Our Author of Note this month is Deborah Raney. Many of you will recognize her as the author of some of your favorite books. I’m honored that Deb was willing to visit The Bookshelf.
Q. Welcome to The Bookshelf, Deb! I know my readers want to know all about you as a writer, and we’re going to get to that right away. But first, we’d like to know who you are outside your office. Tell us about Deborah Raney, the lady next door.
A. As much as I enjoy my career, I’ve always believed that my most precious calling is wife to Ken, my husband of 33 years; mom to four great kids; and now mom-in-law, and “Mimi” to two darling little grandsons. In addition, I have some of the most amazing friends in the world, including a group of women who share my name. We affectionately call ourselves Club Deb. I think being in the solitary profession of writing helps you really appreciate the people you have eye-to-eye contact with!
A. Leaving November is the second novel in my Clayburn Novels series from Howard/Simon & Schuster. Here’s a blurb:
Daughter of the town drunk, Vienne Kenney has escaped Clayburn for law school in California. But after failing the bar exam—twice—she’s back home with her tail between her legs, managing Latte-dah, the Clayburn café turned upscale coffee shop. Jackson Linder runs the art gallery across the street and Vienne has had her eye on him since she was a skinny seventh grader and he was the hunky high school lifeguard who didn’t know she existed. Now it’s his turn to fall for her and suddenly Clayburn seems like a pretty nice place to be...until Vienne discovers that Jack is fresh out of rehab and still struggling with the same addiction that ultimately killed her father.
Q. What was your inspiration for this book?
A. When I was writing the first book in the series, Remember to Forget, Jackson Linder, a secondary character in the book, really intrigued me. Jack has struggled with something that is my greatest fear: being responsible for the death of another person. I wanted to explore how someone in his shoes could find forgiveness, redemption, and even happiness. Q. If I’m not mistaken, Leaving November is your sixteenth novel. That’s impressive! How long does it take you (on average) to write a book, from first word to putting it in the publisher’s hands? A. It usually takes me 4-6 months to write a first draft. Of course, much research, and what author/editor Nick Harrison calls “brooding” about the book take place before I actually put fingers to keyboard. And then after my critique partner, my editors, and my pre-readers get hold of my manuscript, there is much, much rewriting and tweaking. From start to finish, not counting several months spent waiting for those edits, it’s usually a nine-month process. Interesting that a book’s gestational period is the same as a human’s, huh?
Q. What’s next? Can you talk about what you’re working on now?
A. I’m finishing up the third book in the Clayburn series, Yesterday’s Embers. And there are still other characters begging to have their stories told! I don’t know if I’ll get to write any more Clayburn books—especially since I have five other books contracted to write first--but I’ve loved my time in this little fictional Kansas town!
Q. What do you enjoy most about writing? Least?
A. Most: Having written! Because that means I’m getting reader feedback on my novel—the reward for all the hours of solitude! I also love that I get to be at home and make my own hours. Least: First-drafting! I love rewriting—taking my editors’ comments and applying them to make my book the best it can be. The blank page terrifies me! For me, it’s far easier to fix a horrible manuscript than to try to come up with something out of thin air.
Q. You’re probably tired of answering this question, and I apologize for asking it yet again but…inquiring minds still want to know. Where do you get your ideas?
A. Everywhere! Because I write contemporary novels, most of my ideas are inspired by real life contemporary social issues. I love taking an ordinary person and placing them in extraordinary circumstances. I find newspapers, TV newscasts, overheard conversations and Dear Abby all great sources of inspiration.
Q. How has your life changed since becoming a published author?
A. It has changed drastically, but as I think about it, it’s not so much being published that has changed my life, as it is the fact that our four children all grew up and left home while I was being published. I gave birth to children in 3 decades—one in the 70s, two in the 80s and one in the 90s––so I’ve been a mom with kids at home for over 30 years! For most of my life, my identity was completely tied up in longing to be, and then actually being a stay-at-home mom. But if a mom does her job right, she eventually puts herself out of a job. Our youngest will go off to college in a little over a year, and I’m so grateful the Lord has now given me such an incredibly fun and gratifying “next thing” to do.
