Monday, June 12, 2006

interview with author Sharon Hinck

Today I get to talk to Sharon Hinck, author of the The Secret Life of Becky Miller.

Welcome, Sharon! Now, what I’d really like to ask is, what Becky Miller-type adventures have you already been on today. But since we’re dealing with virtual time here, I guess I’ll have to stick with my script. So, shall we begin.

Violet: The Secret Life of Becky Miller is your first full-length novel, but surely not your first published writing. Talk about your writing journey to this point.

Sharon: I’ve loved reading since I was about four, so it was natural for me to love writing as well. It wasn’t until grad school when one of my writing profs suggested markets for my articles that I began to pursue publication. Then it was parenting tips, devotions, first person non-fiction, humor kinds of things. I was the artistic director of a Christian ballet company for ten years, and during those years my writing shifted to newsletters, patron letters, scripts, and press releases. About three and a half years ago, I joined a local writer’s group and began my first novel.

Violet: Becky and her friends and family (in all their variety) ring true. From the way you paint characters and portray friendship and family, I get the impression you are a people-person. How do you reconcile the people-loving part of you with the many solitary hours required to write a book?

Sharon: This is an AWESOME question. I’m an odd blend of the melancholy introvert artist (the tormented Russian side of my genes) and a sanguine extroverted bubbly type (I have no idea where that came from). It’s actually a little tough, because I need extremes of both –– time alone in my mental cave wrestling with the monsters and shaping words for stories, and also intensive time with people interacting, debating, laughing, and sharing.

When I wrote my first manuscript (not yet published) we had family discussions around supper each night about the plot and characters. It was a fun interactive way to test ideas. However, I’m also learning that as I writer I need to listen to my own instincts...and sometimes need to get a little LESS input. :-) It’s a very challenging balance.

My writing groups help me get some of the social interaction I crave, and speaking for church groups and book groups also gets me out of the house and away from the invisible crows that flap around my head telling me how wretched my writing is.

Now that my first book is releasing, I’m having a harder time creating space and silence for writing. Honestly, I’ve begun to ask my author friends how they find time to write once they are published. Marketing, promotion, signings, speaking opportunities, answering reader mail, and stressing over whether the book will fly (okay, that one is optional...but one that eats up a lot of my time) all fill my day. One of the strange ironies of this business.

Violet: I really enjoyed the vignettes that began each chapter. How did you come up with that idea and what were you hoping to achieve with those bits?

Sharon: Those were GREAT fun to write. :-) I got the idea from the old James Thurber short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” - where we get a glimpse into the grandiose daydreams of a downtrodden “everyman.” Women talk about feeling like they have to be covert secret agents to keep track of their preteen’s activities, or a race-car driver to manage the car pooling, or have the balancing skills of an Olympic gymnast to manage all their roles. I just took those metaphors a little further. In addition to adding some fun to Becky’s story, I hoped they would give a window into Becky’s subconscious feelings about her life.]

Violet: The faith questions you grapple with in the story (for example, what is my Big Thing for God and what does God really require of me) resonated. Do they reflect experiences from your own life? What are some of those?

Sharon: Yes –– and more than I intended. I identify with Becky’s good-hearted desire to make a difference, and I also understand her sometimes ridiculous self-imposed pressures and expectations. But one of the spiritual themes that emerged as the story developed -- and that I hadn’t planned on--was that God uses us in our weakness. I don’t like that truth. I want to be big and strong and admirable. Instead, God invites me to offer my weak, flawed, and wobbly self and whispers to me to trust Him. Even when I can’t see it, He is allowing my life to bless others. And often the grand schemes I come up with do less to serve others and only exhaust me. And the quiet daily choices can make a huge difference.

Those are all concepts I believe in my head, but haven’t yet absorbed into my bones. In fact, my friends delighting in calling me out on my workaholism and perfectionism. “Hey, Sharon. You oughta read this book. It’s called The Secret Life of Becky Miller. It might help you realize how much you’re driving yourself.” LOL! With friends like that...
...I’ve got plenty of fodder for future books. :-)

Violet: Becky Miller falls into the mom-lit genre. According to this Writer’s Digest article, more and more publishing houses are seeking out such manuscripts. Did you write Becky Miller knowing that mom-lit was in demand, or was the meeting of your story and the current market a happy coincidence?

Sharon: I actually had read several general market mom-lit novels a few years ago that resonated with me, and there wasn’t much in the CBA at the time (although some fine ones came out while I was busy writing BECKY MILLER). Since I’ve written first person humor accounts for magazines and book compilations, the voice of mom-lit was a good fit for my writing style. However, I also love speculative fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, adventure. So by including Becky’s wild daydreams, I got to add a twist to my mom-lit.

Violet: Well done on Becky Miller! What’s next?

Sharon: Thank you, Violet! And thanks for letting me visit your awesome blog.
In March, 2007, RENOVATING BECKY MILLER releases from Bethany House. Becky and her family decide to simplify their lives by purchasing an old farmhouse to renovate. Yeah, right! Plus, Becky’s mother-in-law is having health problems and comes to live with them. Stresses abound at work, Becky’s best friend is acting weird, and the Miller family is on the verge of losing everything. Becky loves fixing things, so she sets out to fix her mother-in-law, her children, her church, and her friend. But God is planning some renovations in Becky’s heart.

The following year, IN THE KEY OF MOM will come out, also from Bethany House, about a concert flutist who is the single mom of a teen daughter. New characters. Still “mom-lit” but from a different sort of angle. I have a fourth book contracted that is still in development, so I’ll be busy for a while. And I suppose, like Becky, I’ll continue to wrestle with trying to figure out all the answers and coming to a point of deeper surrender where I trust God even when He doesn’t explain everything to me. :-)

Sharon Hinck

Violet: Congratulations on that multi-book contract! I, for one, am looking forward to more of Becky's adventures. And thank you for coming on my blog, Sharon. I hope June turns out to be a super month for your supermom!


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