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Interview with Paula Mowery

Paula Mowery often finds herself on the other side of the interview, asking the questions of ACFW’s featured authors. This week, it’s her turn as an author with a new story included in the historical collection, Brave New Century.

Your story, Forgiven, is part of a historical anthology set at the turn of the 19th Century. How did you come up with Henry and Jessie's story?
My father had done some looking into his ancestral history and shared his findings with me. I was brainstorming on how I could use the information in a story when Lisa Lickel put a call out on the ACFW Romance Loop about doing a set of stories set in cities in 1900. I replied to her and started crafting the story.

What's different about writing a story that is part of a collection of stories and not a standalone? How did you approach it?
Not to sound mystical or even cliché, but once the four of us had shared our ideas and prayed about our stories, it was such a God thing. The four of us wrote our stories and then sent them to each other to read and make suggestions. It was amazing how our stories fit together and even had similar elements.

You draw on a real life experience from your family for a scene in the story. What can you tell us about that scene (no spoilers!)? And how difficult was it to write about something that really happened?
My father gave me a copy of an article which appeared in the newspaper about a shoot-out. This gun battle involved my great-grandfather and his three sons. One of those sons is my main character, Henry. As I read the article I thought, “This only happens in books and movies.” Henry, who was my grandfather, survived the shoot-out. I never got the opportunity to meet him since he died before I was born. My mother said he seemed to be quite a harsh type of man. I have no way of knowing how he actually met Jessie. I also don’t know if he ever made peace with the happenings in his life. The way that the story ends is of my own imagination.

What did the research portion of your writing entail for this story?
Of course, as stated above, I started with the information my father gave to me about his father and grandfather. The romance centers on my grandfather and grandmother. With the setting in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, I wanted to research the city at that time, so my mother and I took a trip downtown to a museum archive area that housed specific family histories as well as city directories for various years. I held the city directory for 1900 and was able to include actual street numbers and business names in my story. I did learn that doing research can become addicting because it is so fascinating.

What's your favorite genre to write and/or read?
Ironically, my favorite genre to write and read is contemporary Christian romance. I say ironically because my first three published works have been in women’s fiction and historical fiction. But I do enjoy reading a good Christian romance that I can relate to. Similarly, I enjoy writing about those sweet romances and spiritual milestones being achieved.

How old were you when the writing bug bit?
Hmm, I don’t remember when I didn’t have the writing bug. My mother worked for a Christian bookstore when I was growing up. She brought home books for me to read and blank journals for me to write in. I’ve always loved crafting a story, trying to pen a poem, or creating a Bible study workbook.

What's one thing about being a writer that would have surprised you to know before becoming a writer?
I suppose one thing that has surprised me is that there is so much more involved in being published than just writing. There is the pressure to promote your work which can be hard to get used to. I am also surprised by other people’s reactions when I announce I am an author. They wonder why I have a part-time job if I have books out. I mean, authors are instant money-makers, right? That cracks me up.

One very positive surprise was when that first reader emailed to tell me how my book had encouraged her in her Christian walk. Now that is motivating!

In addition to writing, you're an acquisitions editor for Prism Book Group. How does that help the writer in you?
Being an editor has helped me to write better the first time or first draft. I notice more when I’m writing or editing my own work now than before. But, I also see how much I need my own editor. It is crazy how I can spot things in another writer’s work that I can’t seem to see in my own.

As an acquisitions editor, what is one thing you wish every writer knew/understood about the writing journey?
Writers need to understand that it is a journey. When you land that first contract, you think that is the destination. Nope. That is just the beginning. There’s always more to learn, and you want each subsequent book to reflect that and be better than the last one. Your editor wants the same for you.

What's next from you?
I’m excited about my release coming in March. Legacy and Love contains two contemporary romance stories. Each heroine reflects on the godly influence of a grandmother to discern their lives’ directions. Of course, each story also involves a sweet romance.

Any parting words?
My most important lesson as a Christian writer has been to keep God in the center of it all. With writing deadlines and editing deadlines, I can get caught up in it all and forget about the whole reason I do what I do. God has called me to share His message for His glory. When I stick to that plan and keep Him central, He uses me – little ol’ hillbilly me. I’m humbled and thrilled at the same time!

Thanks for sharing with us, Paula!

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