Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Bethany Turner {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Bethany...

Bethany Turner is the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former VP/operations manager of a commercial bank and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn't matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she's chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.

Connect with Bethany...


Get to know Bethany

You and Writing

I never dreamt of being an author, and I never knew if I had any real writing skill or not. Truthfully, I never even wondered, because it didn’t matter! I began as a psychology major in college, and then transferred to theatre, and then I dropped out to get married. I intended to return to college at some point and get my degree—and maybe I still will—but about three months after my wedding, I took a part-time bank teller job. I ended up being pretty good at banking, and over the course of the next thirteen years, I climbed the ladder until I was a VP and head of operations.

About six or seven years ago, I started writing as a creative outlet. Theatre had once provided that outlet, but my career no longer allowed me the time. But writing could be done late at night, after my husband and our kids went to bed. So…I wrote! Then in 2014 God began telling to walk away from my career—and that was the scariest thing I have ever done. Within a few months, I had not only written The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, I was also on staff at the church we had been attending for a decade or so. What began as a creative outlet has become one of the greatest examples of God at work in my life—and there are few greater joys that creating with God!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Why did you write it?
I wrote The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck because, first of all, God laid it on my heart. I truly didn’t feel like I had a choice! I instantly knew who Sarah was and I knew her voice, and I knew that her story was worth telling. I knew that the story and the way I would tell it wasn’t like anything else I had read. (That’s not to say there isn’t anything comparable…just that I wasn’t personally aware of it.) I wanted to write a story that dealt with some very serious issues—sex, divorce, adultery, single parenthood, wanting to have children—from a faith perspective, but in a light-hearted, approachable style.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
I love Ben Delaney. Sarah’s best friend Piper takes her to church for the first time after Sarah’s salvation, and just before the service begins, Sarah has this powerful exchange with a handsome stranger in the hallway. Then she walks into the service and is horrified when the handsome stranger is introduced to the congregation as the new pastor. I loved writing Ben because he is a mature, faithful Christ-follower, leading the church, but he’s also undeniably human. He is continually torn between the sometimes unrealistic expectations of his congregation and what he believes to be right for his own life and his own heart. But he always attempts to run it all through the filter of his relationship with Christ. Also, he’s kind of a stud!

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
As I wrote and God laid it all on my heart, I realized that it was important to communicate that as Christ-followers we have the ability to do more damage to the cause of Christ than pretty much anyone or anything on the “outside”. As a new Christian, Sarah decides to follow what she is reading in the Bible and what she is hearing at church, as well as what God is laying on her heart, and tithe her income. Her very substantial income comes from steamy romance books she wrote before her salvation, and when she gives that money, it brings attention to who she is and what she’s known for. She’s met with judgment and scorn from those who are supposed to be her brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, that’s an extreme, fictional case. But pretty much any of us who have spent our lives in the church could tell a story or two of Christians hurting Christians over things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I am a lover of and a believer in the local church, but I think it would do us all good to remember that we are called to love. Whether we lied or cheated or murdered, or wrote steamy novels…God offers salvation for all.


Let’s talk about your writing life...

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
Walk your path. I think that all too often we look at what worked for someone else, and decide to give it a try. And sure…sometimes that works. We should always be learning and growing. But if we believe that writing is part of the path that the Lord is leading us on, what makes us think that our path is going to be anything like anyone else’s? Peter was fishing, Zacchaeus was climbing a tree, Matthew was collecting taxes, and Paul was persecuting Christians. Very different paths which were all used to glorify God. So my encouragement would be do it with the Lord, and don’t be discouraged when what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. Stay open to the unexpected.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher? 
This goes back to what I said about everyone walking their own path. I received six rejections from agents after I wrote The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, and then I submitted to a manuscript submission service called Writer’s Edge. I believed that to have any real shot at traditional publication (which I thought was best for this particular book) I would have to have an agent—because that’s what everyone says—but God made it pretty clear that I was supposed to pause that search and go ahead and submit to Writer’s Edge. Thirteen days after the manuscript was accepted at Writer’s Edge, I was contacted by Revell, who went on to publish that book, and with whom I am contracted for two more. The timing and relative ease with which it all happened made no sense! But it was God’s timing, not mine. And by it happening the way it did, I was able to later sign with the agent who is absolutely the one I’m supposed to be with. (Incidentally…I previously wrote some general market women’s fiction, and I received 74 agent rejections before giving up on general market representation. God knew the plan, even when I didn’t have a clue!)

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I’m such a Panther it’s ridiculous. I really have no idea what’s going to happen until it happens.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
I always listen to music when I write, and I create different playlists for each story. It’s almost like each story has a muse. For The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, it was this fabulous (and somewhat strange) combination of Fleetwood Mac and Francesca Battistelli. The story I’m currently working on is all Sara Bareilles all the time. You can find a sample of my current playlist HERE.


What are you currently reading?
I’ve been reading Lady Jayne Disappears by my friend Joanna Davidson Politano for a very long time! The story is fabulous and Joanna’s writing is simply breathtaking, and I am enjoying every moment of it. But I’m a) not a very speedy reader, b) currently reading a few books for a contest I’m judging, and c) facing a deadline. So, you know…

What book is next on your TBR?
Oh goodness. That list is so long! But I think that next will be The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright.

Favorite writing snack?
I desperately wish I could say celery or carrots, but sadly, no. Peanut M&M’s. All the way.

If you were a character in a book, what would your “quirk” be?
I suppose I gave that quirk to Sarah Hollenbeck already. I think in pop culture references—always—and I have a television or movie quote or reference for every situation.

Anything you’d like to share with us?
I know that this book is a bit controversial. Some readers have said that the publisher and I should be ashamed for putting this book into the Christian market. People have said horrible things about me and have even confronted fans of the book, and chastised and lectured them for liking it. I guess I just want to say that I realize not every book is for every reader. That doesn’t bother me a bit. Do those comments hurt sometimes? Sure they do. But mean, judgmental comments aren’t going to keep me from doing what I believe God has called me to do. My next novel for Revell will be released next year and, fair warning, it will probably step on some toes just like this one did! I’m eternally grateful to the readers who seem to understand my heart. I’m so glad we’re on this journey together!

Thank you so much for being my guest and being so real Bethany! I LOVE this interview and had such a great time getting to know you during our headshot session. I'm so glad you've written what God placed on your heart to write! Keep it up!!!

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