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Interview With Merrillee Whren

1) Introduce yourself to us. Name, info on your family, number of books authored, etc...

I’m Merrillee Whren. I’ve been married for thirty years to my own personal hero. I have two grown daughters. One lives in Baltimore and the other in Pittsburgh.

I’ve written ten books. Of those ten I’ve sold three, and I’ve just made a fourth sale on proposal. Also I still hope to sell the book that won RWA’s Inspirational Golden Heart Award in 2003. The rest I consider my practice books.

2) Do you write full time? If yes, can you give us a glimpse into your daily writing life? If not, what is your day job?

I work part-time for my husband’s recruiting firm, but that involves only a few hours a week. I have no typical writing day. I usually have goals to meet such as a certain number of pages to write each day. I write those whenever I can in between the other things that I have scheduled. I do most of my writing in the evenings after my husband has left our home office. Even when I’m not sitting in front of the computer actually writing, I am thinking about the story I’m currently writing.

3) Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

I wrote my first novel when I was in high school. I wrote every night instead of doing homework. My friends at school read what I wrote the next day. Kind of like a serial.

I went to college and became a teacher and didn't think much about writing until my kids were in school. I wrote my first novel with the intention of trying to get it published in 1984. It took me a little under a year to write that book.

I wrote eight books before I sold one. Those eight books are spread out over 20 years. I made my first submission to a publishing house in 1984. I got my first sale in 2004. I know one thing: If you have a dream, keep at it. Don't give up.

After writing for so many years, I was wondering whether I should give up. Was God trying to tell me that I wasn't cut out for writing? That I should use my time in some other way? In 2003, I had entered the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Contest. I had entered this contest several times before and never came close to finaling.

The thought kept going through my mind to lay a fleece before the Lord. "Lord, if you want me to continue writing, let me win the Golden Heart." I have to admit I was afraid to pray that prayer because if I didn't win that meant God didn't want me to write. I wasn't sure I could give it up even though many times I became so discouraged that I wanted to give up. But I always came back to it.

Even though I didn't pray that prayer, God knew what was in my heart. In 2003 I won the Golden Heart for best inspirational romance manuscript. A few months later I got that first sale. So persistence pays off. So everyone, whoever thinks of quitting, hang in there. Something good can happen.

4) What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

I don’t know that there was one big obstacle. I know my journey included learning about the publishing industry. I made an effort to learn about writing through books, the workshops presented by my RWA chapters, critique groups and contests. And I just kept writing.

5) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

I can’t pick just one. The first big highlight was winning RWA’s Golden Heart for best inspirational unpublished manuscript in 2003. Just being a finalist prompted me to finish the manuscript that became my first sale in 2004, a very high moment for any writer.

6) How do the ideas for your stories spark?

My ideas come from a lot of sources. The story I like to tell the most is how I got the idea for The Heart’s Homecoming, my first sale to Steeple Hill. I heard a song by Dwight Yoakam called, “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.” The song is about a guy who is getting phone calls and notes from a woman who dumped him. His attitude is, of course, the title of the song. It made me wonder how a Christian man would handle such a situation. So I came up with the story about a woman who left a man at the altar. Now she’s back and wants to be at least friends maybe more. In that story I explore his struggle with forgiveness.

7) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants writer. I write from a very vague synopsis and often find myself plotting the next chapter as I do my daily walk or even while I make the bed or do dishes. My husband knows when I’m staring off into space that my characters are probably having a conversation in my head.

8) I’m notorious for *snacking* while I write! Do you have any favorite munchies you wouldn’t mind us knowing about?

I chew gum to keep from snacking.

9) How do you strike an agreeable “balance” between your writing time and other responsibilities?

I spend time each day writing, but when I’m on a deadline my writing time increases. During that time my house may have a few more dust bunnies than normal.

10) What has been the most surprising thing about your adventure in publishing?

The fan mail. People write such sweet letters. It is so wonderful to know I have touched someone’s life with my story.

11) How do you deal with publisher rejections? Crawl in bed under the covers for an entire day? Indulge in double-fudge chocolate? Or just brush it off?

I don’t just brush it off, but I don’t indulge in chocolate either. Ever since I turned my writing over to God, I know that when I send something off it is in His hands.

12) Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

I want to keep improving my writing and always telling stories that glorify God.

13) These have been fairly standard questions. What is one thing you’d like to share with up-and-coming writers that they may not even know to ask yet?

If God has led you to write, never give up.

14) You have a new title coming out, right? Tell us about it.

Yes, I have a new book out, AN UNEXPECTED BLESSING, from the Steeple Hill Love Inspired line.

It is a marriage-of-convenience story. An orphaned baby is the unexpected catalyst for a match between his maternal aunt and paternal uncle. While they care for their nephew, they learn to forgive and overcome their painful pasts in order to love again.

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