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Interview With Margaret Brownley

Margaret Brownley has more than 20 novels to her credit, not to mention numerous Christian articles and one non-fiction book. With wit and a well-honed mastery of story, she transports readers into old west adventures in love and life.

Margaret, your unusual entry into the world of fiction writing begins with a colorful church newsletter and a perceptive pastor. Tell us how you first discovered that God was calling you to write a novel, and how you initially responded to this revelation.

I don’t know that God called me to write a novel, per se, but he did give me the passion for words and love of a good story. I wrote my first “book” in fifth grade, a mystery I didn’t know how to end. I wanted to be a writer in the worst possible way, but after failing 8th grade English, I gave up on that dream (still can’t diagram a sentence). It didn’t help that the teacher told me I’d never make it as a writer.

I went on to do other things, but the writing bug never left me. I should have known that God doesn’t give you a talent unless he has a plan for its use. And as the heroine in my book learns, God’s plan is greater than we could ever imagine for ourselves.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Several things. Persistence was one. I always envy those writers able to find their own unique voices in the first novel. I had to write many novels before I found my voice. In fact, I wrote four novels before making my first sale, and that took persistence.

Of course I don’t think any of this would be possible without passion. The love of writing has to be greater than the fear of rejection. Your passion for writing has to be so great that no matter what’s going on in your life, you still find time to write.

Finally, I can’t say enough good things about my support group. My holy literary triangle is made of a great agent (Natasha Kern), a wonderful editor (Natalie Hanemann) and God.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Ah, yes, the great juggling act. Who was it that said a writing career is ten percent writing and ninety percent avoiding the temptation of the Internet?
It does seem like there are more interruptions today than when I first started writing, and this takes a great amount of discipline to overcome.

I think you have to be just a little bit selfish and that’s hard, especially for women. We can’t seem to keep from putting other people’s needs before our own. I’ve had to learn to keep my morning writing time sacred. No facebook, no doctor’s appointments, no telephone calls, nothing but writing. No one is to bother me in the a.m. (unless there’s blood, or one’s hair is on fire). Oh, yes, and no one in the family is allowed to get sick or have a crisis just before a deadline. One little thing I learned that might help others: My family didn’t take my writing seriously until I took it seriously.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
One of the frustrations of writing for the ABA market was not being allowed to explore a character’s faith. Our faith plays a tremendous part in who we are and how we react to life. I don’t think it’s possible to fully develop a character without addressing his or her faith (or lack of it). That’s one of the reasons I love writing for the Christian market.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
It’s hard to pick out one thing when there have been so many great moments. I guess I have to say the day I sold my first book. It’s still thrilling to sell a book, but you always remember the first.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I don’t know where the burning need to write comes from but I do know that a writer has a different perspective on life. Years ago, my husband and I were taking a moonlight cruise down the Seine in Paris, France. Without warning a bunch of hooligans dumped barrels of oil on our boat, covering us from head to toe. We ended up at the police department with a hundred angry tourists screaming in twenty different languages. During the chaos my husband had to tell me to stop smiling before others suspected me of instigating the incident. I couldn’t help myself. While others were demanding compensation for ruined clothes I plotted a story. Nothing that happens to a writer ever goes to waste.

I got the idea for A Suitor for Jenny from a meeting notice in an old 1800s newspaper. It was for a group that called themselves “The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Male Independence.” I don’t know what happened to the group or if its members managed to maintain independence, but I know a story idea when I see one and I pounced.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I think my editor said it better than I ever could. She said I had the ability to write serious themes in a humorous way.

Finish this question. What intrigues you most about the old west?
I love writing about the old west. That’s when women came of age. The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian mores and rid themselves of confining clothes. The gun may have won the west, but it was the women who tamed it. They brought churches, schools, newspapers and helped build community. These are the heroines for whom we like to cheer. It must have been a shock to the male ego to have to deal with such strong and unconventional women—and that’s at the very heart of my stories.

It’s not just the west that intrigues me. I’m intrigued by male/female relationships. I write romances because I discovered early in my writing career that every theme and human emotion can be written through the eyes of two people falling in love. You don’t need casts of thousands.

Any parting words?
Thank you so much for allowing me to share my thoughts. I can’t tell you how much I love belonging to such a great group of writers. God bless you all and may your talents continue to shine!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good Write!
Stagecoach Etiquette for Readers:

Thanks for sharing with us, Margaret!

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