Friday, October 24, 2008

Author of the Week: Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer is an award winning author of novels and non-fiction books. As Grit for the Oyster was taking shape, she was one of the most generous authors whom we encountered. An imaginative and talented writer, too. She's amazing!

Hi Tricia! Thanks for joining us today! Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

My writing journey began in 1994 when I attended my first writer’s conference with my friend, Cindy Martinusen. Cindy and I went to the same church and we both had dreams of become writers. Everything at Mt. Hermon was new to me. I just followed the instructor’s directions. It took two years of hard work, but I was soon writing magazine articles for publication. Over the next five years, I also worked on missions’ curriculum, a devotional book, and study notes for the Women of Faith Study Bible (Zondervan). (My friend, Cindy, is now a published author too of four novels!)

During those years, in addition to writing, I was also raising three small children. In 1999, I felt God asking me to start a crisis pregnancy center in our town. I didn’t want to do it. I was busy enough writing and taking care of kids. I also was working on novel projects—with no success. I had novels make it to committee many times, with no contract!

Finally, I relinquished my dreams to God. I knew I needed to be obedient, even if I never got a novel published. Instead of closing the writing doors for good, the opposite happened. God brought people into my life who shared these amazing stories from World War II. I knew those were the books I was meant to write. Two years after the pregnancy center was up and running, I had the contract for my first novel, “From Dust and Ashes” (Moody, 2003). I remember answering the phone and hearing a “smile” in my agent’s voice. As she told me, one of my favorite songs by Fernando Ortega was playing in the background, and I felt delighted that God granted me such a gift.

When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

Way tooooo soon! I started working on my novel idea in 1995. I started my novel in February and I started “submitting” it a writer’s conferences in April. I thought I knew enough … I knew so little! I’m thankful that the editors were helping in pointing out what needed to be fixed. That’s one of the good things about writer’s conference—editors who are there to help you.

What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

In 1999, I was twenty-eight years old and had already published over one hundred articles for national publications. I'd also been contracted to work on two book projects for well-known publishers. Still, I felt far from successful. For five years I'd labored full-time on my own book projects with no luck. My agent didn't understand, "These are excellent proposals," she said. "I don't understand why they're not being snatched up."

I just have to try harder, write more, I thought. It didn't help.

Around that time, I started going through the workbook Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. I learned one phrase that kept going over in my mind. "Look to see what God was doing and join him." The premise is this: if you're doing something that doesn't work, put what you're doing aside and see what God was doing. I did that. And... I discovered God had different plans!

First, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. I invited him into our home. Between doctor's appointments, hospice visits, taking care of my husband and three children, there was little time to pen prose. My grandfather passed away after only four months, but inside I was changed. It was as if my heart had been rubbed raw with sandpaper. My eyes were opened to pain, and I had a new appreciation for helping those in need.

Lord, what do you want me to write? I prayed.

A few months after my grandfather's death, my pastor and two women in the church approached me about starting a Crisis Pregnancy Center. (There wasn't one for hundreds of miles.) I didn't want to do it, but I told my pastor I'd pray about it.
The next morning I did pray. I told God. "Lord, I can't help with this center. I'm a writer and my articles are helping people around the country."
His response was, "Well, what about the people in your own community? What are you going to do to help them?" Ouch.

Obviously this was something God was doing, so I joined him.

Soon, I was using my writing and organizational skills to create community newsletters, and to write radio commercials and grants. In one year, we had a huge center (given to us for free rent), forty volunteers, and we were reaching hundreds of women. We even received a $13,000 grant to teach abstinence education in the schools! At night I often felt drained by the number of young women who needed assistance--who needed hope--yet, I also felt a renewed sense of satisfaction. Obviously God was at work. I was glad I'd joined him.
It was a hard time in my life of giving up my will for God’s will, but I’ll never go back to the way things were again!

What has been the best part about being published?

Writing. I love putting my thoughts down on paper. I love praying, and seeking God, and playing with words, and reforming my research into something that can bless others and open their understanding of a new topic or time in history. I love pointing people to God with words.

Will you share with us how you come up with ideas for your books?

I see ideas EVERYWHERE! I see them in magazines or on TV. I hear them in my friends’ stories. I get a new idea every week. The hard part is choosing which ones to pursue.

Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

I used to be a VERY detailed plotter, but with every novel I get to be more of a seat-of-the-pants writer. Maybe it's because I've had less time between books. Or maybe it's because I trust myself more. So while I have tons of research and a general idea of how the book will end up, I have fun exploring the story and going along for the ride.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Any tips or suggestions for writers?

I write in 30 minute segments whenever I have time. Sometimes in the morning. Sometimes at night. Sometimes on family trips. Sometimes in front of the TV, since my family likes me to be “there.”

Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

I have a basic idea but it usually changes as I write.

Do you have a process for developing your characters?

Yes, I use the book, “Writing the Breakout Novel” and go through the steps.

It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?

Yes, my friends tell me my characters are very much like me. I can see myself in some more than others. I definitely see myself in Mary in Arms of Deliverance. Mary was born to a single mom. She later met her dad who was the editor of a major NY newspaper. After that Mary tried to earn her dad's love/attention by taking on dangerous, overseas assignments during WWII. I had the same type of experience (except for the dangerous assignment parts). Only a few people know about my biological dad (until now!), but having them read that novel was like giving them a glimpse into my secret diary--the emotions were THAT real.

What are your dreams for your writing? Where do you see yourself in five years both as a writer and as a person?

I see myself pretty much doing the same—writing, spending time with family, working with teen moms. I’ll keep on this track as long as God allows. Then again, He might have something completely different in store! That’s up to Him. I’ll go along for the ride wherever He leads.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given/learned in your life as a writer?

Butt in chair and focus on the ONE THING you have to do next. My author friend, Anne de Graaf gave me that advice and it works!

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

Relinquish my desires to God. He may want me to write or He may want me to volunteer or serve or just spend more time with my family. We get frustrated when WE have a plan and expect God to follow. Instead I try to see what God’s up to and join Him. Since He’s already a work then my part is easy!

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Janet Kobobel-Grant, Books & Such. She’s one of my favorite people, ever!

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

Everywhere books are sold.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers here (advice, website, etc)? Do you have a website for readers to go to?

God has wonderful dreams for what He longs to do in your life too. When it comes to my novels, I depend on God to unfold the story as I research and write. I have faith that He sees the end of the story, even before I write one word. It's the same with our lives. God sees the end of the story. And He knows how to unfold each chapter before us--with His perfect end in mind. It's our job to stay tuned-in, ready to face the next plot twist with His guidance, wisdom and strength.

Thank you very much, Tricia, for stopping by our blog. We wish you great success!

Find Tricia on-line at: and at her blog: