Kerry's newest book, Counting Blessings: Wit and Wisdom for Women, was just released by Covenant Communications, Inc.
Somebody gave me a pencil (or perhaps it was a crayon) and taught me letters. I’ve been writing all my life. (My epic poem “Peanuts the Puppy” is practically famous in some circles.) In elementary school I wrote plays for all the neighborhood kids to perform. In high school I wrote three novels – none of which have been published, thank goodness. After college I took a very long hiatus during which I mostly wrote roadshows, letters from the Tooth Fairy, and collaborated on more school reports than I really should have. My first novel was published when I was 40, thus fulfilling a lifelong dream to be a writer when I grew up. (It takes some of us longer to grow up than others.)
I can certainly relate to the mother-input on school reports. Guilty as charged! What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
Honestly, Marsha, your writers' interview series has saved my sanity! I used to fear I was the only person on the planet who sat down with a vague idea and a ton of enthusiasm and took it from there. To know that I am in very talented company gives me hope! It never ceases to amaze me when characters I never considered wander into my stories – or when characters I thought I created take over and do whatever they please. It’s a fun way to write a book, truthfully, but a simply terrifying way to begin one!
What is your daily schedule like?
Let’s see, I wake up when the rooster crows, disentangle the cat from my pajamas, and stumble over the bunny on my way to let the dog out. Then I feed the fish, look around to see what’s left over from dinner for the chickens, and . . . oh, wait! I’ll bet that’s not what you mean! If you’re talking about when I write/edit/ghostwrite/consult, I don’t have a daily schedule. (I can’t stick to a 30-minute schedule, frankly, but I never admit it in public. My husband might read the interview and he’s a guy who has everything from gargling in the morning to death and resurrection carefully enumerated in his Day Planner.)
I hate to tell you, sweetie, but this is about as public as it gets! How do you handle life interruptions, especially from your dog and cat?
Life was designed to be rich and diverse, and mine is particularly blessed. I have family, friends, neighbors, animals, Cub Scouts . . . you know, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between those last two things. (I’ve always thought that “leading” Cubs is rather like herding kittens.) Anyway, life doesn’t interrupt my writing any more than writing interrupts my life. They have become hopelessly entwined in my heart and soul. I can’t imagine a day without writing any more than I can imagine writing without constant interruption. As for the dog and cat, Bandi is a dream – my most devoted fan. But if you can figure out a way to keep that darn cat off my keyboard when I’m trying to type, well, I’d probably be able to double my output and we could split the royalties.
Do you write to music? If so, with lyrics or only instrumentals?
If I put on music while I write it’s classical – pretty crazy since I work six-and-a-half galaxies away from the place where literary fiction is conceived. I have, however, revised more books than you would believe to the soundtracks of “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Those years when the choice was between spending time with my dying father or meeting a deadline, I chose both. Simultaneously. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. I could probably write to the strains of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the bottom of the 7th at Chase Field with the score tied 5-5 in the last game of the World Series if I had to. Unless Greg Maddux was on the mound, of course.
Of course! What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
Oh, gosh. What food or snack doesn’t? I will say that I have found it particularly difficult to type while eating buttery crab legs and/or spaghetti with thin marinara sauce. Pretty much anything else I can eat at a keyboard with aplomb.
What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
At the risk of coming across as a control-freak, I like the control. I particularly loved writing fiction when my son was in Iraq. (Both times.) Two or three times a week I would start or end the day with a condolence letter to another “Marine Mom” who had lost her child in that awful place – all the while knowing that my youngest son was out guarding convoys and deactivating roadside bombs, and that those two men in dress blues could arrive at my door next. At a time in life when I faced the most, feared the worst, and had the least control, I can’t express what a balm it was to have a place where I could go and know that no matter how bad it got, I could fix it in the end. There are so many crazi-fying things about being a writer. I think God gave us that gift of perfect (albeit make-believe) creation to make up for all the rest!
As for least – I hate promotion. And bad reviews. And even good reviews because I always think, “What if they’re just being nice?” Truly, if I could release a book and then spend the next six months on a beach in Aruba without Internet, I would be happy.
What is your next project?
Does every writer work on an opus? Well, if they do, that’s what I’m doing now. It has, however, come to my attention that perhaps I’ll never finish it, so I might take another stab at genre fiction this year, just to help pay the tuition.
What is your advice for other writers?
Read. Write. Obsess. Revise. Repeat. (It would be nice if we could do it without the obsession, but I have yet to meet anybody who can.)
Your new book is a bit different than your previous ones. It is a book of essays. Was this your idea or did your publisher ask for it?
Counting Blessings is a collection of articles, talks, essays, and blogs from the Six LDS Writers and a Frog site. An editor from another publisher had visited our blog and suggested I do a compilation. I took the advice, but offered it to Covenant first, of course. (Love those guys!) To my utter delight they’re taking a chance on it – and me!
Tell us all about your new book.
The book itself is beautiful – hardback and with a simply lovely cover. (Kinda spooky because I nursed along an orchid the whole time I worked on it.) It’s designed to be a gift book, and yet priced reasonably. To say I’m thrilled with what Covenant has done is an understatement. That said, this is the most terrifying project I’ve ever done. I have nightmares about it, even. Novels contain much of an author, but not in an overt sense. (Nobody in their right mind would see me as Sam Shade – although even that might be a little more believable than Jeff Savage as Shandra Covington.) But the writing in Counting Blessings comes from my soul. It’s very much as if I pulled a personal journal off my shelf and said, “Here. Who wants to read this?” Now that my book is on its way to shelves worldwide, I’ve started to obsess about what strangers, my Visiting Teachers, extended family, editorial clients – most of whom are not LDS – and even my mother, will think. I think I’d move to Aruba if I were smarter than a 5th grader and knew precisely where Aruba is!
What other work of yours has been published?
Hurray! An easy question at last! (I don’t know why interviews feel so much like examinations to me, but there you have it.)
The Heart Has Its Reasons – 1999
The Heart Has Forever – 2000
The Heart Only Knows – 2001
Closing In – 2002
Digging Up the Past (with Christine Wolfe) – 2003
This Just In – 2004
Mummy’s the Word – 2005
Of Infinite Worth (compilation) – 2006
Ghost of a Chance – 2007
Counting Blessings – 2008
Most are still in stores, and all are available on my website in one form or another!
Thank you for the delightful interview, Kerry.THANK YOU ONE HUNDRED MILLION TIMES, MARSHA WARD! YOU ARE MY HERO!