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Interview with Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans is a contemporary romance novelist, published several times in the ABA market before winning a writing competition held by White Rose Publishing. That award-winning novella, Hearts Crossing, led to the creation of the Woodland Series. Coming in late 2012 is her Christian fiction debut, Devotion, from Harbourlight Books. Devotion centers around a loving marriage unexpectedly embroiled by turmoil. Also coming in 2012, from White Rose Publishing, is a Valentines Day anthology, and the kick-off of a three-book series, Sal’s Place. The series revolves around the lives and loves of some folks who frequent a historic, riverfront diner in downtown Detroit.

Hearts Crossing was your debut novella in the CBA market, but you were published in the secular market initially. What has been the noticeable difference between the two markets for you so far?

Great question! Know what, though? I don’t tend to look at the ABA versus the CBA. Rather, I try to look at the call God gives me, and then follow it to the best of my ability. Every experience I’m given leads me to the present moment, so, I can’t say dissatisfaction with the ABA market led me to CBA. For the longest time, I wanted to write Christian fiction and romance, but I had no clear-cut story demanding to be told. Plus, I fell into the trap of thinking: I’m not worthy. I’m a sinner, and I’m nobody’s theologian. Have you ever experienced that line of thinking? I know, now, that the devil was at work, trying to keep my gifts, and a calling, from reaching fruition. If not for the experience of writing for Kensington Publishing, I wouldn’t be where I am right now, so, all in all, I hold to the truth that God always uses everything for His benefit!

Hearts Communion, book three of the Woodland Series, deals with sensitive issues surrounding infertility. What inspired you to tackle the topic of infertility?
Over the course of my life, I’ve watched my sister-in-law, and my cousin’s wife, battle with endometriosis. Both of them came away with very different answers to their prayers for a family, but happy endings. My sister-in-law, after ten years of trying, ended up pregnant, and she is now the mother of two beautiful daughters. My cousin’s wife, meanwhile, never bore children, but they adopted a son, giving a child in need a most wonderful home.

How do things work out for my hero and heroine, JB and Monica? Oh, I’m so tempted to be a spoiler, but I won’t do that. However, I will tell you, the answer to their ‘family’ question is answered during the course of the Woodland series. Watching the Godly way these two women reacted to their condition definitely formed the backbone of Monica Kittelski, the star of Hearts Communion.

Hearts Crossing was originally the winner of a writing competition, and has now led to your writing an entire series of related inspirational romance. Do you think you would still be writing in the secular market if you hadn’t won this writing competition?

Regardless of the contest results at White Rose Publishing, I would have found a way to enter the CBA market…again, not because I “dislike” the ABA/secular market, but because inspirational romance and fiction is the calling of my heart. In fact, I now consider it a beloved ministry and a powerful utilization of the gifts I think God has given me to touch hearts for His glory.

When I reached that point, boy did the walls holding back my story ideas burst. I remember sitting at church one afternoon, watching people move forward for communion, and the seeds of a series revolving around a beloved church family came to life. From there, the idea wouldn’t be stopped. The stories of my heart had to be written…whether they ever saw publication or not.

This is now my call, and my absolute passion, so, I don’t see a return to the secular market.

What’s your secret to cranking out words and getting the editing done (What keeps you motivated)?
Oh, I wish there were a divine, inspired secret!! I only wish I had more time in a day to dedicate to my writing! In honesty, that’s the only complaint I have about my writing. When I sit down, sink into my current story, and let the words flow, there’s such a joy that comes about. That keeps me motivated, and definitely keeps me cranking out the words!

Do you plan out your stories or are you a seat-of-the-panster?
I used to be a devout panster! I’d sit down to write and let the plot/characters carry me away. Now, I contract on proposal (synopsis or synopsis and a chapter or two). That means I need to present a fairly extensive overview of whatever story I’m ‘pitching’ to my editor. I now force myself to formulate the solid foundation for a 40,000 to 60,000 word novel. So far, the change has been okay, because while the foundation remains solid, I’ve found there’s still wiggle-room enough to let the characters, and story, have their say.

You mention on your web site that one of your earlier novels With This Kiss was inspired by your own grandmother. How did this fact affect the writing of that novel compared to any others you have written?
Funny you should mention With This Kiss! Without giving too much away, the book ends on quite a Christian, inspirational note. The ending didn’t come about by deliberate design, but by the scenes that came to life in my heart. The book is based on the deli my grandmother once owned in East Rutherford, New Jersey, so the connection to family really stirred my heart. I love all the books I’ve written (kind of like children, right?) however, With This Kiss stands out as an ode to the life of a beloved family member. This book is the last one of mine that my grandmother read, and she finished it with happy tears in her eyes. That was more than enough of a “review” for me…and it also marked the start of my opportunity to write Christian fiction. If not for WTK’s publication at Wild Rose Press, I never would have found my way to White Rose Publishing. Everything to God’s purpose.

Who is your writing support system?
Without a question, my family, and my best friend/critique partner. My family has cheered me on through every high and every low that comes along during the road to publication…and beyond. I wouldn’t be who I am, and where I am, without their love encouragement and support. Then, there’s my best friend, Lisa. She’s been part of my life for over twenty years, and we met at a local writer’s conference where we both got slaughtered (and that’s putting it mildly!) by a New York agent who read our work and presented her comments aloud during the course of a workshop. We cried together over lunch following that debacle, and vowed to prove that agent wrong. We formed a critique group, and Lisa is now an in-demand freelance writer who has been published in national magazines. I ended up getting published as well, so, I think we both ended up on the winning side of that particular episode.

How does being a member of ACFW differ from the other writing organizations you have been a part of?
I love being part of ACFW! I belong to the Great Lakes Chapter as well as national, and the camaraderie and support I’ve received is simply incredible. I’m grateful to be part of such a wonderful group of writers, and readers, of Christian fiction. There’s networking and support to be found in numerous writing organizations, but ACFW brings the Christian worldview and perspective to all that it does. It’s awesome!

Do you have any writing rituals or ways that you celebrate milestones?
My best friend, and critique partner, Lisa, gifts me with a silver, disk-shaped charm for my charm bracelet that includes the title and sale date for each of my books. I absolutely love that ritual!! It never fails to bring a lump to my throat—such a blessing and an honor!!

Any parting words?
Simply that I’m gratified and honored to be able to write stories that highlight the warmth of loving relationship, and romance, while glorifying God. It just doesn’t get any better than that!!

Thanks for sharing with us, Marianne!

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