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 Judy Baer is Karen! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (email@example.com)
This week is Joanna Weaver is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Joanna’s latest book, Lazarus Awakening, 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?
Well, it’s hard to believe, but I’ve been married nearly thirty years to the most wonderful man in the world! It’s not the wonderful part that is hard to believe – it’s the thirty years. Wow, time goes so fast. But it just gets sweeter and sweeter.
We have three kids – a twenty-five year old son, John Michael; a twenty-two year old daughter, Jessica; and a sweet little surprise named Joshua who joined our family eight years ago.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
While I love reading fiction, I feel called to write nonfiction for Christian women. I really believe God wants to transform us in the deepest places of our hearts. But we’ve got to give Him access.
Though I’m a pastor’s wife and grew up as a “good girl” – obeying rules and doing my best to please God – I’m just as messed up as the next woman. And just as in need of a Savior! But as I’ve let God get His hands on me, I’ve changed. That’s my prayer for the women who read my books.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I never grew up thinking I’d be a writer. The possibility of creating a book never crossed my mind. But during a transitional time in ministry, things kept coming out in my journal like essays or article-type musings. God began to awaken a desire to write that went beyond my usual hobby-hopping tendencies. I went to the library for books on writing, took a magazine-writing class at the community college and then began sending out queries to magazines.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
Over that first year, I was rejected regularly. Which is really tough for a “performance/success driven” kind of personality! But by then, God had confirmed that this was His idea and not mine. That gave me the tenacity to keep trying. He had called me to write. It was His job to get me published!
About a year and a half after that initial call, I attended Mount Hermon’s Christian Writer’s Conference. God gave me favor with editors there and an agent asked to represent my work. With her help, I shaped the proposal for my first book, With This Ring: Promises to Keep. Two weeks later, she placed it at WaterBrook Press – and the rest is history!
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?
What a good question! I’ve discovered that there are some times of the day that are better than others when it comes to writing. For me, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon seem to work best. For this last book, I averaged 4-5 hours of writing and then I was done. Kaput. Nothing else to say. Even when I tried.
But I’ve also discovered that I work best in a very ordered, undistracted and undisrupted environment. Which, to be honest, does not always describe my own home! I can research and edit in the middle of a busy life, but when it comes to the actual writing – especially the first draft – I have to get alone somewhere. I’m blessed to have a friend who has some guest houses she lets me use.
I usually spend the first half hour or so in a quiet time with the Lord. Journaling what He’s said to me in the Word that morning, then going over what I would be working on, asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. Sometimes, I turn on worship music and just soak in His presence. I’m learning that apart from Him I can do nothing.
Now that is NOT to say that I feel intensely inspired when I write. For me, the majority of my writing – probably 90% – is just an act of faith. Doing my best to walk in obedience and utter dependence, and then putting down words that I can only pray the Holy Spirit breathes life into.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
I’ve already mentioned the Christian writer’s conference I attended. I really believe the conference I attended shaved at least three years off my journey to publication. It took the mystery and fear of the unknown out of publishing, but more importantly, it gave me friends who understood the process. It also provided an opportunity to put my project before actual editors. Instead of being a manilla-envelope submission sitting in an editor’s slush pile, I was able to get limited, but instant feedback. Some positive, some negative, but all of it helpful.
God was also kind to give me a local writer friend who was a little further along on the journey. Tricia Goyer has been an invaluable source of information and encouragement. She was my first reader in those early years as well and has become one of my dearest friends.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Yes and no. It’s a whole lot harder than I thought it would be. I kept expecting that it would be a kind of “holy dictation.” I would suddenly hear a voice from heaven telling me what to write – or at least, brilliant thoughts rolling through my brain in such a way I knew it was God. Instead, as I’ve mentioned it has been an intense walk of faith.
This last book, Lazarus Awakening, was the very hardest of all. (Just when I thought it would get easier!) Instead of having my mind filled with ideas and thoughts, my head was so quiet it felt as though I was entombed without creative breath. Locked down and shut up. I had to keep returning to the words Jesus spoke to Martha as they stood before Lazarus’ tomb. When Martha balked at rolling away the stone for fear of what lay behind, Jesus said these amazing words… “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
So that is what I’ve been trying to do during these long two and half years it’s taken me to finish this book. Believe God. The same thing I’ve tried to do from the very beginning. Trusting that what He has asked me to do, He will enable me to do. Even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t feel His leading. Trusting that He is there and will finish everything that He has started in me. Because HE is the AUTHOR and the finisher. I just have to obey.
What are your biggest distractions?
Everything. Literally everything. I’d rather do almost anything than actually write. Part of the reason is that I am an all-or-nothing person. If I can’t do it perfectly the first time, I don’t want to do it. But I also have the motivational gift of laziness! I see everything that needs to be done around me, but I can usually find something else that seems more pressing or fun…like going shopping, or watching a TV show that I’ve already seen three times.
