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interview with Lyn Cote

Lyn Cote’s “Strong Women, Brave Stories” brand has won a devoted following among her readers. From romance to historical fiction, Lyn depicts her characters involved with struggles and challenges within their times, their lives, and their families. Her new release, Daddy in the Making, is no exception to this successful pattern.

In your new Steeple Hill release, Daddy in the Making, Jake is attracted to Jeannie and her family some time after his hurtful divorce. The idea of building better families from the ashes of life’s tragic changes also shows up in Shelter of Hope. What inspired you to write about this very contemporary topic?

Yes, unfortunately, divorce is common and brings with it a stigma that's not always just. I received one troubling email from a reader who enjoyed this book but chastised me for having a divorced hero. I just shook my head. In this age of "no-fault" divorce, a person can find him or herself divorced without their consent. And in the book, I make it clear that the hero's ex remarried within two weeks so it was obvious that she had been unfaithful and initiated the divorce to marry someone else. How devastating and unfortunately how common these days. The reader said she usually lets her teen-aged daughters read my books, but wouldn't let them read this one as divorce is not an option. My response--I hope one of her daughters never stays in an abusive relationship because she thinks her mother would disown her if she tried to get out of it. Or what if the daughter has a husband who just walks away? We live in a fallen world. God hates divorce and anybody who's ever been touched by it hates it too. Writing about a man wounded by divorce doesn't mean I think divorce is "okay."

Your comment that your “…door is always open to company, just push the books off the couch and have a seat” is one that many writers understand completely! Seriously, though, how do you find time to devote to your writing amid each day’s pressures and demands?
I've been writing for twenty years and I made it a habit to write every day. Sometimes events like illness and funerals interrupt my schedule. The secret is consistency. I think one of the traps is that a person thinks: I need a big amount of time to make progress. But you can train yourself to be productive in ten minutes. When I first started writing, I followed my toddlers around while I carried a clipboard and I jotted down the first book, sentence by sentence.

I was grateful to find your excellent review of Christian Book publishers at How did you happen to begin this project? Do you find that most publishers are willing to assist you?
In the mid-90's when I began investigating the Christian Fiction market, there was no central fount of information(except for Sally Stuart which I didn't find till later). I literally went to the local Christian bookstore and found ten of the latest published titles and wrote to the publishers for their guidelines. About half of them were out of business already! The market remained that volatile for most of the 90's. A few years ago, I started including e-book publishers and small presses. My motivation for this yearly update is to help other aspiring writers. Since I've done this for twelve years, editors are used to me bugging them after Easter every year. If this is of interest, drop by later in May for the 2011 update.

Lyn, I’m amazed by the widely differing historical settings and time periods in your fiction. What suggestions would you give to newer authors about researching and writing historical fiction?
Get your facts right. And be able to defend them. Readers of historicals love to catch a writer making a mistake. At the end of every historical, I include a historical note where I explain what I made up and what actually happened historically. When I look for a setting, I choose one with a lot of societal change and conflict. I don't find just setting a book in history to my taste. I like to throw my characters into times of huge social change, wars and earthquakes, etc. The true character comes out under stress and gives my hero and heroines a chance to dig down and find the faith to fight the good fight.

You’ve made La Belle Christiane available to your readers on your blog--a lovely gift! What prompted you to do this?
Most authors have a few manuscripts that have never been acquired by an editor. I have three. One which will never be seen in print (shuddering) and two related manuscripts that I've always wanted to see available to readers. Previously there was no option other than a vanity press and I wasn't willing to have stacks of books in my already crowded garage. :-) However with the advents of blogs, POD publishers and free digital publishing on Kindle, I can publish these two myself. I decided to serialize La Belle Christiane on my blog because it has forced me to revise it once more. Also I receive feedback from my readers which gives me insight as to whether the book is engaging.

In the end, I plan to have the manuscript copyedited, pay for a professional cover and will offer it POD and in digital form. As authors, we're in exciting times of experimentation and I love to try out new ways of doing things. BTW, when I finish posting each chapter, I post it on my website under Archived Free Read in PDF. So if someone happens upon the serial in process, they can start at the beginning and get into the flow. Some authors think I'm crazy for giving away a book in serial form. But I think it's a lot of fun and La Belle Christiane is finally getting read!

You comment that “…perseverance is my most valuable temperament trait” and say, “Many times I’ve achieved my goals merely because I wouldn’t give up.” These are definitely important traits for a writer! Would you tell us a bit about your own road to publication?
Since my quest began before the advent of the Internet for the masses and before the Christian market coalesced, it was long and frustrating. When I began, I was trying to write for the secular market. But finally at a conference, I met Wendy McCurdy, a well known and successful NYC senior editor, who looked at my manuscript and said, "You're writing for the inspirational market." My reply, "That died in the late 80's." She said it was alive again. That began my research into this re-emerging market. Many of the authors I consulted had indeed been part of the 80's boom & bust of the inspirational romance market. I was part of the group that began Faith, Hope & Love, the inspirational chapter of RWA. I feel privileged to have been there when all this change and innovation took place.

Your brand is “Strong Women, Brave Stories,” and certainly the women in many of your books typify that brand. For example, many readers will miss the strong women of your Texas: Star of Destiny books now that you’ve finished that series. What other strong women can we hope to see featured in future Lyn Cote novels? What are you currently working on?
I'm waiting to hear about an Amish romantic suspense series proposal. This would be a contemporary series set in Kalona, Iowa, the oldest Amish settlement in the US (from 1846). In this series, I explore the clash between so many different "religious" cultures: mainstream evangelical, Mennonite, Old Order Amish, Beachy Amish, etc in the midst of the investigation of crimes. My heroines are: a police chief, a woman with a past who finds a dead Amish teen on her back porch, and a free spirit searching for the true life.

I also have a historical proposal, "Set the Captives Free," about three generations in a Quaker family, active in the crusade for abolition. This series really excites me because the period leading up to the Civil War was volatile. This series is set in Ohio at the very same time my Texas books are taking place. Like the flip side of the coin of history.

How do you see the relationship between your faith and your fiction?
I'm a child of God and whatever I do reflects that. I hope.

Some of the readers of this interview are pre-published writers, who are working hard on their craft each day, sometimes without much encouragement from publishers, agents, or even their own families. If they could push the books off your couch and sit down with you today, what advice or encouragement would you give them?
The main point is: Don't expect much in the way of encouragement. When I was working toward publication and getting rejected repeatedly (read constantly), I wondered why the process had to be so hard. After publication, I realized that not much has changed. I still have proposals that are rejected. Editors are busy and don't have time to "fawn" over an author. You may get one sentence of praise in the midst of a three page revision letter. Agents have many authors so they pop in to help with a deal and then disappear again. Does this sound depressing?
It's reality. The only differences between being published and unpublished are that 1) people are actually reading my books and 2) occasionally I get a check in the mail. So if a person is looking for the glamorous life as a writer, please ask them to let me know when they find it! Writing is a ministry and it's never easy. Talent without determination will not make the cut. That said, if it's your calling, what choice do you have? Only the fellowship of other writers gives me encouragement. Recently my friend Lenora Worth hit the NY Times mass market bestselling list. I was as excited as if it had been me! Whooohooo, Lenora!

Thanks for talking with us today, Lyn!

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