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 Cathy Richmond is Kristie D! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (amy@litfusegroup.com)

This week Ira Wagler is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Ira’s latest book, Growing Up Amish, 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 was married for seven years, but have been divorced since 2007. No children, which in retrospect is a blessing. I work full time as the general manager of Graber Supply, LLC, a pole building supply company located right on the border of Lancaster County and Chester County, PA.

I write mostly evenings and weekends. That’s been my schedule, ever since I got serious about writing, and I’m not sure I could write full time. Wouldn’t mind trying, though.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
Mostly my blog writings have focused on where I am emotionally and what is going on in my everyday life. I also love to write sketches of my Amish childhood and about the Amish in general. “Growing Up Amish” is my story of doing just that.

How did you get started writing?

I’ve always written sporadically, and learned to express myself while in college. But I never got serious about it until after my marriage imploded in 2007. The jolt of that experience triggered a great flood of words, and I started to blog weekly, posting every Friday evening for a few years. Somehow, in that process, I found my writing voice, which had always eluded me before.

Did you have a dream of being a published author? 

I’ve always had that dream. As life moved on, the dream diminished, because I couldn’t see how it was going to happen. My father was a writer and leader among the Amish, and I guess I got some of that drive from him. But I didn’t want to write trite, didactic stuff. I wanted to write of life as it is and life as it comes at you. In all its grandeur and messiness. Let the reader figure out the lessons.

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

I started blogging in April, 2007. Tyndale will release my memoir, “Growing Up Amish,” on July 1, 2011. So I guess it took a tad over four years.

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?

Well, it’s not a set in stone thing. If something’s on my mind, I mull about it, even at my “real” job. Take mental notes. I write best evenings, sometimes late into the night. More than a few times, as I was working on my book, I glanced up at the clock, and it was 3:30 AM. Always on a weekend, thankfully. I’m not a morning person, when it comes to writing, although I do depend on a good cup of coffee to get me going (in the morning, that is).

How many hours a day do you spend writing?

Depends on the deadline. Some days I do no writing at all. But as a deadline looms, either self-imposed for my blog (or the monthly deadlines I had with Tyndale), the juices stir, and the words flow. Right now, with the tension of waiting for my book to come out, I’m posting a blog only once every three weeks, always on a Friday evening. I tinker with the next post for two weeks, then get serious the third week.

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 am a “loner.” Never attended even one writer’s conference, and I’m not sure I ever will, unless invited as a speaker. And I don’t know a whole lot of writers. Seems to me that some writers are so busy connecting with each other that they forget to go out there and live the experiences that will give them writing fodder. There’s nothing like actually having lived it and seen it, to make the story real for your readers.

The biggest help for me has been consistency and honesty. My blog garnered a huge readership, and my readers expected a new post every Friday evening. I produced, some weeks with more quality than others. And in time, I learned the discipline of producing, even when the muse seemed distant.

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

So far, it’s been so much more than I could ever have imagined. Launch a blog, keep your schedule, keep posting, land an agent because of a blog reader who knew someone who knew someone, then write a book for Tyndale. Can’t get much wilder than that, but that was pretty much my game plan from the start. Keep producing quality stuff, and one day someone with connections will notice. Pretty naïve, in retrospect, but it worked.

What are your biggest distractions?

A distant deadline. Tyndale allowed me to send in monthly installments of anywhere from 40 to 60 pages. When I was writing my book in the summer/fall of 2010, there were some weekends when I should have been pounding it out. But I couldn’t get motivated until the last half of the month, as the deadline loomed. When I have to produce, I will. I write rather sporadically, but when it flows, it flows. An hour of intense production is worth more to me than half a day of doodling about, trying to force things. And, of course, the rewriting process never stops, right up until I hit the “send” button.

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

Best: When my agent emailed me that Tyndale had made an offer for a book. At that moment, I realized I had a real shot at my dream. Worst: When a “sure thing” private deal fell through with Harvest House in early 2009. But my Harvest House connection was the one who referred me to my agent.

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

Not sure there’s anything I really dislike about writing, except maybe once in a while I get so immersed in going back and reliving an experience that it extracts a hefty emotional toll. Parts of the book were extremely difficult to relive. Once, I called one of my sisters and apologized for a serious wrong I committed the day after her wedding. I mean, what could I have been thinking back then?

I love writing, because, well, I love to write. And I will write, one way or another, for the rest of my life. 

What is the role and importance of an agent?

Without Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, I’d still be posting on my blog every week or two. I most definitely would not have a book being published by Tyndale. Chip did his job, getting me through the door. And I can’t say enough about Tyndale, by the way. A classy organization of true professionals at every level.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Find your voice. Write what you know. And be honest with yourself and with your readers.

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.

My book is the most honest work ever published about the Amish (That’s my opinion). It’s not pretty, in some places. But it’s honest. 

What’s on the book horizon for you?

Right now, I’m waiting for my first book to be released. When and if I write another book will depend on the sales of the first, I suppose. I haven’t made any noises to anyone, including my agent, about another book. What will come will come, all in its time.

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

You can find me on my blog at www.irawagler.com. The book will be distributed nationally by Tyndale, so most book stores should have it in stock on July 1st. Or you can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and a bunch of other vendor sites right now for pre-order. I also have a link to various vendor sites on my blog.

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

Thanks, Suzanne, for your support and for your friendship.

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