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Interview with Janetta Fudge Messmer

Janetta Messmer loves to inspire readers through Christian romances loaded with comedy. She is also an editor and conference speaker who delights in sharing her knowledge of the craft, encouraging others to share their own stories.

Although a writer of poetry for many years, Janetta did not discover and develop her novel-writing career until later in life. She has made up for lost time with the publication of several novels.

Janetta, it’s a pleasure to be able to spend some time with you today. You wrote poetry prior to becoming a novelist. What influenced your decision to turn to novel writing?
Everyone around me in my writer groups in Houston encouraged me. I dragged my feet and stuck with short stories, but when I brainstormed an idea with a friend (Janice Hanna Thompson), I began the journey to publishdom.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’d say pantser, but on the last two books I started writing out an extensive synopsis. Then I go back and fill in the dialogue and fluff it up. ☺

What does your writing routine look like?
As my bio says, I get some words in before my hubby and I go sightseeing. Beginning a writing career when you retire and hit the road makes for the need of being more organized. Mornings work best for me and depending on the day – it may be one hour or three, or more, depending on where the story is going and how my brain is working. OR, sometimes if I’m taking too long, my husband will drag me (not literally) out the door to begin our adventure for the day!☺

What is your strongest motivation for writing?
Wanting to share the love of God with others. When I think of quitting, I envision a reader who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord. This makes me sit down and write the words He’s given me.

What is your favorite part of developing a story (plot development, setting, characterization, etc.)?
Characterization. My books are character-driven. Their quirks, unique personalities, and mishaps that happen to them is what makes for a fun book to write.

Also settings: Three of my books are set in Colorado. It’s my favorite place on earth. I’m not sure I do the mountains justice in trying to paint a picture of them in print.

You are known as a Christian comedy romance writer. How do you use humor to reflect your faith in your writing?
My wacky personality, which includes my faith in the Lord, comes out in my characters and the things they say and do. My husband gets a kick out of me, because I’ll be in the middle of a scene and one of my characters does something I don’t expect or says an off-the-wall comment – I laugh out loud and thank the Lord.

What was the most difficult stumbling block you encountered in your publication journey?
As outgoing as I am, the times I’d met with a publisher or agent I froze. Never able to articulate what I wanted to say—to show them the enthusiasm bubbling inside of me. Guess I never wanted to show them my true personality.

Your latest novel, Waltzing with a Grease Monkey is an intriguing title. The mention of a waltz hardly conjures up an image of a grease monkey for the average person and vice versa. Tell us about this book!
My publisher (Winged Publications) sent out ideas for their next line of books they wanted. I saw one with a dancing theme and jumped on it. Hubby and I sat down & brainstormed and came up with a female dance instructor who moonlights as a mechanic. I knew nothing about dancing, but since we owned an auto repair service years ago, I thought the two could work well together.

What message does this novel convey to readers?
God doesn’t look at appearance – He looks at the heart. And sometimes the person you’re looking for is right there in front of you.

What is the most common writing mistake you encounter as an editor?
In non-fiction – it’s sticking with the theme of what the writer is trying to convey. It’s usually minor (and easy to fix), but entails them starting to down a road that has nothing to do with the theme they’re writing about.
In fiction – I’m more of a content editor. I make sure the characters start and end with the same eye color, has the same quirks they started with, and does the story make sense. Would the character act aloof if he/she was faced with a crisis?

What is your favorite topic to teach at writing seminars and why?
Tell Your Story. This idea started when I spent a month with my mom. She’d gone into the nursing home and we sat together and I started asking her questions about her life. What a fun time for both of us. I took the concept and have taught classes at different RV rallies we’ve attended. I also taught a weekly class at the RV Resort we stayed at last winter in Arizona. The attendees appreciated my prompting them to write their stories.

You and your husband are avid RVers. What would you consider the most spectacular site you have seen in your travels?
Other than Colorado, I’d have to say Oregon. We worked/camped at a KOA campground for the summer right along the Columbia River. On our days off, we’d travel to sites all over Oregon. Here’s a few examples: Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens, Portland, the Oregon Coast, and Tillamook (ice cream and cheese-YUM!). If you’ve never visited Oregon – do yourself a favor and go. While you’re there, take in Washington too. Amazing scenery in both places.

Are any of your books based on your travels? If so which one(s)?
All of the Early Birds series has some of our travel experiences in them. In the first book (Early Birds), Ben announced to Betsy he wanted to retire. He said, “Matilda told him they should retire, sell everything, buy an RV, and get on the road. Matilda is their dog, but our pooch ‘told’ us to do the same. Maggie gave me the idea for my first published book.

If you could take only one fiction and one non-fiction book (besides the Bible) with you on your travels, what would they be and why?
For non-fiction: One of Donna Snow’s Bible studies. Fabulous.
For fiction: One of Jenny B. Jones’ books, so I’d always be laughing.

What is your next project?
You are going to think I’m kidding, but I can’t tell you. It’s a surprise.


Patti Shene Gonzales hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview style blog talk radio show, where she promotes those who share God’s love through writing and other ministry outlets. She hosts writers, published and unpublished, on her two blogs, The Over 50 Writer and Patti’s Porch on her website at Patti is published in two anthologies and local publications and has three western novels in progress. When not writing or reading, she is doing volunteer work for her church or attending her only granddaughter’s sports activities. Patti lives in Colorado with her devoted feline companion, Duncan.

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