But Jesus is helping me, thank the Lord! I finished my book. My house is much, much cleaner than it used to be and I actually cook dinner more than we eat out (which is another big change). But I still have to make conscious choices to do what I need to do rather than wait until I feel like doing it. Big, big miracle there, girls!
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
The best moment came during that first Mount Hermon conference. God kissed my books with such favor, it was amazing. By the end of the week, I had four different editors interested in each of the three book proposals I had brought. The Cinderella moment came that last night when I was chosen “Most Promising Writer.” It was a sweet, magical time.
But God is so good and so wise. He knows how to balance the magical with the painful so we don’t get overly impressed with ourselves.
When Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World came out, a misunderstanding erupted with a group of friends in my church (I tell about it in Having a Mary Spirit). I was hurt and a little fed up with it all, so I decided I would disengage from church life for awhile and dive into the writing world. I was going to my first Christian Booksellers conference and I was going to enjoy every minute of it. After all, Having a Mary Heart was releasing and my wedding gift book was up for a Gold Medallion Award, and then there were three children’s books I would be signing at the conference. I was about to make my mark in the publishing world.
Well, evidently, God had other ideas! When I introduced myself to the sales people at my childrens book publisher’s display, they had no idea what I was talking about. Was I absolutely certain my books were with them? The next evening I got all dressed up for the banquet, only to listen as the Gold Medallion went to another book. But worst of all, the writer friend who had assured me that we would have plenty of time to hang out together since her novel had been delayed and wouldn’t be on the sales floor, got to be Cinderella. Night after night, her publisher would whisk her away in a shiny limousine to yet another dinner so they could introduce their favorite up-and-coming author to yet another group of high-profile booksellers. I, on the other hand, would wander over to the nearby food court where I’d drown my sorrows in shrimp po’boys and sweet tea.
God made it very clear that humbling week that I would not have a “career.” My job was to go home and fully engage my heart and my passion in my primary calling – to love on a church and love on its people.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
I’ve talked a lot about writing being the hardest thing I do. But at the same time, I absolutely love the research/learning part of writing a book. I enjoy looking for the perfect quote, the deeper meaning behind words in scripture; discovering an obscure analogy that makes a truth come alive. And, strangely, I really like the editing process. I really appreciate the give and take of having another person’s perspective on what I’ve written. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of sentences I secretly love, but I’ve come to trust the process. And I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing editors.
It is truly a privilege be a writer. I am absolutely blown away that God would give me a chance to pour out on paper what I feel He has been teaching me. Then to think that people would actually read it! Wow. Somehow in giving God my “lunch” and the little I have, He blesses and breaks it and makes it enough to touch the heart of someone I may never meet this side of heaven. Amazing. Thank You, Jesus.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I can’t overstate what my agent has meant to me. In the beginning, I thought I wanted to do it all myself, but watching your inbox incessantly and waiting for editors to call – that’s no way to live. It certainly isn’t a good way to write, in my opinion.
But more than the administrative freedom an agent brings, it is the fact that you are not alone that means the most to me. To have an advocate, a sounding board is invaluable. But to also have someone willing to say, “that isn’t the best idea I’ve heard from you” is even better. At his or her best, I believe an agent is a mommy/daddy, a cheerleader, and a skillful life coach all wrapped up in one! I wouldn’t trade mine for nothing!
What advice would you give to new writers?
Just be obedient to the call. Learn the ropes, work on your craft. Be willing to let go of the first thing you write so you can write the next thing. My first proposal will never be published. It was simply the tool that opened the door to the books that would come.
In a sense, when we put something forward for publishing consideration, we cast our bread on the water. Our part is to get it off our hard drive and into a publisher’s hands. It’s up to God what He does with it.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
That’s a hard question because there are so many excellent books out there.
I suppose the best pitch would be this: If you know a woman who doesn’t feel that she’s good enough…godly enough…talented enough…that doesn’t believe she deserves God’s love…please buy this book so that it will be on your bookstore shelf just in case God decides that’s the book He wants to use in that woman’s life.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
After being pregnant with this book for two and a half years, I’m shocked and pleased that I actually want to have another “child.” There is a book I’ve had in my heart for over ten years, but God has kept asking me to write something else. I’m hoping it’s finally time to begin working on what I feel might be the most important book I ever write.
I’ll leave it at that….a little mystery and no broad promises. We’ll see what God thinks on this subject. He always gets the final word.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
Readers can go to www.joannaweaverbooks.com to get more information about my writing and speaking as well as find access my blog. To purchase a book, I suggest checking with your local Christian bookstore first. But my titles are also available on line at CBD, Family, Lifeway, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other retailers.
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)
Thank you! It’s been a privilege. All my love to you bleaders!