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Interview with Melissa Ferguson

The book cover of Melissa Ferguson’s debut novel, The Dating Charade, beckons the romance reader inside the pages to discover a story that satisfies with the comfort of sweet chocolate.

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Hi Melissa. Congratulations on your debut release! It’s a pleasure to have you here today. What childhood experiences influenced your desire to be a writer?
Aside from being an avid reader, I actually never thought about becoming a writer until the month after I finished my Master’s degree from seminary. Through a surprising (and I believe God-ordained) set of life circumstances with my husband’s work, I found myself with twelve hours a day alone in a new town with no job, no friends, and not even so much as an oven to distract myself by cooking with. The thought occurred in the Extended Stay for me one day, “I wonder what it would be like to write a powerful message about some of the things I just learned in seminary in a fun, adventurous story” and from that day on I was hooked.

In your debut novel, The Dating Charade, your hero and heroine meet through online dating. Do you believe online dating is a good idea? Why or why not?
Well, spoiler: my hero and heroine actually knew each other from high school but became aware of each other again through an online dating site.

But as for if I personally believe online dating is a good idea, I’d have to say it certainly has its merits. When living in a small town, particularly as an adult outside of a social occupation or attending a church with only a handful of single people, the opportunities to meet others is much smaller than, say, meeting on a college campus of 11,000 students. You can cut out wasting your time on first dates with people who may have deal breaker differences, like, perhaps not sharing your Christian worldview . . . loathing children when you have twelve … has a concerning fixation with cemeteries. The list goes on.

I actually have several friends who’ve met and married through online dating.

What obstacles did you encounter during your publication journey?
Oh, where do I begin?!
I think so many of us experience these publication obstacles. They’re like our own form of boot camp before getting initiated as a published author. How about I list them:

1. 4 years of writing my first book (that I love but is still hidden on my computer)
2. 2 agents
3. 3 books written before a signed contract
4. 7 writer conferences
5. 8 years of writing before my first book comes out Dec 3
6. A second book that was about to get offered a contract with a smaller publisher but I turned it down, making the hard decision to shop the third book around instead
7. After seven years of writing and waiting, the third book got a 2-book deal offer from a lovely house, but I made the (terrifying) decision to tell them I needed to wait several months (at which point they were within rights to pull back their offer) and see what Thomas Nelson would say (which, thankfully Thomas Nelson ended up offering a 3-book deal)

Overall though, I think the biggest obstacle is the waiting. Waiting when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Checking emails every hour of the day for years hoping it’s that agent or that publisher with good news. Getting those rejection emails---or worse, no emails at all. Persevering and writing the next book when the one you poured your heart and soul into goes nowhere. Staying hopeful and fighting the isolation when your friends and family start to quietly hint that maybe you should be doing something else.

The waiting for that book contract was by far the hardest obstacle.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Well, I have twin 4-year-olds and a 2-year-old daughter who stay with me full-time. Balancing time teaching online courses at King University, writing fiction, and loving on my kids has been very challenging, but at the same time I have been blessed by incredible family members and neighbors. My mother-in-law comes once a week from 2 hours away to watch my kids for a full day. My mother lives just up the road and often babysits as well. In deadline crunch time, I have some great neighbors who babysit.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Originally I was a pantser, but with every book I’m adding a bit more plotting to my life :) (and it’s making a HUGE difference in my sanity)!

How is your faith reflected in this story?
I know the heart of God as described over and over in Scripture is one of adoption. He adopted us. He calls us to love, serve, and sometimes adopt others. James 1:27. Psalm 58:5-6. Ephesians 1:5. Galatians 4:5-7. Just to name a few.

Our family had been seriously thinking about adopting internationally or domestically while I was writing The Dating Charade. In the story, three kids were dropped each into the lives of my main characters. The way the story unfolded actually opened my eyes to the deep hurts and needs of children in foster care in our nation (especially as the hurts of the children in my story were so often taken from real-life stories of those in my community). There actually was one day while I was writing that I paused and thought, “I wonder if God will use this story to change people’s hearts for foster care.” And the immediate, startling thought came back, “Or God is using this story to change your heart, Melissa, about foster care.”

And honestly, God did change our hearts through The Dating Charade. Where we had been adamantly uninterested before, God literally gave both my husband and my perspective a 180-turn. We ended up starting foster classes this past January, and have finally been approved to foster.

What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you as an author?
The fact that God has completely flipped my family’s life upside-down by using my own book to change our hearts about foster care.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Is Facebook a legitimate answer? ;)

Let’s see. I love tea parties with my children. Library story time every week. Going on walks and the occasional hike. Listening to audiobooks while jogging (which, to be honest, has turned into mostly a jog-walk). :) Drinking too many iced lattes. Simply spending time with friends and family.


Patti Shene Gonzales hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview style blog talk radio show, where she promotes those who share God’s love through writing and other ministry outlets. She hosts writers, published and unpublished, on her two blogs, The Over 50 Writer and Patti’s Porch on her website at Patti is published in two anthologies and local publications and has three western novels in progress. When not writing or reading, she is doing volunteer work for her church or attending her only granddaughter’s sports activities. Patti lives in Colorado with her devoted feline companion, Duncan.

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