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Interview with Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton is a tween author with a vivid imagination! She brings her stories to vibrant life in a setting all her own. She has created the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp, which seems like a real place in the minds of her young readers. You can explore the camp and its characters on her website. It will take your breath away!

Mary, you write fiction for tweens, so I’m curious. How much of yourself do you write into your characters?
It’s interesting you ask that, because I recently spoke with an older gentleman from my church who was reading Hear No Evil. He said he never would’ve guessed I was such a tomboy. But he understood that from the story. I think a little bit of myself goes into each of my characters. It may be a hope or a personal like /dislike or it might be a personality trait. But each of my characters reveals a part of me.

Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?
I didn’t particularly like Taylor when I started out writing Speak No Evil but by the end of the book, I had grown to really love him. I’ve known a few kids who were rough around the edges but if you took the time to look a little deeper, there was a good heart buried inside them. That’s Taylor. His defenses and his method of dealing with his hurt understandably put most people off. But inside all that prickliness was a lonely kid who just needed someone to believe in him.

Which was the hardest character to write? Why?
It was difficult to write Taylor because he was such a jerk to start with. In Hear No Evil, he was a bully who preyed on kids who were hurting. To take an unlikeable character and figure out how to make him not only sympathetic but likeable was a challenge.

What helps you the most when you're developing your characters?
From Jeff Gerke, I learned to use Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey to get an initial feel for my characters. I learn their temperament and what kind of traits go along with it. After that, I go out for early morning jogs and walks in a nearby park. I find the exercise gets the blood flowing and as I think about the characters, I usually learn one or two things about them that I didn’t see sitting at my desk. So I guess you could say I take my characters for a walk to get to know them.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
The story led me to the genre. I had no intention of writing for kids. I wanted to write for adults, but the story I felt compelled to write needed to be aimed at a tween audience. I’m gratified that adults are finding it enjoyable reading too!

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Joining ACFW was definitely a significant move toward getting published. My first ACFW conference was overwhelming, but I came away from it with such a better understanding of the business of writing. And it provided the contacts that led to getting an agent. I’ve recommended ACFW membership to other writers who are starting out on their writing journey.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
With my children grown, I don’t have as many responsibilities as many writers have. I’m fortunate to have a husband who understands my need for solitude to write and he tries to provide me that time. Now if I could just convince him to take over the cooking…

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
My faith plays a substantial role in my stories. With the setting of a Bible camp, I’m able to communicate much of who God is and why He is worthy of our faith and trust. At some point, I think I’d like to try writing stories that don’t have a blatant spiritual element, but my faith will always form the background and foundation of whatever I write.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
This series, the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series, came out of my experience growing up at a camp. I drew on many of the people and events I knew from my youth, but the characters came from young people I got to know when my children were teens. I watched several of their friends struggle with the effects of broken homes and dysfunctional families. It made me want to write stories to offer hope to hurting kids.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
Because of my childhood, I’m able to write convincingly of the youth camp experience. I also believe I’m able to weave the spiritual lessons into the story in ways that feel natural and not boring.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
I have a Golden Retriever who soaks up attention like a sponge, so I play and/or snuggle with him. I also enjoy knitting, reading, and sitting out on my patio enjoying nature. Since my husband recently retired, we’ll be spending a fair amount of time exploring where we’d like to relocate.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Quite a while ago, I started Humility: True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney and never finished it. I want to get back to reading it. I also look forward to reading Chasing the Lion by Nancy Kimball and Sailing Out of Darkness by Normandie Fischer.

Finish this statement: Younger siblings are….
A blessing, though sometimes I considered my little brother more of a curse. My mother chided me once when I complained about something he was doing. She said if my best friend were doing the same thing, we’d be laughing over it. Of course I denied it, but I learned that if I treated him as well as I treated my friends, he wasn’t such a bad kid after all!

Any parting words?
It’s been an honor to be featured on ACFW. I am proud to be part of such an amazing group of writers.

Thanks for sharing with us, Mary!

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