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Interview with Heather Norman Smith

It is a privilege to introduce you to Heather Norman Smith. She loves Jesus, writes in the midnight hours and sings like a nightingale. I knew I liked her straight away as like me, she agrees Middle Child Syndrome is a perfectly legitimate condition.
Songs for a Sunday is your first split-time novel. Was it hard to write in comparison to your other novels? Would you write another one? Split time uses both the historical and present day timelines. I read you had some planning issues with the dates. Can you tell us about that?
Every novel I write gets harder, as I learn and grow in the craft and try to stretch myself to write a better book each time. Split time was a unique challenge, but I would love to write another one. My work in progress started out as split time, but then I decided the story needed to be told as a contemporary with frequent flashbacks.

Keeping two timelines straight and making sure they align was a little tricky for me. The 1960s timeline hinges on the dates that the North Carolina School of the Arts was being planned and opened. There is a child born in the 1960s story that celebrates a milestone birthday in the contemporary story, but to have him turn sixty years old and still stick with the historical timeline for the school meant the “present day” is actually fall of 2023.

What famous actress would you like to hear read your story in an audiobook? (I read you like to listen to audiobooks!)
I don’t watch a lot of movies or television these days, but I know that Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock both have a little Southern in their voices, so I think either would do well with this story.

Songs for a Sunday takes place in North Carolina. Reynolds Auditorium and NC School of the Arts are significant places for scenes in the story. Can you tell us one thing about each site and why you picked these two for your story?
Reynolds Auditorium is a magnificent venue. Those six giant Corinthian columns in the front have always impressed me, and I love the history of the building. NC School of the Arts is significant because it was the first public conservatory for the arts in the country. Both places were in existence during my 1960s story, and they are both still around today, so I was able to use them to help tie the two stories and timelines together.

Along with writing, singing is also your passion. Can you tell us the significance of the song you wrote How Forever Feels?
Thank you for visiting my website to find that song! I wrote How Forever Feels for my husband before we got married. I had thought about singing it at our wedding but then changed my mind. It tells our story of going from just being good friends to dating and then realizing that, after experiencing heartbreak in a previous relationship, our marriage was part of God’s big plan and was in His timing.

You love Diet Dr Pepper. Any other must-have drinks or snacks while writing?
I usually drink at least three cups of black coffee per day, along with my Diet Dr Pepper, and to my surprise, my obsession with diet soda has broadened to include Diet Pepsi recently. Sometimes I enjoy a nice cup of Earl Gray, too, but I don’t drink nearly enough water.

If Songs for a Sunday had a soundtrack what music would it be?
It would be very eclectic. The album would definitely have "Amazing Grace" and "O Holy Night." Those two songs are pivotal to the plot. And it would have Elvis Presley singing "Peace in the Valley." It would have some music suitable for ballet, like Tchaikovsky, but also tunes that the main character Missy’s sister, Erica, performs as a back-up singer for a rising country music star.

How would you sum up Songs for a Sunday in one word?

Where's your favorite place to read a good book?
As boring as it sounds, probably my couch. Although I’m able to work from home, we’re often very busy outside of work with practices and appointments, and school and church events. I love the times I can just be at home and read. It’s hard to find that kind of time, though, so that’s one reason I love audiobooks!

What's your favorite bible verse?
I have two.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6

Your father is also a writer. Does he read your drafts? Do you help each other brainstorm book ideas?
My dad has read all my books before they were published except this one! He has always been my biggest fan and my biggest supporter. With Songs for a Sunday, he decided to wait and read the story when it’s published, and I’m so excited to get a copy to him. He writes mainly Biblical fiction, and we enjoy brainstorming book ideas with one another.

What is your writing routine?
I write mostly after the kids are asleep, so between around 10:00 pm and midnight.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
The next step. Each step forward is the most significant thing, because eventually, they’ll take us where we need to go, by the grace of God. We just have to keep trusting Him and putting one foot in front of the other.

What is the message you most want readers to take away from reading Songs for a Sunday?
That God loves them and He can take any situation and work it out for good. That our worth is not determined by how the world sees us, but how God sees us.

What do you love most about living in North Carolina?
I’ve always appreciated living so close to the mountains but also being able to drive to the ocean in about four hours. There is plenty of rolling countryside and farmland here but also thriving cities. To me, North Carolina has it all. But most importantly, it’s the people. It’s the way that even meeting a stranger can feel like being at home.

You wrote a great snake scene in Songs for a Sunday. Did it come from first hand experience?
Fortunately, no. I’ve never come close to one the way R.C. does. I didn’t know we had Timber rattlesnakes in North Carolina because they aren’t common in my part of the state, although copperheads are. In my research, a very nice park ranger for Hanging Rock State Park confirmed that there are some there.
Gail Helgeson writes split-time fiction with a passion for leaving the legacy of a well-steeped life. She is a member of ACFW. Gail loves (okay, obsesses) all things England and can be found every afternoon sipping a cup of English Breakfast tea and nibbling on a biscuit. She and her husband share an empty nest in Wisconsin. You can find more information about her at

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