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 Kathleen Fuller is Angela from Kentucky! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (amy@litfusegroup.com)

This week Gayle Roper is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Gayle’s latest book, Shadows on the Sand, 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’m a widow after 47 years of marriage. The adjustment is coming along. I’ve written fulltime since I began writing, courtesy of my husband Chuck, my own personal patron of the arts.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

I write mysteries and romantic suspense which are the genres I love to read. Even my Amish stories have a touch of mystery in them.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?

I never planned to be a writer. I come from a family of teachers, and I taught junior high English before we adopted our sons. It turned out teaching that topic to those grades was great prep for writing since much of that subject matter was grammar. I still teach a lot, usually at Christian writers conferences and women’s retreats though I’m going to France in a couple of weeks to teach MKs at an English Camp.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published? 

I can’t answer this question specifically because I’d fiddled with writing for fun before I decided to try and market my material. I know the first short story and the first novel I sent out were published.

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 am terribly undisciplined. I’m also a procrastinator. It makes a routine difficult for me and deadlines the chief motivator for getting things down on paper. I like to work either at my computer desk which is lower than a traditional desk or on the small sofa in the great room. I have a lap protector from Staples that keeps the heat of the laptop from becoming hot against my legs when I’m on the sofa. I also love writing at our cottage in Ontario with the lake as my view whenever I look up.

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 have to give my mom credit as the one who taught me to love reading and story. She gave me my first Phyllis Whitney title when I was about 14. That moved me into adult stuff, leaving Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton behind.

I wrote my first novel before I found out about writers conferences, but since my first year at the St Davids Christian Writers Conference back in the early ‘70’s, I’ve made most of my business contacts and many of my professional friends through writers conferences. I love teaching and mentoring at them. Today they are the primary means of making productive contact with agents and editors.

I have to give my critique group high marks too. We’ve been together for years, and everyone is very insightful and knowledgeable. Just a couple of months ago they told me how to fix the first chapter of a novel when my editors couldn’t. Wonderful women!

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?

Since I never planned to be a writer, I had no expectations of the writer’s life. It was more a what-happened-happened type thing. But I love looking back and seeing how one contact led to another to another to another. The thing I didn’t expect was becoming friends with all the wonderful men and women in Christian publishing I’ve met through the years and being part of the Christian writing community which has so enriched my life.

What are your biggest distractions? 

My biggest distraction is my poor attention span. I have an unquiet mind, always jumping from topic to topic. I’m always thinking of something to do before I actually sit down to write. And then there’s email. Love email, but it’s a great distraction.

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

One of the best was at RWA the year I won the RITA for Best Inspirational Romance. It’s like being at the Oscars, and then they call you name. Evening gowns, glitz, and an acceptance speech.

Or maybe it was just two weeks ago when I got a note from a reader saying one of my books changed her life. What a thrill to know that some spiritual truth that I’ve learned was passed on to a reader through a story I was privileged to tell. Or maybe it was the lady who said one of my scenes made her laugh for the first time in a year.

One of the worst times was the five year stretch when I couldn’t place anything after I’d sold seven books. Nothing clicked anywhere. I still remember the pain of the day near the end of that five years when I went to the mail box and found two rejected manuscripts.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like? 

I like most the thrill of seeing a book finally finished, first as a manuscript sent to my editor and then as a finished product in my hand. I also like getting to share ideas that I think are worthwhile with people I’d never get to do that with any other way.

What I like least is the plodding that writing sometimes is. I dislike the original putting of words on a page. No great inspiration strikes; no dialogue sparkles in the mind. It’s just words being forced out. But the next day there’s the pleasure of rewriting those plodding words into something worthwhile. I love rewriting. It’s where the book comes alive, where the dialogue comes to life, where the humor develops, where the spiritual arc clarifies.

What is the role and importance of an agent? 

A writer’s agent is her business partner. Most of us aren’t business savvy. We don’t want to push a publisher for a better deal because we’re afraid we’ll lose the deal. And we don’t know what is reasonable to ask for. Agents are industry aware. While we’re holed up writing, they’re reading industry news, meeting industry professionals, finding out what deals are being made and how much a company can be expected to give their authors. They study contracts for writers of all levels. They do for us what we aren’t informed or brave enough to do for ourselves.

What advice would you give to new writers? 

I would caution a new writer against jumping the gun. Sending out material before it’s ready can harm you before you even get started. Study the craft. Read the how-to books. Go to writer’s conferences to make the contacts and attend the classes. There are Christian writers conferences all across the country. Pick the one that matches your time frame and finances.

And be wary of jumping into e-publishing without a great editor and cover designer to make your book what it should be. The last thing you want to do is have to send out corrected versions of an ebook to disgruntled readers who complained of errors. Talk about ruining your reputation as a writer of quality material!

Just because someone thought up a good story doesn’t mean he or she knows how to tell that story. Every craft, every profession requires learning how. Learn how.

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. 

First Jase is found murdered and now Andi is missing. How will two wounded souls like Carrie and Greg solve the mystery while saving each other?

What’s on the book horizon for you?

SHADOWS ON THE SAND releases mid-July. It’s a return to Seaside, NJ, the locale of my prize-winning Seasons series, Spring Rain, Summer Shadows, Autumn Dreams and Winter Winds. Spend a summer day at the Jersey shore with Carrie and Greg.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

You can find my books on line at christianbooks.com or amazon.com. Many of the titles are ebooks as well as paper. Some of the older titles can be found on the used book site half.com. Bookstores may have them on the shelves and can certainly get them if not.

As for me, I’m at www.gayleroper.com.

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

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