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Interview with Lynette Sowell

Lynette Sowell is the award-winning author of over one dozen titles for Barbour Publishing. In 2009, Lynette was voted one of the favorite new authors by Heartsong Presents book club readers. Her historical romance, All That Glitters, was a finalist in ACFW's 2010 Carol Awards. Lynette lives in central Texas where she writes, enjoys her granddaughters, and dispenses wisdom to new writers like myself.

You have a long career in publishing, having written for several publishers. What advice would you give to those new to a writing career?
Whether you’re published or not, the key is to remain flexible. Just when you think you “know” what’s happening in publishing, things can change. When I first started pursuing publication, “they” were saying things like “historicals are a hard sell” or “nobody’s buying them.” That’s changed dramatically. So, listen to the market, watch the market, but keep writing what you love to write and keep growing as a writer, and be open to the unexpected. I admire and envy writers who know exactly what their “brand” is from the get-go.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Truly, it’s the friends and colleagues I’ve gotten to know along the way. We were all “networking” back in the old days and didn’t know what that was. We just kept trying to become better writers, to help each other out, and nudge each other along in the journey. I’m also blessed and thankful to have friends who won’t just give input on ideas, but they’ll pray for me as well. And I, for them.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Time ticks away, whether I’m doing something I think is fun, or whether I’m knee-deep in work. I try to remind myself that people who accomplish a lot of things often get things done a little at a time. Also, saying no is not always a bad thing. We all have the same 24 hours to use, so I try to make the best use of them. Right now, I’m blessed that I’m freed up enough to work a part-time day job, and the rest of the time is free, relatively speaking, for writing. Interruptions and unplanned events are part of life and are life, so I’m always learning how to deal with the “somethings” that come up, whether I have control over them, or not.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
As a Christian writer, writing for CBA readers, I know readers are looking and waiting for a message, even if they don’t expect to be preached at. There is always a message in one of my books, even if I don’t know what that is to begin with. Often, the deeper I get into my characters, the more I see what that is. Sometimes, it’s something I’ve faced myself—whether it’s dealing with unforgiveness, forgiving myself, or facing and dealing with fear. I try not to begin with the “message” of the book, i.e., deciding I want to write a book about forgiveness, because I like to leave myself open to what might happen during the story. That said, I do like to know during the proposal stage a basic idea of what spiritual thread could come out in a book.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
The first time I walked into a bookstore and saw my book on the shelf. That happened to be our local Wal-Mart. I tried not to scream (too) loudly. It dawned on me that yes, I’m a professional author, not aspiring anymore. And then, I learned the hard work was just beginning. But that’s for another day.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
Sometimes it’s a setting that gives me a nudge for a story idea. Other times, I’ll be watching a show or a documentary that makes me sit up and take notice, especially if it’s something I’ve either never heard of before or find especially interesting. This has happened when writing historicals. I imagine and hope that readers out there will think an idea is as fascinating and interesting as I do, and go from there. I enjoy the sense of discovery and learning, too.

In Tempest’s Course, I knew I wanted to propose a contemporary story, set in New England. Then I saw the Mariner’s Compass quilt pattern and chose that. Having my heroine be a textiles conservator followed soon after. Then, what kind of quilt would she work on, and why? The setting of Gray House on historic County Street in New Bedford developed in my mind, especially after visiting New Bedford and studying its history. I hope this book is a nod to the Gothic romances of the past, with the creaky old house and a modern twist.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I’ve discovered a number of my characters have a longing for a place to call home, or a place where they feel as though they belong. I think that’s true for a lot of us. Also, we have those “defining” moments in our lives that change us, for good or for not-so-good. Either way, I enjoy bringing that element of character to a book. I’m also big on settings. I want my readers to feel as if they’ve been where my book takes place—whether that’s the Texas hill country or the New England coast, or an Amish village in Florida.

Finish this question, my favorite thing to do when I'm not writing is ...
Spend time with my husband. We’re both very different but we enjoy a lot of the same activities, like traveling, movies, road trips and cooking. I’m not ashamed to say he’s a better baker than I am.

Any parting words?
Enjoy the journey and don’t lose sight of present joys while being focused on your next destination. As writers, we can spend so much time watching down the road and end up missing the precious moments in front of us.

Thanks for sharing with us, Lynette!

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