In my last post I reviewed Finding Joy, a novel by Sarah Floyd. Sarah graciously allowed me to interview her, and today I get to share her answers with you!
1) Tell us a little about your background and your sweet family.
I was born near Los Angeles, California, but I spent most of my childhood in west Texas and north Georgia. I consider my hometown to be Ellijay, Georgia; it's in the mountains north of Atlanta. I went to a combination of public school, Christian school, and homeschool. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian family, and my parents and one younger sister now live in Tennessee. I attended FreedHardeman University and completed Study Abroad programs in Europe and Mexico. I worked as a high school Spanish teacher in Tennessee after college. I married my husband Jason in 2010, and just a few months afterward, we traveled to South Korea for a year to teach English. We moved to New England in 2013, much to my excitement, because I have been fascinated by Vermont since I was a little girl. Our son Nathan was born in September 2014. I am now experiencing the biggest adventure of my life - being a stay-at-home- mommy!
2) How old were you when you discovered your love of writing?
I don't remember a time when I didn't love books and reading, but my first memory of trying to write creatively was probably a few months before I started kindergarten. I was in my playroom and decided to write a story. I found a sheet of paper and tried to write "Once upon a time." Unfortunately, I had to ask my mom how to spell every single word (except 'a'), and then she explained that I should put a comma afterward. By the time I'd written "Once, upon, a, time," I'd forgotten my story! In third grade, I started telling everyone who would listen that I wanted to be an author, and I wrote stories throughout my childhood and teenage years.
3) What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Oh, I could never pick only one favorite! I loved the American Girl books, the Little House series, Anne of Green Gables and all the other books by that author, and anything by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women, etc.). I also loved Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, primarily because it's about a girl who moves to Vermont. I collected antique books for children and teens and enjoyed reading them too.
4) Who are your favorite authors now?
I still love all the authors I appreciated in my childhood, and I re-read those books frequently. I also enjoy inspirational fiction novels now...my favorite authors in that genre are Jamie Langston Turner, BJ Hoff, Elizabeth Musser, Lisa Samson, and Jennifer Rogers Spinola. I like all the Mitford books by Jan Karon as well.
5) As the mother of a little one, how do you find time to write?
Well, sometimes I don't! But I do try to take advantage of his nap time whenever possible, and on the three nights a week that my husband works late or overnight, I often write after my baby goes to bed. The most difficult thing is actually finding the creative energy when I do have the time!
6) Is Finding Joy your first book?
It's the first book that I have actually edited and tried to publish. I finished my first really long story when I was fourteen, and I have written first drafts of several other book-length works that I'll probably never publish.
7) What inspired you to write this story?
My first hint of inspiration occurred when I heard about a man who was living in a house used as a church building while he tried to find employment. I'd never heard of that scenario before, and I thought it would make an interesting story.
8) How long did it take you to write Finding Joy?
I wrote the first two pages right before I left for my year in Korea and accidentally left them in the U.S. I thought about it often while I was overseas and decided to wait to continue writing it until I returned. Once I started writing it again, it took me about thirteen months to write. The editing and working-up-the-courage-to-publish process took much longer!
9) Who is your favorite character in the story, and why?
My favorite character is Joy's aunt, Joann, because she represents many of the traits I'd like to have when I'm older, and because I would love to be able to encourage others the way she does throughout Finding Joy.
10) Were any of the events in the book based on your real life experiences?
Actually, very few of them are based on my life. There are some similarities between my life and Joy's life (for example, we both moved to Vermont as young adults and attend worship services in houses-turned-church buildings), but most of those similarities didn't exist when I wrote the book. Sometimes, Finding Joy has seemed to predict my real life in some sort of funny way instead of the other way around! However, many of the emotions that Joy experiences have mirrored my own feelings during different stages of my life.
11) What was the most frustrating part of writing this novel? The most rewarding?
The writing was never frustrating for me, but I don't enjoy the editing process nearly as much as the writing. It's hard to take my lovely flights of creativity and chop them up until they are as nice to read as they were to write. But the most difficult part of the process was actually forcing myself to reveal such an enormous part of myself to the public. It was incredibly scary, and I still feel jittery with nervous excitement when I find out someone is reading my book; after so many thousands of hours of creating, it feels like an extension of my brain!
The most rewarding part has been discovering that I could create characters that come alive for other people (and not just myself). My characters always seem so real to me, but I didn't know if they would live for anyone else until I published Finding Joy. It's been such an encouragement to find out that my readers are understanding the messages I'm trying to convey through my characters.
12) What is your writing style? Do you plot details and outlines first, or do you just start writing?
