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Interview with Trish Perry

To Trish Perry’s many readers, the arrival of one of her novels is an occasion for celebration. This month, her latest book, Unforgettable, was released, to be followed early in April by Tea for Two. If you haven’t met this lively and capable author, these two books are a great place to begin!

Trish, your March release, Unforgettable, not only introduces Rachel, a dance studio owner and her WWII pilot hero Josh, but delves into a bit of political intrigue as well. Please tell us a little more about this aspect of the book--if you can do so without spoiling the reading experience
I’ll be cryptic enough that I won’t spoil anything (I hope). Josh has worked hard to expose the local county treasurer’s misdeeds, and he has made sure to secure two eye witnesses to the man’s cooked books. He convinces his paper’s editor-in-chief that the exposé is rock solid. But after the story breaks, Josh loses one of his sources, and the slimy treasurer threatens suit. It’s up to Josh to find his source, verify his story, and save his position with the paper.

You’ve written both series and stand-alone books. Which do you prefer to write? Do you usually know when you begin a new novel that it will be part of a series?
Even when I’m writing in a series, my books are stand alones. I haven’t always known up front that more books would follow, creating a series. But even when the publisher wants a follow-up, the setting may stay the same, but the hero and heroine are new. I do enjoy providing the reader with another installment in a familiar environment. I think that adds to the reader’s ability to identify while she reads.

But there’s also a sense of relief at the end of a single, non-series book, that you’ve resolved nearly everything in that particular world.

What does a typical writing day look like for you? How do you keep the rest of your life from infringing on your writing time?
Ha! You make a grand assumption there, Mary! My life is constantly infringing on my writing time. But I try to take that into consideration when I plan my writing schedule. As I’ve gained more experience, I’ve found what works best for me is an actual breakdown of time before my deadline and an enforced daily word count. I take all of my deadlines into account, determine where I know life will interfere, throw in a few days or weeks of free time in case of emergencies, and figure out how many words per day I must write to meet my deadlines. So I start each day knowing exactly what I’m required to produce. Sometimes I don’t get started until later in the day, because of other demands on my time. But I’ll stay up as late as necessary to get that word count done.

You mention on your website that you read “just about every available book and magazine” out there in the process of learning to write well. Which books have you found especially helpful in your own writing journey?
The first book I read when I started out was Get That Novel Started, by Donna Levin. Very helpful to a new writer, but I think it’s now out of print. These days the books I think every novelist should own include Randy Ingermanson’s Writing Fiction for Dummies, James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure and Revision & Self-Editing, Jeff Gerke’s Plot Versus Character, Brandilyn Collins’ Getting into Character, and Browne & King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Trish, you credit Capital Christian Writers with assisting your development as both a writer and an individual. What advice would you give to less experienced authors about selecting and participating in writing groups or organizations?
I can’t emphasize enough how pivotal CCW was in beginning my career. Not only did I build strong friendships with fellow writers, but I gained my preliminary publishing experience thanks to the group. Because of CCW I learned that I preferred writing fiction over nonfiction, and I met my agent through CCW meetings. So my advice to a less experienced author in this regard is to study local writing groups with the long-term picture in mind. For me, the fact that the group was Christian was the first draw. Not all inspirational writers need that, but I knew I did. Meeting with your group should be something you look forward to, never something you dread. Look for a group that will challenge you, teach you, and inspire you. The group should be charging dues and using those dues to hire speakers. Speakers should be able to give you real-writing-world information you can’t get on your own. Finally, if you’re an aspiring novelist, you absolutely must join American Christian Fiction Writers—the group will change your world.

Like some of our readers, you’ve been writing novels for quite some time, Trish. What was your journey to publication like?
I wrote and published various smaller efforts—poems, articles, personal essays—when I first started submitting. The first novel I wrote is still unpublished (although I think I may publish it someday), and it took me years to write, while I worked on my college degree and raised my kids. I loved writing the book, but it was rather dark, and I was dying to write something light and funny after that. When I entered the early chapters of my first romantic comedy in a writing contest, I ended up winning the contest and gaining my agent, who was a contest judge. She told me to get the book done and she would represent me. She was true to her word, and a year after I finished the book, she landed a two-book contract for me. I should mention that, while she looked for a publisher, I wrote the second book, which not only showed publishers I was serious about publishing, but it doubled the size of my contract when I finally got one.
I would have been more than satisfied just publishing those two first novels—that was a dream come true—but God has blessed me with continued work as time has gone by. I’m so appreciative of that.

What advice would you give to those authors who are just starting out?
Start every day in prayer, giving that day’s writing over to the Lord and asking for His guidance. Then pursue your craft knowing His hand is in everything you do. Read the books I mentioned above, and read a lot of fiction. Try to write something every day. Join ACFW and make use of its many learning and networking opportunities. If at all possible, plan to attend the ACFW conference. It will change your writing life; I promise.

So many of your novels and co-authored devotional books have extremely effective titles (The Guy I’m not Dating, your tea shop novel The Perfect Blend, Delight Yourself in the Lord—Even on Bad Hair Days, and my favorite of your titles, God’s Grace is Sufficient—but Decaf is Not). What’s your process for developing these titles?
I don’t think the process has been the same with any two of my projects, Mary. Some titles (like The Guy I’m Not Dating and The Perfect Blend) simply pop into my head—most definitely a God thing. Others are requests by my publishers, when we first discuss the idea of a particular story. And still others are the result of others more clever than I—Decaf was the brainchild of Sandie Bricker and the fine editors at Summerside Press, as was Bad Hair. I love those devo titles!

How does your own faith impact the novels you write?
I firmly believe I’ve published novels because of my faith—not that my faith is stronger than that of an unpublished author, but I know that (for now, anyway) the Lord wants me publishing books that point readers to Him. My stories may be light and fun, but ultimately they’re about Him and how He loves us. I’ve found that the overriding theme of all of my stories is that God stands ready to guide us, if we’ll simply take the time to turn to Him over and over again.

In the author interviews you conduct on your blog ( you often ask, “What are you working on now?” Let’s give you a chance to answer that question--what’s in the works for you at the moment?
I’ve really been blessed this past year. Unforgettable and Delight Yourself in the Lord . . . Even on Bad Hair Days just released, and Tea for Two releases in April. I just turned in the manuscript for ‘Tis the Season, a contemporary Christmas romance that’s linked to Debby Mayne’s historical romance, Deck the Halls. The two will be released in one Summerside volume, Love Finds You on Christmas Morning, releasing in September. Right now I’m writing the devotionals for Your Grace is Sufficient But Decaf is NOT, after which I’ll work on Labor of Love, a novella for Barbour Publishing’s The Midwife’s Legacy collection.

If you could make any changes to the inspirational publishing market, what might they be?
I hope the Inspirational publishing market will eventually feel comfortable doing much more than preaching to the choir. I’m happy when I see steps in that direction. I don’t mean I hope for a lower moral caliber in characters. I mean I hope characters and their situations get closer and closer to mirroring real life, because I think God’s glory seems far more accessible and effective that way. Sometimes I think the industry presents the same face we often do in the fellowship hall between church services—all smiles; all is well; life is great. And I understand the practical fear that the Christian reader won’t accept anything else. But I hear otherwise from readers. What I hope for is more real-life struggle. Faulty characters who have much growing to do. Even the occasional slice of cynical humor. In a way, I think I just described my own life!

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