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Interview With Marybeth Whalen

Hi, Marybeth, thanks for sharing with us today!
Thanks for having me! How fun to be here!

With the release of your first fiction book, The Mailbox, I imagine life has been busier than normal for you. How have you prepared for your book's release and how do you feel about it?
I think it's been busier than normal for me because I've also been finishing up my second novel, which was due June 1 (the release date for The Mailbox). I think that's actually been good because I have been too preoccupied to obsess about the release!

As far as preparations, I've tapped into every connection, every resource, every idea I can think of to promote the book and let people know it's out there. My thought was, "It's worth a try!"

What made you decide to take the jump into writing fiction, or has it always been on your heart?
Fiction has always been on my heart. It's my first love. I have always made up stories--ever since I was a little girl. I carried a notebook with me everywhere a la Harriet the Spy and recorded what I saw.

I wrote non-fiction for awhile because that's what all my friends at Proverbs 31 Ministries were doing. I was too scared to branch out and even more scared of potential rejection if I did. I could take rejection in the nonfiction market, because I didn't have as much emotionally invested. My fiction mattered and I was terrified to discover I really didn't have what it takes.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Having people who spoke into my life and believed in me--my best friend Ariel and my husband Curt, my extended family (especially my mom), my fellow Proverbs 31 Ministries sisters. They all wouldn't let me chicken out. I needed that encouragement and accountability.

You are a wife and a mother of SIX children! What's your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
At first it was learning to write in the midst of noise and chaos...which I did. I can go into a zone now and write with kids jumping around, crying, talking, etc. When I started I could NOT do that! But consistent practice and just having to make it work necessitated that I get over it. Now I guess my biggest challenge is that I truly love being home just hanging out with my family. I tend to put off writing so I can be with them. My husband is great about holding me accountable to deadlines and insisting I get out of the house for blocks of time when I need to write. He knows I would just stay at home all the time if he didn't push me out of the nest, so to speak.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I have told people that I didn't start out writing a "Christian" book. I just started out telling a story--I didn't try to make it Christian or secular. Jesus just showed up. He is so integral to everything I think and do, it makes sense that He would.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Every time I think I've hit the greatest moment, I find that I was aiming too low! So far it was standing with Terry Behimer (Editorial Director/Associate Publisher for David C Cook, my publisher) outside a restaurant. I had just found out my book was being moved up to an earlier publication date. A Barnes and Noble was across the parking lot from us and she pointed to it. I was about to walk towards the car but she stopped me. "Let's take a moment," she said. We both stared at the Barnes and Noble. "Just think," she said. "Next year this time your book will be in that store." That was a very cool, very surreal moment.

I keep telling people that my best moment will be when I am walking down the beach or I am at the pool and someone I don't know (if I know them, it doesn't count) is reading my book this summer. I know I will probably make a fool of myself telling them that's my book! I would say that I will play it cool, but I know better.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
The ideas come from all over. I think novelists have great "What-iffers." We hear something or witness something or experience something and we extrapolate from there. I keep a running list of the ideas that come to me and I am constantly playing with them--adding thoughts as they come, developing characters, etc. It's fun! My brain is never, ever idle.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I don't think I will ever write safe, tidy, easy fiction. I write about the messes we make of our lives. And of course, I am a southern girl so that comes through in my voice. Oh, and 80's music. I will most likely always have some reference to 80's music in my writing. In The Mailbox it's Don Henley's Boys Of Summer, my all-time favorite song.

Finish this question...if writing meant having to give up one thing, it would be...
That's a tough one because writing has added so much to my life! As a speaker, I would have to say if I had to give it up to keep writing, I would. Thankfully, the two seem to work together!

Any parting words?
Nope! Except thanks for letting me share!

Thanks for sharing with us, Marybeth!

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