I usually create preliminary character profiles for my main characters and scribble down a skeleton of a plot before I start writing. If I lose sight of where the plot is going once I'm writing, I stop for a day or two and write down lists of additional plot details. My notes for Finding Joy probably took up the equivalent of one side of a page of notebook paper. I also usually write chronologically, in the order the plot will appear in the finished story. I write in spiral notebooks or composition books (that must have college-ruled pages!!!) and then type everything up on the computer when I'm finished. I don't enjoy creating on the computer nearly as much as on paper.
13) At one point in your story, Joy tries to figure out where she does her best writing. Where is your favorite place to write?
The concept of querencia, a Spanish term that refers to a place or set of circumstances in which a person feels the most comfortable (and therefore, creative), is very important to me personally. Joy searches for her querencia at the writing workshop in the novel, and finds it when she's sitting on the floor behind an old TV cart in her classroom. That's one of the few specific similarities between Joy and me...my querencia in high school creative writing class was also when I was sitting behind a TV cart! My querencia has had to change frequently because of how much my life has changed over the past decade...I've lived in nine houses since I got married, for example, so I've had to adapt over and over again. This year, my favorite places to write are at my desk in my bedroom, looking out at the mountains and the farm we're living on, and on the front porch of our house.
14) What do you do when you have writer’s block?
For most of my life, if I had writer's block, I'd just stop writing until I experienced the urge to write again. I don't recommend that strategy, because life tends to get in the way of writing, and I often stopped writing for long stretches of time. Lately, I have been forcing myself to write even when I don't feel like it or feel stuck. Usually, after I write a few paragraphs, the story grabs me again, and I can make significant progress after all. I also have tried to tell myself that I'm not obligated to keep every word I write...if I look over my work in the future and don't like it, I can edit it out completely. Those tactics have eliminated my writer's block on most recent occasions. If they aren't successful, I read one of my favorite books for a few minutes, and I'm often inspired to write again after that.
15) In your Acknowledgments, you thanked your husband for his support for this project. What role did he play in helping you to finish writing Finding Joy? Did he help with the publishing process?
I don't believe Finding Joy would have ever left my pile of ratty spiral notebooks if it hadn't been for Jason's encouragement. He knew that I had always dreamed of publishing novels but that I was afraid to do the physical and mental work involved to make them available to the public. Even though he has no personal interest in the genre of inspirational fiction, he gave me the confidence I needed to take that final step and publish Finding Joy. Jason researched self-publishing methods, located CreateSpace, the company I used, and explained to me the basics of the process. He kept talking about it until I finally investigated it on my own. He also took care of Nathan as much as possible during my final editing and formatting stages. Since the book was published, he's put a lot of thought and time into marketing it. He never doubted that I could fulfill my dream, even when I doubted myself!
16) Are you working on any other novels right now?
Yes! I am currently writing both a short prequel and a full-length sequel to Finding Joy. I hope to be finished writing them soon, but I have no idea how long it will take me to edit them! I have a few other projects in mind as well, but the characters from Finding Joy are absorbing my entire writing brain at this point in time.
17) What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I still have so much to learn, but these things have been helpful for me:
Write even when you're tired, or sick, or worried, or discouraged...even if it's just a paragraph, you won't feel so stuck when your mood or situation improves.
Write for yourself. Don't try to write for your “fans” exclusively, or you'll find that your writing is dependent on the popularity of what you've written in the past, and that will steal much of the joy of creativity.
Write about what you know...that common writing advice is truly beneficial. It doesn't mean you have to write only about young homemakers if you are a young homemaker yourself. It means that there should be something in your plot and in your characters that you can relate to firsthand. Write about truths and emotions that you know. Most of us have experienced excitement, anticipation, joy, fear, loss, rejection...all those emotions; translate those feelings into the feelings of your characters, and then they can be as outlandishly different from you as you can imagine!
Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word choice are super important. I promise!
Thanks, Sarah, for taking the time to give us a behind-the-scenes look at your novel! Finding Joy was a lovely read, and I appreciate all of the hard work that went into getting it out to the public. Let us know when your next book is available!
Click HERE to get your own copy of Finding Joy. And don't forget to head over to Facebook and 'like' Sarah's page, Finding Joy - A Novel!
Have you read Finding Joy? If so, Sarah has a great offer for you! Right now until March 20, you can enter to win a free copy of Finding Joy to share with a loved one! All you have to do is head over to Finding Joy - A Novel and post there about who your favorite character was and why. The winner will be announced on March 21 - the one year anniversary of the book's release. Check out the Facebook page for more details!