Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Lori Nader Gray is The_Gunters! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (email@example.com)
This week Jeanette Windle is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Jeanette’s The DMZ, leave a comment on this post!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I grew up the daughter of American missionaries in rural areas of Colombia that are now guerrilla hot spots. I graduated in 1981 from Prairie Bible College in Three Hills, Alberta. In 1985, my husband Marty, also an MK (missionary kid) and I moved to Bolivia to work with Gospel Missionary Union (now AVANT), an interdenominational Christian mission organization. While my husband served as field director, I worked with women and children at risk. I also began my journalism and fiction-writing career there, watching firsthand the political and drug-trafficking shenanigans of one of the world’s top-five most corrupt nations.
My husband and I moved to Miami in June, 2000, when Marty assumed the position of Vice-President with Latin America Mission, a nondenominational mission organization working throughout Latin America. In January, 2006, we moved again to Lancaster, PA, when Marty accepted the position of President of BCM International, formerly the Bible Club Movement, another nondenominational mission organization.
I head up BCM’s communications department and continue to write as well as teaching writers conferences and mentoring Christian writers in a number of countries around the world. To date, I have lived in six countries and traveled in more than thirty. I have four children: three grown sons and a teenage daughter just out of high school.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest?
I have fifteen fiction titles in print beyond countless non-fiction articles and documentaries, mostly missions related. We are told as authors to ‘write what we know’, and my books definitely reflect the world I know, a world outside of safe American borders. My first children’s books are a mystery series, each set in a different country and culture from the Inca treasures of the Andes highlands to the jungles of Colombia, a Navajo Indian reservation, the Middle East, etc.
My first adult political-suspense novel CrossFire is set in the counter-narcotics war in Bolivia for which I had a front-row seat. Then The DMZ, set in the Colombian guerrilla zones where I grew up, FireStorm–a sequel to CrossFire, Betrayed, set in Guatemala. My most recent release, Veiled Freedom, a 2010 Christian Book Award and Christy Award finalist, is set in current day Afghanistan. Its sequel, Freedom’s Stand, hits bookstores June, 2011. You get the general pattern!
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I don’t recall ever really wanting to be a writer as a child, mainly because I was too busy reading–and writing. Our MK school put great emphasis on proper composition, and we spent too much time writing (we were doing term papers with footnotes in junior high) to daydream about it. My personal dreams as a child were to become, alternatively, a concert pianist (at least a possibility as I was studying the instrument hard) or a world-famous ice-skater (more difficult as we had never seen ice in our tropical environment).
I can honestly say I wrote my first book literally out of boredom. My husband and I were the only Americans at the time in the southern Bolivia city where we were living, working with a Christian ministry organization. While my husband was on traveling through the Andes mountain for two weeks at a time. I was stuck at home with three preschoolers, no car, TV, radio. Once my preschoolers were in bed, I had only the handful of English-language books I’d read dozens of times. I finally decided if I had nothing to read, I’d write a book instead. That became Kathy and the Redhead, a children’s novel based on my growing-up years at an American missionary kid boarding school in the Andes mountains of Venezuela. Writing it rekindled my love of creative writing, and I’ve never really stopped since.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
After Kathy and the Redhead (which was not sold, but published by a missions organization, TEAM), I actually wrote as a missions journalist for close to a decade before landing a contract for my children’s international mystery series, The Parker Twins Adventures. By then I’d written and rewritten several times the first three books of the series. After six of that series and a teen novel, Jana’s Journal, I jumped to the adult political/suspense novels [see above].
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I basically write my current fiction manuscript from 7 AM (when my remaining teenager is out the door) to about 2 PM any day I am not traveling in ministry. By then my creative side of the brain is no longer at its best, and I do smaller projects and editing the rest of the day. Though once a book is birthed, I will be doing the rewrites a solid twelve hours a day until it is finished. I am blessed to have a home office, but love my Notebook which allows me to work as time permits on the road as well.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Hah!! I recommend all of the above. But I wrote my first books in the isolation of a remote third-world country missions station before we ever had internet, email or even phone, my only advice the copy of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers Market Guide I’d purchased while home on furlough. My first draft readers were the CBA editors out of that same Guide who kindly took time to write back good advice along with polite rejections and mail them all the way to Bolivia. That I did get published–a miracle that is a whole story in itself–simply goes to show that for all the guidelines and hoops I myself now teach others, there is always the God factor. If His plans for you are to be a writer, you will be–just what that means can be very different from what we expect.
What are your biggest distractions?
Finding time to write that next book while serving in full-time ministry as a missionary, missions journalist, editor, speaker, and other ministry responsibilities. I often wish I could just hole up for a few months and write. But the very ministry opportunities around the world that cut into my writing also give me the material and inspiration for my next book. So it comes back to the challenge of finding balance and discipline to keep on writing no matter what is swirling around my daily life.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
The worst was the closing down of the children’s department at my first publisher, effectively stranding my first juvenile mystery/suspense fiction series as well as those of a number of other authors. But that frustration ended up giving me the time gap and encouragement to write my first adult novel, CrossFire, set in the counter-narcotics war in Bolivia where I was then living. I might still be churning out only children’s series were it not for that life interruption. And that series did end up coming out with Kregel Publications as The Parker Twins Series.
Other than the thrill of holding my first book, the best was undoubtedly having my last novel Veiled Freedom nominated for the 2010 Christian Book Award and 2010 Christy Award.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
My favorite part of being a writer is holding a finished book in my hand. My least favorite is writing–nor am I alone in that as a writer! Getting the story down on paper (or computer screen) is a hair-tearing, heart-yanking, exhausting outpouring of spiritual, emotional, and creative energy. It is eminently worthwhile, but the hardest work I will ever do.
I do enjoy rewrites once the story is birthed, going back and working through each scene, polishing it up, cutting, adding, tweaking until I am sure every sentence says exactly what I want to convey, is both enjoyable and eminently satisfying. And, of course, the very best aspect of being a writer as opposed to actually writing is receiving that positive feedback from readers who are loving the story and characters you’ve spent so many countless hours creating. Even more so, who’ve been touched spiritually by the message of the book.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Read, read, read and write, write, write. It is the saturation of mind and heart with good literature and prose that creates good writers as well as the practice of the craft. Any would-be writer who cannot tell me what they are currently reading or say they don’t care for reading but just want to write are immediately crossed off my list as serious potential writers.
Also, writing is hard work, not just inspiration. It is, in fact, a mind-numbing, hair-pulling, excruciating process of creation to which the birthing of one’s own children pales. I always tell want-to-be writers, if you can keep from writing, do! It’s a hard, unforgiving field. If you have to write, whether it’s published or not, then you’re a writer, and like a musician or artist, you can’t be anything but. And it does feel wonderful after all the work of birthing the world and characters and message of a new book to hold it in your hands and see the finished product.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I am currently writing what will be my next political/suspense novel set in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, tentatively titled Congo Dawn. Expect to see it in bookstores sometime next year.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
In Christian bookstores, Barnes & Noble and other chains, Christianbooks.com, Amazon, and virtually any on-line book catalog. If your local bookstore isn’t carrying them, they can be ordered in (a good way to get them on those shelves!). Likewise the local library. www.jeanettewindle.com
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)