Probably the biggest actual change is the traveling I do now to teach at writers conferences and attend writing events. I’d never even set foot in an airplane until I was 30 years old. Yesterday I was looking over my travel itineraries. In the next seven months, I’m flying to Minneapolis, San Jose, Charlotte, Asheville (NC), Orlando, Houston and full circle back to Minneapolis. Fortunately, I love flying and traveling, especially since my husband has started to accompany me occasionally.
Q. Take us through a day in the life of Deborah Raney. What kind of schedule do you keep?
A. It all depends on what point I’m at in a book. When I’m in the middle of a first draft, a typical week will have me writing four days a week from 10-5 (with breaks for email and research). That includes Tuesday mornings writing in our local coffee shop. On evenings I’m not speaking somewhere or watching our daughter play basketball or run track, I work on promotion—my website, newsletter, interviews like this one, etc. That fifth day of the week might find me having lunch with a friend or getting together with my sisters. Weekends are for my family…maybe to visit one of our grown kids who are scattered across the country in Seattle, rural Missouri and Des Moines.
When I’m on deadline, like now, it’s pretty much all writing all the time. I’m at my desk by 9 or 10, break for supper when my husband and daughter come home, and then back to the computer around 8 to write until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Fortunately that kind of a schedule only lasts a month or so.
Q. As a child, you enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. (See, I really have visited your website!) It will be interesting to see how your early reading tastes developed. What books are on your nightstand right now?
A. I started out reading Wilder, then Janette Oke and Catherine Marshall. It seems I might have become a historical novelist with that kind of background. But my passion has always been writing about this age in which we live, and how faith changes our response to the changing culture, to challenges and tragedy.
On my nightstand right now are the books I’m judging for the RITA contest—not my typical choices, though I find it’s good to read outside my genre once in a while. Before the RITA books came in, I’d just finished Nancy Rue’s Healing Stones, and Annette Smith’s A Crooked Path. Next on my TBR pile: believe it or not, I’ve never read Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love! I know, I know, insert collective gasp here. I’ve read almost all her other contemporary novels and love her writing and her heart for the Lord. But I’ve just never gotten around to reading THE classic Christian novel, THE epitome of Christian fiction. So I thought it was high time I did that.
Q. I thought I was the only Christian writer in the world who hadn't read Redeeming Love! And now that we've both confessed ... what do you do when you’re not reading or writing?
A. I love working in the beautiful garden my husband, Ken, designed in our back yard (for a sneak peek, go to http://kansasprairiegarden.blogspot.com) and I love decorating our home. It’s such fun to comb antique shops and flea markets for a great object from the past that I can use on my desk or in my kitchen, or a great piece of furniture to paint or refinish. I’m not much for pretty stuff just for the sake of having it on display, but I love “repurposing” antiques—like the old chamber pot I use for deadheading in the garden, or the antique bank mail sorter that serves as my filing “cabinet.”
Q. I know that interviewers often don’t ask the questions an author would really like to talk about. What would you like to say that I haven’t touched on?
A. You’ve covered a lot of bases, Delia. Great questions! I guess if there is one thing I feel passionate about saying whenever I have the ears of aspiring writers, it’s this: It is never too early to practice using the gift God has given you. Study the craft, hone your skills, explore the market. But don’t rush the process, or the timing. When I first discovered my gift, I still had small children at home. I could not have given my family what they needed and deserved from “Mom” if I’d been on the “fast track” I’m on now. I will be forever grateful that I waited until God clearly said “now is the time.” I never wanted to look back on my kids’ growing up years regretting that I was chasing after a dream while the four most precious treasures of my life were right under my nose waiting for me to pay attention to them. They grew up all too quickly, and now I have the rest of my life to pursue that dream.
DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her seventeenth novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award and Silver Angel from Excellence in Media. Deborah's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Deb serves on the advisory board of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have four children and enjoy small-town life in Kansas.