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Interview With Nancy Arant Williams

Meet Nancy Arant Williams
Interview by Sandra Moore

1) Tell us a little about yourself -- age, married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

I'm fifty-five years old, married to John, and we have two married children, a son and a daughter. We have four grandchildren and live in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks, where we host a Christian retreat, (B&B) called The Nestle Down Inn.

I have completed 23 novels, 13 already under contract.

2) How did you become interested in writing?

I've always written to please myself and done poetry on special occasions for friends, but told the Lord I would never write seriously unless He gave me something worth writing.

Though I had always wanted to write, but I had set it on the back burner hoping for that elusive 'someday', and really didn't expect it to ever happen. (Oh, me of little faith.)

Then life as I knew it came to a screeching halt when we moved (call it retired) from the only place I'd ever lived (Nebraska) to the middle of the Missouri Ozarks, where I knew no one, I had absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of my life. At that point, the Lord told me to sit down, He was going to teach me how to write. Like Isaac's mother, Sarah, I laughed and asked Him if He didn't think we could've started a bit sooner.

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

First of all, and probably most important, I had no idea 'how' to write. You really don't learn how to write in English comp class, or at least I hadn't. The other problem was a lack of self-confidence that stemmed from negative messages when I was young. Because the urge to write so consumed me, I became one of those who couldn't NOT write. And I hung onto the scripture verse that said, "He who has begun a good work in you WILL PERFORM IT until the day of Jesus Christ."

Like many of you, I had established a pattern over the years--going through one stage or another. My 'arts and crafts' stage, my 'quilting' stage, my 'antiques' stage'... You get the picture. When I said I was going to write, my husband just nodded, and I knew he was wondering how long this particular stage would last. I think he finally understood when a couple of weeks later, I was still writing long into the night or getting up at 2 a.m. to get down something that simply couldn't wait. Now he's my biggest cheerleader.

To learn the craft, I joined ACRW, bought books and studied the art of writing. I also wrote fifteen to twenty hours a day, trying to get it right. However, I don't recommend that approach. I came close to burnout before I even got started. Now I write about twelve to fifteen hours a day, squeezing life in around writing.

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

It's funny, but it's not what you'd expect. Of course I savored that first contract, the way every author does. But the kindest compliment came from a man I admire who was putting together a compilation work for publication. He accepted my essay and said it was 'magnificent'. Talk about motivating. I was a babe in the woods, a beginner, and he gave me hope--worth more to me than a million dollars. Up to that point, I had no clear idea of whether I could write seriously, so his words were the impetus to keep writing, to say nothing of being a confirmation.

5) Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story ideas come from?

As trite as it sounds, I'd literally have to say the Lord is the reason I write, because I came within inches of ending my life at a railroad crossing in 1985. As I waited for the train, I wept, just wanting the pain to end. In a way that I still struggle to describe, His presence filled my passenger compartment with light and warmth, letting me know I wasn't alone. Just as a train came, He reassured me that He had plans for me, for a future and a hope and not for death. And perhaps because I've been at the very bottom of life emotionally, I am touched by the infirmities of those who suffer. My desire is to connect with them (in my writing), offering hope and encouraging them to hold on to the Lord.

Like many other writers, I tend to get them in my sleep. Often, I wake with a loosely outlined story, its characters having flitted through my subconscious to introduce themselves, and in fact, already acting out the story as though in motion picture form.

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

Although I'm almost compulsively organized in other areas of my life, I am a textbook seat of the pants writer, never plan a thing, just keep checking to make sure things are on track as I go.

7) What's the nicest thing anyone ever said about your writing?

A few weeks ago, a brand new baby Christian bought my first three novels for his young wife, who has stacks of books that she simply can't get into, and he told me she's devouring my books, already finished with them and anxious for more.

When I spoke to her, she said she cried through all three of them, and for the first time saw that God didn't hate her and wasn't punishing her. She said I was telling her story, that she found herself in my books. I don't think there's any higher compliment than that, especially when it ministers to people right where they are.

8) Who is your favorite character in your books, and how did you come up with that character?

I'd have to say my favorite is the heroine in my very first book, 52 year old Makkie Yeats. She is just an ordinary 'jane', with ordinary problems, who struggles with her own human failings and the heartaches of living in a fallen world. I absolutely love characters who struggle with imperfections, because they are so much me. Ultimately, I think she gives me hope and helps me laugh at myself instead of taking things too seriously.

9) How do you deal with publisher rejections?

I figure they're just part of the package--you win some, you lose some. I never let it get to me for more than five minutes. In fact, many times I have so many things going that I've forgotten submitting in the first place. I guess the phrase--don't put all your eggs in one basket--works best for me. My goal is to keep my eyes on the goal, that of just doing the next thing, being obedient, and letting the Lord work out the details.

10) If you could give a beginner one piece of advice what would it be?

Oh, boy, now you've got me on my soapbox. Indulge me for a minute if you would.

First of all, if the Lord has instructed you to write, don't waste time doubting or trying to figure it out. Don't let anything discourage or deter you from the plan, because time is short to be about the Father's work. Be like that little child; get excited about writing; be yourself here--relax and pray; then just write and leave the worrying to Him. Learn your craft and absorb what you can from writers whose work you admire.

Don't be in a hurry to submit.

Your work is like a declicious soup. It needs to simmer for a time so all the wonderful flavors mingle. After you've completed something, set it aside for a few weeks, then take it out and look at it. (And in the meantime, work on something else. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish when you just go ahead and do the next thing.) When you pick up the piece that's been simmering, ask the Lord to speak through you as you revise and edit. Then you can watch HIM make it sing and give Him all the glory. And most of all, let your passion show through, because that is the secret ingredient that will make your work unforgettable.


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