year when our kids and grandkids all gather at our house. We have a blast, and even after everyone leaves and I’m putting the house back together and doing those ten loads of laundry, I find it a wonderful way to relive and remember the delightful time we’ve had together. (But I confess, I’m always glad we don’t have new guests “checking in” the next day!)

Care to share a B&B research trip experience with us?
Probably my favorite B&B memory is from about ten years ago when I was on a horrendous deadline with a novel. It was summer and I always tried to schedule my writing deadlines so that I wasn’t on deadline when my kids were home. But that year, it was unavoidable, and our house was a zoo! Finally, I called a bed and breakfast a mile from our house and told the owner, “I don’t need a bed, and I don’t need the breakfast, I just need a quiet place to come and write during the day for a few weeks. Is there any way you could come up with a reduced rate for that?” The wonderful owners said, ‘We sure can! How does free sound?” It was the most delightful two weeks, and not only did I get more writing done in those two weeks than I usually do in a month at home, but I also came up with an idea for a novella set in “my” B&B that ended up being a Christy award finalist!

Your love of gardening is reflected in your gardening blogs, A Kansas Prairie Garden and The Plot Thickens. How big a role does gardening play in Book 2 of the Chicory Lane series, Two Roads Home?
Well, as Ken and I have done since moving to the city, Grant and Audrey Whitman have downsized their garden a bit. Taking care of a B&B is a lot of work, and they’ve just not had time to garden like they did before they opened the Chicory Inn. I did have fun writing a scene where Audrey is fuming because Grant has accidentally sprayed some of the few flowers she does have with weedkiller. Let’s just say, Grant is a lot like my husband! ;)

From photos of your writing zone, you are open to all manner of distractions. Do you have any tips on remembering where you were in your story to ease the way back to your writing afterwards?
Well, since I’m a seat of the pants writer, I don’t outline, and I never know where the story is going. My method of writing is to begin each writing session by reading and editing what I wrote the day before. That helps me get back into the flow of the story and remember whether my characters were sitting or standing when last I left them. I do sometimes jot little notes to myself pages ahead in the manuscript if an idea strikes me and I’m afraid I’ll forget. I’ve also learned that it helps a lot if I end each day’s writing session in the middle of a scene, rather than trying to finish a scene. That way I’m not facing the dreaded blank page the next morning when I come to my desk.

Do you redecorate your office (Multiple choice question):
a. on a set schedule (ie twice a year)
b. at the end/start of every book
c. whenever you feel like it
d. for each season

LOL! B, C, and D! :) In my 10-x12-foot office, I have eight pieces of furniture and hundreds of knick-knacks (including my collection of more than 70 coffee mugs!), and I have found countless ways to arrange and rearrange them. Maybe someday I’ll find the perfect arrangement and everything will stay put for a while, but I find something very inspirational in rearranging things. It gives me a new perspective from where I sit when I write. Plus, it’s a good excuse to clean and dust my office after I’ve finished a big project. I just turned in my manuscript to my editor this week, and I have yet to rearrange, but never fear: I’m thinking about it!

Of all your stories not dramatized so far, is there one book or series that you feel is particularly suited for a movie or TV series?
I actually have two novels currently with screenwriters and another that I would love to see made into a movie. Beneath a Southern Sky is the novel that is probably the most “high concept” of those well-suited for film. It is the story of a pregnant missionary wife who comes back to the U.S. after the death of her physician husband. She grieves deeply, but after a time, remarries. Only then, does she learn that her first husband has been found alive in the jungle of Colombia.

Does the writing process come easily, or is it blood and sweat all the way?
Blood, sweat AND tears! I confess, I do not enjoy writing the first draft of my novels. When I begin to enjoy the process is when my critique partner begins to read my manuscript and give her input, when I get my editorial notes back from my editors and start the rewrite process, and when I get to start doing an interview like this one. I’m a huge extrovert, so I much prefer the parts of the process that are interactive and social!

What books are on your nightstand right now?
I’m reading Denise Hunter’s Married ‘til Monday right now, and Susan Meissner’s Secrets of a Charmed Life is next up on my to-be-read pile.

Finish this statement: My favorite flower is __________.
An orchid! I’ve always admired them, and my husband bought me a gorgeous, expensive white orchid for Valentine’s Day about four years ago. It bloomed continuously for more than six months, and I never grew tired of it! Then I discovered that grocery store florists routinely had orchids for sale, and I’ve become a collector since. This house we live in here in the city has wonderful light, and I now have a collection of six or seven orchids in various stages of bloom. I’ve gotten nearly all of my orchids to re-bloom at least once. They usually have their second bloom in the middle of winter, which is a pure delight during our long, cold Kansas winters.

Any parting words?
What fun questions! It’s felt like a fun, face-to-face visit! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me.

Thanks for sharing with us, Deborah. :-)

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