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Interview with MaryLu Tyndall

MaryLu Tyndall is one of God’s hard-won success stories. She grew up in a broken home, moved twenty-five times with her mother before the age of eighteen, and never knew her father. With this kind of past, there was nothing she craved more than love and stability, and until the age of thirty-five she admits she sought to fill that need in many of the wrong ways.

However, her mobile childhood was dotted with a few brief periods of Sunday school attendance, during which MaryLu had been given a Bible. When life hit rock bottom, it was her decision to read that Bible from cover to cover that led her to finally believe that God was real.

This month, MaryLu will publish her eleventh Christian fiction novel ‘Veil of Pearls’. Through her writing she seeks to encourage others into knowing “God is real. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. And He is faithful.”

MaryLu, with a degree in Math and fifteen years spent in a software engineering career, what led you into writing Christian fiction?

I’ve always written. I had a poem published in my High School Year book. I wrote a novel at age 16 and another one in my twenties and had several started but never finished. Believing I could never get published, I never submitted any of them and ended up choosing a career that made money. Of course God had a HUGE work to do in me before I could write for Him. It wasn’t until ten years after I committed my life to Him that I distinctly heard Him tell me to write a novel about a Christian Pirate. Yes, I thought I was hearing things too! Yet even though I was working full time, I obeyed. That book was The Redemption, my first published novel!

Do you feel that your life experience before becoming a Christian helps you add depth to your characters and their stories you might not have had without it?
Absolutely! In fact, I’m not sure I could write the type of stories and characters I do without my BC (Before Christ) life. If you’ve read any of my books, you know that my characters normally start out in pretty rough places, some of them doing some pretty bad things. My characters are usually the down and outs, the forsaken, the hurting, rejected. Some have partaken of, or at least have witnessed, the seedy side of life. Even so, they are searching for meaning, purpose, and hope, ultimately finding them only in God. Their stories mimic my own dive into the world as a youth, my own search for meaning, and my own realization that everything the world offers is nothing but meaningless chaff. Only God fills every longing of the human soul.

Your tagline for your collective works is “Swashbuckling Romances Anchored in Faith.” What do you attribute to your strong interest in all things nautical?
Hmm. Good question. I suppose part of it had to do with growing up on the beaches of South Florida. I spent many a day snorkeling and body surfing in the warm waters and lying upon the sand dreaming of pirates and tall ships! There’s just something so mysterious, enchanting, and romantic about the sea! Also, my grandfather graduated from the US Naval Academy and served until he died in a tragic air accident aboard a US carrier, so I suppose I have navy blood flowing through my veins as well.

What’s your secret to staying on deadline (chocolate, coffee …)?
Prayer! And definitely coffee! In fact with prayer and coffee, I believe you can do anything you set your mind to do! LOL
But honestly, I’m a pretty disciplined person. I treat my writing like a regular 8-5 job, barely even breaking for lunch! How would you like me to be your boss? LOL

Your latest story revolves around a runaway slave from Barbados trying to blend into Charleston’s high society. What sparked you to write this particular story?
In my research on Charleston, I learned there was a great division in classes among the citizens: You had the landed gentry, who were the plantation owners; then the upper crust of society, who were basically people with money and position, or who hailed from a prominent family. Then there was everyone else, the shop owners, tradesmen, merchants, etc. . . basically the people who worked at menial jobs. And of course, at the bottom were the black slaves, who were next to simple beasts in the people’s minds. So, I thought, what would happen if one of those rich, pompous, spoiled land owners, unbeknownst to him, fell in love with a slave? When he found out her heritage, how would that change him? His values, ideas? How would it affect his family? Then on the flip side, my heroine who doesn’t appear black, but who is a runaway slave, finds herself swept away into the opulence of high society (similar to Cinderella at the ball), experiencing luxuries, delicacies, attention, and admiration she would never have known otherwise. Would she ever want to go back to her former life? What would she do, how many lies would she tell, how much of herself would she have to deny to be accepted into this new world she never dreamed of before?

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career (so far)?
An email I received from a young lady who told me that it was because of one of my books that she started reading her Bible again, and consequently turned her life over to Jesus. Isn’t that why we write? It doesn’t get any better than that!

Do you consider yourself an outliner, or a seat-of-the-pantser?
Definitely a seat-of-the-pantser!! I’ve tried outlining, I really have, but I can’t do it. For me to write a genuine story from my heart, I must be inside my character’s heads, and the only way to do that is to start writing from their perspective. Of course I’m not diving in completely blind. I always have an overriding theme, a beginning, middle, and end in mind, three major crises, and I also create in-depth character charts for each main characters.

What tips would you give beginning writers that you wish you had known?
There are two things I tell every new writer struggling with that first manuscript.

1. Shut off ALL the voices, but God’s. As a new writer you’ve probably read countless writing books, perhaps taken classes, joined a critique group, maybe entered contests…etc. And you have a gazillion rules and tips and opinions floating around in your head. As important as some of those rules are and as beneficial as some people’s comments are, they stifle creativity. So, I recommend shutting all that off and just writing from the heart. You can always go back and fix things later.

2. Save your money and hire a professional editor to do a substantive edit on your entire manuscript. It is pricey but so worth it! I learned more from my editor (Susan Lohrer) than I ever did reading books or attending classes. Plus, it’s hands on, specific help that applies to your own manuscript, which is invaluable.

What writers do you feel have influenced your own writing style the most?
Jane Austen, Raphael Sabatini and Patrick O’Brian

Any parting words?
Yes. Thank you for spotlighting me and my work! It’s been fun. Also, for all the struggling writers out there, remember Jesus was a story teller. There is power in stories. They can change people, lead them closer to God, and give them a new perspective. No matter if you never get published traditionally and just end up self-publishing. No matter if you are a New York Times Best Seller or you barely sell 100 copies. No matter if you win a thousand awards or receive only a few pats on the back, you have been given a gift from God and He has a plan for that gift. Just be obedient. Don’t compare yourself with others. Keep working. Keep believing and keep leaving your writing in God’s capable hands.

Thanks for sharing with us, MaryLu!

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